On the first deep freeze of the winter, Harish I. Patel, a progressive independent running for State Representative in the 40th District, gathered with his volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Logan Square. Patel planned on going door-knocking this morning and talking to the registered voters from the neighborhood.
Patel began his American journey at age 14 as an immigrant from India. Coming to America he couldn’t speak any English, although ESL programs in his high school supported him learning the language. Changing schools in three different areas, he saw differences within the neighborhood’s environments and how schools were funded.
Patel received his Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from UIC. Working as a community organizer, he co-founded Chicago Votes on the southwest side to help young people of color and immigrants understand what they can accomplish in the political process. An entrepreneur, he launched his own small business, an ethical clothing company called Ishi Vest.
Before Patel started his morning door-knocking, I had the chance to talk with him about a wide range of topics. Here are his thoughts on few subjects:
Gentrification and Housing
“One of the only ways to fight gentrification is, you have to make the wages of people who our living there higher. So they’re not working two or three jobs or they’re not getting paid enough to live there well. Second thing is affordable housing. You have to provide affordable housing for the people who have lived there and who can’t afford to or they’re going to be pushed out. We have to increase our affordable housing requirement.
“Let’s create a neighborhood that is inclusive, and to do that, let’s stabilize your rent so people know the percent it’ll be before it increases so that you can plan accordingly. If I want to live here next year, my landlord should not allow rent to increase from $900 to $1,500 and I realize that I will not be able to afford the rent increase.”
The Mell Family and His Opponent, Jamie M. Andrade Jr.
“I’m running in the 40th District, and people know, from this area, one family has controlled the district for a long time. Dick Mell’s name comes to mind, he appointed the person I’m running against, Jamie Andrade. Jamie was appointed two years ago after working for Dick Mell for 17 years. The Mell family has been in power for 35 to 40 years.
“When the same family has been in power for that long, how do you expect a community to be like, I can change, knowing I can make difference within the neighborhood, I’m not going to be apathetic, I’m coming out to vote because my vote counts.
“I think when the same family has had control in every aspect of the government, the city, state, county politics, who can benefit from those contracts that state or the city gives? People see the direct line between that and corruption, mismanagement. They see why we’re having problems.”
The Logan Square Neighborhood
“We’re privileged in a sense that if you’re from Logan Square, you’re in a mecca of amazing neighbors, one of the most engaging communities in the city. We vote, we care, we have some of the best food in the city.
“As we think of all the awesome stuff happening, we have to also think about all the folks who aren’t going to all those cafes, bars and restaurants and how to make sure those folks feel like they’re part of our community too.”
Editor’s Note: Andrade has not yet responded for requests for an interview.