10th Ward runoff candidates would focus on economic development, public safety

Ana Guajardo, a labor organizer, won 27% of the vote in February while Peter Chico, a Chicago police officer, won 40%.

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10th Ward candidate Ana Guajardo

10th Ward candidate Ana Guajardo

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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Ana Guajardo and Peter Chico are competing in a runoff in the 10th Ward on the Southeast Side to replace Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, who isn’t seeking reelection after two terms.

Chico, a Chicago police officer and a cousin of former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico, won 40% of the vote during the February election. Guajardo, an Army National Guard veteran and labor organizer, received 27%.

Public safety, youth services and economic development are among the key issues in the 10th Ward, which includes all or parts of the South Chicago, Hegewisch, South Deering and East Side neighborhoods at the border of Indiana.

Peter Chico, 40, and Guajardo, 44, are natives of the ward with connections to the steel mills that once employed thousands of residents but shut down decades ago. Guajardo’s father is a retired steelworker, and Chico’s grandfather served as a steel union president.

Chico worked for United Way and in child welfare services before becoming a police officer.

Guajardo’s work as a labor organizer spans decades. She founded Centro de Trabajadores Unidos to serve the Southeast Side’s immigrant and low-income worker communities.

“We have the ability to be a very strong community just as the North Side is. We have the skills, we have the land, we have people who care,” Guajardo said. “Unfortunately, we deal with other structural issues that keep us down.”

To address public safety, both candidates want more police officers hired in the Chicago Police Department’s South Chicago District, which covers most of the ward and employs Chico as an intelligence officer.

Growing up, Guajardo said she remembers seeing beat cops walk around the ward and build relationships with the community. She wants that work to return and for the city to continue investing in existing anti-violence programs in the 10th Ward.

“We are 50 officers short. When I tell people that, they’re appalled because they’re thinking if we had those 50 officers on the street, we could respond to 911 calls a lot quicker,” Chico said.

Both candidates said they’d like more investment in the ward’s public schools and youth programs.

Gujardo would like to bring in a multipurpose community center that offers a variety of activities for kids and seniors — similar to The Kroc Center at West 119th Street.

“This would connect on so many issues, like public safety. You’re keeping kids safe and off the streets,” she said.

Both candidates said they’d focus on economic development in the ward by bringing in more businesses that hire directly from the community.

Guajardo wants to strengthen protections for existing small businesses and establish a chamber of commerce.

Both worry about consumer dollars going to northwest Indiana. Just across the state line, Chico said, Indiana offers Wal-Mart, IHOP and cheaper gas.

“I’ve been asked so many times, can we just get a breakfast spot here?” Peter Chico said. “A lot of people are realizing our money is going to Indiana, but they just want something for the community.”

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