Edgewater condominium owner Jim Jones sat through a candidate forum at Emanuel Congregation in late January, listening for who among the 10 candidates running for 48th Ward alderman has a plan for a key issue affecting the ward’s future: How to protect its funky vitality by keeping housing affordable for the diverse cross-section of Chicagoans who call the area home.
In the 23 years he’s lived in Edgewater, Jones said, he’s seen “the cost of condos in my building double … rentals in the area are getting to be astronomical. If I were needing to rent, I couldn’t live here,” he told the Tribune.
Fewer places have seen more high-profile gentrification fights than Uptown. Protests of the redevelopment of the Weiss Hospital parking lot led to arrests last summer. Other fights have broken out over a luxury development at the corner of Montrose and Clarendon avenues and the conversion of a former Chicago Public School building into high-end apartments. All 16 candidates running in the North Side’s lakefront 46th and 48th wards have said housing affordability is a top priority.
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Much has stayed the same in those wards. Boundaries changed little over the previous decades and turnover in elected offices has been minimal. And the wards’ diverse political makeup has created major challenges for its aldermen: renters and owners fill high rises, stately single family homes and traditional two- three- and six-flats; commercial corridors are lined with immigrant-owned restaurants, independent shops and LGBTQ+-friendly spaces alongside national chains; and the ward is home to a dense network of social service providers for those experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.
But voters have a fresh opportunity to chart the course of both wards.
Two retirements in the City Council have created wide-open races to represent Uptown, Edgewater, Andersonville and the northern portion of Lakeview. Feb. 28 ballots are crowded, with six candidates in the 46th and 10 in the 48th. If no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters in each ward will face off in an Apr. 4 runoff.
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Candidates are spread across the modern Democratic spectrum, from DSA-endorsed progressives to centrists with business ties. Whoever wins could redefine what makes a modern “lakefront liberal” — a squishy term popularized in the 1970s to describe mostly white professional voters along the lake’s shoreline who largely backed reform-minded or anti-machine candidates. Pundits have disagreed about whether the label is entirely meaningless, when it died or which election killed it.
Voters were at a similar crossroads in 2011, when moderate 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith and uber-progressive Black Panther Party ally 46th Ward Ald. Helen Shiller both opted not to run again. Ald. Harry Osterman replaced Smith and Ald. James Cappleman replaced Shiller. But now Osterman and Cappleman — both generally considered moderates who rarely sparred with the mayor in power — are two of more than a dozen aldermen opting to retire from the council.
North Side political observers have long described the 46th Ward as diverse and divided. Cappleman was pushed into two runoffs in 2015 and 2019, winning both narrowly. Cappleman has yet to endorse any of the six candidates running to replace him, but he said he hopes the ward elects someone “who builds bridges rather than burns them — or in the case of some of these people running — rather than blow them up.”
Voters face a range of choices, including the pick of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who has a reputation as a technocratic, efficiency-oriented reformer and who 32 years ago ran for alderman and lost against Shiller. There’s also the endorsed candidate of Shiller herself, who, early in her career, worked alongside Mayor Harold Washington and often thumbed her nose at Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“I ran in that ward in 1991 and have the arrow holes in the back to prove it,” Quigley said earlier this month. He has thrown his support behind Kim Walz, his former staffer and a regional director at Walgreens. Quigley described Walz as a pragmatist who understands what the 46th Ward needs long term.
“You see there’s clearly the left-left candidates,” Quigley said. “I’m worried that — I don’t know who’s going to win for mayor — City Council is going to move even farther left.”
Walz, who ran for a state House seat in 2020 but later dropped out, has led the pack on fundraising. She’s also gotten high-end endorsements from Quigley, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, state Reps. Margaret Croke and Ann Williams and state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz. Walz has raised roughly $150,000 since January of 2022 and the independent expenditure group run by Illinois Realtors has spent $65,000 supporting her.
At a recent 46th Ward forum, Walz said she wanted to see Uptown’s theater district by Lawrence Avenue and Broadway and small businesses thrive, and has fielded complaints while campaigning about “too much red tape and bureaucracy,” as well as rising rents and property taxes for residents and businesses alike.
Two candidates who in the last election criticized Cappleman as insufficiently progressive and too deferential to developers are running again: Angela Clay and Marianne LaLonde.
Clay, a lifelong ward resident, is endorsed by Shiller, the Chicago branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Chicago Teachers Union and neighboring Ald. Matt Martin, 47th. Clay’s platform calls for lifting the statewide ban on rent control, redirecting funding from “ineffective policing initiatives” and reinvesting in social service programs “that proactively reduce violence.”
Between January 2022 and mid-February, Clay raised nearly $130,000, including $15,000 from CTU and $20,000 from other affiliated unions representing nurses and teachers at community colleges in Cook County.
LaLonde, a Maryland native and chemist who has worked for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, lost to Cappleman in the 2019 runoff by roughly two dozen votes. This time, she is endorsed by former Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, and John Arena, 45th, as well as former County Clerk David Orr. LaLonde has pledged to propose new laws “to protect the environment citywide,” including for flood resilience, protecting birds from colliding into buildings and updating the city’s lakefront protection ordinance.
But she has raised only about $65,000 since the start of the 2023 campaign. That includes $15,000 she gave herself and got from family members as well as $3,000 from WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling.
Roushaunda Williams, a bartender at the Palmer House and a shop steward for UNITE HERE Local 1, has the support of her union and the Chicago Federation of Labor, both of which have fueled most of the more than $100,000 she has raised between January 2022 and mid-February of this year. She helped the City Council push to mandate hotel workers be equipped with panic buttons in case of emergencies, including sexual assaults.
Patrick Nagle, the chief administrative law judge with the federal Social Security Administration, has served on Cappleman’s zoning advisory group for nearly a decade. Nagle has received contributions from a handful of restaurants in the Lakeview portion of the ward, including the Pancake Cafe, Murphy’s Bleachers and the Kit Kat Lounge.
Real estate agent Michael Cortez has not logged any contributions over $1,000. His website is spare, though he has said he would like to build “learn and live” centers to train the homeless in the trades.
Among the 10 candidates seeking the 48th Ward post are an affordable housing developer, a university lecturer, an artist, a real estate broker, a resale business owner, an assistant Illinois attorney general, a dance supply business owner, a deputy director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a restaurateur, and a communications manager working for the state’s comptroller.
With so many candidates, the race will likely come down to which candidates have the best ground game to get out the vote.
Retired state Rep. Greg Harris, the former Democratic House leader who was once chief of staff to former Ald. Smith, said compared to 20 years ago, ward residents are younger and more focused on broader issues, such as the environment and police accountability, than ones focused on issues affecting certain blocks or neighborhoods. What hasn’t changed: “Affordable housing and retaining income diversity and neighborhood diversity. … The whole gentrification debate, which has raged on the North Side for many years, still carries on.”
The two previous aldermen, Osterman and Smith, are backing a candidate with government experience who puts public safety among his top priorities: Joe Dunne, a vice president at Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., an affordable housing developer. Dunne previously worked at the Illinois Medical District Commission and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.
At a late January forum hosted by a condominium group, Dunne received sustained applause when answering a question about revitalizing struggling retail corridors in the ward, including Bryn Mawr and Granville avenues.
“People aren’t going to go to our business corridors if they don’t feel safe,” he said. “So if we want to revitalize Bryn Mawr, and we want to revitalize Granville, we’ve got to deal with public safety,” by adding beat cops and encouraging positive loitering, including street fests such as the Argyle Night Market, launched in part to counter gang violence in the area. Aside from safe streets, he said housing affordability was a top concern.
“I get mad as a hornet when I open my tax bill and I feel like I’m being priced out of the neighborhood,” he said.
Dunne has raised more than $100,000, including from trade unions, former state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, and the owner of the popular Hopleaf bar.
Only one other candidate in the race has raised more: Nick Ward. The artist and restaurant worker has raised roughly $125,000 since launching his campaign, winning endorsements from several progressive groups along the way. That list includes the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Nurses Association and the national and Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Ward has been the target of attack ads from the Super PAC Get Stuff Done, which is backed by a one-time political aide to ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who cite now-deleted tweets from Ward to allege that he is in favor of “full abolition” of the police. Amid protests following the police shooting of Adam Toledo, Ward tweeted: “I saw someone holding a sign last night that read “Reinvent Police” and while I’m appreciative that that is where that person is starting, that is absolutely not the demand of the movement. It’s Defund/Disarm/Dismantle, as a means to Abolish & Transform.”
In a series of tweets responding to the mailers, Ward decried the mailers as vicious, saying he believes “we put too many responsibilities on police to solve all of society’s problems.” His website lists allocating funds toward violence prevention and working “to create a non-police crisis response system for mental health related emergencies” as his public safety priorities.
Andy Peters, owner of Andersonville’s TrueNorth Cafe, has largely self-funded his campaign. Peters, who has campaigned as a “nerdy Democrat” also managed government relations and events at the Illinois Restaurant Association, according to his LinkedIn, and ran a consulting firm that claimed several current and former aldermen as clients, including Michele Smith, 43rd, Brian Hopkins, 2nd, Emma Mitts, 37th, and federally convicted Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th.
The daughter of Filipino immigrants and owner of Chicago Dance Supply, Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth says she is the first queer woman of color running for alderman in the ward. Manaa-Hoppenworth has political organizing experience: she is co-founder of the group Indivisible Illinois and has been endorsed by state Rep. Theresa Mah and former U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of La Grange.
Isaac Freilich Jones, a Harvard graduate and assistant in Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, has argued a “full-court press” is needed to recruit businesses to fill retail vacancies. Permitting should be centralized within the city and taken “out of aldermanic hands” to speed the process along, he said at the January forum.
Another candidate in the 48th, Larry Svabek, worked on a citywide push for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. Svabek, a lecturer and fellow at the University of Chicago, said at the forum that the next alderman needed to be “ready to work” with soon-to-be elected police district councilors. He pledged to push the city to speed along spending on anti-violence initiatives. But his candidacy has not caught on with donors: most of his fundraising has been from what appear to be family members.
Andre Peloquin, a residential real estate agent with @properties, has raised less than $50,000 but has received $55,000 in support from the Illinois Realtors Super PAC, according to state records. Brian Haag is the founder of Green Element, a resale shop, and at the 48th Ward forum. Haag pivoted most of his answers at the forum — including about public safety — back to environmental issues. He said he supports allowing live-work spaces in vacant commercial storefronts.
Roxanne Volkmann, the HUD director, has said she knows “how to get government agencies and departments to work for this community,” and supports hiring to fill vacancies at the Police Department.
Nassir Faulkner, who works in communications for Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, committed to having a social worker on staff to help with social service and homelessness issues. He has also pledged to create advisory councils on public safety and housing, and would press for at least 30% of units in new housing developments to be affordable.