Aldermanic Candidates of Northwest Side Speak at Community Forum

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

By: Ashmar Mandou

Inside a quaint dance studio on the northwest side, community members received the opportunity to address candidates of the 26th Ward, 31st Ward, 35th Ward, and 36th Ward during a discussion hosted by the Hermosa Community Network.

On Monday evening, the Hermosa Community Network, formed by local residents and community leaders as a response to the challenges posed by the remapping of the community, held a discussion at En Las Tablas dance studio where candidates of the 26th ward Adam Corona, Juanita Irizarry, and incumbent Roberto Maldonado; candidates of the 31st ward Irma Cornier, Milly Santiago, Sean Starr, and incumbent Rey Suarez; candidates of the 35th ward Rey Colon and Carlos D. Rosa; and candidates of 36th ward Omar Aquino, Gil Villegas, Chris Vittorio, and Alonso Zaragoza held frank conversations in regards to business development, housing security, the militarization of school and educational options, safety, and city services.

A question and answer based forum gave over 100 residents attending the chance to hear what the candidates, representing Hermosa, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park had to say about critical issues affecting many families. At the forum, eight questions were asked by community members directed towards the 13 candidates. The first question of the night was asked by Gloria Quintana aimed towards the candidates of the 26th Ward. Quintana’s question was, “How would you work with the local residents, business owners and the City Treasurers’ Office to ensure the growth of existing small business in the area – especially independent businesses – as opposed to chain businesses, Wal-Marts and other mega stores coming from outside the community?” In response, Corona said that as a small business owner he is opposed to big box stores –both those already in the area and any potential ones. Corona suggested the use of tax increment financing and local banks to help support small business in the area. Candidate Irizarry firmly expressed her dislike for stores, like Wal-Mart and suggested she would engage community residents in community planning. She also added that “helping businesses with technical and bookkeeping assistance would also be on her agenda.” Lastly, incumbent Maldonado stated that micro-loans already through the city could help to encourage growth and the Armitage/Milwaukee TIF district could be used to bring funding to businesses in Hermosa.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

Another hot button issue was brought to the forefront when Ivan Gonzalez asked candidates of the 36th ward about the issue of militarization of school and educational options. Gonzalez stated, “We have noticed a noticeable militarization in our area schools. We see students walking our streets in ROTC uniforms and fatigues running and exercising like in military boot camps. Military service is a voluntary choice but in order to be a choice there must be other options. CPS is cutting arts and music programs while the City Arts Grant programs cut funding opportunities to community arts and cultural organizations.

Will you support the continued militarization of schools? How will you support struggling arts and cultural organizations to provide creative after-school options to our neighborhood children and teens? In response, Zaragoza, a Chicago Public Schools librarian, stated there aren’t many options for youth in Hermosa, causing teens to “turn in on themselves.” He said he would do all he could to bring more funding for kids. According to Aquino, a CPS graduate, he said the neighborhood needs better parks in addition to working on social issues like education, employment, and public safety.
Lastly, Vittorio vowed to attract more magnet schools in the neighborhood. “The biggest problem we face is corruption down in City Hall,” he said. “I am going to be an independent voice in City Hall.” The evening concluded with community members meeting with the candidates one-on-one to address further concerns. The forum was moderated by Hermosa member Jorge Felix.

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