Today we complete our endorsements in contested races for alderman in Chicago, presenting our picks in the 32nd ward and wards 40 through 50. If you missed our endorsements for wards 1 through 39, please go to chicago.suntimes.com. Early voting begins Monday.
Small business owner Elise Doody-Jones is making a debut run for City Council in this ward, which runs through Bucktown, Lake View, Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Roscoe Village and Wicker Park. She has fresh ideas, including using an unused land tax to keep unmaintained vacant land from degrading neighborhoods. But voters would be wise to re-elect incumbent Scott Waguespack, one of the city’s most independent and thoughtful aldermen. Waguespack, a member of the Progressive Caucus, might deviate from the majority view more often than necessary, but he is one of the key forces driving the Council in the right direction by making sure his colleagues understand all the options for solving financial problems. He also played a key role in keeping open schools that are now high-performing. He has run an accessible ward office and built up strong ties with community organizations.
Far North Side
Assuming he is re-elected, Mayor Emanuel will need a willing partner in doing what’s necessary to get Chicago back on sound financial footing. That partner must the City Council — old-hands, rubber stamps, go-getters and slackers — if public pensions are to be restructured and new revenue found. Among the mayor’s most important allies is his Council floor leader, Ald. Patrick O’Connor. He has the political skills and policy knowledge to get the job done — and he’s in the right place. O’Connor’s sole opponent, teacher Dianne Daleiden, opposes all changes to pensions.
We’re tempted to shout this endorsement to be heard above all that jet noise in the 41st Ward, but don’t blame incumbent Ald. Mary O’Connor for the din. Those new runways were decided and paved long before she was first elected four years ago. On the contrary, O’Connor has a reputation for being a hands-on and thoughtful member of the Council, up on both ward issues and citywide issues. She’s a strong ally of the mayor, which is a plus for Chicago in the upcoming pension reform battles, and she’s sensitive to the needs of small businesses in her ward. She was one of a handful of alderman — all representing border wards — who opposed Emanuel’s proposed increase in the minimum wage. She understandably feared it would hurt local restaurants, who would be forced to compete with lower-overhead suburban establishments that, in some cases, are literally across the street. The ward includes all or parts of Norwood Park, Edgebrook, Edison Park, Oriole Park and O’Hare Airport.
First-term alderman Michele Smith has some strikes against her. She has a side consulting job for a foundation that she should have been made public. And the foundation pays Smith about $80,000 a year, more than half what the foundation raised and doled out in grants last year. Smith, who can be abrasive, turned off people during tough negotiations over the former Children’s Memorial Hospital site. Critics accuse her of not listening enough. Finally, while she’s been a leader on pushing for pension reforms in City Council, she refuses to entertain a property tax increase, which we believe must be part of any revenue solution to the city’s massively underfunded pension crisis. In contrast, challenger Caroline Vickrey takes a political risk by admitting you can’t honestly rule out the possibility of a property tax hike. Vickrey, a lawyer and former local school council member, has some promising ideas on how to draw more business to Lincoln Park and would set up a 43rd ward community zoning board. Generally she pledges to be more inclusive and responsive than Smith has proven to be. Smith has been a strong legislator in City Council but it’s time to try someone new. Vickrey is endorsed over Smith, Jen Kramer and Jerry Quandt.
Lake View, Wrigleyville
Ald. Tom Tunney has many groups to juggle in this high-profile ward, from the Cubs, to business owners, to residents. By and large, Tunney juggles them successfully and deserves to be re-elected. He struggled in negotiations over renovations to Wrigley Field and waffled some. But overall, Tunney tries to be responsive. We wish he were more independent of business owners in his ward; he opposed the city’s minimum wage increase, for example. But as a long-time restaurateur, he represents their interests, among others, in the City Council. He also knows more business is good for Chicago, especially as it faces a severe pension crisis. On that, Tunney is honest about potential pension cuts, and a possible property tax hike as a last resort. The City Council needs more of that. Tunney has two opponents, long-time ward business owner Mark Thomas, and IT project manager and anti-red light activist Scott Davis. Thomas is the better alternative. He offers a different vision for the ward, one that’s focused more on local businesses rather than on chains, and raises some legitimate issues about Tunney’s openness to all views. But Tunney has earned another term.
First term Ald. John Arena has an aggressive, forward-thinking vision for developing his ward that is beginning to pay off. But he’s also combative and makes conflicts personal, qualities that have hurt his efforts in the ward and at City Hall. He votes against the mayor more often than any other alderman. We’re all for a strong opposition, but not when it stops the conversation from moving forward. We’re endorsing Arena — the best side of Arena — for re-election with a caveat: He should learn to work with others. It’s the best way to advance his sound agenda (and to avoid a voter revolt). Arena also is more willing to make the hard choices needed to deal with the city’s under-funded pensions systems. The ward includes Jefferson Park, Forest Glen, Gladstone Park and parts of Portage Park and Old Irving Park.
Uptown, Lake View
The job of 46th Ward alderman is tough, no matter who is in the job. It’s about striking a balance between preserving the ward’s affordability and social service network while also drawing in quality businesses and making it a welcoming place for all, including condo owners and Starbucks drinkers. Ald. James Cappleman gave it a shot. He has a vision for a better life for the marginal folks in his ward, but he has failed on several occasions to treat them right in the short term. Instead, we’re backing Amy Crawford, a successful corporate lawyer with a long pro bono track record. She’s active in a community credit union and a housing counseling and financial education group. She’s also whip smart, decisive and willing to take a politically risky but honest position: she’s open to pension cuts and a property tax hike to help deal with the city’s pension crisis. Crawford is most likely to strike the right balance for the 46th, welcoming development in an area ripe for it while also working to keep the ward open for all. It’s no easy task, but Crawford is best suited for the challenge. Denice Davis, chief of staff to former 44th ward alderman Helen Shiller, also is running.
Residents of this ward are lucky to have Ameya Pawar as alderman, as are all Chicagoans. Pawar is that rare alderman who looks after his ward with great care but also advances legislation that helps residents across Chicago. Industrious and forward-thinking, Pawar is enthusiastically endorsed for a second term for a ward that includes Lincoln Square, North Center and parts of Lakeview and Andersonville. In the ward, he is pushing for a true kindergarten through 12th grade network of schools, he has delivered a dizzying array of school, library and parks improvements and has shepherded in new, quality development. Remarkable for a freshman alderman, he has taken a lead role on a slew of legislation — to create an independent budget office, to ensure greater transparency and accountability on TIF spending, to preserve single room occupancy housing. His opponent Rory Fiedler has attacked Pawar as an absentee alderman but those charges quickly crumble. Fiedler, a designer, asks good questions about TIF spending and holding the line on taxes, but falls short on offering a real vision for the ward and is unrealistic about how the city will deal with its monstrous pension debts, an area where Pawar has been, and will continue to be, a leader.
Rogers Park, West Ride, Edgewater
Almost 25 years after first being elected, Ald. Joe Moore has earned himself another term. We’re disappointed that volunteers worked on a political mailing in his taxpayer-funded ward office, a lapse he vowed wouldn’t be repeated, while noting he was away at the time. The fiery, independent Moore of old has aligned himself with the mayor, also giving us some pause. But Moore makes no apologies. He supports much of what the mayor does and says there’s no point in “reflexively voting no.” Emanuel, he says, is more of a progressive reformer than Daley. Participatory budgeting has taken off in Moore’s ward, which is encouraging, and so has development in some key pockets. Moore gets high marks for being brutally honest on the tough question of how to dig out of the city’s unfunded pension mess: pensions must be reduced, property taxes likely will have to rise. He wishes it wasn’t so, but a hard look at the numbers proves otherwise. We appreciate his leadership, and he is endorsed over adjunct Northwestern lecturer Don Gordon, who doesn’t propose realistic, immediate solution for the pension crisis.
Rogers Park, West Ridge
Banking and telecommunications project manager Shajan M. Kuriakose has waged an energetic campaign and has good ideas for this ward. But his plan for dealing with the city’s pension crisis, partly based on the uncertain implementation of a graduated income tax, is inadequate. Incumbent Debra L. Silverstein has done a creditable job of upgrading constituent services in her first term and bringing improvements to the community, including along the key Devon Avenue commercial strip. The third candidate, nonprofit executive director Zehra Quadri, says she would work to bring new businesses to the ward. Silverstein gets our endorsement.