There’s major turnover on the City Council, but aldermen on West Side look to keep things status quo – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

In an election destined to be defined by new City Council representatives taking over in many Chicago wards, longtime West Side aldermen are looking to buck the turnover trend and keep their seats.

One West Side council veteran is unopposed. Another three are trying to fend off challengers, arguing they’re best positioned to lead the wards for another four years.

It’s certain that 16 aldermen who were elected in 2019 will not join the new council in May, thanks to several retirements, a handful opting to run for other offices and one forced out when he was convicted of federal tax crimes. Several other incumbents on the 50-member council are in tough reelection fights.

Wins for the four West Side stalwarts would represent support for the status quo at a moment of political change elsewhere in the city.

But a sweep for the incumbents is hardly assured.

Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, is hoping to extend her 23-year run representing a ward that stretches from Humboldt Park west into Austin. Three candidates are trying to take her out: police Officer Howard Ray, activist Corey Braddock and teacher and youth pastor Jake Towers.

Candidates for alderman in Chicago's 37th Ward: Ald. Emma Mitts, Howard Ray, Jake Towers and Corey Braddock.

After mounting a failed campaign last year to become a judge, Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th, wants a third term in a ward that zigzags along the city’s western border from Austin through part of Galewood all the way north to Dunning on the Northwest Side. Two men are vying to unseat him: community activist Corey Dooley and longtime West Side activist and politico CB Johnson.

Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, looked to have an unobstructed run to a fourth full term, until the Illinois Appellate Court on Friday ordered Shawn Walker’s name be restored to the ballot. Walker had earlier been knocked out of the race by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners in a challenge related to the number of signatures he had on his nominating petitions.

Meanwhile, West Sider Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, is alone on the Feb. 28 election ballot.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, talks about his support of the casino during a Chicago City Council meeting on Dec. 14, 2022.

Burnett will become the council’s longest-serving current member when two aldermen facing federal criminal indictments, Edward Burke, 14th, and Carrie Austin, 34th, step down in May. Burnett, first elected in 1995, will begin his eighth term when the new council gets seated.

Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, talks with community activists during Operation Clean on May 27, 2022.

Mitts, who chairs the council’s powerful License Committee, thought about retiring herself in May, but said she wants one more term to finish a handful of projects, continue guiding the ward through the aftermath of the pandemic and try to help prepare somebody to succeed her.

“People need help now more than ever before,” Mitts said. “I don’t want to just abandon them without being able to have a plan in place where things can continue to move forward. So I’m sacrificing myself for that reason and to also complete some projects that I have going on that I’ve been working on for the last four years.”

She pointed to the just-completed police and fire training academy and an Amazon distribution facility that has yet to open its doors, both in West Humboldt Park, as two big developments that still need her attention. Both have drawn plenty of controversy since they were announced.

And Mitts said potential successors “need to be educated a little bit more on government, how it works, what you need to do, how much work is involved. It’s not just a paycheck.”

But challenger Ray said Mitts hasn’t done enough to make sure ward residents reap the benefits of wealthy conglomerates, such as Amazon, that set up shop on the West Side.

“We … welcome business in our community, but there should be a community benefit agreement where the business and the community can talk about how they can benefit each other,” Ray said. “And the thing about it, Emma Mitts has brought some various businesses in here, but the businesses are just sucking money out. They’re not doing anything to help the community.”

Ray was among a group of residents who called on Amazon to hire more people from the job-starved West Side, and said he would keep holding corporations accountable.

“We need for our elected officials to have these talks with the community and Amazon,” he said. “Our elected officials should be brokering some kind of agreement. And if I become alderman — when I become alderman — I’ll advocate for a CBA to be an ordinance.”

Also on the 37th Ward ballot is Braddock, who said he was driven to run in part because he couldn’t get Mitts to help him stop violations his landlord was committing. That episode was emblematic of Mitts’ approach to her constituents, he said.

“She doesn’t listen to people,” Braddock said. “I’ve been knowing her since she got appointed. And for her to treat me like that and I know her personally, it didn’t sit well with me. Imagine how she’s treating other people.”

Mitts has a massive campaign money advantage over her opponents — no surprise given her long tenure and her chairmanship of the License Committee. Campaign finance records show she had more than $121,000 on hand at the start of the year, compared with about $5,000 for Ray and less than $2,000 for Towers.

She handily defeated two challengers in 2019, taking 54% of the vote in the first round of the city election to avoid a runoff.

But Braddock said that doesn’t mean Mitts has overwhelming local support, pointing out she won in 2019 with fewer than 4,200 votes in a ward with around 50,000 residents. “That’s not running away with nothing,” he said. “That’s voter apathy.”

“If the voters are not voting because they believe somebody is crooked and won’t listen to you, then why take part?” Braddock said.

And Towers, a political newcomer who teaches kindergartners after school and serves as the youth pastor at his father’s church, said voters are ready for a different direction, an alderman who will prioritize the area’s most pressing problems.

“I think she’s lost trust, not really listening to people,” Towers said of Mitts. “The development is good, but I was at those meetings with Amazon, where people were saying to her, ‘We have other needs. We have people who are homeless, we have children who are homeless.’”

In the nearby 29th Ward, Taliaferro said his unsuccessful 2022 run for Cook County judge doesn’t undermine his commitment to ward residents. He pointed out both his opponents are hoping to take on a new position on the City Council, and said it’s no different from him having sought a judgeship.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th, greets attendees of a household goods giveaway on Feb. 11, 2023.

“Is that a viable criticism?” Taliaferro asked. “That’s something most people do in life, they try to elevate to another position or a different position. Whether you’re in a public capacity or a private capacity. So I think the criticism doesn’t really have a leg to stand on.”

Taliaferro is a former Chicago police sergeant, and he has served as the chairman of the council Public Safety Committee in recent years as it considered such hot-button issues as civilian oversight of the Police Department and attempts to change police warrant procedures in the aftermath of the wrongful raid of Anjanette Young’s home.

Taliaferro said he was the right alderman for that job.

“Having my experience helped a whole lot,” he said. “A lot of my colleagues aren’t aware of police rules and regulations and police procedures, so I believe with my experience I was able to talk to them about the life of a police officer, and that includes personal life as well.”

Dooley, who’s 25 and has lived in the Austin neighborhood for about a year after coming to Chicago from Dallas to attend Concordia University, said it’s time to make way for a new generation of Chicago leaders. The big turnover coming to the City Council provides an opportunity for true change, Dooley said.

Corey Dooley, a candidate for 29th Ward alderman, speaks at Michele Clark High School on Feb. 10, 2023.

“Now more than ever in history, we have a unique opportunity to reshape the future of Chicago,” Dooley said. “I’m running to be a part of that next generation of city leaders.”

In particular, Dooley said the city’s contract to use ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology is an expensive failure that doesn’t make neighborhoods safer. Taliaferro has backed ShotSpotter.

“For someone who served in law enforcement for 20-plus years, I would think that (Taliaferro) would see that this technology is harmful,” Dooley said. “And the fact that this technology is mostly on the South and West sides, in the communities that effect his constituents the most — the 29th Ward is 65% African American — I think we could take that money we pay as taxpayers and put it into violence prevention programs.”

Also on the 29th Ward ballot is CB Johnson, head of the Campaign for a Drug-Free Westside organization. Johnson is making his third run for alderman. He could not be reached for comment about his candidacy.

In the 28th Ward, Walker — a former 28th Ward Republican committeeman — said the court’s late decision to reinstate him to the ballot at least gives voters a choice to voice their frustration with Ervin.

“This alderman has failed to do a lot in the community. Crime is up, and schools have declined,” Walker said. “I’m not going to lie and say it’s going to be easy to win. It’s going to be an uphill battle. But we’re going to fight and give people a choice.”

Shawn Walker, a candidate for the 28th Ward alderman, holds a campaign event at Bethel Church on Chicago's Near West Side on Feb. 19, 2023.

Because the appellate court ruling came down just a little more than a week before the Feb. 28 election, the city elections board suspended until further notice all early voting in the 28th Ward and said in a statement that no new 28th Ward mail ballots would be sent until Walker’s name was restored to those ballots.

Ervin could not immediately be reached for comment about the court’s decision.

Joining the four West Side veterans on the ballot is new 24th Ward Ald. Monique Scott, seeking her first full term since Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed her in June to succeed her brother, Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (Lightfoot then appointed Michael Scott Jr. to the Chicago School Board).

Twitter @_johnbyrne

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.