11th Ward features one-on-one race; 12th Ward free-for-all has many candidates
February 1, 2019

By Rick Romano

Aldermanic races in the 11th and 12th Wards both feature incumbents trying to keep their seats and challengers trying to take their place. The candidates weighed in on questions about how they view approaches needed for infrastructure improvement, neighborhood revitalization, and crime prevention as well as specific issues related to their wards.

David Mihalyfy.

11th Ward

Challenger David Mihalyfy is a former teacher and labor organizer currently working as a personal aide in assisted living. He has additional experience as a freelance writer, focusing on investigating financial issues.

He said he would join those who oppose the Starbucks at 31st and Halsted Streets, noting the business is not vital to kick-starting Halsted development.

“In general, we could be using our community funds more effectively,” Mihalyfy said. “This Starbucks is a step in the wrong direction because it represents a $165,000 subsidization for the lot, which diverts out of the area to a franchise. This also represents a heavier tax burden.”

Mihalyfy said the key to revita-
lizing the Halted Street Business District is converting old storefronts that are empty to new uses.

“Online retail has gutted businesses, so we could encourage converting these spaces to combo business and studio apartments,” he said. “Streamlining zoning and looking at tax reform may also help bring in new development.”

Mihalyfy noted the need for impartiality, so he is refusing campaign contributions from businesses.

Ensuring the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) keeps the 31st Street bus is a matter of building the neighborhood’s population, Mihalyfy said.

“We need to edge up population density in the ward to support transportation like the 31st,” he said. “I support creation of duplexes and granny-flat legislation to attract more people living here. It has worked in other places, like Portland and Vancouver.”

About an infrastructure plan, Mihalyfy said, “The current alderman has done a decent job, but one of my initiatives would be to find a way to offer free installation for home solar panels through a lottery, with those who qualify with a solid roof to pay back the City over time.”

While Mihalyfy said “we need to severely curb TIFs” (tax-increment financing), he said he would encourage that process if it fits in his idea for expanding his proposed solar-panel initiative or for other startups that also increase opportunities for jobs.

“Our police department is doing a good job,” he said. “An alderman can facilitate the response to crime by looking at it on a larger scale.” He noted concern with the number of firearms coming from Wisconsin and Indiana and proposed to enact policies to “name and shame” those states. He also said he advocates improvement in organized youth activities—especially those that improve parent-child time together—and job creation in stemming crime.

As for whether one alderman should represent Taylor Street/Little Italy, Mihalyfy said, “We need non-partisan aldermanic redistricting for better representation throughout the ward. We have seen with what we have that it weakens their [the people’s] voice.” He noted that, in the predominantly Chinese-American part of the ward, “the result is outcomes like a lack of a local high school there.”

About the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) plan for the ward, Mihalyfy said, “As 11th Ward alderman, I’d fully support intensive conversations and a shared development vision for our community, and I’d pick up and facilitate development of a CMAP plan, at whatever point in the process it is.” He said he is committed to a new high school near Chinatown, Halsted Street development, and building additional residential units regardless of whether those elements are part of the CMAP plan.

Mihalyfy also said he favors lifting the ban on rent controls, a measure he believes would help increase the population density he said is important for the 11th Ward’s future.

More information available at www.letourlightshine11thward.com.

Patrick D. Thompson.

Incumbent Patrick D. Thompson
was elected alderman in 2015 after serving as a commissioner of the Chicago Water Reclamation District.

Concerning a controversial planned Starbucks at 31st and Halsted Streets, Thompson said he typically sees both support and opposition to new businesses but that “I don’t think there’s a lot of objections to this project. That corner has been vacant for 12 years.”

Thompson said the developer is complying with the City’s stormwater management requirements. “There will be a positive economic impact to that entire area,” Thompson said. “A business like this can increase sales along the street.”

He said the area will include new or renovated amenities such as restaurants, a bank, and an insurance agency.

On revitalizing the entire Halsted Street business district, Thompson said the City can help fund new business and renovation projects and assist with zoning matters.

He said he plans to deal with high rents on Halsted through good communication with landlords.

“I have found some Halsted rents are pretty high,” Thompson said. “In those cases, we try to encourage our property owners to help and be more reasonable. We want to help those who want to stay in their homes or businesses. I can’t dictate what the rent is to be, but I try to keep in touch with each situation.”

Regarding influencing the CTA to keep the 31st Street bus, Thompson said the line has been in and out of service or has changed hours of operation for decades, all due to ridership. He said he is trying to see if the Illinois Institute of Technology and Mercy Hospital and Medical Center can provide incentives for employees to ride the bus. He looks to fellow aldermen for additional ridership ideas.

Concerning infrastructure improvements, Thompson said, “A good infrastructure plan needs to be fair, addressing needs and touching all parts of the ward. I go to meetings and carry my three by five cards and write down what people tell me is a need.”

He said ideal projects for the ward include lighting and increasing the size of water and sewer lines. The ward is beginning to use permeable pavers as part of a drainage system in alleys, reducing reliance on alley sewers, he said.

Thompson said he likes TIFs, noting the City has been able to fund needed projects through them without penalizing ongoing services.

“I think that each transaction stands on its own, and it doesn’t take anything away from the taxing bodies,” Thompson said. “TIFs can be complicated and confusing, even to some of my colleagues. We need an open discussion and information so people know the full story.”

Regarding curbing burglaries and armed robberies, Thompson said of himself and his staff, “We talk to the police on a daily basis” to deal with the problem. He has supported increasing the number of officers and of police vehicles equipped with special license plate readers to identify stolen vehicles and detect other important information.

“Nosy neighbors help,” he said. “They are the biggest deterrent of crime.”

Regarding Taylor Street/Little Italy’s split representation among three aldermen, Thompson said the issue is difficult because it involves redistricting on the basis of population. He said, however, it is important not to divide specific neighborhoods among aldermen.

“I like being part of Little Italy that I’m involved with,” he said. “So I don’t want to give up what I do represent,” he said.

On the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) ward plan, Thompson said he is waiting for the agency’s study results along with input from the Urban Land Institute. He said he favors a plan designed to strengthen the area’s two major commercial corridors, Archer Avenue and Halsted Street, which he calls the “spine” of the ward because they cuts through so many distinctly different neighborhoods.

Thompson said he does not believe the city needs rent controls and prefers additional measures such as affordable housing for middle class homeowners through property tax relief.

For more information, go to www.ward11.org.

George Cardenas.

12th Ward

Incumbent Alderman George Cardenas first was elected to office in 2003. He previously worked for more than a decade in several large corporations, including Centel, McDonald’s, Anderson Worldwide, Tenneco, and Ameritech/SBC.

Regarding the ward plan by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Cardenas said, “We have been engaged with CMAP for over a year. We are looking at the manufacturing side of things. I was really excited to work with them and check on the quality of high paying jobs for the area. We have a long history of manufacturing as well as reaching out to be a part of the ideas of social and cultural development. We are working on the idea of comprehensive manufacturing districts here and in the 11th ward as well, working on how we can remove obstacles from making that happen.”

Cardenas pointed to a number of needed infrastructure initiatives.

“We are repaving streets and adding a lot of lighting in McKinley Park and throughout the neighborhoods,” he said. “All the basic things, such as water mains, mean so much to the quality of life. We have done that, and we are working on building, including three schools and a library.”

He also noted the need to help trucks move through the neighborhood.

“We need to make sure that viaducts and underpasses allow those trucks to move through the area, and this will help Chicago, all of Chicago, reach its potential,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas said the City also needs to work on removing lead from water lines and do what it can financially to help homeowners finish their part of the responsibility for water lines leading to homes.

Future infrastructure improvement, he said, will concentrate on transportation as well as targeting what to do with empty warehouses.

“We need to present the plan to the community and get input,” Cardenas said.

In terms of recreational space needs, Cardenas pointed to new play lots, an upcoming dog park project, and a green space initiative that includes converting empty lots into gardens. Cardenas noted one key example of school recreational facilities completed in 2018 as an example of more to come throughout the ward. Workers have fully reconstructed the Nathan Davis schoolyard, converting it from a concrete slab to a soccer field, basketball court, and playground.

Cardenas said the 12th Ward is seeing less of a gang problem.

“There is less and less crime, less activity,” he said. “Every so often you get a sporadic increase, but basically, it’s not as bad. The reason for this is that there are few empty buildings, and there is good follow up with the police.”

In Cardenas’s view, tax increment financing districts (TIFs) can continue to exist, but they may need to change, he said.

“We need to modernize the way we use TIFs to get the most growth,” Cardenas said. “We want to attract companies that want to relocate here. We have to have a balance in how to do that.”

On whether to lift the ban on rent control, Cardenas said, “We have to give that a lot of thought. How do you enforce it? How do you choose that over more housing subsidies? I want to think out of the box. What are the alternatives for us to create more housing of all kinds? It needs to be holistic.”

For more information, go to www.12thwardchicago.com.

Pete DeMay.

Challenger Pete DeMay is a labor organizer who also served in the Peace Corps and is a founding member of Neighbors for Environmental Justice and the 12th Ward Independent Political Organization.

DeMay said the CMAP initiative is a first step that requires more work.

“I would work with CMAP to make sure that all residents have an opportunity to take a survey,” he said. “It needs more representation from the conversations I have had with people in the neighborhoods. Those who participated tended to be white with no Asian participation. I’m not sure that you can get conclusions from such a small percentage of the population being surveyed.”

DeMay said any plan should include issues that affect the ward.

“There is an unacceptable level of violence,” he said. “People want to see a youth center, the old TCF Bank turned into something positive for the community, and mental health facilities. All those things are things that people here want to be addressed.”

Residents and business owners need to identify infrastructure needs, he said.

“I would like to see us go to the residents in the form of a survey,” he said, noting the survey must be available in Spanish as well as English. “There are a lot of ideas that could be looked at. I would like to see City-owned, Spanish-speaking mental health facilities. We need to do something with the shuttered manufacturing district with ideas like sustainable green food-based businesses. There should be a center for neighborhood technology. We have a high unemployment rate here, and it could be addressed with these green sustainable jobs.”

DeMay’s view of a ward infrastructure plan also would combine the need to replace lead pipes with a job training program.

“This is an opportunity to place those people who are hard to place as union laborers in an effort that is needed in the 12th Ward and throughout the city,” DeMay said. “We can produce prevailing wage jobs and get something done that will be needed sooner than later. This also will increase economic stimulus.”

DeMay said replacing the lead pipes plays well with climate change.

“If we address the lead contamination in our water, then as the climate changes, Chicago will become a more attractive place and destination for manufacturers,” he said.

He also advocates keeping water a City service and not privatizing it or, as he noted, “Let’s not make it a parking meter deal for water.”

The way to stem gang activity, he said, is to invest more in education, especially in counselors and onsite mental health professionals.

“A summer jobs program also will address this as well as efforts to connect high school graduates to careers,” he said.

DeMay does not support TIFs.

“I think we should ban the TIF program,” DeMay said. “Basically, it’s a mayoral slush find.”

He said the City should find other budgetary ways to fund projects and stimulate the economy.

“Let’s let everyone participate in the process” instead of favoring big money interests, he said.

DeMay said, “Lift the ban on rent control in Chicago to rein in skyrocketing rents and require just cause for evictions to stop the displacement of black, brown, and working-class Chicagoans of all backgrounds from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.”

For more information, go to www.petedemay.com.

Jose Rico.

Challenger Jose Rico is a senior vice president at the United Way of Metro Chicago and previously was appointed by President Barack Obama as executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Rico said he would work with CMAP to plan ward issues.

“It’s about how to revitalize the area and the riverways, how we use the Chicago River,” he said. “It’s also about implementing policies that become an important blueprint looking at how we get revenue and how grants get around the city—what’s collected, what’s disbursed—and getting away from political favoritism. This is also important citywide.”

Transportation remains an important infrastructure need, he said.

“My ward has a lot of work where people use transportation to get from point A to point B,” he said. “All the truck traffic goes through my ward, so we need dedicated streets for trucks, especially when there are so many kids, parents, and other traffic.

“This is a high service sector population, so we need better transportation 24 hours a day,” Rico said. “Orange line wait times are long.”

In addition to transportation, Rico noted the ward needs to be brought up to speed in better cell phone reception and high-speed internet access.

Rico said his infrastructure plan not only includes emphasis on transportation and internet/cell improvements but would extend to renovating library and school facilities and replacing lead pipelines.

“An apprenticeship program that gives job opportunities can be part of that lead pipe replacement,” he said.

Recreational facilities in the ward are growing, Rico said, noting McKinley Park and Kelly Park improvements. He said because the ward has a rising young population, he would like to see new programming to match the existing facilities.

“There needs to be job training pathway programming to serve the population,” he said.

A major reason for Rico running for alderman, he said, is because his son was present in a gang-related shooting as he was returning from Harold Washington City College, so Rico has a personal stake in fighting gangs. In addition to a commitment to improve police and community relationships, he said improving access to quality mental health as well as jobs is essential.

“We need professional help for those suffering from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and we need to improve job opportunities for those age 18 to 26 citywide,” he said, “For me, being able to provide jobs, education, and access to mental health will help prevent hurt people from hurting other people.”

He said TIFs may work sometimes, but the City needs a better plan.

“We will have to create a citywide improvement plan,” he said, noting developers and other money interests too often “determine who gets the money.” He wants to ensure Chicago Public Schools get proper funding because “at the end of the day, that’s what gets taken away” through TIFs.

Whatever happens with rent control, Rico said the ward needs a way of ensuring long-time residents can stay in their homes and not be affected by developers coming into the ward.

“We have to lift that confidence among our residents and others moving in that they can afford to be here,” Rico said.

For more information, go to www.joserico2019.com.

Martha Yerania Rangel did not respond to multiple inquiries for an interview.