Four of the five candidates vying to replace Danny Solis as alderman of the 25th Ward faced off Tuesday evening at a Pilsen forum where much was made of moving past Solis’ involvement in a federal corruption investigation that has rocked Chicago politics.
The candidates dodged questions about their relationships with Solis as they detailed what they would bring to a ward that hasn’t seen a new alderman in more than two decades.
The two-hour forum — at St. Procopius Elementary School, 1625 S. Allport St., was moderated by Chicago Sun-Times reporters Alexandra Arriaga and Carlos Ballesteros.
The first question came from another candidate, statistician Troy Antonio Hernandez, who asked Aida Flores about a photo in which she’s pictured with Solis.
“I’d like to hear how all that came about,” Hernandez said.
Flores, a former school principal and leadership consultant, said the photo was taken at an event with other public officials present, explaining “it’s not uncommon” to talk to elected officials.
Candidate Hilario Dominguez, a special-education teacher, denied any prior relationship with Solis and said he has worked to hold the alderman accountable.
Other than Solis, much of the forum was spent on property taxes, which Pilsen residents say have skyrocketed as new developments gentrify the largely Hispanic neighborhood.
Flores said she would aim to fix budget shortfalls to prevent more property-tax increases and work with small-business owners to spur community-led development that wouldn’t displace residents.
Byron Sigcho-Lopez, an instructor at the University of Illinois Chicago, said he would work with new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi to reform a tax-appeal process that he believes hurts homeowners in the ward. Sigcho-Lopez, who ran against Solis in 2015, proposed tax exemptions for longtime residents.
On the topic of schools, Hernandez was said “closing a school is not something that should be done lightly,” but it’s an option.
“I’d rather have classrooms with 18 to 24 students and a full school than classrooms with 40 students in a half-empty school,” Hernandez said.
Candidate Alex Acevedo did not attend the forum Tuesday night because of a family emergency, forum organizers said.
The heated race for the 25th Ward seat in City Council comes after Solis announced in November that he would not seek re-election of the ward that includes all of Pilsen and parts of Chinatown, the South Loop and the West Loop.
The Sun-Times has reported that he secretly wore a wire, recording more than a dozen conversations with Ald. Ed Burke (14th) over the last two years to help a federal investigation.
A 120-page affidavit obtained by the Sun-Times has revealed his own federal corruption investigation, which includes allegations that he received sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of a farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and campaign contributions in exchange for official City Council actions.
Correction: A previous version of this article listed Aida Flores’s occupation as a management consultant, and Troy Hernandez’s occupation as an architect.