When Lori Torres Whitt saw the 36th Ward strangely redrawn to include more than a handful of communities on a strip that stretched about 8 miles (8 miles) from West Town to Montclair, she took the plunge to the City Council. pushed her to run for office.
“If you’re representing the people here in your office, how do you make this happen?” asked Torres Witt. “And if you allow this to happen, what else do you allow to happen?”
West Town’s 49-year-old Torres Witt is up for Aldo. Dunning’s Gilbert “Gil” Villegas, 52, is seeking a third term on the city council. Both failed to secure majority votes in February, so they were put to a runoff vote on April 4.
In the February 28 election, Villegas won about 46% of the vote and Torres Witt about 30%.
In total, more than 57,000 Chicagoans live in the 36th Ward, and according to city data, the majority (nearly 56%) identify as Latino. He had fewer than 10,000 voters who turned in the February 28 election.
The newly repainted ward stretches from Thayer Avenue in the Montclair neighborhood of the Northwest Side across part of the West Side to Wood Street in West Town. Along the way, Ward, described as “Pool Noodles”, picks up some of his Kuragin in Ukrainian villages, Humboldt his park, Dunning, Belmont.
The houses it contains range from bungalows with front lawns to high-rise buildings. Some streets are lined with Ukrainian flags, while others carry Puerto Rican flags.
Villegas was first elected in 2015 and previously served as floor leader on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council. He is also the Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Chamber of Commerce. Last year he ran unsuccessfully for Congress.
Villegas highlights his experience in government as one of the reasons voters should give him another term, noting that city hall is in transition.
“We want to secure the city council and experienced members,” he said. “We can’t afford on-the-job training.
“I will do the job”
Torres Whitt is a teacher at Monroe Elementary School and a member of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Teachers Union. The union supports Torres Witt and CTU Local 1 PAC is one of the biggest financial contributors. Illinois Reform.
Torres Whitt claims his experience as an educator, community organizer, and labor advocate helped prepare him for the job.
“If you want someone trying to make progress in the 36th Ward and Chicago, that’s me,” she said. “I don’t claim to be progressive. I do my job.”
Villegas said he would not endorse the mayoral candidate. Torres Witt endorses Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.
Torres Whitt and Villegas have some things in common.
Villegas also objected to redrawing the ward, saying it resembled a “snake”. He said it was appropriate because a colleague who painted it at the time was a “self-portrait of a snake” and stabbed him in the back.
“The restructuring process is highly controversial,” Villegas said in a recent interview. And the funny thing is, I’m originally from Westtown, so this is essentially me coming back to where I started.”
Both said multiple ward offices would be needed to accommodate residents living on opposite sides. Villegas and Torres Witt support having the city council appoint the chairperson of the committee rather than the mayor.
The two have also agreed to initiatives such as Bring Chicago Home, which seek to tax the sale of real estate over $1 million and generate funds for services for non-residents.
Candidates vary on issues such as the police. Villegas said he supports reopening the Old Wood Street District Police Department, or using the facility as a satellite office. The property is on the border of the 36th ward, but within the 1st ward.
“There is a correlation between the closure of this police district 10 years ago and the increase in crime in the West Town, East Town and village areas of Ukraine,” said Villegas.
Torres Whitt believes there is a correlation between the city’s closed mental health facilities and crime. She said she favors investing in mental health programs and youth programs.
“We live in Chicago, where we invest a lot in safety, but nobody feels safe,” she said. , add the tools cops need.”
“Grass, curb, sidewalk.”
Voters have their own concerns.
Belmont Cragin resident Angel Roque said he hopes to improve communication and improve infrastructure projects. He points to an area where several meters of grass were torn in front of a detached house.
“It’s grass, it’s curbs, it’s sidewalks,” said Roque, 49, undecided about the vote. “All we can do is make the neighborhood better, make it look better. But the rest of it seems like a forgotten area.”
In Montclair, 90-year-old Thomas Losada said he plans to support Villegas for another term and wants more work for veterans like himself. He recently moved in with his granddaughter after having to move away due to conditions in the elderly home.
His granddaughter, 45-year-old Irma Cornier, hasn’t decided yet, but would like to see improvements in the neighborhood as well, pointing out a hole in a nearby park.
“Why hasn’t such a basic thing been fixed?” asked Cornier, who ran for another borough council seat eight years ago.
Cornier also wants to see more programs for veterans and ways to commemorate his grandfather’s 65th Infantry Regiment, the storied branch of Puerto Rican soldiers.
Jia Nix, 39, across West Town’s 36th Ward, said she supports Torres Witt. She wants more social services to address mental health and poverty.
But she’s also concerned about the reorganization that placed her in the 36th Ward.
“Will they be able to handle these issues?” Nix asked while walking his dogs Barnum and Basil. “The way they’re being repainted doesn’t really seem to benefit us.”
Elvia Malagón’s Social Justice and Income Inequality report was made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.