My name is Jon-Robert McDowell, and I am running for Alderman of Chicago’s 46th Ward.
I am running because I believe in a better Chicago. I believe in a Chicago that can do more for its people, its communities and for the diversity and grit that define the 46th Ward. I believe in a city that cares more for the needs of its people than it does for the demands of corporations, developers or for personal political gain. I am running because I believe we as a Ward, as neighbors, as the Family of Chicago, are better equipped to lead through experience than those who currently represent us.
I know all too well what the real impact of a failed state and disinterested politicians can have on a family such as ours.
As the oldest son of a single mother who raised five children, my family’s journey was not an easy one. We never had much, but what we had was ours. We owned it and owed no one for it. However, all the years of growing up as a part of a closely knit group would not fully prepare us for the challenges ahead.
In 2007, my youngest brother, David, was diagnosed with the chronic disorder known as Crohn’s Disease. Within weeks, he was dropped from his insurance and we were left to manage this on our own. For years, my family and I fought against a rigged system that prioritized profits over people and in the process lost almost everything. What we didn’t lose – what I didn’t lose – was the knowledge that there had to be a better way.
Eventually, with the costs mounting and my brother’s health deteriorating, I moved my family here to Chicago and for years we lived together in apartments often with fewer rooms than people.
Here, my family and I fought to salvage what we could while I worked to help keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, and most importantly, to keep my baby brother in as little pain possible.
Thankfully in 2014, the Affordable Care Act opened its exchanges in Illinois and we were able to get David the health care coverage – and eventually the surgery – he so desperately needed. A procedure we had never been able to afford, no matter how many jobs I held.
One morning, a few months after a surgery in which doctors removed over a foot and a half of David’s small intestine, I found him standing in our kitchen staring out onto the street. I asked him how he was feeling. David slowly turned from the window, looked at me, puzzled, and whispered. “I feel good.” Then, he said something I will never forget: “It doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s been so long, I forgot what it was like to feel normal. I forgot what it was like to not hurt.”
A few years have passed since that day, but I cannot escape the memory of that moment with my baby brother. His pain had become his “normal.” Hurting, every single day of his life, was normal. Over the years he had forgotten what a day without suffering felt like.
My family has since moved on from Chicago and while his Crohn’s is still an issue that he lives with, David is healthy and doing well. Yet I can’t help but realize that his “normal,” is somehow also ours. We as a city – and as a nation – have become so accustomed to the dysfunction, corruption and injustice that we in many ways simply accept it as “normal.”
All my years of fighting to help keep my brother out of pain and lead my family away from fear have taught me, if nothing else, that this is not “normal” and that we will not accept it.
I will not accept a city that allows people to suffer needlessly. I will not accept a city that puts developers before affordable roofs and drives us from the neighborhoods and communities that many have known all their lives. I will not accept a people who live in fear of their own police force and I will not accept the attempts to privatize our public school system. All this, in the interest of what our current administration would call “progress.”
Alderman Cappleman has failed us. He has spent the last eight years bowing to the Mayor’s proposals without question and is now selling our Ward to private developers who pour money into his campaign to thank him for his business. Except, what our Alderman forgets, is that he is our employee, and his business is our business. During the past eight years he has done quite well for himself. But I have to ask: what has he done for you?
Is your life better? Are your tax dollars being used the way you believe they should be? Are you getting the services you need? Or do you look around and see more and more people in our Ward in trouble? Do you see more of our friends in pain? Do you see your taxes going up and your services being cut?
I believe that we can do better. I believe in a city that works to build communities of trust and opportunity for all its citizens. I believe in a city that prioritizes public education over corporate donations. A city that never denies anyone the opportunity to follow their dreams and talents, wherever they may take them. I believe in city free of this new “normal” and a City Council that is dedicated to the proposition that truth, honesty and integrity should never be compromised for personal gain.
Make no mistake: unseating Alderman Cappleman will be an enormous challenge and will take more than a nice neighbor with some good ideas. It is going to take a fighter; someone who will be a fierce defender for our Ward and our homes.
My name is Jon-Robert McDowell,
and I have dedicated my life to fighting for my home and my family.
Now I am ready to fight for yours.