New job, office and staff: Daniel La Spata, 1st Ward Alderman

Date: 
06/10/2019
LaSpataInOffice

Alderman LaSpata checks his email with Homer St. behind him and the "L" running high overhead

UPDATE:
Office opens Monday!

While the title "1st Ward Alderman" is still not something that Daniel La Spata is used to hearing, his trajectory into public office started four or five years ago in Logan Square. Now he is opening a Ward Office at 1958 N. Milwaukee Ave. 

Not operational as yet, phones are scheduled for installation today, Mon., June 10, however they now have Wi-Fi connection. La Spata does have three key staff members in place, however, for the moment, email ( info@the1stward.com) is the best way to reach out to the office. Connection on Twitter is @AldermanLaSpata. 

1958 N. Milwuakee Ave.

Outside 1958 N. Milwuakee Ave.

OpenSpaceOffice

Inside 1958, looking from front to back in this open space plan

AccesslevelCounter

Wheelchair accessible counter space

The Office
With the entry door on Milwaukee Ave., the back of the office faces Homer St.

The architect owner has created a retro feel in the space with a molded tin ceiling, a rolling door painted with "Thrift Shop" and a little bit modern, a little bit vintage wood wall paneling.

TheDoor

Office door shows names of previous tenants

The door to La Spata's private office once greeted medical and dental patients, judging from the hand-painted glass panel. 

ChanceRapperWall

Homage to Chance the Rapper

Despite the fact that La Spata's private office faces Homer St., the clickety clack, roar of the "L" is not distracting thanks to double paned, sound deadening windows. 

More contemporary is the homage to Chance the Rapper. A marketing arm of his business recently vacated the space. Concert posters on the walls of the ADA accessible bathroom were too cool to remove. Then there is the very large safe that is a remnant from the spaces use by a jeweler. 

With Ward Night planned for a couple of Thursdays each month, La Spata indicated that they may be using an online sign-up system rather than requiring people to signing up when they arrive and wait for hours.

Regular office hours will be between September through April and summer between May and August. 

Day

Open

Close

Monday

11 a.m.

6 p.m.

Tuesday

9 a.m.

6 p.m.

Wednesday

9 a.m.

6 p.m.

Thursday

2 p.m.

8 p.m.

Friday

10 a.m.

3 p.m.

Friday now thru August

closed

 

While the office is closed on weekends all year long, office staff will be present at various festivals. 

The Staff
Three people are the core of La Spata's team. Chief of Staff, Noemi Avelar; Allison "Ally" Carvalho, Constituent Services and Community Development; and Nicholas "Nick" Zettel, the Policy Director. 

1stWardStaff

Noemi Avelar (c) talks with Nick Zettl (l) and Ally Carvalho (r)

Noemi Avelar is a life-long 1st Ward resident. Her education started at Jose De Diego elementary, Prosser Career Academy, DeVry University with a Masters from North Park. As a former organizer with workers in the childcare division of SEIU Healthcare, Avelar realistically predicts it will be a huge learning curve in the next six months to get the office running well. 

Speaking about her position, Avelar says, "Looking through the lense of social justice, our job is to be servants to the residents. We need to understand their issues and needs. 

"For the first two quarters we need to do a lot of legwork to evaluate where we are and see what areas or pockets of concerns that we can improve. Daniel has already hosted many community meetings and been on a listening tour of different schools, organizations and concerned constituents. Now we need to compile that information and see how the office can fulfill the need or find resources that can handle the needs. 

"By the time constituents reach out to our office, they know what the issue is. They want to be safe and heard and that is what our office can do." 

Allison Carvalho is a DePaul graduate in geology who worked with organizations and businesses in the Ward during the campaign and transition period. She has already been working with some key community stakeholders in the 1st Ward.  That gives her an easier step into her position as Constituent Services and Community Development Director. 

Prior to the campaign, Carvalho worked with Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) in anti-gentrification, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and in the New York City Welfare To Work Program. 

Originally from Milwaukee, WI, Nicholas Zettel, a grad school classmate of La Spata, has been in Chicago for over a decade. While studying for his Master's, he worked in the Affordable Housing Program with the Federal Home Loan Bank. He was also working in planning and research at the University of Illinois Chicago's Nathalie P. Voorhees Center. 

 Employed by the City of Evanston, Zettel was doing planning, development and policy work.  "He brings incredible thoughtfulness around zoning and development to the table. And, he is a brilliant consensus builder," says La Spata. 

The Alderman
A New Jersey native, the 1st Ward's new alderman came to Chicago 20 years ago to attend North Park University in Alban Park to study psychology. With only his thesis remaining for his Master's in Urban Planning and Public Policy at UIC, he is devoting six hours per week toward its completion. 

Though many in the area affiliate him with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, he has never been on their payroll. Over the last 14 to 16 years, he has taken on the roles of leader, committee chairs and board member. 

His paid jobs over the last decade-and-a-half were jobs that gave him time to get home and work in the community after his 9 to 5. They also gave him a breadth of experience that will, no doubt, be helpful in achieving his new public service role. 

He worked as a file clerk in a law firm, an audio visual technician, a community organizer and in the events and meetings department for a large accounting firm. 

It was about four or five years ago that his community activity regarding the proposalfor what is now the MiCa building at Milwaukee and California put him on a path to his new job. A job he acquired with more than 60% of the 11,061 votes in his battle against then incumbent Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno. 

12thDistCapsOff

Officer James Olszanski and Sergeant Andrew Doerge stopped by to meet the new alderman

Vision for the Ward
"I want to promote a Ward that is built around democracy, diversity and equity wrapped in transparency and accountability, " explains La Spata. 

We want the voices of the Ward residents to come first in decision making with such issues as menu money, policies  and zoning. His concern is to include people who have been marginalized or not had a seat at the table. 

"The 1st Ward has a remarkable socio-economic, cultural and racial diversity." His goal is to preserve and promote that and get residents to embrace the diversity by working together. He hopes to see people being as concerned for their neighbor as themselves and wants to support this behavior. 

"Not everyone has the same needs. So, equity means everyone gets what they need." His goal is to make sure all those needs are handled. "What happens on the west and south sides affect this part of the City and vice versa," he points out. 

In fact, he and his staff used part of their retreat time to create a mission statement which reads:

To create a ward where every resident has the resources and opportunities to thrive in life. Our office is committed to elevating marginalized voices and collaborating with all interested stakeholders to build a community grounded in diversity, democracy and equity. 

"That is the vision we're going to hold ourselves accountable to," says La Spata.

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