Jessica Gutiérrez and Ruth Cruz have advanced to a runoff in the 30th Ward election, with no candidate receiving the necessary 50 percent of the vote to win. Credit: Facebook/Provided

IRVING PARK — Four candidates are vying to replace retiring Ald. Ariel Reboyras in the 30th Ward.

JuanPablo Prieto, Ruth Cruz, Jessica Gutiérrez and Warren Williams hope to be the area’s first new alderperson in two decades.

Reboyras announced in September he would not seek reelection. He was first elected to City Council in 2003.

The newly redrawn Northwest Side ward includes portions of Belmont Cragin, Irving Park, Portage Park and Avondale.

The election is Feb. 28, with possible runoffs April 4 if no candidate gets more than half of the vote.

More on the candidates:

Ruth Cruz

Ruth Cruz is one of four candidates running for 30th Ward alderperson. Credit: Facebook

A Belmont Cragin resident, Cruz works as an assistant admissions director at Roosevelt University. She’s also a volunteer with Cook County’s restorative justice court in Avondale and an elected member of the local school council at Foreman College and Career Academy in Portage Park.

If elected, Cruz would advocate for greater investment in youth and violence prevention programs with an emphasis on mental health resources for residents, kids and law enforcement, she said.

In response to high crime numbers, Cruz would also push for more police officers in the ward, she said.

“In some parts of the ward, we’re dealing with gang violence, we’re dealing with a lot of different situations. So, yes, it will be needed,” she said.

Since December, Cruz has received two $5,000 donations from Reboyras, according to campaign finance records. Cruz said she is grateful for his support, but she is “her own person” and holds more progressive stances.

“He is supporting me because he believes in my work. He understands that we’re two different persons, we have two different views. But again, the work is there,” she said. “Ald. Reboyras led the 30th Ward with integrity and ethically was never involved in any scandal. So I want to highlight that. But can we do a lot of things differently? Absolutely.”

Jessica Gutiérrez

Jessica Gutiérrez Credit: Facebook

Gutiérrez ran for 30th Ward alderperson in 2019, when she pushed Reboyras into a runoff that she narrowly lost.

The daughter of former Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, she most recently was a senior policy director with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Belmont Cragin.

In Gutiérrez’s first 100 days in office, she’d undertake a “block by block audit” of the ward to identify problem buildings, public safety hot spots and other issues, she said.

Gutiérrez also plans dedicate a staff member to work exclusively on public safety issues, she said.

“I want to know where the buildings are that are abandoned. I want to know where the troubled areas are in terms of law enforcement and work with them and make those demands, that we are having communication between the police districts and the alderman’s office,” Gutiérrez said.

Gutiérrez’s campaign from four years ago “never stopped,” she said.

She launched her 2019 candidacy to oust Reboyras after she said Emanuel offered her father a secret deal to have the alderman step down for another city post and appoint the younger Gutiérrez to his seat, giving her a leg up in the election.

Jessica Gutiérrez rejected the plan, saying she did not want to accept any political favors from Emanuel and sought to win the seat on her own. Reboyras won the runoff by 300 votes.

Emanuel denied he and the elder Gutiérrez had any such conversation.

Gutiérrez said the ward is ready for a marked change in leadership after 20 years with Reboyras’ retirement.

“You’ll find people who think he’s a nice guy,” she said. “But I think right now in Chicago, the time doesn’t just call for a nice guy. It calls for bold progress. It calls for a bold voice, and it calls for someone who’s going to build bridges and set up pillars in the 30th Ward.”

Gutierrez’s campaign fund has raised about $120,000 dollars, with donations from her father, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the Illinois Restaurant Association and other groups.

JuanPablo Prieto

JuanPablo Prieto Credit: Facebook

A Kilbourn Park resident, Prieto works as the director of diversity programs at the Chicago Transit Authority. He also serves on the board of La Casa Norte, which helps people experiencing homelessness, and the Spanish Coalition for Housing.

Prieto would focus on being a transparent and responsive representative for the ward, including hosting weekly ward nights, starting a public zoning committee and introducing participatory budgeting, he said.

Like other candidates, Prieto said crime is the No. 1 issue he hears about from voters.

“I do want to work with the commanders of the three police districts within the 30th Ward to make sure that we have an appropriate level of police presence,” he said. “We also need to hold [the Police Department] accountable, that they’re using their budget effectively and efficiently. And part of that is ensuring that they hire more civilian positions, mental health experts that can respond to incidents.”

Another priority would be the high number of vacant storefronts on commercial corridors, Prieto said. He’d work with the city’s business department and other agencies to jumpstart businesses and streamline permitting, he said.

Through Prieto’s work at the CTA, he’s “reduced redundancies, made processes more efficient, so that the end result, whether it was a small business that I was helping or individual looking for for employment, could get to that end result faster,” he said. “And we need to help these business owners get the door open faster so that customers can get in the door.”

Prieto’s campaign fund has almost $25,000 on hand.

Warren Williams

Warren Williams Credit: Facebook

An Avondale resident and filmmaker, Warren Williams has been involved with several community and progressive organizations in Chicago in recent years.

Williams said he was inspired to get into community organizing and politics after regularly seeking treatment for epilepsy at Stroger Hospital and often having to wait hours for treatment.

That experience led Williams to volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020 and start 30th United, an independent political organization where he’s helped host community cleanups and wellness checks for older people during the pandemic.

Williams would approach public safety issues from a systemic level, which he believes can have an immediate impact on reducing crime, he said. He would not advocate for more police in the 30th Ward.

“What I want to see is investment in our communities, investment in our schools, investment in mental health facilities, investment in our public transportation to make sure that people have access to work,” he said. “We know for a fact that there is a link between those programs getting cut and violence increasing in neighborhoods, and we have to come at these things at a systemic level.”

If elected, Williams would a “climate champion” for the city and would push for a connected bike grid, free public transportation and the reestablishment of the city’s Department of Environment, he said.

Williams has about $18,000 of campaign cash on hand, with $5,000 coming from the Cook County College Teachers Union.

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