Editorial: Our choices for City Council: Wards 1-6

Editorial: Our choices for City Council: Wards 1-6

The faces of Chicago’s City Council are changing. Around a quarter of Chicago’s 50 wards will see new representation following an unusually large number of aldermanic retirements and resignations.

Why are so many heading for the exit? Most likely, further evidence of the great post-COVID rethinking of life. Being an alderman is a tough job in the best of times, and recent months it has been especially challenging. These on-the-ground positions, though, are vital to the city and the relatively small size of the electorate in each ward means that each vote profoundly matters. These races can turn on just a few hundred votes. With that in mind, the Tribune Editorial Board today kicks off its endorsements in every contested aldermanic race.

1st Ward

The 1st Ward includes parts of Logan Square, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park and West Town. The incumbent is Daniel La Spata, who is being challenged by Sam Royko, a Chicago attorney and son of the famed late Tribune columnist Mike Royko; community activist Stephen “Andy” Schneider; and Proco “Joe” Moreno, who served as alderman here from 2010 to 2019 before losing to La Spata.

Moreno has a complicated past. He was charged with insurance fraud and obstruction of justice for falsely reporting that his car was stolen. Even as that case was pending, he was separately charged with drunken and reckless driving after crashing his vehicle. Moreno pleaded guilty and received probation. We respect his statement that he has now received treatment for alcoholism, but he long has been associated with heavy handedness and old-school Chicago ways. Moreno has an endorsement from Ald. Tom Tunney. But we don’t think the ward needs him back.

Royko is a likable young lawyer with an infectious good humor, a lively mind and a famous surname. He tells us he was motivated to run for office partly as a result of suffering through a carjacking incident in the ward. We think Royko has much to contribute to the future of his city.

La Spata has been prolific when it comes to crafting legislation and has many admirers and endorsers. But he ran into a serious issue last spring when hardware store owner Alan Gillman said that new protected bike lanes on his stretch of Milwaukee Avenue had removed parking and “ruined” his 75-year-old business. To the chagrin of some of the ward’s small business owners, La Spata appeared more defensive than sympathetic.

Schneider has a distinguished, decadelong record as a preservationist in Logan Square, a historic neighborhood that has benefited greatly from his work. “I’ve worked with five or six different aldermanic organizations,” Schneider told us. “I’ve always worked hard to build consensus.” There’s no arguing with Schneider’s 15-year history fighting for Logan Square, close to half of this ward, and residents there have told us they’re impressed by his commitment, his experience and the projects for which he has chosen to fight. Schneider is endorsed.

4th Ward

The elongated 4th Ward, currently served by mayoral candidate Sophia King, is atypically diverse in terms of race and income. The eastern boundary of the ward mostly is Lake Michigan. The ward encompasses parts of Kenwood and Bronzeville, and stretches north to include North Michigan Avenue, including condo and apartment dwellers downtown.

A slew of candidates are vying to replace King, including Tracey Bey, who describes herself as “a proactive voice for the advancement of the entire community,” Prentice Butler (King’s chief of staff and a University of Chicago graduate who grew up on the South Shore); Matthew “Khari” Humphries, former director of the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago who has experience in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration; Ebony Lucas, a real estate attorney; Rep. Lamont Robinson, an insurance agent who says he is the first Black LGBTQ member of the Illinois House; and Helen West, a former teacher and a retired manager from Lucent Technologies who has been running a committed campaign.

Butler’s personal commitment is impressive and Lucas tells us that her background and experience in real estate will allow her “to address the investment disparities in the 4th Ward.” Humphries also is clearly qualified for this job, having been a 2018 Fellow of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy’s Civic Leadership Academy and having servedChicago youths for more than 20 years in various capacities.

But Robinson, who is backed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County board President Toni Preckwinkle, brings the most impressive level of experience, including at the state level. He tells us he wants to come home to be better able to focus his work locally. Robinson says he understands crime is the top issue for voters in his ward, but he also says that a primary focus will be on replacing lead pipes. Constituents will benefit from his experience on the issue in Springfield.

We also like Robinson’s views on property tax relief. “It has to be long term property tax relief with a solid, responsible plan to pay down debts,” he told us. Robinson is endorsed.

5th Ward

An epic slate of candidates is vying to replace the retiring Leslie Hairston in the 5th Ward, covering parts of Indian Village, Hyde Park, Jackson Park, South Shore and Greater Grand Crossing. This ward will see a lot of change in coming months. It’s the home of the Obama Presidential Center, a crucial venture that does not need excessive aldermanic obstruction.

The candidates include: Renita Ward, an attorney and former judicial clerk; Marlene Fisher, a community organizer and an administrator at the University of Chicago; political consultant and entrepreneur Joshua Gray; teacher Robert Palmer; Martina “Tina” Hone, Lightfoot’s former chief engagement officer; Jocelyn Hare, Policy Lab director at the University of Chicago and a previous candidate for this office; Dialika “Dee” Perkins, a professional boxer; Desmon Yancy, a labor and community organizer with several union endorsements; Kris Levy, a South Shore wine and spirits distributor and ward resident with a strong focus on law and order; Gabriel Piemonte, a former writer and editor for the Hyde Park Herald and a community organizer who has run for this ward before; and Wallace Goode, Jr., a former director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

Hone justifiably points to her long public service, Levy has some solid ideas on crime and we admire Piemonte’s long commitment. But we were most impressed with Ward, who told us that “public safety is a primary function of government. If we fail in this regard, we have failed to effectively govern.”

Ward also said that “we do not need deadlock and political drama. We just do not need another presentation or slideshow with cool graphics. We need elected officials who can ultimately listen to one another, work together and deliver results.”

Exactly. She might be a relative newcomer but Ward is an impressive young leader and will work effectively and positively with Obama Center staffers. She is endorsed.

6th Ward

With Roderick Sawyer exiting to run for mayor, the 6th Ward (covering parts of Chatham and Englewood) has many hopefuls.

Candidates include Sylvester Baker, a retired Cook County sheriff’s sergeant; Richard Wooten, a former police officer; O. Patrick Brutus, who worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation and now is on leave from the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development; Barbara Ann Bunville, a police officer and therapist; Kirby Birgans, a teacher and 2022 candidate for U.S. House of Representatives; Paul Bryson Sr., Sawyer’s former campaign manager; William Hall, senior pastor of St. James Community Church and a community organizer; Aja Kearney, district director for state Rep. Marcus Evans; Sharon Pincham, a rehabilitation counselor; Tavares Briggs, an elementary school dean of students; and Kimberly “Kim” Egonmwan, an attorney and WVON radio host.

Baker and Wooten haven’t run much of a campaign. But most of the others offer similar positions when it comes to fighting crime, improving the CTA and promoting economic development. Hall, a mainstay of the community and admired by other faith leaders, is the best choice.

“I have seen every side of this ward,” Hall told us. “We have to reimagine public safety in a way that includes the voices of residents, support for mental health services, and policing that is rooted in serving alongside the people in the ward.” We agree. Hall is endorsed.

This editorial has been corrected to note that O. Patrick Brutus no longer works for the Illinois Department of Transportation but currently is on leave from the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development.

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