Crowded battle for 5th Ward Chicago City Council seat open for first time in 24 years

With 11 candidates, the race is one of the most crowded on the Feb. 28 ballot. Nearly all of the candidates agree the next alderperson should be more accessible.

SHARE Crowded battle for 5th Ward Chicago City Council seat open for first time in 24 years
(Top, from left) Retiring 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, Martina “Tina” Hone, Wallace Goode Jr., Jocelyn Hare; (middle, from left) Desmon Yancy, Gabriel Piemonte, Renita Ward, Kris Levy; (bottom, from left) Joshua Gray, Marlene Fisher, Robert Palmer and Dialika “Dee” Perkins.

(Top, from left) Retiring 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, Martina “Tina” Hone, Wallace Goode Jr., Jocelyn Hare; (middle, from left) Desmon Yancy, Gabriel Piemonte, Renita Ward, Kris Levy; (bottom, from left) Joshua Gray, Marlene Fisher, Robert Palmer and Dialika “Dee” Perkins.

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A professional boxer, a religious charity director, a teacher and two lawyers are vying to succeed retiring Ald. Leslie Hairston in the South Side’s 5th Ward — and that’s not even half of the field.

With 11 candidates in all, the race for the seat — open for the first time in 24 years — is one of the most crowded on the Feb. 28 city ballot.

The ward includes parts of Hyde Park, South Shore, West Woodlawn and Greater Grand Crossing.

The candidates vary in their approaches to such issues as public safety and affordable housing. But nearly all agree that the ward’s next alderperson should be more accessible to constituents.

“A lot of people are just tired of not having their phone calls returned,” said Robert Palmer, 62, a teacher running for the seat.

Nearly every candidate cites public safety as a top concern, with sales director Kris Levy, political consultant Joshua Gray and attorney Renita Ward pushing for a greater focus on young people in an attempt to lower crime numbers.

Levy, 51, said he prioritized public safety after talking with his teenage daughter, who complained that she wasn’t able to “ride her bike until the streets lights came on” as he did.

Instead of adding more police officers, Levy said he wants to add free girls softball and boys Little League programs in an effort to “create less criminals.”

Gray, 39, has a similar plan to add programs “kids want to be in” such as the arts and basketball.

Ward, 46, said school enrollment is declining and that she wants to focus on maximizing education resources.

“I strongly believe that the youth are our future, and, when it comes to safety, economic viability and education, youth really should be front and center,” Ward said.

Professional boxer and business manager Dialika “Dee” Perkins, 41, is against more police but wants to add a community patrol and response team of residents trained in dealing with mental health issues and conflict resolution or de-escalation.

Marlene Fisher, 50, a security administrator at the University of Chicago, said she wants funding for violence prevention, victim support and after-school programs.

Candidates Gabriel Piemonte, 54, and Wallace Goode Jr., 70, both say public safety can’t be addressed without looking at other issues.

Piemonte, who challenged Hairston for the seat four years ago, said economic development and crime are closely related. He said solutions to the ward’s problems need to be framed around the national reparations movement, such as giving a set percentage of city contracts to descendants of enslaved Black Americans.

“It is a problem on every level of government that we tend to avoid the complexities of the circumstances of Black Americans, who, for 400 years, have been passed over time and time again,” he said.

Goode said economic development, safety and education need to be addressed at the same time: “How can you deal with violence without dealing with education? How can you deal with education without dealing with affordable housing?”

Jocelyn Hare, 42, a higher education administrator, said she would centralize housing resources for renters and homeowners.

Fisher said residents who receive any kind of assistance would have to complete a financial literacy program.

Martina “Tina” Hone, 60, a lawyer who has worked decades in public policy, plans to look for ways to turn renters into homeowners through pathways such as the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a nonprofit that provides special mortgages with no down payment or closing costs for those who qualify.

Desmon Yancy, 51, a religious charity director who was endorsed by Hairston, wants to allow condo owners to make repairs that don’t translate into significant boosts in their property assessments.

Several candidates questioned Yancy’s lack of a voting history in the ward.

He said he voted from 2004 to 2008 before leaving the ward, then began voting again in the 2022 primary and midterm elections after moving back during the pandemic.

Gray said voters should know who the candidates were before they began running for office.

“Community love just doesn’t appear overnight,” he said. “You have to have a history of loving the community.”

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