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Incumbent: Ald. Emma Mitts Re-elected

Population: 53,526


  • 63.8%  Black
  • 32.7%  Latine
  • 1.6%  white
  • 0.3%  Asian

Neighborhoods included:

  • Austin
  • Humboldt Park

Median household income:

  • For Austin, $35,555, as of July 2022.
  • For Humboldt Park, $41,536, as of July 2022.
  • For the City of Chicago, $62,097, as of July 2022.

Top issues, according to people we interviewed:

  • Needs a new neighborhood high school
  • Lack of nightlife and entertainment corridors
  • Lack of grocery stores


  • The controversial $128 million police and fire training academy at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. 
  • LaFollette Park at 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
  • West Chicago Avenue Public Library at 4856 W. Chicago Ave.
  • North Austin Community Center at 1841 N. Laramie Ave.

On Jan. 25, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) and other elected officials gathered in West Humboldt Park for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a police and fire academy that was built despite protests from some community members. 

“I think this is a win for the United States of America since this is the first joint public safety academy in the United States,” Mitts said during the press conference. 

The training facility was five years in the making. In 2019, Black youth organizers with the #NoCopAcademy campaign pushed back against then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for the multi-million project because they said further investments in police would mean more state-sanctioned violence for Black and brown communities. Instead, through their grassroots campaign, they demanded that the City fund and provide resources for schools and youth. 

Despite the protests, the City Council voted 38 to 8 in favor of the cop academy in March 2019 (5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston was the only member of the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus  who voted against it at the time). Last September, Lightfoot’s administration asked for an additional $20 million for phase two of the cop academy, raising the total cost to $128 million

The facility includes a “tactical scenario village” for police and fire training and a six-story tower, with each floor simulating different environments firefighters encounter. 

The facility sits on a 30.4-acre former rail yard that sat vacant for more than 40 years before the City purchased it in 2017. The site will also include two restaurants and 27,000-square-foot Boys and Girls Club, which will open this summer. 

Mitts faces three challengers in the 37th Ward aldermanic race: Corey Dennelle Braddock, Jake Towers and Howard Ray. She was first appointed to the seat in 2000 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. Her predecessor, Percy Giles, was convicted of taking a bribe and sentenced to just over three years in prison in 1999. 

During her tenure, Mitts opened the city’s first Walmart, the ward’s first public library branch, and most recently, the police and fire academy. A not-yet-open but completed Amazon warehouse is also situated in the 37th Ward. There’s also a brand-new youth sports and community center, the North Austin Community Center, that opened its doors on Feb. 2.

For our West Side wards profile series, The TRiiBE interviewed two people who live in the 37th Ward. Both residents spoke with pride about the community within their different blocks in Austin. They also expressed passion for the ward’s future and discussed various improvements that could help the 37th Ward, which has experienced decades of disinvestment.

Sharon Stampe, 61 years old

Reporter’s note: The TRiiBE interviewed Stamps following a West Side rally for Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson at the Healing Temple Church Banquet Hall in Austin). 

Neighborhood you live in: Austin

Occupation: Teacher Assistant at the Chicago Board of Education

Homeowner or renter? Homeowner 

Do you know who your alderperson is? “Yes, [Emma] Mitts.” 

What do you think she’s done for the 37th Ward? 

  • Employment opportunities: “She’s brought jobs to the community by building many new facilities for the children. I’m not sure what their names are.” (Reporter’s note: The North Austin Center, a new 10-acre youth sports complex in the 37th Ward, celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 2). 
  • Amazon: “They just brought in a new Amazon but haven’t opened it up.” (Reporter’s note: The Amazon warehouse facility was announced in 2021. It’s located on the corner of Division and Kostner. It was slated to open in 2022, but Amazon delayed the opening. This year, community members have held demonstrations to demand answers. In January, Amazon officials said the facility would open sometime in 2023). 
  • Grocery and Retail: “She’s brought in grocery stores over there on Chicago and Cicero that weren’t there when I first moved there. There’s a few [retail] stores over there and a gym. There’s a movie theater off Grand Avenue.” 

What do you like about living in the 37th Ward?

Quiet: “My block is semi-quiet. I mean, it’s not the best. It’s not the worst. Most of the homeowners on my block are seniors because they’ve been there for over 30 to 40 years. There are a few newcomers. Some have moved out to other areas, but most people on my block are seniors.”

What do you dislike about living in the 37th Ward? 

  • Plumbing: “I’ve had to complain a lot to the city about the plumbing in the area.” 
  • Speeding and Lighting: “We have a lot of cars that speed down our block because there are no speed bumps there. They fly like the expressway, and a lot of cars get hit on the block. I’ve talked to her [Ald. Mitts] about lighting. Other blocks within the square radius have lighting, and we don’t.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? 

  • Neighborhood high school: “The Austin community needs a home high school. Everybody had to travel across town to other high schools when they took Austin away. If you live on Chicago Avenue, you go to Orr High School. If you’re on Division, their home school is down to Clemente [High School], which is down by Western, and if you’re close to Washington or Madison, you go to Marshall [High School]. So you go to different schools according to what major street you’re close by, instead of a school right in the community.” (Reporter’s note: During the 2003-2004 school year, the school district began phasing out Austin High School, meaning they didn’t accept new first-year students. The last class graduated from the school in 2007. As a part of the Renaissance 2010 plan, the high school’s campus was converted into three small high schools. In 2015, the district closed the schools, consolidated them into one, and changed the name to Austin College and Career Academy High School).
  • Programs to help property owners: “I know they had [a] porch program, but it was a lottery instead of them coming to look at your house to see what needs to be done. You have people that can’t repair certain things because they can’t can’t afford it. They always put you in a lottery. I don’t think that’s right. They should come and examine homes to see who needs to help them and who qualifies for the help according to what is needed.” (Reporter’s note: The city’s Home Repair Program provides grants to income-eligible homeowners for improvements to their roofs or porches.)
    • Addressing constituent issues promptly: “It’s sad to say this, but I’m going to say it. Sometimes when it’s close to an election, you see a lot of improvements going on. That shouldn’t happen only when there’s an election going on. It should take place when it’s needed, period. They’re pretty good when you call them, but I know how to keep on them and stay on them about a lot of things. I’ve asked for new garbage cans for a whole year but haven’t gotten them yet.”
  • More notice from the alderperson’s office when events are happening in the Ward: “They have giveaways and things for the kids or different events. I don’t find out ‘til the day it’s happening instead of knowing in advance.”

Where do Black people gather and socialize in the 37th Ward? “That’s a good question. I think people are indoors. You don’t see people hanging out. It’s not just happening in the 37th Ward. I think Chicago is deserted now due to COVID and the crime rates. People are scared to come out. Kids don’t come out and play as much because there are drive-bys. This is happening all over. It’s not just in the 37th Ward. The West Side Health Authority is on my block on Division. Young folks like to go there. I noticed a lot of them coming around the neighborhood and passing out flyers for different types of events going on. They’re trying to get the young folks to get involved. But it’s kind of hard, though.” 

Do you plan to vote in the 2023 Chicago municipal election? “Yeah, we’re going to vote right now for early voting. It’s right across the street.”

Keith Richardson, 49 years old

Neighborhood you live in: Austin

Occupation: President of the American Postal Workers Union Chicago Local 1

Homeowner or renter? “I’ve been a homeowner since 2017, but I lived there my whole life. It’s my family’s home.”

Do you know who your alderperson is? Yes. Emma Mitts. 

What has your alderperson done for the 37th Ward? 

  • Helpful: “She helps the residents keep lots clean.”
  • Investments: “She’s brought investments to the community. The police center that’s coming in. She bought in, unfortunately, Walmart. She’s brought a lot of business to the neighborhood under her tenure.” 

Why do you think having Walmart in the Ward is unfortunate? “I’m a union guy. It’s Walmart. I don’t support the business because of the labor agreements, but as far as bringing resources to the neighborhood, it was a good thing. But as far as them not employing union people, that’s my issue.”

What do you like about living in the 37th Ward? 

  • It’s home: “Everything, it’s what I call home. It’s safe. It’s where I live and where my mother raised all her children. I love everything about it.” 
  • Close-knit community: “We all stick together. It’s like a family atmosphere. Everybody pretty much knows everybody. It’s a great neighborhood to have a family to raise children. It’s a great place to live.” 

What do you dislike about living in the 37th Ward?

  • Vacant lots
  • Not a variety of grocery stores: “Not having a lot of consistent choices for groceries over the years. It has gotten better during my lifetime.”

What do you wish to see improved in the 37th Ward? “I want to see the neighborhood be similar to what’s happening in Logan Square or Hyde Park. We need to bring more nightlife into the area. We shouldn’t have to travel out of our neighborhoods to go to a comedy show. We shouldn’t have to travel that far out of the neighborhood [for entertainment].”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.