By Ken Trainor
Gov. Quinn paid a visit to Ascension Church Sunday afternoon for a United Power for Action and Justice (UPAJ) meeting that packed the church with more than 800 people. Ascension hasn't been that full since Midnight Mass, which, as it happens, was the last time Quinn visited Ascension, so he's used to standing room only in church.
Plenty of Oak Parkers were in attendance, including more than 100 parishioners, plus state Senator Don Harmon, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, trustees Ray Johnson and Bob Tucker, and numerous other Oak Parkers and River Foresters. Also in attendance were 250 residents of the Southwest Side of Chicago, whose reclamation is one of four UPAJ goals for the meeting. Quinn noted in his remarks that his roots are in that neighborhood (Marquette Park), also the site of a Martin Luther King march in 1966.
The rest of the meeting's agenda involved supportive housing, health care, and gun violence. Oak Park was chosen partly to celebrate one of UPAJ's accomplishments — the 51 units of affordable housing in the Grove Apartments development. As co-moderator Nick Brunick, an Ascension parishioner noted, "Grove Apartments was a chance for Oak Park to live up to our values."
On the issue of reducing gun violence (353 lives lost in Chicago since their last meeting with the governor in March), Diane Boese of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church noted that she was a gunshot victim at the age of 3 when her playmate found a gun and shot her while playing with it. UPAJ is focusing on promoting safety technology for guns, which in her case would have prevented four decades of medical procedures and trauma. Gun manufacturers, she said, "should be made accountable for their products."
Quinn expressed support for all of the initiatives, although he was somewhat vague on commitments of funding. He also took the opportunity to promote his own initiative to raise the minimum wage in Illinois.
He also talked about his local roots. He was a student at Fenwick High School when Dr. King marched in Marquette Park. He lived for a time at Lyman and Harrison in Oak Park and still lives close by in Galewood.
UPAJ runs a tight meeting as this sort of thing goes. They promised to start at 3 p.m. and adjourn at 4:15, and that's what they did. One of their members served as a timekeeper for the speakers.
And Quinn was there at 3 p.m. When was the last time a politician showed up for a community meeting on time?