Lincoln Park Aldermanic Hopefuls Pledge More Neighbor Involvement, Better Public Transit If Elected


LINCOLN PARK – All six candidates campaigning to represent the 43rd District discussed how they will handle new developments and improve public transportation, including neighbors in the decision-making process at a community forum.

More than 100 neighbors gathered Tuesday night at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard Road, as the candidates debated public safety, property taxes, neighborhood beautification and transparency in government.

Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd), who was appointed to the seat in September, takes on five challengers as he seeks a full term. The other candidates are Steve Botsford, a real estate developer and former political staffer; Brian Comer, president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association; Rebecca Janowitz, attorney and former political staffer; Steven McClellan, founder of an after-school club; and Wendi Taylor Nations, public affairs consultant.

Janowitz and McClellan ran against the former Ald. Michele Smith in 2019. Smith endorsed Taylor Nations in the race.

Comer said he hopes to build trust in local government by consulting residents, especially their neighborhood groups, about all upcoming developments in the area, including the new dispensary designed for the former Salt n’ Pepper Diner, 2573-81 N. Lincoln Ave.

Development plans should also include components that make nearby streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, such as more secure bike lanes, Comer said.

“If residents are interested in a new development, I would work with them to make sure it fits their corner of the neighborhood,” Comer said. “Our neighbors are smart, they can tell us what they want and it’s the alderman’s job to make sure what they want is what happens.”

Credit: Kayleigh Padar/Block Club Chicago
The six candidates running to represent the 43rd Ward spoke during a forum Jan. 24 at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard Rd.

Knudsen stressed the importance of community engagement and said the “tension” in lively neighborhood meetings about new developments makes the community stronger because “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to development.”

Allowing neighbors to contribute their ideas motivates developers to do better, he said. Knudsen said he is working with neighborhood groups to come up with a rigorous operational plan for the potential new dispensary should it open.

Knudsen said his office is introducing new technologies to “blow up” the way they handle voter services and communicate with voters more effectively. For example, neighbors may soon receive text alerts just before street cleaning on their block.

“Constituent services are really at the heart of this work, and I think it’s important to be visible,” Knudsen said. “Our ward and government across the board need to innovate. Our office has four hardworking employees serving thousands of residents, we need to set them up for success.”

The alderman also said he favors increased City Council oversight for the CTA, which has been beset with complaints about poor conditions, safety issues and inconsistent service. He is also working with high school students to draft legislation that would prevent cars from idling to reduce emissions and improve traffic flow in the city, he said.

Janowitz said she is willing to hold developers accountable and will not hesitate to support her neighbors during difficult negotiations. She also wants to protect the old buildings from demolition and she would instead make an effort to restore them. Janowitz doesn’t support the potential new dispensary, she said.

As a devoted walker, Janowitz would push for improved sidewalks and do her best to support the CTA to encourage people to use more sustainable methods of transportation, she said.

“The beauty of walking is that you really see how deteriorated the sidewalks are,” Janowitz said. “If you don’t pay attention every minute, you stumble upon something you may not even be able to identify. … I truly believe there are healthy modes of transportation that we can do more to support.”

McClellan said he believes the first step to improving transportation in the city is to ensure train conductors and bus drivers feel safe, supported, and want to come to work. He also plans to support more protected bikeways and a solution to connect 606 Bloomingdale Trail to the Lakefront Trail, he said.

McClellan stressed the importance of being transparent and accountable to neighborhood associations when deciding what developments to bring to the department. He also doesn’t support the dispensary’s proposal, he said.

“I want to be the type of alderman that you guys can see and touch, a person who will pick up the phone and be there for you,” McClellan said. “I am always accessible. I’ll be there to answer the tough questions. … I want you to feel comfortable with me as your assessor and feel like you can voice your concerns.

Taylor Nations said it wants to attract “high-quality” developments that suit the character of the neighborhood and are transit-oriented so there are fewer cars on the road. He suggested seeking partnerships with businesses to raise money to improve existing parks and to buy them former General Iron site, 1909 N. Clifton St., to be developed into a park.

“Parks are vital to this department, but they are very much loved,” said Taylor Nations. “We need to expand our green space if we want to bring more people to our ward, and we can do that by investing in public-private partnerships.”

Taylor Nations has said that the voices of residents are the most important to consider and has been “tiptoeing” with developers at community meetings for years. He said he will support the potential new dispensary if that’s what the neighbors want.

Botsford, which has been approved by the Fraternal Order of Police, said all developments should be easily accessible by public transport and/or include plans to improve public transport infrastructure to discourage people from driving.

“For one thing, it will be greener if you’re able to use CTA, with less carbon emissions,” Botsford said. “And two, one of the worst parts of the development is all the traffic. It will be one of my main concerns, I can’t stand it. I want to make sure we are as focused on transit as possible.”

He supports a new dispensary but believes it should be located in a busy commercial corridor instead of a quiet residential area, he said.

As well as adding more secure cycleways, Botsford wants drivers who park or sit idle on them to receive ticket machines. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has filed an order with the city council this month it would use cameras on buses and other areas to help track drivers blocking bike lanes.

To improve the CTA, police should be responsible for security at train and bus stations instead of a private company, and there should be blue buttons that commuters can use to call emergency services, Botsford said.

All candidates said they would be a full-time alderman if elected and pledged not to run for other leadership positions during their tenure.

The election is February 28th. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two will proceed to a runoff on April 4.

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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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