Cornell Wilson

Personal Statement

An attorney, community advocate, and decorated veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I have dedicated my life to leadership and public service.

After graduation from Florida A&M University, I put personal ambition aside to serve our country in the wake of the September 11th attacks, volunteering as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps in the summer of 2003. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan and during my tour in Fallujah, Iraq, I developed expertise in complex logistics management. In 2008, I joined the Marine Corps Reserves and conducted a civil affairs tour of duty in Djibouti.

While still serving in Djibouti, I was accepted to the prestigious Northwestern University Law School. At Northwestern, I served in the Judge Advocate General’s office working on legal issues facing Marines, assisted Judges Graham C. Mullen and Karen Eady-Williams and served as a Law Clerk for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.

My desire to find public policy solutions for the city I love was honed at Northwestern University Law School, where I served as Managing Editor of the distinguished Journal of Law and Social Policy, and on the Civic Leadership Council Board of the non-profit Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. The Constitutional Rights Foundation is a national leader in providing innovative, top-quality civic and law-related education programs to teachers and students at elementary, junior high and high schools.

I am focused on resident-driven, participatory policymaking; residents should lead the way in addressing their concerns—not City Hall.

Biographical Summary

Party Enrolled In: Democratic Party
Occupation: Attorney and United States Marine Corps Reserve Officer
Education: Florida A&M University (Bachelors)
Northwestern University School of Law (JD)
Organizational Affiliations: Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (junior board member)
Chicago Bar Association
Fourth Presbyterian Church (Member)
Prior Public Experience: Military service since 2003. No prior political office.

On the Issues

City remapping

The new 2nd Ward, redrawn with wholly different boundaries after the 2010 census, epitomizes the argument for more oversight in the redistricting process. Dramatically altered boundaries designed to fit a political agenda complicate community identity, cohesion, and representation.

City Council should investigate alternatives to a legislative — and partisan — redistricting committee, including the creation of an independent commission to enact district boundary changes. Representative politics should not be punitive.

City Services/Infrastructure

Over the past four years the number of city workers has dropped from approximately 40,000 workers to 34,000, while the cost per employee has risen 2.3%. We need to balance cuts with our ability to provide timely and effective services to all citizens—particularly those most in need. Adequate staffing and funding in education, policing, public and mental health is essential to holistic community health and ward stability.


City government should strengthen active safeguards. This includes fully funding and vesting a single inspector general with the ability to investigate both the city council and mayor. We must also work proactively to expand ethics training for all city employees and forge an ethical workplace culture. Highlighting specific practices for reform—such as systematic abuses of the TIF program— as well as taking legislative action to expand transparency are necessary, further steps in combating corruption.


Earlier this year, we conducted a comprehensive poll that identified crime and gun violence as the most important issues for 2nd Ward voters. Advocating for education and essential services that reduce violence and criminal activity are my top priorities. I believe City Council needs to work to address revenue solutions to restore funding and presentation services. These resources are critical to stemming the epidemic of youth violence and gang activity, as well as supporting educational attainment.

Development and Jobs

The restaurant industry is a key driver of economic activity and employment in the ward. I developed a 20-point policy proposal to support existing and new restaurants and encourage investment. I would work collaboratively with area legislators to create a universal minimum wage for all Illinois residents to avoid any ‘race to the bottom’ relocations. Balanced economic and workforce development, through fair wages and programming aimed at continuing educational opportunities, produce a stable local economy.

Fiscal Responsibility

Chicago faces tough fiscal challenges from pensions to funding for education and city services. Resolving them requires sober accounting in the present, and long-term planning for the future. We must abandon poor fiscal practices like the haphazard use of taxable bonds for prior debts and together, through the newly created Office of Financial Analysis, identify new revenue solutions and areas for streamlining. The City should be forthright and transparent with the public regarding any proposed solutions.

Historical Preservation

There is a rich and irreplaceable history in the 2nd Ward’s communities. At the ward level, we should encourage sustainable development that fits within the history and character of our neighborhoods, rather than the capricious, short-sighted decisions often meted out by City Hall. The creation of a long-rage ward plan and ward advisory organ that formalizes citizen input in the development process are two possible avenues to ensure a balance between heritage and economic development.

Reducing Gun Violence

As a Marine veteran, I understand the damage that guns can inflict when coupled with violent behavior. I will foster collaboration between law enforcement agencies and community organizations to keep illegal guns out of the 2nd Ward. I support the recent city ordinance that places reasonable regulations on gun stores that operate within the City of Chicago’s limits, as well as current policies limiting gun purchases to one a month and enforcing universal background checks.


Educational outcomes depend on the wellbeing of families and communities: from local development, jobs, higher wages, to secure households. We should foster innovation that can provide empowering options for families, including sophisticated use and development of pedagogy (teaching philosophy), curriculum, educational institution types. We should also explore an elected school board that allows more public direction and engagement in citywide education policy.

Transportation/Transit Issues

I have always been a proponent of mass transit and support expanded CTA opportunities, such as new lines and connectors, down south lake shore drive, and for Chicago and the Chicagoland area. The continued efficient movement of people and things will be the logistical challenge of our immediate future. I believe we must work with our state legislators to make this network a model for the nation.

Ward Office Communication

Staying in touch with all 2nd Ward constituents is of the utmost importance. With important decisions on finances, education, and economic development coming to a head, it is critical that the Ward Office communicate effectively and efficiently in order to invite resident involvement in decisions. I support requiring open hearings on proposals and formal reporting. Deliberate dialogue with city residents offers a framework for collaboration and resident opt-in rather than out of touch, unilateral decisions.

Cornell Wilson was last modified: January 12th, 2015 by runclean is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that does not endorse or oppose any candidate(s).