Change is coming to Chicago politics — and it doesn’t involve anyone going to jail (yet)! The City Council has a lot of fresh blood: Of the 50 seats, 12 are occupied by new aldermen, five of whom identify as socialists. Let’s meet our roster:
• Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) beat incumbent Pat O’Connor, a 36-year council veteran who was characterized by his opponent as a “machine politician.” Vasquez — erstwhile member of the hip-hop collective Molemen, recent AT&T store manager — is a socialist who supports the formation of a civilian-run police oversight board.
• Rogers Parkers apparently felt Joe Moore (49th Ward) lost his progressive cred after 28 years. Replacing him is nonprofit director Maria Hadden, who is the first queer woman of color to serve on the City Council. Top of her agenda: investing more resources (read: money, baby!) into neighborhood public schools. Which all sounds good, but can she bring Heartland Cafe back to life?
The Proof Your Vote Matters
• In the 33rd Ward, Rossana Rodriguez beat incumbent Deb Mell by 13 votes. That’s right: one-three. The alderman-elect is a democratic socialist who supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage and affordable housing expansion. Whether or not her politics are your jam, remember Rodriguez if you’re feeling too lazy to vote in the next election.
The Community Activists
• Grassroots candidates make up a big ol’ chunk of this class. [Takes a giant breath.] Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) led a 34-day hunger strike that kept City Hall from shuttering Walter H. Dyett High School. (Kind of. The name stayed, but it’s now a school for the arts.) Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) and Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) have fought for fair housing. And civil rights attorney Matt Martin (47th Ward) cofounded the Heart of Lincoln Square Neighbors Association. All but Martin are members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Any poli-sci major knows a socialist is defined as one who spews “Um, actually, I’m a socialist” within 20 seconds of every conversation. All four are expected to join the Progressive Reform Caucus, which could grow from 10 members to as many as 17. The influx of leftier leftists could create a rift with establishment Dems (like we’re seeing nationally — ahem, Bernie Bros). There’s a good chance that they’ll have to table their pricier ideas to first address the not-so-sexy $28 billion heap of pension debt that approximately zero Chicagoans know how to fix.
The Neighborhood Lifers
• Michael Rodriguez (22nd Ward) and Stephanie Coleman (16th Ward) are natives of and now serve Little Village and Englewood, respectively. Coleman wants to “shift the narrative” around violence in Englewood, while Rodriguez wants to strengthen protections for undocumented Chicagoans. Congrats to both on achieving every kid’s dream of wielding immense power over neighborhood zoning codes!
The Law-and-Order Squad
• On the conservative-leaning Northwest Side, voters said “See ya!” to progressive John Arena (45th Ward). In his stead is EMT Jim Gardiner, who says there’s a shortage of police officers in the area — ironic, considering his cop-heavy constituency. Samantha Nugent shares that concern in the 39th Ward. (She used to be chief of staff at the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.) The same goes for the 31st Ward’s Felix Cardona Jr., who believes our current climate makes police feel “handcuffed.” Don’t worry, no influx of cops could ever stop Northwest Siders from calling dibs all winter.