50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 50th Ward’s Jacqueline Gross says Emanuel lacks charisma, needs results

July 18, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Jacqueline Gross likes how 'multicultural' West Rogers Park is.

When Jacqueline Gross moved to West Rogers Park two years ago, she went to a nearby produce market and asked if they had some of her favorite foods.

“African Americans usually eat like collard greens, turnip greens, things like that, and when I first moved over here… they didn’t have that, but they do sell it now.”


This is an example, Gross says, of the respect people of different cultures have for each other in this diverse neighborhood. She – and likely others – asked for their favorite foods, and the business was happy to offer it.

“Lot of different cultures that live here – Pakistani, Indian, Jewish, some African – migrant African, Hispanic, African American,” she says.

It is because of that diversity that she feels safe, Gross says.

“And that’s not to say that I don’t want to live around all African American, but I just feel like more safe over here.”

Gross has lived all over the city. She grew up in Woodlawn on the South Side, moved north to Lakeview and west to Albany Park. From there, she made her most recent move, to West Rogers Park. She says it was about safety.


“[Albany Park] started to get a lot of gangs. [There were] a lot of shootings. And so, I have a 17-year-old daughter and I just wasn’t comfortable with her getting off the bus and coming down the street. I just wasn’t comfortable with it. And I’m very comfortable with this neighborhood.”

Still, Gross is not comfortable with crime and violence across Chicago. It’s the top priority she wants local officials to get to work on.


“Every time you turn on the news, there’s somebody getting shot. And it’s not necessarily my neighborhood, but still, it’s the city I live in,” she says. “I think that we need a stronger police presence. I think that we need more community programs. And we need to address the issues that young youth are facing, which are lack of jobs, they don’t have education, they commit crimes then they can’t go to school. So there’s a lot of community issues that need to be addressed in order to stop it.”

Gross is a teacher at Christopher House, a more than 100-year-old organization that provides childcare services. It’s clear she has great pride in her work.

“I love it,” she says. “I’ve been at Christopher House for 5 years, but I’ve been in childcare for nearly 20 years.”

Gross’ commute to Christopher House’s Uptown location isn’t bad-- a couple of buses. She really likes the new digital bus stop shelters that display the wait time for the next bus. Her big complaint about her neighborhood is another bus line: the California Avenue bus.

“It’s very slow. They run about every 30 minutes – almost kind of like suburban. They don’t run on the [Sundays]. And this is the bus that you would take to go over like into downtown Evanston or to Howard Street.”

Her daughter goes to a Chicago public school nearby and Gross went to public schools when she was growing up. I ask her how she thinks Rahm Emanuel is doing when it comes to the schools, given the standoff with the teachers’ union.

“I think teachers should be paid,” she says. “But I do like the standards that [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel is trying to set for the schools in terms of longer school days.”

This is ironic, she, says, because in her line of work, a longer school day could mean fewer children in childcare, and fewer jobs at Christopher House.

“But it’s more about the education of our youth. That’s more important to me.”

Her overall evaluation of Emanuel is measured. Gross says the new mayor has good intentions.


“I think that he has to find a way to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. I think he hasn’t found that way to maneuver his self,” Gross says. “He’s not such a personable person so he doesn’t have the charisma to get the city behind him the way he really needs to.”

“The answer is results. Okay, you can’t get by on talking. The people have to see something. It’s one thing for him to stand up and go off about another kid getting shot, but at the same time, every time you turn on the news you see [another kid has been shot].”

Chicagoans need to see results, she says.