The thing about democracy, is that you can never stop engaging in it. Just as one election ended in November, another will be here in April. While we would love to take a break from the election fatigue, there are opportunities we might miss out on closer to home. This spring, the Village of Savoy President is retiring. In addition, three Village Trustee positions are up for election. This is an amazing opportunity to bring new voices to the table that represent our growing population. Because as we are growing, so is our diversity, right?
I went onto the U.S. Census Bureau website and looked up our village’s racial demographics between the years of 2010 until 2019. What I found surprised me. Even as our overall population grew from 7280 people in 2010 to 8401 people in 2019, the Black population dropped from 6.83% to 4.7%. While the number of white residents dropped during those nine years as well, it still remains a significant proportion of the population (from 77.43% to 73.4%). Most other populations have stayed the same, except for our Asian population which increased from 12.6% to 18.7%.
So, while I would love to argue that our populations are drastically changing to be more racially diverse, the truth is, they are not. I am asking myself and the residents of Savoy what we want our village to look like in the next five, ten, or fifteen years.
People come to Savoy for the elementary school, the new subdivisions, the growing economy. But is that enough? For example, Carrie Busey would benefit from having public transportation more readily available to some of the families that don’t live in its proximity. However, Carrie Busey is housed in the Prairie Fields neighborhood, and Savoy has an agreement with MTD saying that its residential neighborhoods will not be subject to annexation for 25 years from 2008 unless both parties agree to an amendment. At the time of this agreement, no school was built in Savoy, so transportation for families needing public transportation wasn’t on the radar. While most of the residents of Savoy can find alternate transportation, those who need a voice don’t necessarily have voting power.
Speaking of alternate transportation, there has been a proposed Bike and Pedestrian Plan since at least 2017 that has not moved forward. The plan would allow safer options for bikes and pedestrians to travel out of the southeast neighborhoods of Savoy. As a person who has fallen off my bike in the gravel gap on Old Church Road, resulting in a broken nose, it is frustrating to not see safer options for cyclists trying to enter and exit southeast Savoy.
Access to alternative transportation options is just one thing to consider improving in Savoy and an example of how those with resources don’t always see obstacles that are faced by those who don’t. Did you know there is another school in Savoy? The Savoy Head Start houses younger students, some of who are in the foster care system and others who come from lower income families. They don’t necessarily have the family and parental support that students at Carrie Busey do. How can Savoy do a better job supporting those families and children?
How do we make our residents of color feel safe and welcome here? Do our village representatives know how to ask? During this summer while other communities rallied around their Black residents, Savoy stayed quiet. Currently, 100% of our Village Board is made up of white residents; does that really encourage non-white people to consider moving to Savoy?
Diversity doesn’t just mean racial differences. It includes religions, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic status, family makeup, and disabilities. And while living in Savoy may feel like living in the Donna Reed days of old, the problem is that not everyone was welcome in Donna Reed’s neighborhood.
I am incredibly lucky and thankful that Savoy has been a welcoming place for my family over the last 18 years. My neighbors are wonderful. But I also recognize that I fit into the white, heterosexual, middle class box that is widely accepted. I want everyone to feel welcome and have a voice in the process. I don’t believe our current Village Board is intentionally trying to prevent new voices from being heard, but I think that adding new voices to the board will change the conversations being had.
And so, Savoy residents, do you want to not only add to the conversation, but be a part of the decision making process? Then run for one of the four positions available this April. Competitive elections are good for democracy; they hold elected officials accountable.
First step, head over to the Village of Savoy election website. Read up on the rules to qualify as a candidate. If you have questions, email or call Billie Krueger, Village Clerk, at (217) 359-5894 or Billie.Krueger@savoy.illinois.gov. She is incredibly helpful in understanding the process. The filing period is December 14-21.