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Editorial: Runoff voting key to quality of next City Council

Six weeks ago, 32 Chicago aldermen were elected in the first round of balloting. But the voter’s job isn’t finished.

On Tuesday, in addition to the mayor’s race, runoff races will be held in 18 wards. They’ll feature candidates who didn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote the first time around but placed first or second.


This is our last chance, Chicagoans, to shape a City Council that will address our city’s most pressing issue: four vastly underfunded public pension systems. Those systems must be put back on sound footing promptly if we don’t want to see them crater within a decade or two. It’s also a chance to create a Council that is more independent and more focused on public safety and jobs.

To see all our endorsements, consult our accompanying “palm card.” Meanwhile, here are five aldermanic races where voters should be paying especially close attention. Collectively, they represent an opportunity to really upgrade the competence of the Council.

2nd Ward

Near North Side, North Side

Voters in this heavily gerrymandered ward — it runs through the Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park and Bucktown — have a chance to put a particularly thoughtful and independent voice on the City Council, Alyx S. Pattison. Opponent, Brian Hopkins, chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, is capable, but since filling out a Sun-Times candidate questionnaire he has changed his mind and now opposes extending sales taxes to services, which could bring in extra money for cash-strapped governments.

15th Ward

Near Southwest Side

We won’t be looking to this ward after the election for leadership in solving the pension crisis: Raymond Lopez says he’d consider benefit changes only for new hires and Rafael Yanez, an 11-year police officer, hasn’t ventured even that far. Lopez, a former skycap for Southwest Airlines, gets our nod because he will be much more zealous in solving the ward’s day-to-day headaches, such as abandoned properties and gang houses. Although he’s backed by Cook County Democratic Chairman Joseph Berrios, who likes to stock public payrolls with family members, Lopez told the Sun-Times Editorial Board he’ll be his own man and said, “I’ll commit to not hiring my relatives.”

29th Ward

Austin/Northwest Side

In this ward, voters have an important chance to do something smart to improve Chicago’s gloomy financial outlook by re-electing Deborah Graham, who has a better grasp of what needs to be done than her capable opponent, police sergeant, lawyer and ex-Marine Chris Taliaferro. We weren’t happy with Graham’s support of a new pawn shop and convenience/liquor store in the ward, which includes Austin, Galewood and parts of Montclare, Belmont Heights and West Garfield Park. But Graham could turn out to be a needed voice in the City Council when it’s time to find ways to rescue the pension funds.

43rd Ward

Lincoln Park

Incumbent Michele Smith is open to some elements of pension reform, but she balks at any property tax increase, which almost certainly will be part of any realistic fix to the city’s vastly underfunded pensions. Our endorsed candidate Caroline Vickrey is correct when she says the possibility of a property tax hike can’t be ruled out. Smith has a record of accomplishments, but she is almost famously abrasive. The common complaint, heard long before this election, is that she does not listen. We expect Vickrey, a lawyer and former local school council member, will be more inclusive and responsive to residents.

46th Ward

Uptown, Lake View

If you’re looking for an aldermanic candidate who understands what needs to be done to get Chicago out of its financial hole and fearlessly expresses it, it would be hard to top Amy Crawford. A successful corporate lawyer with a long pro bono track record, Crawford is active in a community credit union and a housing counseling and financial education group. We’ve endorsed her over incumbent Ald. James Cappleman.