HUMBOLDT PARK — A local developer who grew up in the community wants to be the next leader of the 26th Ward.
David Herrera, whose parents originally settled in the East Humboldt Park/Ukrainian Village area, has worked in municipal finance and real estate development for the last 13 years.
The 36-year-old has worked on projects like Common Damen, a co-living apartment complex in Ukrainian Village, and Radio Rumba, a not-yet-opened Latin dance hall and supper club in Humboldt Park. He runs his own company, called Golden Mean.
But Herrera said all of his development work is on hold as he gears up for February’s municipal election.
Herrera said he’s running to bring economic growth to the ward, which he said has been stymied under Maldonado’s leadership.
Maldonado, who has held the seat since 2009, “is very anti-development, and unfortunately it’s a very regressive policy because the existing housing supply is being cannibalized vs. allowing new market-rate to come in, so it’s supply and demand; there’s less supply coming online, so where are they going to get it?”
“There’s a handful of [city-owned] land on Division Street between Western and California [that’s under-developed]. The current alderman has been there for 10 years: If housing was such an issue for him, like he says it is, he would’ve had those built already — affordable or mixed-rate.”
In response, a spokesperson for Maldonado said keeping Humboldt Park affordable is his top priority.
“The idea of keeping housing affordable for our neighborhood is always a fresh idea. Anti-gentrification is never out of touch in Humboldt Park,” the Maldonado spokesperson said in a statement. “If my pro-developer opponents want to stand for gentrification in this community, go for it. Good luck with that.”
Herrera, who is a mix of Puerto Rican, Spanish, Mexican and Dominican, said he’s capable of bringing economic growth to the gentrifying ward without pushing longtime residents out.
He pointed to his more-than-decade-long career in real estate development and his deep ties to the community (Herrera’s parents both went to Mitchell Elementary School) as two of his strengths.
“I’m going to scrutinize these deals better than anyone,” the aldermanic hopeful said.
“A lot of the developers are not from the neighborhood. They’ll come in from other neighborhoods and the suburbs. They’ve taken from our backyard and they’ve given development a bad name. We want well thought-out and balanced investment.”
One of Herrera’s ideas is to make Humboldt Park a hub for tech companies — specifically ones that prioritize exposing young Latinos to the tech world. He’s currently talking to Berwyn Tech Entrepreneurship Center about opening a new campus in the ward, where students would learn how to build websites and work with industry professionals on other tech-related projects.
In addition to development, Herrera said he’s also passionate about bringing more after-school programs and better community policing to the ward. He’s also looking to implement policies at the city level that would protect longtime residents like a property tax discount for longtime homeowners.
“[Maldonado] is fresh out of ideas. He’s out of touch,” Herrera said.
Maldonado replaced Billy Ocasio as 26th Ward alderman in 2009. He was appointed by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. Before becoming alderman, Maldonado served as a Cook County Board member. When he was younger, he worked as a psychologist for Chicago Public Schools and ran a mortgage-banking firm.
Herrera is running against Maldonado and three other candidates: health clinic director Theresa Siaw, medical professional Angee Gonzalez and limo company owner Mirko “Limo Mike Z” Zaplati.
Siaw runs a health clinic out of Humboldt Park. She told Block Club the ward has been divided for too long, and she wants to change that.
Gonzalez was born in Villalba, Puerto Rico and has lived in Humboldt Park since 1974, according to her campaign website. She works in the medical industry.
“I have witnessed firsthand the negative changes in the neighborhood and have experienced the effects that plague our schools, parks, safety, commerce, and our way of life,” Gonzalez wrote on her website.
“We currently have leaders that dismiss the true issues of our community for their personal gain. I say it is time to change and focus on bringing positive resources to our community so that our children can benefit and have a better future.”
Zaplati has lived in the community for more than 34 years. He runs a limo company, according to his LinkedIn account.
All five candidates have filed to run. Herrera challenged the petitions of Siaw, Gonzalez and Zaplati, saying they were “rife with errors.”
The 26th ward includes Humboldt Park and parts of Logan Square, West Humboldt Park, Hermosa and West Town.
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