Sparks Fly at 45th Ward Runoff Forum

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he battle for the 45th Ward’s Alderman’s seat intensified last Tuesday as the two remaining candidates debated and challenged each other on the stage of the Copernicus Theater.

Incumbent Ald. John Arena and challenger John Garrido survived the February Chicago election and will face each other in the April runoff election. And while the race for the 45th Ward has now been reduced from its original four candidates, the remaining two still had plenty to challenge each other on.

Arena, who is vying for his second term, is known for being the alderman to vote against Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in City Council bills, a fact Garrido cited against his opponent. “The community has to be the priority, not another political agenda, or just being able to say ‘I’m the guy who votes against the mayor the most.”

In his rebuttal, Arena asked his opponent, “Why should I have voted for or against (those bills) or what would he have done in those situations. My decisions are based on analysis.” He added, “When it’s wrong for the city and wrong for the ward, that’s the way I vote.”

Arena cited his votes against digital billboards, speed cameras, the parking meter redux and the DePaul Arena as examples of him fighting against private interests in the city.

The night was colored by the two challengers taking jabs at each other. Garrido accused the incumbent of taking credit of other people’s work for supporting public schools, ignoring quality of life issues in the ward, taking $750,000 in donations from unions, and holding “secret meetings” regarding a development potential housing project at Long and Argyle.

Arena defended himself by saying in his four years in office, he’s brought about 20 miles of repaved streets, filled 37,000 potholes, reduced waiting time on tree trimmings and has made 311 request “more efficient in their services.” Aside from that, he also labeled Garrido as a Republican and a Tea Party supporter. Though Garrido is running as an independent, he previously ran for Cook County board president in 2010 as a Republican.

Voters will choose between the two in the runoff election on April 7. Early voting will occur through April 4.



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