Fifth ward candidates have cited education, security, and the economy as top priorities in the race for the alderman chair.
Carol Hightower-Chalmers, AnneMarie Miles, Glenn Ross and Michele Tankersley are all vying to unseat three-term incumbent Leslie Hairston in the February 22 election.
The Maroon spoke with Hairston, Miles and Tankersley. The Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference’s (HPKCC) candidate questionnaire provided information regarding Chalmers. No information was available regarding Ross’s platform.
All the candidates agreed the Tax Incremented Finacing (TIF) process needs more transparency.
Hairston, who has served as fifth ward alderman since 1999, said she would continue to bring retail to the ward. “I’ve been talking to developers and retailers. It’s the developers that bring the retail,” Hairston said.
She cited past projects like Staples, Aldi, Jewel/Osco, Save-A-Lot, and Starbucks as signs of an improving retail environment under her leadership. Hairston used $250,000 of TIF funds to bring in the Starbucks on East 71st and South Stony Island Avenue, which she believes was a sign that “the community is on the way up.” She said that the majority of the employees hired by new businesses have been from the fifth ward.
Tankersley, a consultant at Chicago Public Schools, criticized Hairston for using fifth ward TIF money to build South Shore High School at East 75th Street and South Constance Avenue, which is part of the eighth ward, and accused her of spending too much in order to attract Starbucks.
Hairston argued that the South Shore High School benefits the fifth ward as well, with a location situated on the boundary between the eighth and fifth wards.
Tankersley would rather allocate TIF funds for a mini-Walmart and hopes to address unemployment, violence, and education with a new community center.
She encouraged exposing drug dealers to positive influences. “I want to show them that they have skills… that their illegal skills can be flipped to legal skills,” she said.
Chalmers, who has worked for Carol Moseley Braun and was on the advisory committee for the fifth ward from 1991 to 2001, collaborated with the U of C to create a community rehabilitation program later implemented by the Department of Planning.
Miles, who served as president for the Comer Children’s Hospital Service Committee and has children who attended the Lab Schools, proposes a fifth ward Advisory Council to develop a plan to stimulate the economy.
She also suggested a regional garbage pickup service, which would be able to drive more efficient routes. According to Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, such a switch could save $30 million for the ward.
Miles wants to improve the efficiency of the police by promoting more communication between different police precincts in the fifth ward. “The precincts officers don’t always hear what’s going on in other precincts,” said Miles.
Miles also wants to replicate the UCPD’s blue light system throughout the ward with a CPD system for all residents, while Tankersley called for blue lights installed at all the bus stops.
All the candidates want to improve education by funding after-school programs or hiring tutors.