PILSEN — Longtime Ald. Danny Solis (25th) announced Saturday he won’t seek re-election after more than two decades in office.
Solis, who chairs the city’s Committee on Zoning and is one of the city’s most powerful aldermen, said he was ready to “pass the baton of public service to another” and enter a “new chapter” in his life. He was appointed to the 25th Ward seat in 1996.
“Chicago’s challenges are many, but our capacity to meet them is unlimited and I know that the citizens of the 25th Ward will make their voices heard in this upcoming election season,” Solis said. “I hope all the candidates in this race will listen closely and do their best to bring our ward together.”
In an interview with Block Club Saturday, the veteran alderman said he began contemplating whether he would run again last year, but reconsidered to help “finish up the work the mayor had started.” But after Mayor Rahm Emanuel, longtime Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez decided not to run for their seats again, Solis said it was time for him to step down, too.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” the 69-year-old alderman said. “I feel like I made my mark, like I contributed. My dad used to say, ’make yourself of value. … Make what you do valuable to your community.’ I feel I have done that.”
Solis, who said he doesn’t plan to seek another political office, is proud of what he’s accomplished in his 23 years as alderman.
But his critics say Solis hasn’t done enough to protect gentrifying Pilsen, a historic port of entry for Mexican immigrants. According to a 2016 UIC study, more than 10,000 Hispanic residents left the neighborhood between 2000 and 2010, a 26 percent drop.
As alderman, you aren’t going to please everyone, Solis said.
“And the people you don’t please will be angry,” he said. “But I think if you step back and look at the whole picture …where the neighborhoods I represent were 23 years ago and where they are now …I think if people do that, they’ll give me a pretty good rating.”
The veteran alderman is now looking forward to spending time with family and friends.
“I’ve got a great family, daughters, a son and grandkids. I want to spend more time with them. Time for myself,” he said.
Solis said he finalized his decision not to run again after he toured colleges with his son in California.
“We bonded really well, and I said, ‘Why can’t I be doing more of this?’” Solis said.
He first told his family that he wouldn’t run again during Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.
Solis, who isn’t endorsing any 25th Ward candidates yet, said he would be watching the race closely. With recently elected U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — Gutierrez’s successor — Solis said he aims to help more Latinos run for office.
“I like what Chuy is doing with the Southwest Side of the city in terms of Latino political empowerment, specifically Mexican political empowerment,” Solis said.
Earlier this year, Emanuel announced he would not seek a third term. At the time, Solis — a key mayoral ally — praised the mayor, but said he was “surprised” by the announcement.
Solis said the mayor began “the first or second phase of straightening out the … pension issue, improving schools, bringing jobs to the city as well as bringing new industry and commerce.
“But I could understand his decision. It’s a tough job. …It’s been tough getting all these attacks … up to his house,” Solis said.
On Saturday, Emanuel returned the favor and praised Solis in a statement.
“Danny Solis deserves the thanks and congratulations of our entire city after a lifetime of public service, and I will be the first in line,” Emanuel said. “As a leader in the City Council for more than 20 years and as a leader in his community for even longer, Danny has been a champion for immigrants, for school students and for families. His efforts have paid dividends in our classrooms, in the halls of new libraries and in parks that will delight for generations.
“Danny has transformed his ward, and along with it Chicago. I will forever look fondly on the eight years Danny and I served this great city together and while the simple view maybe that he was an ally on City Council, the reality is much more. Danny is a friend.”
Solis was appointed to the 25th Ward seat in 1996 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and formerly chaired City Council’s Hispanic Caucus.
In 2015, 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.
In 2011, the 25th Ward race went to a runoff, but Solis ultimately defeated challenger Cuahutemoc Morfin with 54 percent of the vote.
Before taking public office, Solis was a teacher and a community activist. He founded Latino Youth Alternative High School, was co-founder and executive director of United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and was the first Latino executive director of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council.
Aldermanic candidates have until 5 p.m. Monday to file for a spot on the ballot. As of Friday evening, no other candidates have filed to enter the race, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
The 25th Ward includes all or parts of Pilsen, Chinatown, the West Loop, University Village, Little Italy, Heart of Chicago and the South Loop.
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