Open City Council seats in 2 Northwest Side wards spark call for open minds in addressing crime

Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s decision earlier this year not to seek reelection in the 26th Ward and Ald. Ariel Reboyras’ announcement in the 30th last year prompted a push for new ideas to address crime and other issues in the wards.

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Candidates in the 26th Ward race (from left) Jessie Fuentes, Julian Perez, Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez.

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As it is in the rest of Chicago, crime is a key issue in a pair of Northwest Side wards facing new leadership after a pair of veteran members of the City Council announced they would be retiring.

But candidates angling for fresh starts in the 26th and 30th Wards say they are exploring a wide variety of ways to tackle the problem, everything from a greater police presence to addressing violence prevention in schools to providing more affordable housing.

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Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s last-minute decision earlier this year not to seek reelection in the 26th Ward and Ald. Ariel Reboyras’s announcement in the 30th Ward last year prompted the call for new ideas to address public safety and community investment, the issues that candidates in both wards say voters are most concerned about.

Three candidates are on the ballot in the 26th Ward, which includes Humboldt Park and parts of Logan Square, Hermosa, West Humboldt Park and West Town.

Maldonado filed the paperwork to run for reelection in November, only to drop out of the race about six weeks later. He is backing Jessie Fuentes, director of policy and youth advocacy for the Humboldt Park-based Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

“I’ve had a relationship with Maldonado for a better [part] of eight years as an organizer in this community,” Fuentes said. “We may not have the same vision, but if we’re talking about sustaining working families in the 26th Ward, he knows I’m at the forefront of the fight.”

Fuentes, 32, says she will advocate for more investments in the wards and schools and push for more affordable housing, which she ties to public safety.

But other candidates say Maldonado’s legacy is stained by “unfulfilled promises” to the community and have sought to highlight their differences from the retiring incumbent, a former Cook County commissioner first appointed to the seat in 2009.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) (left) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) (right) at a City Council meeting last month.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) (from left) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) at a City Council meeting last month. Both are retiring.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times-file

Julian Perez, 58, a DJ and music producer, said he wants more law enforcement attention in the ward to curb crime and promises to spur economic development by attracting new businesses.

Perez has faced backlash over a comment he made about Mexican immigrants during a performance at the Festival Cubano in Chicago in 2019.

The candidate said he joked about calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to quiet a largely Hispanic crowd and says he didn’t mean to be disrespectful.

“I was born in Cuba, but my grandmother’s Mexican,” Perez said, “I would never mean to disrespect anyone, especially my own.”

Also vying for the ward’s Council seat is Democratic committeeperson Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez, 51, who said she believes violence prevention programs in schools are the key to addressing crime in the community.

“If you bring our youth into these programs, where they can learn about trade or other work opportunities from community leaders, then we can motivate them to stop hanging out on the streets,” the longtime Humboldt Park resident said.

With two weeks left in the race, Fuentes is far ahead of the other candidates in fundraising, with about $160,000 in her war chest, compared to $105,000 raised by Perez and $15,000 raised by Gonzalez Rodriguez.

Familiar name, fresh faces in 30th Ward

The four candidates competing in the 30th Ward, which covers parts of Belmont Cragin, Irving Park, Portage Park and Avondale, have promised to address voters’ concerns about crime and improving public schools.

Jessica Gutiérrez is making her second bid for the City Council seat after losing to Reboyras by a mere 300 votes four years ago. She had dubbed Reboyras a “rubber stamp alderman” and gave him his toughest race since he was first elected in 2003.

The daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Jessica Gutiérrez, 34, said she’ll commission an audit of the ward if elected to help guide her leadership.

Candidates in 30th Ward race (clockwise from top left) Jessica Gutierrez; JuanPablo Prieto; Ruth Cruz; Warren Williams.

Candidates in 30th Ward race (clockwise from top left) Jessica Gutierrez, JuanPablo Prieto, Ruth Cruz, Warren Williams.

Anthony Vazquez; Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“We need to know everything about the ward and be data-driven if we’re trying to make change,” she said.

But she said she doesn’t need to dig too deep to know what’s on voters’ minds.

“It doesn’t matter what side of the ward we’re talking about: Public safety, excellent schools and an alderman who’s going to show up is what they’re asking for,” Jessica Gutiérrez said.

Ruth Cruz, 39, an assistant director of admissions at Roosevelt University, said she wants greater investment in youth and violence prevention programs, kids and more law enforcement to address crime.

Likewise, JuanPablo Prieto, director of diversity programs at the Chicago Transit Authority, said he also wants to increase the police presence in the ward, but said mental health experts should also be on call to respond to “noncriminal incidents.”

Prieto, 37, said affordable housing is also on his list of priorities.

Warren Williams, 33, a longtime community organizer, agreed public safety is a key issue for voters this year, but he said more police isn’t the answer.

“We need investment in our schools, investment in our mental health facilities,” Williams said. “The Northwest Side needs investment.”

In the fundraising battle, Jessica Gutiérrez is far ahead, with more than her three rivals combined. She has raised about $250,000, followed by Cruz, who has close to $100,000. Prieto has collected $60,000 and Williams $50,000.

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