Candidates offer diverse ideas at 43rd Ward forum
Loop North News

LINCOLN PARK

(Above) Candidates for 43rd Ward alderman. Top row: Leslie Fox, Rebecca Janowitz, and Derek Lindblom. Bottom row: Steve McClellan, Jacob Ringer, and Michele Smith.

7-Feb-19 – All six candidates for 43rd Ward alderman who met in Lincoln Park last week hope their formidable experience and campaign donations will help them get the job.

It is a high-powered race. One of the candidates, Derek Lindblom, was former chief of staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s economic counsel and has raised almost $300,000 for his campaign – more than incumbent Michele Smith has raised for hers.

When it comes to representing power and money on the North Side, the other candidates are no slouches, either, according to Illinois Sunshine, a website that tracks political donations.

Michele Smith

Alderman Smith (left), a former federal prosecutor, has raised $271,000. Leslie Fox has raised $175,000. Jacob Ringer, former president of Lincoln Park Auxiliary Board and chief of staff to former city CFO Lois Scott, has $66,000 on hand. While Rebecca Janowitz, an attorney and Special Assistant for Legal Affairs for Cook County Justice Advisory Council, has raised $32,000.

At a candidate forum on January 28 at DePaul University, Smith told an audience comprised mostly of middle-aged to elderly people that she voted against the mayor more than any of her colleagues, yet still earned his support based on her courageous stands.

Lindblom (right), who worked closely with the mayor, said Emanuel could have done better, but that together they stopped the city’s “financial bleeding.” He promised, like the mayor, to take on the city’s pension debt by bringing together labor and business to cut cost-of-living increases for retirees.

Derek Lindblom

Another topic the candidates agreed on is how to support small business. They agreed it is wrong for landlords to get tax abatements or tax credit when they have empty storefronts.

Smith said the ward needs experience and she has prosecuted corrupt officials – a plus today, she says, as the Chicago City Council has been rocked again by corruption scandals.

Leslie Fox

Fox (left) said not only did she help lead the Democratic National Convention and build an award-winning company, she is also the mother of a student in Chicago Public Schools and serves on the school council at Lincoln Park High School.

No support among candidates for public financing of Lincoln Yards

All the candidates agreed with Smith that tax increment financing for Lincoln Yards should be put on hold, citing concerns with a possible traffic nightmare should the development proceed against the community’s wishes. Smith is one of ten sitting aldermen who publicly stated she will vote against the TIF. Janowitz is against TIFs in general because, she says, they are not transparent.

(Right) Rendering of proposed Lincoln Yards development along the Chicago River north of the Loop.

SOM

None of the candidates had a solution to parking woes in Lincoln Park. No one supported increasing the number of parking permits to deal with commuters from the suburbs who park in the neighborhood and take trains downtown.

Jacob Ringer

“This is one of the toughest questions,” Ringer (left) told moderator Greg Hines. “I’ve heard both sides.”

Smith said she is against residential parking for any new developments in the ward, while Janowitz said she would make public transportation as “attractive as possible” to solve the parking problem.

The candidates agreed the ward has excellent public schools and no need for charter schools, and that the state should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There was disagreement on gambling in Chicago to raise city revenue. Janowitz (right) is against casinos because she says they prey on the poor. Fox says gambling amounts to a regressive tax, taking more from lower-income earners than higher-income earners. Ringer said downtown should have a casino.

Rebecca Janowitz

Smith said she “reluctantly” supports casinos, citing a video gambling exposé by investigative journalists at ProPublica that showed how tax revenue from gambling has never materialized for small cities.

How to pay down massive pension debt

Janowitz said the city should stop paying its employees overtime. Lindblom said he would consolidate different government bodies, cut pensions, and tax sports betting. Ringer said the city should legalize and tax marijuana.

Fox said she would make downtown buildings pay their fair share of taxes. Smith said she would explore pension reform that would include cutting the annual cost-of-living increase for retirees.

Hines asked for a show of hands of who would support a property tax increase and Ringer’s was the only one raised.

“I’m honest,” he quipped.

Focus should be on issues of ward, not city, says one candidate

Reached on Thursday, McClellan expressed frustration with candidates being asked at the forum about city-wide issues.

Steve McClellan

“People want to ask these questions based on the city, and when has someone ever called the alderman’s office, saying what’s the latest on the pension? People call about what’s going on with their day-to-day.”

McClellan (left) says of all the candidates, he is the most experienced with issues unique to the 43rd ward.

“I might not have the most money, but I have the most credentials when it comes down to the 43rd ward,” he said. “You put all [the other candidate] resumes against mine and I’ll smoke them.”

By Jim Vail | jvail900@gmail.com

Published 7-Feb-19 12:38 PM

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