We continue our endorsements in contested races for alderman in Chicago, this time for wards 11 through 25. Early voting begins Monday.
Bridgeport, Canaryville, Armour Park
The middle name is Daley, which doesn’t bowl us over. The Daley clan has served Chicago both well and not so well, but we’re not keen on family dynasties. All the same, endorsing Patrick Daley Thompson for alderman is an easy call. He’s earned the gig at least as much as he’s inherited it, though he announced his candidacy — what a shock — shortly after current Ald. James Balcer announced his retirement. Thompson has been a diligent commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, earning respect even from the strongest environmentalists. And he’s been an active gun control advocate, serving on the board of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. The challenge for Thompson, should he be elected, is to prove he is an alderman for the entire 11th Ward, not just for a remnant of the old Democratic Machine.
Near Southwest Side
Six candidates are competing for this open seat, made vacant by the politics of the city’s new ward map. Ald. Toni Foulkes currently represents the 15th ward but opted to run in another ward because she lost a big chunk of her old territory and the new 15th went from mostly African-American to 68 percent Hispanic. Several strong candidates want a shot at overseeing the new 15th, including urban planner and City Clerk employee Raul Reyes, 15th ward Democratic Committeeman Raymond Lopez and police officer Rafael Yanez. They’re all viable choices, particularly Reyes, but our vote goes to Adolfo Mondragon, a criminal defense attorney who catapulted from a working poor family in the Back of the Yards to Yale and the University of Chicago Law School. Mondragon impresses with his focus not only on ward issues, but also on larger city challenges. He boldly supports reductions in city worker pensions, never a popular position, which he says must be done to keep the city and the pensions afloat. He knows crime issues intimately from his legal work and describes himself as a “liberal with a conservative street kid in me.” Mondragon is endorsed to lead a ward that straddles Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, Gage Park and West Englewood.
Ald. JoAnn Thompson, who fought for her Englewood-based ward for eight years, died on Monday. Her life story was an inspiration. A former Cook County Jail officer, she overcame a period of homelessness and alcoholism before turning her life around and winning an aldermanic seat in 2007. “I’m proud of my recovery. I represent hope,” she once said. Thompson was a strong advocate for her impoverished ward, including her successful push — against tremendous odds — to help bring a Whole Foods to Englewood. We offer our condolences to her family and constituents struggling to make sense of her death of heart failure.
This editorial page last week endorsed Thompson for re-election in the 16th Ward. Thompson supporters now need an alternative. Sadly, there aren’t great options among the four remaining candidates. Only two, Ald. Toni Foulkes and Stephanie Coleman, are waging serious runs. We’re backing Toni Foulkes, the 15th ward alderman. After the city ward remap, the 15th ward changed from a largely African-American ward to a mostly Latino ward, and Foulkes opted to compete in the neighboring 16th against Thompson. Foulkes is unwilling to take the hard steps needed to deal with the city’s financial problems but she knows the ward well and has her heart in the right place. Coleman is the daughter of Shirley Coleman, the former 16th ward alderman who was defeated in 2007. Coleman appeared to be well versed in city issues based on the candidate questionnaire she submitted to the Sun-Times. But during an interview, she was unfamiliar with her own answers and was woefully uninformed. Her mother accompanied her and tried to speak up during the interview. Foulkes is the stronger candidate and is endorsed.
Auburn-Gresham, West Englewood
Three candidates are competing to take over for retiring Ald. Latasha Thomas in this ward, which includes Auburn-Gresham and West Englewood. We’re backing Glenda Franklin, who founded a nonprofit youth organization and previously worked in the alderman’s office and for the Chicago Housing Authority. Franklin recognizes the city’s pension funds aren’t sustainable without change and she’s pushing a sound vision for a “new normal” in her ward, a place “where children can walk to the best schools, where families have ample opportunities to support themselves and businesses can thrive through fair, supportive economic policies.” She has the backing of the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a major force for good in the ward. Franklin has some learning to do on city issues; in a meeting with the Editorial Board, we watched her change her views before our eyes on the question of whether to give City Hall’s inspector general the power to investigate aldermen. Still, her passion and experience make her our choice over David Moore and Bishop James Dukes.
Four years ago, we endorsed Chuks Onyezia, a patent attorney, over incumbent Ald. Lona Lane, then an unimpressive stalwart of Mayor Richard M. Daley. Today, we again endorse Onyezia over Lane, now an unimpressive stalwart of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But it was a tougher call this time because a third candidate, businessman Michael A. Davis, a son of two police officers, shows real promise. Frankly, either Onyezia or Davis would be an upgrade for a ward sorely in need of more energetic leadership. Onyezia says he’s dead-set against trimming city worker pension benefits, but he leaves the door open to a property tax hike if all other new revenue sources fall short. Crime is a big problem in the ward, which Onyezia blames on the local political leadership. “People have no faith because they have no faith in the alderman,” he says, “It’s a matter of culture.” Elected officials set the tone. Time for a new tone.
Far Southwest Side
Crowded schools are a top issue in this ward, which includes Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood. Physician Anne Schaible, who finished second four years ago to Alderman Matthew J. O’Shea, is criticizing the incumbent for the crowding and his lack of enthusiasm for an elected school board. Both candidates also say they are the one who can spur economic development. Schaible calls the retail corridors “horrible,” but O’Shea touts his record on attracting development. Schaible is less flexible on reducing pension benefits and raising property taxes than O’Shea and opposes a city casino, while O’Shea supports one. Our endorsement goes to O’Shea, who has worked hard to relieve school crowding and bring in new businesses and who has a better grasp of what the city needs to do to dig out from its financial abyss.
Five candidates are running in this ward covering Woodlawn, Washington Park, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, New City and Back of the Yards, though just three appear to be actively campaigning. For the endorsement, it’s a toss-up between Ald. Willie Cochran, a former police officer first elected in 2007, and newcomer to the ward, civil engineer Kevin Bailey. Cochran is a thoughtful urban planner who knows his communities and crime prevention well and has helped bring infrastructure and improvements to the ward. But he can be a bully, extremely difficult to work with and one can argue he’s riding a wave of development and activity in parts of the ward, not driving it and even sometimes hindering it. Then there’s Bailey, a recent University of Illinois grad who worked for Union Pacific Railroad until recently. Though new to the ward and politics, Bailey offers thoughtful ideas, pledges to be inclusive and listen and he has the smarts to learn on the job. We’re backing the promise of Bailey over an alderman who needs to learn how to get along. Bailey doesn’t yet have a solid grasp of the depth of the city’s financial problems, suggesting that cost cutting and efficiencies are the answer. We trust he’ll catch on quickly.
Howard Brookins Jr. is the able incumbent of this ward, but we are too troubled by the bribery conviction of his former longtime chief of staff Curtis Thompson Jr. to support the alderman for another term. Brookins has not been accused of wrongdoing, but the corruption we know about went up too high in his office to be dismissed. In a crowded field of challengers, we favor small business owner Joseph C. Ziegler Jr., who has the best grasp of the financial challenges facing the city. This is a tough call over Doris Lewis Brooks, nicknamed the “Pothole Lady” for her volunteer efforts in improving the ward, which includes part of Beverly, Brainerd, Gresham and Longwood Manor. The remaining candidates are Jeffrey Baker, Marvin McNeil, Patricia A. Foster and Ken Lewis.
Ald. Ricardo Munoz touts his success in bringing five new grammar schools, a new high school, two new libraries and a police station, along with plans for a new hospital, to his ward, which includes Lawndale and Little Village, and he gets our endorsement for another term. Raul Montes Jr. is an outspoken voice for many important city causes, but his plan to fix pensions by diverting all revenue from red light cameras – cameras that he also wants removed – is not sufficient to prevent an increase in property taxes. The other candidates are Robert Martinez and former police officer Neftalie Gonzalez.
Michael Zalewski, a former deputy commissioner at Streets and Sanitation, has done a solid job as alderman since 1995 of this primarily single-family-home ward that includes Clearing, Garfield Ridge, Midway Airport, West Elsdon and West Lawn. He also understands fixing the pensions means workers and taxpayers will have to be involved to make the city’s pension systems sustainable. Zalewski believes the City Council should lead by example and cut its own expenses before asking others to take cuts or pay higher taxes. He has earned our endorsement for re-election over real estate agent Anna Goral and small business owner Martin Arteaga, who is unwilling to consider restructuring public pensions or raising property taxes.
Out of a crowded field of 10 candidates to replace retiring alderman Michael Chandler, we prefer Park District area manger Michael Scott Jr. for this ward, which includes Douglas Park, Homan Square and Lawndale. We also liked the down-to-earth ideas of insurance agent Darren Tillis. But Scott, son of the late School Board President Michael W. Scott, is the most realistic of the candidates about how to fix the city’s pension problems. He also is willing to support statewide legislation to curb gun trafficking. The other candidates are Frank M. Bass, Regina D. Lewis, Wallace E. “Mickey” Johnson, Sherita Ann Harris, Roger L. Washington, Vetress Boyce, Ladarius R. Curtis and Larry G. Nelson.
Pilsen has grown to become one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods, still solidly Hispanic, but increasingly home as well to artists and young professions of all backgrounds. Daniel “Danny” Solis, who gets our nod, has been the alderman for 19 years and deserves a share of the credit. Solis’ challenge is keep the comeback going while preserving the neighborhood’s rich Latino cultural core. We appreciate Solis’ honest take on how to tackle the city’s crisis of underfunded pension systems — “Everybody is going to have to give something,” including city employees, and a property tax hike is “probable.”
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