10-21-09 Mayor Daley delivers his 2010 budget to the City Council at a special meeting in the council chambers. Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: April 30, 2011 4:46AM
The Chicago City Council is on the cusp of big change — but just what kind of change is up to the voters.
With 11 aldermen retiring, a rec-ord number of aspiring aldermanic candidates and a new mayor on the horizon, the City Council will be radically changed by spring.
In making endorsements, the Chicago Sun-Times sought independent candidates willing to flex long-dormant City Council powers and candidates serious about dealing with the city’s severe budget crisis.
We begin today with endorsements in contested aldermanic race:
Near Northwest Side
Last March, Proco “Joe” Moreno was appointed alderman of this changing ward, which includes Wicker Park and Humboldt Park, and he has earned the right to return. He’s energetic, reform-minded and a strong advocate for more open government and stronger City Council oversight over contracts and privatization deals. He’s also off to a good start providing strong constituent services. He is endorsed over Deborah Lopez and Ronald J. Baltierra. Lopez knows city government and has strong community credentials, but we think Moreno would make a more effective alderman.
South Loop, Near West Side
In his first term as alderman, Bob Fioretti has proved he has hustle and chutzpah. He has used some of it in service of the ward, where he has a reputation for getting things done and coalition-building, but much of it is used to advance Bob Fioretti. He can be a showboat, letting his political ambitions get ahead of what’s best for the ward and the City Council. We prefer the smart, reliable and independent voice of a political newcomer, Genita C. Robinson. A lawyer and former senior staff member of the Chicago Public Schools, Robinson would bring her considerable expertise in law and education policy, as well as her reputation for honesty and integrity, to the 2nd Ward and to the council. We also are impressed by Federico Sciammarella, a mechanical engineering professor and one of six candidates running.
Near South Side
Expectations were high for Ald. Pat Dowell when she was elected in 2007, and she has not disappointed. She’s hardworking, smart and a strong professional advocate for her ward, which includes Grand Boulevard and Back of the Yards. A former city planner who ran a community development corporation, she not only knows city issues but also how to make things happen. She is enthusiastically endorsed over Ebony Tillman, daughter of former 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman and host of her mother’s radio show.
Near South Side
Several strong candidates are vying to replace Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who for nearly 20 years presided over a ward that includes Hyde Park, Kenwood and parts of the Near South Side. We’re backing William D. “Will” Burns, a progressive state representative who has earned a strong reputation for his smarts and integrity. He is a longtime Kenwood resident who would be an effective ward steward and a powerful voice for reform. We also like George Rumsey, a thoughtful community activist who articulates a clear vision for a ward in transition. Burns, though, would do a better job moving the ward and in the City Council. His opponents worry that Burns’ higher political aspirations might distract him from his duties as alderman, and we urge Burns to prove them wrong.
Hyde Park, South Shore
Ald. Leslie A. Hairston, a fierce advocate for her ward and an independent voice in the City Council, deserves re-election. One of only five alderman to vote against privatizing the city’s parking meters, she refused to support it because it was rushed through the Council. We like one of her five opponents, Anne Marie Miles, a lawyer with some fresh ideas and energy but not enough experience in the South Shore part of the ward. We’re endorsing Hairston because of her principled stances, but the ward would benefit if she listened to her critics first before attacking.
Ald. Freddrenna M. Lyle is in a tough fight to hold onto her seat against five opponents, including Roderick T. Sawyer, former Mayor Eugene Sawyer’s son. The ward, which includes east Englewood, Chatham and Park Manor, is struggling after a recent spike in crime. We’re backing Lyle. She’s smart, devoted to her ward and a newly constituted City Council needs her fire — though we urge her to use it more sparingly. It’s good to see several quality candidates running, locals who care about stabilizing their ward. In particular, we were impressed by Cassandra Goodrum-Burton, a lawyer who has a strong grasp of city issues.
In a rematch between Ald. Sandi Jackson and Darcel A. Beavers, former chief of staff to her alderman father, Bill Beavers, we endorse Jackson. Jackson helped pave the way for a planned massive redevelopment of the U.S. Steel South Works and has been an independent voice in council. She should spend less time in D.C. and more in Chicago, and her paid gig as a political consultant to her husband, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., doesn’t smell right. Beavers knows the ward well and is devoted to it, but Jackson brings more ideas, energy and independence to the 7th Ward, which includes South Shore and Calumet Heights.
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t think well of Ald. Michelle A. Harris. Hardworking, active in her ward and easy to work with, Harris is the easy choice for a second term in this ward, which includes Chatham and Avalon Park. She is endorsed over three opponents.
Far South Side
Ald. Anthony A. Beale has earned our endorsement for this Roseland and Pullman ward, besting three other candidates. He fought hard to bring a much-needed Wal-Mart to his ward and was an outspoken chairman of the council’s police and fire committee.
Far South Side
Three candidates are trying to unseat Ald. John A. Pope in this struggling ward that includes South Chicago and the East Side. Pope is a hardworking alderman who knows his ward and city services but he lacks independence and a strong vision for a revitalized ward. We’re endorsing Richard L. Martinez Jr., a compliance officer with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. He has a strong vision for the ward, though we’d like more details on how he’d achieve it.
Near Southwest Side
Incumbent James A. Balcer sometimes lets his law-and-order approach to policy get the best of him. Two years ago, ignoring the law himself, he ordered city workers to paint over a mural, on private property, that offended him. But Balcer has been a champion of veterans and has sponsored good legislation, such as increasing penalties for people who endanger the lives of traffic aides. He is endorsed over Republican ward committeeman Carl Segvich and college student John K. Kozlar.
The City Council could use a progressive caucus. It could use, for that matter, any kind of independent-minded caucus. With Jesus “Jesse” Iniguez, owner of a deli and cafe and executive director of the United Southwest Chamber of Commerce, we see a chance to further that cause. He has our endorsement. Iniguez favors giving aldermen approval power over major city contracts and moving to an elected school board. We respect that Ald. George Cardenas, a tight Daley ally for eight years, has grown in the job, and if Iniguez’s brand of left-leaning politics puts you off, Cardenas is your man. But we think the Council sorely needs true independents such as Iniguez.