Today, Tuesday, February 24, voters from Chicago will cast their votes for the future of the city.
Every four years, the mayor’s office and the seats of all 50 aldermen are up for grabs. Following the tradition of Chicago politics, most seats are safely passed on from term to term—some aldermen have been in power for more than 30 years, and former mayor Richard M. Daley held office for 22 years. There are no term limits.
Certain issues are often presented to voters for their consideration as ballot measures, which this year include campaign finance reform, mandatory paid sick leave, and counseling for city employees convicted of domestic violence. These ballot measures are nonbinding.
Forgot to register to vote? Unfortunately, you’re out of luck this election cycle. The registration deadline was January 27, though there was a “grace period” through February 21. By state law there is no election-day registration today. On Election Day voters may only cast ballots at their assigned polling place, determined by their registration precinct, between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Read on for the Maroon’s 2015 election guide about the candidates and the platforms seeking to bring change to Chicago and the Fourth and Fifth Wards, the districts that overlap Hyde Park.
Elected in 2011, former White House chief of staff to President Obama and incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel is running for a second term. In his first term, Emanuel moved 1,000 police officers from desk duty into the streets, controversially closed 50 Chicago public schools, and has supported building the Obama library on public parkland. For his second term, Emanuel pledges to hire more police officers, implement a police body camera program, triple the number of pre-kindergarten programs, and continue pushing for the Obama library to be located in Chicago.
Since 2011, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has been a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Garcia has criticized Emanuel’s reassignment of police officers into the streets, rather than hiring new ones. He said he’d make it a priority to hire 1,000 new police officers and reduce overtime costs to pay these new officers. Garcia is a proponent of creating an elected school board and evaluating the city’s charter schools’ performances to determine which are underperforming. He doesn’t support using public parkland for the Obama library.
Bob Fioretti is the alderman for Chicago’s Second Ward, which encompasses neighborhoods in the Near South Side, downtown, and the Near West Side. He has criticized the city’s expenditures on police overtime and said he would cut overtime pay and hire 500 additional police officers. Fioretti has said he’ll focus on restorative justice, which understands crime as a harm against a community and individuals rather than as a harm against the state. Fioretti also supports a moratorium on building charter schools and an audit of the city budget. He doesn’t support using public parkland for the Obama library.
William “Dock” Walls is a community activist. Walls says he would declare a “state of emergency” in the city once he took office, which would include outdoor roll calls in high-crime areas; stationing police cars near parks, schools, and libraries; and moving officers who are on desk duty to street patrol. Walls advocates for an elected school board and a moratorium on building charter schools. To support small and medium-sized businesses, Walls says he’ll establish a series of public-private partnerships to provide each selected business a million-dollar grant. He supports the use of public parkland for the Obama library.
Willie Wilson is the owner of a medical supply company and is the producer of a nationally syndicated 25-year-old gospel entertainment show Singsation. He doesn’t support hiring any more police officers—instead, he would require most police officers to take public transit or walk the streets during their patrols to foster a “friendly police atmosphere.” Wilson supports an elected school board, reopening the 50 closed public schools, opening a casino in the city, and placing the Obama library on public parkland.
Will Burns is the incumbent alderman of the Fourth Ward. A Democrat as well as a UChicago alumnus, Burns worked as the representative for Illinois’s 26th district from 2008 to 2011. Burns has brought development to the ward including the commercial corridor of Harper Court and Mac Property Management’s high-rise Vue53. He is running on a platform of increased development, school financing reform, and anti-corruption measures.
Tracey Bey has previously worked as a mortgage broker and currently heads her own company, Bey Financial. She is running on a platform of a democratically elected school board, a trauma center on the South Side, an increased minimum wage, and the reopening of previously closed mental health clinics in the community.
Norman Bolden is a local community leader and businessman who has received a number of awards for his involvement in the area. He supports a democratically elected school board, community-backed development, a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, tax-increment funding (TIF) reform, and affordable housing.
Incumbent Leslie Hairston has been in office since 1999. Her main goal has been to promote economic development in the ward, which encompasses parts of the Hyde Park and South Shore neighborhoods, including finding a replacement grocery store after the Dominick’s closed last year. She’s in favor of the city council’s initiative to increase the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2019.
Tiffany Brooks is an attorney at Urban Partnership Bank and an adjunct professor at Northeastern Illinois University’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Her goals for the Fifth Ward are greater transparency and restrictions on the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), restoring the South Shore as a cultural hub, and showcasing Hyde Park’s economic development.
Jocelyn Hare is an alumna of the Harris School and has a degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She supports exploration of the legalization of marijuana as a potential revenue stream, the adoption of electronic textbooks by Chicago public schools, and the establishment of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the lakefront. Hare also called for UCPD data transparency.
Life coach and aromatherapist Robin Boyd-Clark comes from a background in inner-city studies and construction management. She is in favor of an elected school board rather than the current model of mayoral appointees and wants to encourage more community volunteers in public schools. As one of the co-founders of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, she has worked to establish a “Main Street” corridor along 71st Street.
The Reverend Jedidah Brown is the president of the Young Leaders Alliance. He supports using revenue from tax-increment financing districts as reinvestments in the communities rather than for buying land to develop a hotel and collegiate basketball arena, as is the current city plan. He also wants to find at least one donor to establish a need-based education fund to support every “qualified” student in the Fifth Ward for early childhood development and education as well as four years of collegiate education.
This is not attorney Anne Marie Miles’s first time in this campaign—she ran against Hairston in 2011. In her current platform, she calls for a reevaluation of the plea bargain system to cut down on suspects agreeing to plead guilty for felonies in exchange for less jail time. She also supports longer school days and a longer school year, and, according to the Chicago Tribune, wants to motivate the communities of the Fifth Ward to “regain our independent, free-thinking spirit and return to our role as the voice of Chicago’s conscience.”