Emotions heat up at 1st ward debate

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite a record setting freeze in the city of Chicago last Wednesday, constituents of the First Ward were able to warm up by the heat of an aldermanic debate.

The four candidates contending for the position of alderman in Chicago’s First Ward met in the Wicker Park Lutheran Church. There the candidates took turns talking about matters in the First Ward including the shutdown of police stations and mental health facilities, potential transit oriented developments (TOD), and the growing Latino population in the ward.

The debate, moderated by Alisa Hauser of DNAinfo Chicago, played host to Ronda Locke, who serves on the board of the East Village Association; Andrew Hamilton, a personal injury attorney; Anne Shaw, a civil rights attorney; and incumbent Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno.

Though many of the challengers agreed that the ward’s “No. 1 problem” is the improvement of ward services, Shaw focused on public safety. “We’re one of the few wards that lost two police stations—the 19th and 13th,” said Shaw. Shaw also attacked Moreno for calling the closing of the 13th District station one of the “proudest moments of his career.”

Moreno later addressed the criticism by referencing statistics indicating crime has gone down in the First Ward. He also promised to continue his strategy of targeting specific houses with inspections. Moreno said, “When there’s a problem on a block, we can usually narrow it down to one or two houses.” Moreno says that he has successfully done this on six occasions.

The matter of Transit Oriented Development, or TODs, was met with general acceptance citing affordability and eco-friendliness. However, the challengers have problems with how the ordinances stand. Both Hamilton and Shaw both say that the developments as they are may damage the communities they may occupy. Locke added that she is for development “that respects the input of the community,” and outlying a development process that takes that input into consideration.

Hamilton sided with Moreno when it came to responding to a question on the Hispanic population of the First Ward, which amounts to nearly a half. “I would raise the minimum wage as well,” said Hamilton. “The previous minimum wage is just not enough to make ends meet.” And though a pledge to learn Spanish if elected earned applause from the audience, Moreno took the opportunity to make his response in Spanish, emphasizing the growth of schools, jobs and communication. In English, “If you’re going to run for a ward that you know is a majority Latino ward,” said Moreno, “You should already know a little bit [of Spanish.] In fact, you should know a lot.”

Both Locke and Shaw attempted to bring up concerns with ward mapping and bilingual legal services, respectively, before the moderator asked them to refocus with answers more specific to services in the First Ward.

Other questions included whether or not a dedicated bike lane should be put on Milwaukee Avenue between Western and Ashland, and whether they supported the re-election of Emanuel.

All four candidates gave no direct answer about whether a bike lane should replace parking space on Milwaukee. Instead, many called it a “tough decision” and said they would consult with traffic experts and community members to find a solution.

Most of the candidates did not give a definite answer in their support of Emanuel’s re-election. While Moreno said he’d only announce support after a decision was made by his board of directors. Both Shaw and Hamilton expressed that they “lean towards the challengers.” It was only Locke who was against Emanuel’s re-election, pointing to the reduction of mental health services and privatization of schools.

A second debate is expected on Jan. 27 at Wells High School 936 North Ashland Avenue, at 7 p.m. Full video of the debate can be found at the CAN-TV YouTube channel.

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