Wicker Park Committee's Aldermanic Candidate Forums enlighten voters


Early on fun competition for the mic between Locke and Moreno livened the 1st Ward panel (l to r) Coorens, Hauser, Locke, Moreno, Hamilton and Shaw

Despite the cold temperatures outside, inside there was some heat generated as the Wicker Park Committee's Forum for the 1st and 2nd Ward Aldermanic Candidates in the Wicker Park Lutheran Church, corner of Hoyne and LeMoyne, Wednesday evening, enlightened attendees. 

With CANTV streaming the event, the large crowd heard four 1st Ward candidates responded to six questions from Alisa Hauser, DNAinfo and one from Elaine Coorens, Our Urban Times, then six 2nd Ward candidates responded to six questions from Coorens and one from Hauser. 

Candidates for the 1st Ward are: Andrew Hamilton, Ronda Locke, incumbent Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno and Anne Shaw. On the 2nd Ward ballot are: Bita Buenrostro, Brian Hopkins, Steve Niketopoulos, Alyx Pattison, Stacey Pfingsten and Cornell Wilson. 

All ten candidates were asked to weigh-in on two City-wide issues in which Mayor Rahm Emanuel plays a significant role. Many candidates seemed to tiptoe around the subjects, even though many in the audience suspected that some are big supporters. 

Should Emanuel be re-elected?
In the 1st Ward, Andrew Hamilton responded to Alisa Hauser's question by saying that he needed more information though he was concerned with the Mayor's 2015 budget. Incumbent Alderman Moreno said he wasn't sure either and will largely rely on the recommendation from his 1st ward candidate interview panel's recommendation, after they meet with the mayoral candidates. 

Considering that Moreno voted 94% of the time with the Mayor, said Anne Shaw, she questioned Moreno being able to resist supporting the Mayor. She on the other hand noted the Mayor’s stance on public safety. "He not only closed two Chicago Police Department (CPD) Districts in the 1st Ward, but also one near his own home. [Where his son was recently mugged.]" 

Ronda Locke questioned the Mayor’s leadership on budget issues, mental health issues and schools, pointing out that Chicago is the only district in Illinois with an appointed – not elected - school board. 

All 2nd Ward candidates expressed a respect for the choice of individual voters on this question. But, they had additional remarks. Steve Niketopoulos opined that the Mayor has put Chicago on the map in a lot of ways, but the Mayor is not paying attention to the communities on certain issues, such as school closings. Agreeing with the issue of school closings Alyx Pattison also disagreed with the Mayor on budgets for "welcoming schools." Contradicting Niketopoulos' neighborhood point, she said that the Mayor has helped some communities by supporting things like Choose Chicago (which showcases Chicago neighborhoods), 606 Bloomingdale Trail and the 6-Corners hotel currently being built. 

Brian Hopkins also expressed mixed feelings about the Mayor’s record, but expressed support for the ongoing “spirited race,” while declining to state for whom he plans to vote. 

Cornell Wilson stated that his campaign has asked ALL mayoral candidates what they will do for the 2nd Ward, and not one has responded to date, so he remains undecided. Bita Buenrostro's answer was for everyone to make up their own mind.

While she agreed with Buenrostro, Stacey Pfingsten stated that she will not personally be voting for Mayor Emanuel. Her concern is that the Mayor has not listened to his constituents until very recently (close to the February 2015 election). 


2nd Ward Panel Coorens, Hauser, Bita Buenrostro, Stacey Pfingsten, Cornell Wilson, Brian Hopkins, Steve Niketopoulos and Alyx Pattison 

What two things would you do to improve safety and fight crime in the City?
The Mayor and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy claim that crime is down, while claims outside of City Hall and facts indicate that numbers are not being reported accurately. (Examples:  crime stat comparisons do not take into consideration  differences in population and the mis- and re-classifying of cases to lower categories of crime.) 

Hamilton was the first 1st Ward candidate to whom Elaine Coorens addressed this question. He said that he would increase the size of the force, have more Beat Officers and reach out to at-risk youth, Citing numerous police stats, Moreno, who touted that there was going to be "a satellite CPD office" in the former 13th District building last year, opined that crime is down in 1st Ward. 

Locke echoed a common theme of the night: the need to hire additional CPD officers, while downplaying the presence of the "satellite CPD office," noting that the public cannot access officers at that location and that officers only have a computer terminal there, arranged for by Moreno at the start of election season. 

Noting that two law enforcement organizations in the city have endorsed her candidacy, Shaw stated that to enhance public safety, she will not close CPD Districts, but rather will increase the number of officers in the City and make CAPS programs more robust. 

Candidates in the 2nd Ward expressed similar opinions regarding concern with public confidence in crime statistics. Indicating that while he has no reason not to believe published statistics, Hopkins said that if constituents do not believe these numbers, that is a problem. He advocates mandating that crime reporting occur in a clear and concise manner. In addition, he supports adding officers to the streets, noting that a 25% cut in CPD overtime will get an additional 250 officers in the system. 

Expressing concern about overtime versus hires, more street patrols and statistical transparency, Pfingsten put all three on her action list. Wilson conveyed a list of ways to improve public safety and fight crime which included being proactive about getting youth employed. 

Noting that the recent Chicago Nordstrom shooting was not categorized as a “murder” for weeks, Pattison opined that CPD should not have that kind of discretion (citing a recent Chicago Magazine expose). She emphasized that City Council is a co-equal branch of government and that members have a right to accurate information. 

As the wife of a CPD officer, Buenrostro believes that the city needs more officers and less red light cameras, as well as positive loitering by citizens. Niketopoulos concluded that what is needed is a new CPD Superintendent who will not “mess around” with statistics. He noted that his work organizing the Neighborhood Watch forums in West Town, which touch over 10,000 neighbors, proves that people working together can accomplish amazing things. 

Five other questions were posed to candidates in the 1st and 2nd Wards. Questions to the 1st Ward candidates were asked by Hauser and those to the 2nd Ward were asked by Coorens. 

1st Ward

  • What do you see as the number one problem facing the 1st Ward and what will you do about it? 
  • Do you support the rise in TODs in the Ward and City? 
  • According to the most recent U.S. Census, 43% of 1st Ward is Latino. How will you service this population? 
  • The City of Chicago Streets For Cycling 2020 Plan includes expanding barrier protected bike lanes on Milwaukee from Ashland to Western. It may take a lane of parking. Do you support adding a lane if it removes a lane of parking? 
  • Some aldermen have pledged not to accept campaign contributions from persons seeking aldermanic approval (developers, billboards, liquor licenses). Will you pledge not to accept that type of money? 

2nd Ward

  • Considering the disparate configuration of the 2nd Ward, what process will you use for fairly distributing menu money and other revenue? How will you involve community/residents? 
  • Will you create a development plan for the Ward? Will you include TODS? What will the involvement of neighborhood associations be in the process? 
  • If you were approached by a developer, assuming a non-preservation area, would you encourage renovation or teardown? How will you work with the community organizations? 
  • Street festivals using the public way have a big impact on residents/businesses and some receive tax dollars through Special Service Areas (SSA). There is currently no transparency regarding these events. Many feel not enough of the money is going back into the community. Will you draft and sign an ordinance requiring open books for all vendors and festivals where the public way is used? 
  • What are the top 2 or 3 fiscal problems the City is facing and what should be done to address them? 

To hear the candidates answers to these questions, listen and watch CANTV's video below. Then speak out below about your opinions about what the candidates' say or don't say.

Thanks went out to the Wicker Park Committee for presenting the event, The Wicker Park Lutheran Church for hosting it, CANTV for streaming and recording it, the candidates for participating, Alisa Hauser and Elaine Coorens for their questions and moderating the panels and the public who attended, proving civil engagement is important and cool!

A special thanks to WBEZ [scroll down to the 5th item on the list] for giving us pre-event coverage on the "Afternoon Shift."

Photos courtesy of Andrew Miller



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