'The facts' - Aurora residents celebrate the state of the city
Residents of the second largest city in Illinois celebrated their town last week, Tuesday March 15, during its mayor’s annual state of the city address.
“These are the facts,” stated Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin.
This was one of the phrases that intertwined his State of the City Address: Moving Aurora Forward message at the Paramount Theatre -- his fifth as the city’s top official.
“Aurora, Illinois, once a town that was ranked as one of the most crime ridden cities in the Midwest would never be able to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix,” Irvin said, “let alone going to be named as one of the safest midsize cities in America.”
The meeting started with a montage of news clips noting the approval of Aurora’s largest budget and rankings citing the city’s placement on numerous “Best of” lists.
Hatti Johnson has lived in Aurora for 62 years. She said she came out to support the mayor.
“Who I believe has done wonderful things for the growth of the city. He's been a great example to the community,” she said. “I love his story of where his beginning started and where he's ended up now.”
But not everyone at the event had the same sentiment. A group of protestors stood in front of the theater. Erika Garcia led the group. She said they have apprehensions about the Aurora Police Department.
“They have a really bloated budget and they are - - don't have a good system of holding police officers accountable,” Garcia said. “We have several concerns from a lot of minority communities, brown and Black folks in the city.”
Garcia said they have a list of demands, and one includes giving the Civilian Review Board more power. This board was created in 2020. One of the goals is to address community complaints about the police department.
“We are asking for subpoena power -- for the CRB to have subpoena power," she explained. "And those are, I mean; we have all our lists out here of our demands. But we're just here to show the community that we are listening.”
Irvin said the answers the protestors were looking for were given during his speech.
“Well, I would say that they should have sat and listened to the statistics and saw how when we raised the police budget, how crime has gone down substantially in the city of Aurora and because of it," he explained, "we are being identified as one of the safest cities in America. One of the best cities to raise a family, one of the best cities to buy a house, one of the happiest cities, you know, in America.”
The mayor announced several updates for the city but the one that had the crowd cheering the loudest was the message about Christkindlmarket coming to the city.
Vivian Davis has lived in Aurora since 1991. She says she was excited about another opening.
“The housing for high functioning special needs people,” she explained. “Because my grandson I've been raising for 24 years, he's autistic," she explained. "Not as high functioning but it's still you know; we still have that hope that one day maybe he will be able to live on his own.”
Irvin is campaigning to become the next Illinois governor, but he said the state of the city address is not about that.
“It's about the state of city for Aurora, and everything we've done and all the successes we've had over the last year," he said. "So tonight, isn’t about politics, it's about the city of Aurora and the strength of our residents and how we’re going to build it and continue to make Aurora strong.”
On that note, Irvin said the city is stronger and more promising than it’s ever been in its 185-year history.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.