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Aldo struggles.Jim Gardiner’s fitness is a key issue in District 45 race

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Chicago City Council members running for reelection will endure a referendum while in office, but at 45th Ward Aldo on the Northwest Side. His Jim Gardiner criticism from challengers goes far beyond the usual complaints about crime, business development and potholes in the road.

Seeking re-election after a scandal-plagued first term, Gardiner finds himself bombarded with questions about his fitness and temperament from five challengers.

His time in public office has been marked by allegations that he used his powers as alderman to target political opponents, and attempted to withhold ward services from some residents who opposed his agenda. A federal investigation has been reported as to whether

In 2021, he apologized on the parliamentary floor after leaked texts revealed he used profane and offensive language to describe a gay colleague, a female city employee, and a female political consultant. And earlier this month, affidavits were released in a federal lawsuit against Gardiner, revealing last fall that a former aide said Gardiner was engrossed in criticism of Facebook and that he said he had promised to expel his detractors, whom he called “rats,” from the ward.

Gardiner did not respond to requests for an interview. He said he was facing a “strong effort”.

“Let me be clear, I have never targeted anyone to criticize me for holding public office, and everyone has the right to freely choose an elected official. I have never withheld services from voters,” he said in an emailed statement.

The Tribune reported in 2021 that federal law enforcement officials have spoken to various individuals about whether Gardiner retaliated against voters for political purposes, and that authorities have even contacted Gardiner himself. Gardiner said in his email reply: He has not been interviewed by federal agents.

But that hasn’t stopped some criticism, with opponents saying their campaign was driven largely by Gardiner’s “divisiveness” and the way he said he divided the cohesion of the vast wards. It is said that there is

Mariya Tomic is running for City Council for the Northwest 45th Ward.  The 45th incorporates parts of several regions.

“Honestly, he’s in this predicament because five people are against him for his own sake,” said Marja Tomic, one of the candidates. “It’s not my fault. It’s not the other candidate’s fault.”

Controversy has haunted Gardiner for much of his tenure as alderman, and they continue during his current campaign.

Tomic attempted to intimidate volunteers for her campaign, who Gardiner was collecting signatures around Norwood Park to get Tomic on the ballot in November. Tomic said he was harassed.

“The fact that he continues to do it in the past, I don’t think he’s really learned his lesson,” she said. It’s a pity to be an official who has been

45th District candidate James Hsu (left) greets supporters at an open house at his new campaign office in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood on January 14, 2023.

James Su, a ward resident and owner of a local auto repair business, accused Gardiner in 2021 of colluding with aldermen to leak Su’s past arrest records to social media. said he joined the campaign after filing a lawsuit against Sue’s campaign spokeswoman, Rebecca Williams, said Sue was arrested when she was 17 and the charges were dropped after her brother called the police during an altercation. The threat is said to be in retaliation for organizing a rally against Gardiner’s move to stall housing development at the borough’s Six Corners intersection.

The city’s Ethics Commission found a possible cause for Gardiner’s attempt to leak Sue’s records and referred the matter to the city’s Office of the Inspector General for further investigation. Su said Gardiner’s decision to target him at the rally shows how badly aldermans misunderstand his voters.

“Everybody’s motivation is simply for the benefit of our community, and we just want to see things in a better place,” Sue said. It was never to attack Gardiner, so all the feelings he had against him as a whole were to see his I think it’s because of my actions.”

Gardiner said in an email response that many of the accusations he faces are “smears” from “a few politically connected people, people with their own political ambitions.” campaign,” he said.

45th Ward Mayoral Candidate Megan Matthias, right, and her son Matteo, 18, talk to Jennifer Basik while handing out flyers outside her Chicago home on January 10, 2023.

The ward has one of the lowest crime rates in the city. But challenger Megan Matthias, in addition to the mood of controversy fostered by Gardiner, also has to answer the rise in crime and the failure to engage with residents who want to discuss how to deal with that and other issues. said that there is

“Public safety is, of course, a top priority (for voters),” Matthias said. “The community is so hungry to have a community voice…they can’t get an opinion on anything.”

Neighborhood activist Susanna Ernst is a candidate for city council for the 45th Ward on the northwest side.

Susannah Ernst, a longtime Northwest Side architectural conservationist and neighborhood activist, says the ‘two-campus’ conflict under Gardiner is also undermining opportunities for neighborhood business growth and other improvements. .

“Right now, there seems to be a lot of division, a lot of ‘us versus them’ when it comes to the climate here in Ward 45. I think it’s time for all communities to come together and build a friendly environment. Groups can work together across a wider ward,” he says Ernst. “I think there are certainly ways in which we can work together in a very respectful way. I believe that anyone who wants to advance a community initiative has the ability to do so.”

Ana Santoyo is also a candidate for City Council for the Northwest 45th Ward.

Ana Santoyo has joined the race to push for more affordable housing and police reforms she says her ward desperately needs. Santoyo, a member of the Socialist Liberation Party, said working-class Northwest Siders needed a representative to stick around for them on the city council.

“Personally, I don’t think individuals and families in the area should be entrusted with someone like the current City Councilman to have a say in City Hall,” Santoyo said. “Right now we are still in a pandemic. Workers know their material condition. Better jobs in hospital wards, better paying jobs, better housing and more affordable prices. We know we need better housing, safer schools, and more.”

Like most Chicago boroughs, the 45th Ward is part of several neighborhoods. We find that the recent swing of the political pendulum has been particularly wide compared to most other countries. Gardiner, EMT for the Chicago Fire Department, beat Aldo in 2019. John Arena, who has been a more progressive voice on City Council for two terms.

Arena’s downfall was in no small part due to his endorsement of affordable housing projects not far from the CTA Blue Line in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of the Bungalow Belt. Years of debate over its development, which was approved before the arena left office, stoked supporters’ race to build units for low-income minority families in one of Chicago’s whitest neighborhoods. He clarified what he said was discriminatory opposition.

Anti-Arena sentiment gathered around Gardiner in the hospital ward, home to many police officers and firefighters.

This year’s election will be held in the 45th district, whose contours may be even more to Gardiner’s taste. Last year, he and a fellow Northwest Side alderman overcame the objections of several Latino aldermen to push a new map of his 50th ward of Chicago tied to the 2020 U.S. Census. To find out, Black joined his caucus on the Council.

The new Ward 45 cuts away what was once the fortified arena in the Old Irving Park and Independence Park neighborhoods at the south end of the Ward. Instead, the line is hooked north to capture the Wildwood and Edgebrook neighborhoods of the Far Northwest, which have leaned more conservatively in recent elections.

Lawyer Matthias, who had already announced his intention to run against Gardiner, saw a map of his old Irving Park home just outside the new ward. Matthias said he would stay in the race and return to the ward if he won, despite possibly falling victim to an old Chicago political ploy meant to deter opponents.

“People know I have a job,” she said. “It wasn’t surprising[to be on the map outside the ward]. It was disappointing, but it wasn’t surprising.”

In an email reply, Gardiner said: He was re-elected, building “on the strength of our borough’s improved economic infrastructure,” working with police departments to improve public safety, and holding separate elections to slow property tax increases for residents. I am planning to try to find a source of income for

Tomic said he doesn’t think changing the 45th Ward border will make Gardiner more likely.

“I don’t think there’s much he can do for the ward when nobody likes him,” she said.

jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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