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Candidates Promise to Vote No on Mega TIF Bonds at LSNA Aldermanic Forum

Article from the LoganSquarist

Residents of Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa, and Lathrop packed the auditorium at McAuliffe Elementary (1841 N. Springfield Ave.) Feb. 8 to hear aldermanic candidates speak about the Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s Quality of Life plan, released in December 2018.

The Aldermanic Forum brought together 13 candidates from the 1st, 26th, 30th, 31st, 33rd, and 35th Wards, with only Jessica Gutierrez (30th) and Deb Mell (33rd) not in attendance.

Candidates spoke to the predominantly older, Latinx crowd about the pillars of the Quality of Life plan, which are education, economic development, housing, health and wellness, and Immigration. Every person in attendance received green and red cards with pictures of soft- and hard-shell tacos, respectively, which they could raise in the air to express their agreement or disagreement with a candidate’s statement.

Candidates who spoke directly to the fight for Latinx cultural preservation within the process of gentrification tended to see the most green cards raised in approval. Courtesy LSNA

Every candidate, in one way or another, stressed the importance of affordable housing for longtime residents in Logan Square and its surrounding neighborhoods, recognizing it to be what is likely the most pressing issue to residents in this election. However, candidates who spoke directly to the fight for Latinx cultural preservation within the process of gentrification tended to see the most green cards raised in approval.

Candidate Rossana Rodriguez (33rd), for example, received support when she talked about the need for bilingual schools.

“[We not only need] transitionally bilingual schools, but dual-language so that our people of color and immigrant community can keep their roots alive and their connections to their family, because those roots are broken when we don’t have connections to those resources,” Rodruiguez said.

Candidates were given one minute for opening statements and one minute to answer a question picked from a hat by the LSNA, with another minute added to each for a Spanish translation. Candidates from the same ward were given the same question to respond to, ranging from issues of economic development to affordable housing to mental health.

After candidates from each ward and responded to their question, they were then given six rapid-fire yes-or-no questions, such as “Will you vote NO on big new TIFs that take money from schools?” and “Will you champion abolishing the racist and biased gang database?” Every candidate responded “yes” to every question.

All candidates said they oppose mega TIFF bonds like the highly contested Lincoln Yards project.

Reimagining Logan Square

The questions selected for the candidates from the 1st, 26th, 31st, and 35rd wards, which make up most of Logan Square, were largely concerned with affordable housing and economic development.

For the 35th ward, incumbent Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and challenger Amanda Yu Dietrich were asked about local hiring and anti-displacement standards. Rosa responded by maintaining that not only do local workers need to be paid at least a minimum wage,but that their wage should reflect the cost of living in Logan Square, which he put at $17 per hour, citing the forthcoming jobsat the Grace Hotel as an example.

Yu Dietrich, for her part, said she wants to work with the Chamber of Commerce to persuade new and existing businesses to commit to hiring locally by signing a Good Neighbor Agreement.

Protesters called for an inclusive and diverse Logan Square at the March for Racial Equity last October. Photo: Raquel Venado/Elevated Chicago

Candidates in the 1st ward were asked how they would support sanctuary schools, in which “students are safe, culture and languages are preserved, and the curriculum is culturally relevant.” Incumbent “Proco” Joe Moreno said that schools need to be community centers as well as educational ones that provide health services, counseling for parents, and a parent-teacher room, and that “we’re starting to establish that more and more.”

He pointed to Clemente High School in Humboldt Park as an example, which has risen to Level 2 status and is off probation because of community organization.

“Teachers, parents, and the community rallied around an International Baccalaureate program for all students, not just selective enrollment,” Moreno said.

Daniel La Spata, the only challenger against Moreno, said that “no teacher, student, or parent should feel in danger from the violence and terrorism of ICE.” He pledged to fight ICE access to local schools, end carve outs in the Sanctuary City ordinance that could put any family in danger.

“We need to work with humility and respect with every parent, teacher and family to make sure they feel culturally represented in their schools,” La Spata said.

Boosting Small Businesses in Hermosa/Belmont Gardens

In the 31st Ward, candidates were asked what resources or relationships they uniquely have to support economic development strategies. Incumbent Milly Santiago stated broadly that she’s been bringing in new businesses to her ward that create jobs and revenue for the city, supports city programs that supplement small businesses, and has been negotiating with developers to make sure they hire locally if they build in her ward.

Felix Cardona said he wants to help small businesses in the ward take advantage of tax credits offered by the city to beautify the commercial corridor. Colin Bird-Martinez talked about his history of volunteer work in Hermosa and his development of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association, also noting that he is the only candidate not accepting campaign contributions from developers and that he pays the majority of his staff a living wage of $23 per hour.

Affordable Housing in Humboldt Park

26th ward candidates were asked how they will support a strong Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) that has a higher percentage of affordable units, requires more family-size units, and builds in more monitoring.

Theresa Siaw responded by saying we need to place a higher tax on developers building in the neighborhood, which is currently at 10 percent, and eliminate the “citywide affordable housing fund,” which allows developers to avoid building affordable housing by depositing a certain amount of money into a fund that can be used to build affordable housing elsewhere.

The elementary school was packed with residents who asked questions of most candidates. Courtesy LSNA

She also stated that she is the only candidate in her ward not accepting contributions from developers. Roberto Maldonado, the incumbent, said he wants ARO funds invested primarily in areas facing the most displacement, and that he wants to legislate rent control.

David Herrera, likely speaking to the same fund as Siaw, said that the biggest flaw in the current ARO is that it has a “loophole to buy out of it, and we need housing now.” He said he prefers to build housing now as opposed to taking cash, because money can be reallocated and mismanaged.

The Aldermanic Forum ended with each candidate signing a poster that pledges they will stay true to the statements they made that morning. The LSNA Quality of Life Plan can be found here.

Featured photo: Candidates sat on the stage of McAuliffe Elementary Jan. 8. Courtesy LSNA

Posted in Immigration, Education, Affordable Housing, LSNA in the Media