‘Embarrassment of riches’ in race for 47th Ward alderman to replace Ameya Pawar
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One was a top aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Another is a civil rights lawyer for the state.
Another, a member of the Cubs organization. And yet another owns a popular neighborhood brunch spot.
And that’s not even half the field in the nine-candidate race to succeed Ald. Ameya Pawar in the 47th Ward.
Rounding out the Feb. 26 ballot in Emanuel’s home ward are a social worker, a music teacher, an activist who helped bring circus acts to parks across the city, a firefighter and a psychiatrist.
The ward’s Democratic organization was impressed enough with the field to endorse three candidates — Michael Negron, Emanuel’s former policy chief, Matt Martin, a civil rights attorney with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and social worker Eileen Dordek.
“Anyone of the three would be fabulous and there’s nuanced differences between them,” Democratic Ward Committeeman Paul Rosenfeld said. “We’re fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches in our ward.”
As diverse as the field is, candidates generally agree on what’s ailing the ward, which includes pieces of Uptown, Lincoln Square and North Center.
Martin, a five-year resident of the ward, said the three main concerns he hears most frequently when walking the neighborhood are “the quality of our schools, affordability and public safety.”
Negron, who’s lived in the ward for about four years, says he’s running because “there are questions about the long term viability of our community.”
Advocating for changing zoning codes to allow for carriage houses, basement and garage units to be rented out is part of his plan to increase affordable housing in the ward.
“This is an opportunity to advocate for some tangible, visible improvements for our neighborhood going forward,” Negron said. “This is where I am, this is where I want to be and this is where my family is and I feel uniquely qualified to do that.”
Angie Maloney, a music teacher at Columbus Elementary and 20-year resident, said affordable housing is why she jumped in the race. She wants to create a master plan for development, preservation and affordability for the ward.
“Maybe that’s life, you move on, you start the next chapter, but as I talk to neighbors I realize it’s not just our situation — there’s a real problem in our ward for middle income folks to be able to afford it,” Maloney said of her experience trying to find an affordable home. Maintain the quality of the schools in the ward is also a priority — all but two of the 10 schools are rated a level 1+ by CPS.
Heather Way Kitzes, manager of government and neighborhood relations for the Cubs, wants to expand constituent services and be someone residents can go to with pothole or streetlight complaints.
Sick of machine candidates, Gus Katsafaros, owner of neighborhood spot Marmalade, is running to develop a climate and energy plan of action for the ward.
Co-founder of Midnight Circus in the Parks Jeff Jenkins, a 20-year resident, said “holding the line on property taxes” is a big priority for him.
Dordek, a 22-year resident of the ward, said the same.
Her experience as a social worker and her advocacy work for women and LGBTQ rights makes her the best candidate for alderman, Dordek said. Making the ward more affordable means saving the two and three-flats in the ward and creating incentives for building more.
Rosenfeld said it’s the little things that set Dordek, Negron and Martin apart. He’s expecting a runoff.
Looking for someone savvy on citywide issues? Elect Martin.
Experience in city politics with an eye for programs and services? Vote Negron — besides working for Emanuel, Negron also worked for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama and was the point person for raising the city’s minimum wage and for paid sick leave.
Dordek, Rosenfeld said, could be the alderman who knows residents, and who residents know they can come to.
Elected in 2011, Pawar became the first Asian and Indian American elected to the council, replacing former Ald. Eugene Schulter, who stepped down after 36 years.
Martin wants to continue to propel the ward forward.
“I don’t think we need to have a continuation of the last eight years, or the last 40 years, we need to turn the page,” Martin said. “We need more independence, and I think that people really understand that, that’s why we’re doing really well, and it’s the right political moment every time you open up the paper and see something new about City Council and City Hall.”