4th Ward talks politics of past, looks to better future

Residents of the 4th Ward and neighboring communities gathered together Monday night to begin the conversation about what they want in their next alderman.

On Feb. 1, Ald. Will Burns (4th) announced that he would step down from his position on March 1 to become the senior advisor and director of Midwest policy at Airbnb.

Mayor Rahm Emanual has 60 days to appoint an interim alderman, but a special election will be held in February of 2017 for the vacant seat Burns is leaving behind. The mayor’s office announced that there would be an application available on the City of Chicago website but it hasn’t been posted yet.

Community members in the 4th Ward believe this election is their opportunity to put the election process back into the hands of the voters.

Gabriel Piemonte, one of the organizers of the meeting and former editor of the Hyde Park Herald, said when it comes to running for office in the 4th Ward, “people have been appointed or anointed by Toni [Preckwinkle]’s powerful get out the vote machine.”

He said that because of Cook County Board President Preckwinkle’s years of doing favors for people, she and the candidates that are endorsed by her obtain the privilege of reaching voters that other candidates do not have access to.

“If a candidate chooses to go through a powerful political machine, such as Toni Preckwinkle they’ll think of Toni before they think of you,” Piemonte said.

He said, “The most effective political moments in these communities is when people got together and decided what they wanted, then sought that out in a candidate.”

Room 43, 1043 E. 43rd St., was filled with about 50 people, from hopeful aldermanic candidates, University of Chicago students and concerned residents of the neighboring 5th Ward as well as life-long 4th Ward residents who think that it’s finally time for a change.

Organizers of the meeting came up with five key topics that they feel need to be represented in the next alderman: public safety, development, education, ward services and process. People were broken up into groups to add on to that list or highlight the important topics they want to see on the forefront of 4th Ward priorities.

One of the things a majority of people agreed on was having accountability and transparency in the next elected official.

“If I were to interview an alderman they’d have to convince me that they’re accountable, that’s it,” said Dennis Bradley.

Other hot topics of interest included fiscal responsibility, leadership and political orientation in terms of how a candidate orients themselves with other leaders in the area. Affordable/public housing, environmental concerns and mental health were also added as important subjects the future alderman must tackle throughout the ward.

What the group hopes doesn’t happen is someone else making this important decision for them, such as elected officials getting appointed into their seats, making it easier to be reelected, or elected officials rubbing elbows with other prominent politicians, increasing their chances of getting elected.

In 2010, previous 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle recommended Burns to former Mayor Richard Daley to take over the seat she was leaving for Cook County Board President. Burns opted for an open election, but with the support of Preckwinkle, who is 4th Ward Democratic committeeman, Burns’ chances of winning the voters were already high.

Piemonte said it’s been this issue of “appointing and anointing” candidates that limits the voice of the constituents.

“If we the people know what we want, we can be the ones to drive this election,” said Piemonte.

Piemonte said the group is tentatively planning another meeting for March 21.


[Via: Hyde Park Herald]

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