25th Ward race goes to runoff on April 5April 1, 2011
By Miriam Y. Cintrón
In the 25th Ward, Alderman Daniel Solis will face challenger Cuauhtémoc “Temoc” Morfin in the April 5 runoff election, after falling just short of the 50% of votes he needed to avoid the second round. Solis garnered 48.9% of the vote, compared with Morfin’s 27.9%, while a third opponent in February’s election, AmbrosioMedrano Jr., earned 23.1%. The ward includes Taylor Street/Little Italy, Tri-Taylor, Pilsen, Chinatown, and University Village.
While construction at Roosevelt Square has slowed because of the economy, Solis believes the development “still is very viable.” To complete the project, he supports “having the TIF extended for the developer,” so long as the plan’s number of market rate rentals and affordable housing units “does not change.”
With crime among his top priorities, Solis is counting on Mayor elect Rahm Emanuel’s plan to add 1,000 beat officers to the street. If re-elected, he would continue his ride-alongs with local law enforcement.
As he has already done with the police commander in the 12th district, where crime has fallen 25%, Solis would meet with other local district commanders as well as institutional leaders, such as school principals, for ridealongs on a regular basis. The goal is to form relationships and also be visible in the area so that law-abiding citizens and gangmembers alike will know his office and the police are being vigilant, he said.
He also wants to build another high school in the area and designate a creative arts district on the ward’s east end to attract galleries and artists.
These changes would “benefit current and future residents alike,” he said. While some view the area as gentrifying, Solis said he has taken on initiatives to keep current residents there.
In Pilsen, for example, he worked with the Resurrection Project to create affordable housing and helped earn the area status as a State historic district, ensuring residents could be eligible to have their property taxes frozen–a strategy “to help homeowners keep their homes,” he said. Historically, the community has been a transient one, and Solis said it also is “important to be accepting of new people who want to move into the area.”
His environmental efforts have included creating the city’s first sustainable streetscape along Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue from Halsted to Wolcott Streets that conserves energy, manages storm water by diverting rainfall, and is friendly to bikes and pedestrians.
Solis noted he now supports the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would force Midwest Generation to reduce emissions from its coalfired power plants—Fisk Generating Station at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. and Crawford Generating Station at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd.—faster than stipulated in the company’s 2006 agreement with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
He previously had refrained from co-sponsoring the ordinance because a similar one proposed in 2002, which he supported, languished in committee and he doubted how much a new ordinance could achieve. Residents, however, “have voiced their concerns that the 2006 deal was not enough,” he said.
Also, the Service Employees International Union convinced Solis that, on a national level, the Republican-led House of Representatives was unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it all the more important to act locally.
Solis acknowledged he has received about $50,000 in contributions from Midwest Generation over the past decade but added the money has “never affected my position on the matter,” pointing to his co-sponsorship of the proposed 2002 ordinance.
Likewise, Solis said the contribution he has received from Emanuel’s political action committee, called the New Chicago Committee, “would not impact my ability to remain independent of the mayor-elect.”
As alderman for 15 years and co-director of the Latino Youth Alternative High School for 16 years before that, Solis said his “record of public service should speak for itself.”
He advocates for term limits for the mayor and aldermen, saying politicians often “become complacent and too comfortable when they have been in office for several years.” Limiting lawmakers to three terms, or 12 years, “would ensure that new faces and fresh ideas are brought into City Council” on a more regular basis, he said.
Morfin, too, has much on his agenda, if elected. He has pledged to donate 25% of his aldermanic salary for scholarships and educational programs for local students.
In economic development, he said “TIFs should be more transparent and utilized to help local
business owners,” and he criticized Solis for “not doing enough” in that regard. “Funds are not being properly allocated, and residents are not given much opportunity to provide input on what they think TIF funds should be used for,” he added. Morfin said he would use TIFs to bring new development at 18th and Peoria Streets as well as help existing businesses around 18th Street and Cermak Road.
Morfin noted more should be done to enhance the flow of visitors to areas such as Pilsen and Tri-
Taylor and bring business there to the level seen in Chinatown.
Regarding crime, Morfin said he would work to “open more community centers that keep kids off the streets, where they are more likely to get recruited by gangs.” As a former juvenile probation officer, he often was “frustrated by the lack of programs to refer young people to as an alternative
to gangs,which iswhy community centers are so important.”
While many may be satisfied with having blue-light security cameras on the streets, “it is more important to prevent crime than watch it happen,” he believes. He would aim to get parents more involved in their children’s after school activities as well as ensure officers are walking and biking the streets—not just driving around them—”in order to interact with residents and deter crime.”
Morfin also wants to protect the ward’s dynamics in the face of Pilsen’s changing demographics over the past few decades.
Although “change is inevitable, it is necessary to ensure that development is done responsibly and in a way that does not displace current residents,” he said. He also would work to ensure affordable housing is available and maintain the presence of residents of all income levels.
Even as condominiums have become popular in the area, Morfin would “maintain the historical architecture” of the area as well.
He continues to believe the area’s coal fired plants should be cleaned up faster than stipulated in the 2006 agreement between Midwest Generation and the Illinois EPA. He cited a 2001 Harvard study finding the plants cause dozens of premature deaths per year as well as hundreds of cases of respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations as his basis for supporting the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. Also, he called Solis’s recent support for the ordinance a bit “disingenuous” and feels Solis changed positions only to earnmore votes.
According to Morfin, “change in the ward is long overdue, and voters should give me a chance to make a difference.”