There’s a lot at stake for Chicago. Vote

From City Hall to wards to police district councils, there’s precious little margin for error as we Chicagoans pick our city’s next top leaders.

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Patricia Walsh, 71, of Lincoln Park, receives her “I Voted!” sticker after early voting in the Feb. 28 municipal election Monday at the Lincoln Park Branch Library on the North Side.

A Lincoln Park woman receives her “I Voted!” sticker after early voting in the Feb. 28, 2023 municipal election at the Lincoln Park Branch Library.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Election Day is two days away, which means voters are fast running out of time to make up their minds before casting crucial ballots that will set the city’s course for the next four years.

It’s a timeworn cliche, but it’s especially true for Tuesday’s up-for-grabs municipal election: Your vote counts, maybe more than ever. There’s a lot at stake for our city, and it’s incumbent on voters to make smart choices.

Polling shows a race in which four top mayoral contenders — Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, one-time Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — are scrambling to make the probable two-candidate runoff on April 4.

Add to that the 50 aldermanic races, a good number of which are also likely to end in runoffs among the two top vote-getters. Sixteen City Council members are stepping down, which means fresh faces and new ideas — but on the flip side, a huge loss of institutional knowledge about the basics of how the city operates and which “reforms” make good sense and can actually be implemented.

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And then there are the city’s 22 new police district councils, lower-profile elected offices that will nevertheless play a major role in how policing — and thus, fighting crime — is done in our city.

Each council will have three elected members who are supposed to serve as a bridge between their community and the police in their district. Council members will also play a critical role in what civilian oversight of police will look like in Chicago, since members are responsible for nominating prospective commissioners (from among their ranks) to serve on the newly created, seven-member Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. The mayor will then pick the commissioners, who then must be confirmed by the City Council.

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Once in place, the commission will have wide-ranging oversight over the Chicago Police Department’s policies and budget — including the authority to cast a vote of no confidence for the police superintendent.

Clearly, there’s a lot at stake for Chicago as our city continues to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and tries to make a dent in a long list of concerns about violent crime, public education, homelessness, mental health services, public transit, housing affordability, reviving the city’s downtown, investing in neighborhoods — the list goes on.

With so much at stake, from City Hall on down, there’s precious little margin for error as we Chicagoans pick our city’s next top leaders.

Carrying out our civic duty

By now, most of us have been bombarded with countless campaign ads, flyers, televised debates, neighborhood forums and town hall events. The good news is Chicagoans are paying attention and care, more than usual, about making our voices heard. Early voting results so far are encouraging, and voter turnout for the election could reach over 40%, the highest in years.

Even so, that’s still less than half of eligible voters. Chicago deserves better.

As a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, the Sun-Times is no longer in the endorsement business. Under the IRS rules governing nonprofits, we cannot tell you who to vote for or show a preference for one candidate over another.

But we can point you to information that can help you make a decision on how to cast your ballot. So check out our Sun-Times/WBEZ voter guide at elections.suntimes.com, which includes voter resources and information on the candidates. You can also read our election coverage at chicago.suntimes.com/elections and check out this graphic to see sources of funding for the mayoral candidates’ campaigns.

There’s also advice from the News Literacy Project (at newslit.org) on how to determine what’s reliable — and what’s not — among a sea of information.

It takes real effort to wade through information and determine what’s reliable and what’s standard campaign boilerplate, feel-good promises or misleading attacks on opposing candidates.

For the good of our city — we can do it, Chicago.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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