Sheridan: 46th Ward Democrats Host Aldermanic Forum

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By Lauren Camplin
The Red Line Project

Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

The frigid temperatures didn’t stop residents from attending the 46th Ward Democrats Aldermanic Forum at the Holiday Club Tuesday night.

Nearly all of the 11 candidates (Andy Lam was not present) attended along with a crowd that filled the dark-lit room and spilled out into the hallway. Residents were able to ask questions as they drank beer and ate food compliments of the restaurant.

With so many candidates participating, the 90 minute forum only had time for a few questions, but residents were encouraged to approach candidates afterward.

46th Ward residents enjoy food and politics

Forum attendees enojoyed complimentary food and drink
at the Holiday Club during Tuesday's forum (Photo by Lauren Camplin).

The issue of TIF’s, which have been a hot topic on residents’ minds during the election, was the first topic brought up on Tuesday night. Currently there are four TIF projects in the 46th Ward and residents have mixed feelings about their progress.

TIF's, or Tax Incremental Financing, were created by the Illinois General Assembly to generate economic development in depressed areas within the state. The projects chosen have been criticized by residents for their lack of transparency and community involvement. Another issue with TIF's is their lifespan, which candidates agreed needed shortening.

While almost every candidate stressed TIF reform and the need for transparency and accountability, Diane Shapiro took a different stance on the issue.

“Well I may be the only one here that is dead against TIF,” Shapiro said. “My feeling is only the elite of City Hall have access to that money and until there’s an accountability for all that money, I would move that all of the TIF’s be dissolved, the money returned to our community and let’s figure out a better to distributing money that rightfully belongs to us.”

When asked if they would quit their current job commitments and be a full-time alderman, every candidate answered yes. Emily Stewart agreed with her opponents’ answers stating that in order to “do the job well, I think you have to be.”

The final question asked from the audience showed where candidates stood on how they would improve the quality of life in the Ward. 

Candidates Caitlin McIntyre, Don Nowotny, Befekadu Retta, Diane Shapiro and Emily Stewart all said that the focus should be on improving the lives of youth, particularly in the investment of after-school programs.

“This isn’t the Beaver Cleaver era anymore,” said candidate Molly Phelan. “Mom’s not sitting at home making us cookies and milk by the time we get out of school at two in the afternoon. So we’ve got to make sure kids are in school, on campus, and not being recruited by the gangs.”

Candidates Emily Stewart and Michael Carroll agreed that youth were the key to improving the ward but said that adding after-school programs weren’t the only solution. Instead, both focused on school attendance and lengthening days.

“The most important this is truancy,” said Carroll. “After school programs are great but if the kids aren’t going to school, if they’re not in school full-time then they’re wasting our time.”

Candidates Caitlyn McIntyre, Don Nowotny, Molly Phelan, and Befekadu Retta attend the 46th Ward Democrats Forum

Candidates Caitlin McIntyre, Don Nowotny, Molly Phelan
and Befekadu Retta at Tuesday's forum (Photo by Lauren Camplin)

The debate ended with candidates telling the community how they would incorporate their opponents’ ideas into their plan. One candidate’s insight on involving the others was less "hands-on".

“Here’s what I would do,” Retta said. “Number one, I will take a picture with all of them and frame it in my office. I will look at them every day. If I don’t do right, some of them will run against me four years from now.”

While the election race in the 46th Ward is a crowded one, residents are optimistic for the community’s future.

“Even with all these candidates, I think a lot of us are just happy there is an election.” said resident Mary Ann Ludwig.

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