Third and Fourth Ward incumbents facing battles
February 1, 2019

By Patrick Butler

Incumbents in both the 3rd and 4th wards will be fending off challengers in the upcoming aldermanic elections.

Pat Dowell.

3rd Ward 

The 3rd Ward’s Pat Dowell said, “I’m optimistic or I wouldn’t be running, I just want to make sure that, at the end of the day, I’m the one who’s still standing.”

Dowell, a former deputy planning commissioner who served under mayors Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer, and Richard M. Daley II, was previously executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corp., where she focused on affordable housing and creating commercial retail space. Earlier, she directed the Mid-South Planning and Development Commission and Chicago Public Allies, a national youth development group.

She said she wants to bring “all kinds of housing,” particularly affordable and market rate, into her ward.

Dowell said she has been working to bring in more police and would like to see another Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) station in her ward– but not at the corner of 15th and Clark Streets, adjacent to a massive vacant land parcel where a developer, Related Midwest, envisions creating a 13-million square-foot project, “the 78.”  The new station is one of the infrastructure additions Related Midwest considers important to the project’s success.

Dowell said she would instead like to see a CTA station at another location in her ward. The location Related Midwest has in mind would be “too disruptive for my residents and completely out of character with the area,” Dowell said, noting that she is “open to allowing another station at another nearby location,” but declined to name a specific site.

Concerning controversial TIFs (tax increment financing) that may be used to pay for new infrastructure on the 78 site and proposed rent controls recently approved in a non-binding referendum by residents in some wards last year, Dowell said both TIFs and rent controls could be helpful if used judiciously.

She added, however, that rent controls can have a downside.

“For example, some landlords might be tempted not to invest too much in a building if there’s not much of a return,” Dowell warned.

Dowell said she hopes to find a location for a new high school somewhere in the area, now that plans to turn National Teachers Academy into a high school have fallen through.

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Alexandra Willis.

Alexandra Willis is a nurse with health planning experience who in recent years worked with the Renaissance Collaborative, which does workforce development, housing development, and homeless prevention. She believes that a new mayor taking over this spring makes now a good time for a new alderman to represent what she considers a key Near South and South Side community.

With so many vacant lots in the 3rd Ward, Willis said she wants to assess available affordable housing in the ward and get figures on residents in danger of losing their homes in the face of gentrification.

Willis said she is especially concerned about “people in the middle” who make too much for affordable housing but not enough to afford market-rate apartments. In other words, people who often fall in the cracks.

“We’re going to need more subsidized housing,” she said. “I don’t know how much, but I would say any new market rate housing should have affordable housing included” in any developments approved by the City.

Like Dowell, Willis would like the proposed new CTA station located somewhere other than 15th and Clark Streets, “given the disruption it’s likely to cause,” she said. “It needs more discussion.”

Willis also said she will work to find a new high school for the South Loop area now that National Teachers Academy will not become a high school.

Unlike Dowell, Willis said she does not see the need for more police in the area as much as the need for investment in schools and job development to get at the root of local crime.

Nor does she see the need for penalizing marijuana users. “We’re a community that has been heavily impacted by the war on drugs,” Willis said. “We should follow the model of Colorado and free those who went to prison for marijuana possession.”

Willis also wants major focus on infrastructure development, especially sewers and pipes.

Asked if she thinks she can find money for these kinds of improvements, Willis described herself as an optimist “or I wouldn’t be running for alderman,” she said.

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Sophia King.

4th Ward

Sophia King, who is winding down her first term as 4th Ward alderman, taught at the Latin School in Lincoln Park, helped found the Ariel Community Academy at 1119 W. 46th St., was a small business owner, and founded the Harriet’s Daughters organization to help increase employment in the black community.

King also pushed for more youth programs as president of the Kenwood Park Advisory Council, and she has been active in efforts to expand Jones Preparatory School, protect on-street parking; reduce hours at the Grant Park skating rink; and improve the Roosevelt CTA station.

As alderman, King has focused on infrastructure improvements such as the Drexel Boulevard Revitalization, Drexel bike lanes, 41st and 43rd Street pedestrian bridges and 39th and 31st Street bridges, revitalizing viaducts, and new dog parks at 39th Street and Lake Park Avenue and 41st Street and Vincennes Ave.

King believes quality education is essential for economic success and should be combined with extracurricular activities, “preventing young minds from becoming prey to negative influences.” Along those lines, she instituted a 4th Ward enrichment program featuring chess and soccer. She obtained additional money from the City to improve neighborhood schools.

On public safety, King believes citizens should be involved “in addressing negative forces that impact our communities and affect our quality of life,” she said. King has worked to shut down “problem” businesses and buildings; created the Safe Summer Initiative, which extended into the summer the Safe Passage program (providing safe routes for students in the community); obtained more resources from the Chicago Police Department; established monthly public safety meetings; and partnered with the community to fight gun violence.

King said she has assured the inclusion of affordable units in new developments and fought to improve minority contractors’ participation.

King sponsored the legislation renaming Congress Parkway for civil rights icon and journalist Ida B. Wells.

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Ebony Lucas.

Ebony Lucas believes she will be a better representative of the people of the ward, saying, “When I become alderman, you all become alderman.” Detroit-born lawyer Lucas, who is making her second try for the City Council seat, promises to beef up kindergarten through eighth grade education while serving as a liaison among schools, public libraries, museums, and the park district.

To promote greater safety on the streets, Lucas said she already has been working with programs such as Teens on 53rd St. and National Night Out and promoting CAPS programs.

Lucas also plans to crack down on high property tax and water bill increases, which she said often result in high rents that drive lower and middle-income families out of their neighborhoods. She opposes a property tax hike. Possible tools, she added, might include a financial transaction tax, progressive income tax, and TIF reforms to stop giving tax breaks to the rich, while putting new burdens on families who can least afford new tax increases.

In fact, Lucas warned, “we can’t preserve affordable housing without stabilizing property taxes.”

If elected, she said she will work to implement new income sources, including developing vacant lots and even revenue from legalization of recreational marijuana. She also would use TIF reform “to insure we’re not taking money from our local schools for use by downtown developers,” whom she said do not need the money as badly as the often cash-strapped neighborhoods.

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