9-1-2020-12-48-42-AM-5757501

Biz leader announces state senate run

Vows to be a pro-business, pro-police voice

By Tim Hadac

Pledging to be a pro-small business, pro-law enforcement voice in Springfield, Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ellen Brown recently launched her campaign for State Senate in the 11th District.

The district includes all or parts of Brighton Park, Clearing, Garfield Ridge, Archer Heights, West Elsdon, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, Ashburn and Scottsdale, as well as parts of other city neighborhoods and nearby suburban towns.

The district is currently represented by Celina Villanueva, who was the choice of Democratic Party leaders back in January, shortly after incumbent Martin A. Sandoval resigned. Villanueva is campaigning to be elected to the seat this November.

Since there is no Republican running, Villanueva was set for an easy win in an uncontested race until Brown tossed her hat in the ring.

Brown will be running under the banner of Democracy for America, a political party she created specifically for this election.

To get on the ballot, she needed 244 signatures on her nominating petitions. She submitted 730. They were challenged by a political ally of Villanueva from the Little Village neighborhood. In the end, the State Board of Elections ruled in Brown’s favor.

In a conversation with the Greater Southwest News-Herald, Brown said her disappointment with Villanueva is what led to her run for public office.

“She has not been responsive to the needs of small-business owners,” Brown said. “Every experience I’ve had with her and her staff has been very poor.”

Brown said that when small businesses needed Villanueva most, she was absent. “[As GRCC president], I reached out to our elected officials in the early days of the pandemic, when things looked bleak for a lot of our local businesses and they needed help. Every alderman I called returned my call and offered to help. [Villanueva] was the only elected official who did not respond.

“And that’s not right,” Brown continued. “It’s hard enough for a small business to even survive, let alone thrive in Chicago. Businesses need their elected officials to stand with them as partners.”

Grew up in family business

Originally from the North Side, Brown is a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame High School for Girls. She grew up working in her family’s businessesÑmostly hardware stores in Bridgeport and Back of the Yards, but also a coin laundry and small hotel.

In 2004, her family purchased Midway Storage, 5660 W. 55th St.. Today she serves as owner and manager of the business.

“When I was a kid, working in the family business was required,” she recalled with a chuckle. “But it taught me a lot of lessons about the value of hard work, about treating other people with respect and serving customers effectively and to their satisfaction.”

She also “learned about the role that small businesses play in the life of a community. Businesses pay taxes that fund government services, they donate to local non-profits: schools, churches, Little Leagues and Scout troops, and businesses provide jobs for men, women and teenagers in the neighborhoods they serve. That’s important.”

Supports first responders

Another thing that Brown said sets her apart from Villanueva is their view of law enforcement.

Villanueva was recently the only Midway-area elected official to sign a statement condemning Chicago Police over its response to protesters in the Loop.

The letter was penned by United Working Families, a leftist political organization.

It was written in response to police actions on the weekend of Aug. 15-16, when police responded to pushing and hitting by protesters (one protester was seen whacking a police officer over the head repeatedly with a skateboard) with pushback that included pepper spray, arrests and what appeared to be kettling, a crowd-control tactic in which police essentially surround protesters on three sides and prevent them from leaving an area.

Villanueva and others called for an end to what they called “police surveillance and abuse” and called for “defunding a department that has failed to protect people from harm, and re-investing those resources in the things people truly needÑlike cash payments, healthcare and non-violent crisis intervention servicesÑin order to be cared for.”

Brown has a record of support for police and other first responders. Both as GRCC president and as an individual business owner, she has made statements and taken action in support of police, especially those on the front lines.

“Police are important, both to business owners and the community at large,” she said. “They put their lives on the line every day. They should be supported, not scolded.”

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