WEST ENGLEWOOD — A 29-year-old community organizer is running for alderman of the 15th Ward on the city’s South Side — a seat currently held by Ald. Raymond Lopez.
Englewood resident Joseph Williams, who has worked as a violence interrupter for Cure Violence for two years, announced he would be running for the 15th Ward seat to effect change in the community. Last week, Berto Aguayo also announced he would run for the seat.
“What motivated me to run is looking how our community is suffering,” Williams said. “Our current alderman has not been invested in our communities. He isn’t looking out for Englewood or Back of the Yards. He isn’t looking out for the community as a whole.”
Aguayo, a former community organizer for the Resurrection Project, said he is running in an effort to “tackle the root causes of violence” across the ward. The city needs to address the disinvestment of funds in education, employment, housing and mental health in the ward, he said.
Ald. Lopez, who is running for re-election, said he has spent his career as alderman and as Democratic committeeman since 2012 “trying to ensure every community in the 15th Ward — Brighton Park, Gage Park, Back of the Yards, and West Englewood — get as much of the city resources and representation that they deserve.”
“And while some people may not agree with my tactics, I have made a point to address the violence in every community [in the ward],” Lopez said.
Williams, a Bronzeville native who moved to West Englewood three years ago, said the way Lopez has responded to violence in the ward is problematic, pointing to comments made last year where Lopez told media outlets that “no innocent lives were lost. No children were shot. No police officers were shot,” after a shooting that left two dead and eight wounded.
“I have a problem with how he addresses violence,” Williams said. “The key is being on the ground and come up with solutions to stop violence, and come up with solutions that figure these issues out.”
In 2013, Williams said he was inspired to make a change in his neighborhood after being arrested for possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Since then, the aldermanic candidate said he’s devoted his time to volunteering and working with different community groups to address violence, while also serving as a member of the Local School Council at Beasley Academic Center.
Lopez said that “some of the people” who are now criticizing his tactics are “the same people” who have stood next to him at 15th Ward events over the years.
“It’s amazing how selective their memories have become in pursuit of their political ambitions,” Lopez said. “I look forward to educating …Mr. Williams, [Aguayo] and any candidate on my true record of investment and involvement in every neighborhood, should they make it on the ballot February election,” he said.
In 2015, Lopez defeated Rafael Yanez to win the 15th Ward aldermanic seat.
The 15th Ward includes parts of the Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, Gage Park and West Englewood neighborhoods.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.