Cook County is ran by Democrats. In the south suburbs, one man is trying to change that.
Jason Ross Decker is running for Cook County Board of Commissioners 5th District seat as a Libertarian. He says citizens have had enough with partisan politics. “It’s a breath of fresh air” for those who learn he’s not running as a Republican or Democrat here in Cook County, he said.
Editor’s note: For the first time in decades, the Harvey community has dedicated election coverage from a nonpartisan, community-minded newsroom. The Harvey World Herald is dedicated to getting our readers information on the issues that matter most. That’s why we don’t issue political endorsements, accept money from politicians or action committees, or lobby on their behalf—and we never will.
Volunteers with the South Suburban Public Safety Initiative had already boarded up dozens of abandoned homes in Harvey when they got the notice. They lacked permits, Harvey officials notified them, and they needed to cease immediately.
Jason Ross Decker, a Midlothian resident and longtime carpenter, had banded together with Harvey residents to launch the SSPSI. They install doorbell cameras and board up abandoned properties for free.
Decker said the practice is protected by state law. “When I saw the many complaints that residents in Harvey were having for why they felt the resources weren't there for what they’re paying in taxes in the community they love, I said, I could board these up. Just donate the wood,” he said. The SSPSI has now boarded up over 300 properties across the south suburbs. “I can board up a whole house in 15 minutes.”
The SSPSI—and more so the friction it created with Harvey politicians—is the tie that binds his bootstrap ethos and his race for the Cook County Board of Commissioners coveted 5th District seat.
The 5th District comprises neighborhoods on Chicago’s Far South Side and south suburbs. Last fall, longtime incumbent Deborah Sims announced she wouldn’t seek reelection.
That spurred a flurry of campaign announcements from many, including Hazel Crest mayor Vernard L. Alsberry, Jr., former Obama aide Jaylin D. McClinton, and Kierra Williams, daughter of former heavy-handed Thornton Township High School District 205 school board president Kenneth Williams.
Decker’s campaign platform is largely about returning abandoned properties back to the tax rolls, public safety, revitalization. Another flashpoint are south suburban politicians who hold substantial time in office with little to show for it, Decker said.
He took aim at high taxes and local bureaucracy that make it harder for an abandoned property to get returned to the tax rolls. Decker also questioned the motives of politicians who take aim with citizens who take matters into their own hands to rehabilitate properties.
“I’ll smile for the police, I’ll smile for the judge, and then, I’ll smile for the camera, because that’ll make a good story,” he remarked about being reprimanded for boarding up abandoned properties.
Decker’s highly critical of the War on Drugs, which he said has done no more than cost taxpayers, he remarked, suggesting society change its heavy reliance on police presence and arrests. “Nobody gets a pass,” he said, “but we need to take a look at why people are making the choices they’re making.”
He himself has a felony conviction for marijuana possession. State law bars anyone with a felony from seeking municipal office but not county or state.
There’s been false promises of equity for minorities and “the average Illinois who wants to open up a cannabis business” because of barriers to entry like capital and high taxes “just to apply,” Decker said.
While the county or state “wave a magic wand” to solve problems, Decker said, there’s “power and influence” these positions have to work collaboratively to resolve problems for constituents.
Decker, an Evergreen Park native, faces an uphill battle to the Board.
He’s running as a Libertarian in a Democratic stronghold. He’s a political outsider, who’s committed to giving away one-third of his Commissioner salary, if elected, and he’s never held public office before. And, his campaign is largely self-funded.
Sims has endorsed Monica Gordon, the Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations at Chicago State University who previously unsuccessfully ran for Illinois Senate in 2020 and Democratic nominee.
According to Decker, he was brushed aside at a fundraising gala hosted by the Democrats of Thornton Township. It’s because he’s a strong contender for the seat, he said. Decker’s also echoed south suburban residents’ criticism of local officials who lack engagement.
Sims, he said, was absent and “never returned phone calls [from residents].” Sims ran unopposed in some elections, according to county records.
As November 8 nears, Democrats nationwide have hit key battleground states to make a last minute push to energize voters.
It’s the first midterm season since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Gas prices steadily decline, but inflation remains high. The federal reserve raised interest rates once again. And now, a lawsuit has thrown student loan debt cancellation into limbo.
With much at stake, fears grow that some aren’t energized enough to vote, which Decker attributed to becoming despondent with partisan politics.
However, iIt’s a breath of fresh air” for those who learn he’s not running as a Republican or Democrat here in Cook County, Decker said.
With November 8 fast approaching, Decker’s laser-focused on making the case for an anti-establishment response to south suburban politics.
Decker criticized Sims for a lack of engagement at her Ford Heights office location.
Sims’ office is located in Posen, according to the county website.
Decker doesn’t have a campaign office and wouldn’t have a central location for his operations, if elected.
But, he aims to be accessible by giving out his telephone number and being mobile.
“Once a week, throughout all my terms, I plan on having little town halls,” that rotate from town to town, Decker said.
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