Stories

The state of the American city: Chicago

Left, Axios' Mike Allen, right, Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois.
Right, Governor J. B. Pritzker of Illinois discusses criminal justice reform with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chris Dilts for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios' Co-founder Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations in Chicago that spanned criminal justice reform, policies around recreational marijuana and low-level criminal offenses, and the lasting impact of investing in the community.

Eddie Bocanegra, Senior Director of READI Chicago, Heartland Alliance

Eddie Bocanegra in conversation with Mike Allen.
Eddie Bocanegra in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen this Wednesday. Photo: Chris Dilts for Axios

Eddie Bocanegra, Senior Director of READI Chicago at the Heartland Alliance, discussed how his experiences have informed his work and advocacy, highlighting the importance of language and changing societal attitudes around those who have been incarcerated.

  • On organizing around education: "I'm a firm believer in the need for education because I know what it did for me when I was incarcerated. And it's allowed me to think about my life and my community very differently."
  • On the role of language in treating people with dignity: "It's really important because those words [like 'convicted felon'] really overshadow the success or the attempts that people are trying to make to really regain their lives."
  • On people wanting to grow businesses in Chicago: "My assumption is that you want a safer community because you want your business to thrive..So it's really important — how do we bring the corporate sector into the fold to help solve this issue? How do we get them to invest in these kinds of [violence reduction] programs?

Heather Higginbottom, President at JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter

Heather Higginbottom in conversation with Axios' Evan Ryan.
Right, Heather Higginbottom in conversation with Axios' Evan Ryan. Photo: Chris Dilts for Axios

The View From the Top segment featured Heather Higginbottom, President at JPMorgan Chase's PolicyCenter, who discussed the center's focus on eliminating barriers to employment for people with criminal backgrounds.

  • On the role of the private sector: "We believe that business has an important role to play in advancing a more inclusive economy... And that's what we're attempting to do with the Policy Center, is look at what we uniquely have with respect to our data, our research, our experiences in cities like Chicago."
  • How cross-sector collaboration leads to better outcomes: "Our view is that government cannot solve these problems that are facing us that are very complex alone...We think that business should be at the table and have a responsibility to be driving forward solutions [and this] results in a more inclusive economy.

Governor J.B. Pritzker, Illinois

Governor J.B. Pritzker discussed policy efforts to protect immigrant families from ICE raids, investments in the community by focusing on small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the path towards marijuana legalization.

  • On protecting immigrant families: "I am all about protecting the people who live in this state...We've passed a number of pieces of legislation over the last year to make sure that we're protecting them from the ICE raids that are occurring all across the country, but especially here in the state of Illinois."
  • On the role of small businesses in sustaining the local economy: "Most jobs get created by small businesses that grow to medium-sized businesses...It's great when you hear the announcement that some big company is moving here and we have a thousand new jobs that they're going to bring. But the harder work is the small to medium size, you know, help those companies grow from 50 to 250."
  • On creating equitable laws around recreational marijuana use: "We created an opportunity for people to get these licenses [to legally sell marijuana]...[We're] using that as a loan fund for others who will enter this arena, because it is very important that those who have been most ill-affected are the people who have the greatest opportunity. "

Kim Foxx, State's Attorney, Cook County, Illinois

State's Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, Kim Foxx on the Axios stage.
Kim Foxx, State's Attorney of Cook County, Illinois, discusses reform on the Axios stage. Photo: Chris Dilts for Axios

State's Attorney of Cook County, Illinois, Kim Foxx discussed her data-driven approach to change, specifically how refocusing on efforts on prosecuting gun offenses instead of retail theft has dramatically improved community safety.

  • On looking at the data in prosecution: "The number one referred prosecution in our office was not guns. It was not shootings. It was retail theft...we were spending a lot of our resources going after low-level offenders and not the people driving violence in our communities."
  • How targeting low-level offenses for prosecution doesn't address underlying problems in the community: "We can pat ourselves on the back that we get people driving on a suspended license. Prosecuting them because they can't afford to pay their tickets. That's not making us safer. That's not building our communities."
  • On the relationship between education, equity, and criminal justice reform: "How do we expect children in these neighborhoods most impacted by violence to learn in the exact same way...We have to care about that. We have to be more thoughtful in talking about criminal justice. We have to separate ourselves from the good guy, bad guy narrative."

Thank you JPMorgan Chase for sponsoring this event.