AUSTIN — Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) looked to have an uncontested path toward his fourth City Council term — but after a whirlwind few days, one of his once-disqualified challengers is back on the ballot.
Shawn Walker, a lifelong West Sider, was reinstated in the race Feb. 17, after elections officials affirmed he had one extra petition signature above the requirement to appear on the ballot. The Illinois Appellate Court certified that decision Thursday, confirming Walker will be on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
There will be no special election in the race, officials said.
The 28th Ward represents parts of Austin, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Pilsen, Little Village, Little Italy and the West Loop.
Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Ervin to the seat in January 2011.
A construction consultant and longtime community volunteer, this is Walker’s second bid for the seat and second last-minute effort to be in the race. He was added to the ballot in the last week of the 2003 election after fighting the two-year residency requirement for aldermanic elections in court.
Corrected vote-by-mail ballots will not be sent to voters, but machines have been reprogrammed to include Walker’s name at early voting sites and on Election Day.
More information about the candidates:
After being appointed to the seat, Ervin easily won the 2011 election to serve his first full term. He was unopposed in 2015, when seven challengers were knocked off the ballot, and he won again in 2019.
Ervin is the chair of City Council’s Black Caucus and serves on eight committees, including Human Relations, Budget and Government Operations and Finance, among others.
Bringing in sustainable developments, increasing access to affordable housing and improving infrastructure are some of the things Ervin is most proud of accomplishing as alderperson, he said.
In addition to repaved streets and alleys, about 95 percent of the ward has seen new street lights installed, Ervin said.
Under Ervin’s leadership, the Fannie Emmanuel Apartments were rehabilitated and reopened to provide 181 affordable housing units for older people, he said. In East Garfield Park, the $14 million Harvest Homes was the first affordable housing development in the neighborhood in about 15 years, and it provided 36 units, Ervin said.
Ervin’s top priorities are improving education, keeping families safe and economic development, according to his website.
Ervin plans to continue improving public safety if reelected, he said. Part of that will involve collaborating with newly elected police district council members, he said.
“We want to work with the new police councils, which will have a very pivotal role dealing with policy and being a voice for the community about the Police Department,” Ervin said. “I’m looking forward to working with them and for them to become advocates who can help us help us with solving the public safety challenges that exist.”
Ervin also wants to increase the life expectancy of residents by improving access to health care, with a focus on addiction and mental health treatment, he said.
If reelected, Ervin will continue to work with the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative, which received the $10 million Chicago Prize to create the Sankofa Wellness Village, a $50 million wellness complex along the Madison and Pulaski corridor.
“I’ve lost loved ones to opioids,” Ervin said. “We have to put resources toward helping those people and also toward the overall maintenance of their health.”
Ervin described himself as an alderman who strives to “collaborate with individuals to find common ground.”
“As a member of City Council, I’ve always tried to know and understand the issues in order to find a common ground so we can move the needle on things,” Ervin said. “I’m not one that will pick up my rock and go home. I always try to find a solution that the most people can live with.”
Before Ervin was alderman, he served on the local school councils at Tilton Elementary School and Westinghouse Career Academy.
Walker grew up in the 28th Ward and raised his son in West Garfield Park as a single parent. He directs a local food pantry and volunteers frequently at the Cook County Jail, ministering to detainees.
In 2009, Walker started a youth baseball program that has expanded to include more than 300 kids. Over time, he was able to carve out a space in the park for kids to enjoy activities after school. Local vendors flocked to the area and gangs left it alone, he said.
Walker decided to run for alderperson and put up a fight for his spot on the ballot because he is “displeased” with the “landscape of the community” and the lack of resources available to his neighbors.
“This work is what I do every day, not just because I’m running for alderman,” Walker said. “As a single father, I’ve gotten passionate about my community. … My son is 25 years old now, and I want to help create a community he can continue to live in and eventually bring my grandkids up in.”
Walker added, jokingly, “Most of all, I’ve got 10 more years on my mortgage, so I ain’t going nowhere.”
If elected, Walker wants to bring more food options to the ward, invest in public safety and violence prevention programs, address the housing crisis and provide more activities for youth and older residents, among other things.
With 20 years of experience working as a construction consultant, Walker said he’s well-equipped to “foster real economic development” and critically analyze projects to ensure they’re benefitting the community.
Throughout Walker’s career, he successfully managed more than 40 citywide construction projects ranging from $1-$15 million, according to his website.
If elected, Walker said he would immediately put a temporary halt all construction in the ward until community benefit agreements are made for each project.
“I want to assess if these developments are viable for the community,” Walker said. “I want to make sure residents are getting good jobs out of these developments and that residents are building the community we want to see ourselves.”
Within Walker’s first 100 days in office, he would provide funding for security cameras while working with violence prevention groups to come up with a cohesive safety plan that includes mental health resources for both residents and police officers, he said.
Additionally, Walker said he supports term limits and a salary freeze for alderpeople.
Communicating with neighbors and elevating their opinions would be at the forefront of everything Walker does as alderperson, he said.
“I’m not going to make a decision on the City Council floor without making sure I’ve done my due diligence to include all the individuals affected,” Walker said. “I’ll make sure to be transparent about where the money’s at, what’s available and who I’m getting it from.”
Walker believes listening to people and investing in them by providing the resources they need is the key to improving the ward, he said.
“I talk to people like they’re people, not like they’re numbers or beneath me, that’s not how I was born and raised,” Walker said. “I want to give residents a choice in what goes on. I want to give them hope that somebody’s fighting for them and will stand up for them.”
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