PILSEN — A 37-year-old data scientist and leader of a Pilsen environmental group is running for alderman in the 25th Ward on the city’s Southwest Side — a seat long held by veteran Ald. Danny Solis.
Troy Hernandez, whose family originally settled in the Little Italy area in the 1920s before moving to the suburbs, has been living in the UIC and Pilsen neighborhoods for 16 years and is a director and member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) coordinating committee. The second-time aldermanic candidate announced Tuesday that he is running for the seat in an effort to prioritize the needs of ward residents over developers’ interests.
“The city could be run a lot better — more in the interest of the citizens and less of the interest of those donating campaign cash to the politicians,” Hernandez said.
A data scientist at IBM and former member of the Pilsen Community Academy Local School Council, Hernandez is the third candidate to announce his run for the 25th Ward seat. Earlier this summer, former teacher Hilario Dominguez and Pilsen Alliance Executive Director Byron Sigcho announced they would be running to unseat Solis.
Tom Bowen, a spokesman for Solis, declined to confirm the alderman is running again but said Solis is “focused on continuing to strengthen all the communities of the 25th Ward.”
But according to a source close to the campaign, Solis plans to run for re-election and make an official announcement in the fall.
“Given the enormous change coming to Chicago’s leadership, [Solis] looks forward to joining the political discussion at the appropriate time and engaging with residents on the direction of Chicago’s future,” Bowen said.
Hernandez, an active member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), criticized Solis’ lack of action on critical environmental issues in the neighborhood, including the Fisk and Crawford Coal power plant sites in Pilsen and Little Village respectively. The environmental group has worked to clean up the metal shredder in Pilsen, and delivered water filters to residents whose water source is contaminated by lead.
A 2002 Harvard study linked the power plants to 41 premature deaths a year in the area. Both plants have since been shut down after a long fight between community activists and the power plant operators.
“The Fisk and Crawford plants were killing [people] and he didn’t do anything for a decade,” Hernandez said. “Over the 10 years, he collected $50,000 from Midwest Generation. ..That should have been shut down as soon as the study came out.”
The data scientist said big-money developers and businesses have “hijacked the electoral system,” and residents suffer as a result.
“Nothing gets done unless it’s an election year, or developer money is involved,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who is self-funding his campaign, does not plan to accept campaign donations from developers or corporations.
In 2015, he was among six challengers who aimed to run against Solis. But he dropped out after an objection was filed challenging his candidacy.
Solis narrowly avoided a runoff, capturing 51 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, Sigcho, garnered 18.6 percent of the vote. He was about 70 votes shy of forcing Solis into a runoff.
The 25th Ward includes parts of Pilsen, Chinatown, the West Loop, Little Italy and Heart of Chicago.
Solis, chairman of the city’s Committee on Zoning, was appointed to the 25th Ward seat in 1996 by former Mayor Richard Daley and formerly chaired City Council’s Hispanic Caucus.
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