HUMBOLDT PARK — Two of the three candidates in the 26th Ward sparred during an aldermanic forum Thursday evening.
Challenger David Herrera attacked incumbent Ald. Roberto Maldonado for his low attendance rate in City Council and accused him of not bringing enough economic development to the ward.
Maldonado, who has held the seat since 2009, then attacked Herrera, a local developer, for not including a single unit of affordable housing in one of his projects. He also accused Herrera of moving into his mother’s house so he could say he lives in the 26th Ward.
“Is this the way a successful developer lives? I don’t know,” Maldonado said, a remark that elicited both cheers and jeers from the roughly 150 people who turned out for the forum, held at Association House of Chicago, 1116 N. Kedzie Ave.
The third candidate, health clinic director Theresa Siaw, stayed largely out of the ongoing dispute.
Here’s where the three candidates stand on big community issues:
At the forum, Maldonado said he’s built 221 units of affordable housing in the ward and pledged to build hundreds more if elected another term.
Upcoming affordable housing projects include 150 units on the Magid Glove factory site, 65 units at California Street and Crystal Avenue, 80 units at the Rebano Church site at Division Street and Artesian Avenue and roughly 25 units in the recently-approved live/work building at Division Street and Washtenaw Avenue.
“I want the 26th Ward to be for all. I am investing my time over the next four years to bring you about 485 affordable housing units, 100 percent affordable. … That should bring a balance to the forces of gentrification,” Maldonado said.
Herrera, who has worked in municipal finance and real estate development for the last 13 years, stressed that he wants to build a mix of affordable units and market-rate units.
“If you go to an extreme, it won’t work,” Herrera said.
The 26th Ward has long lagged behind other wards in terms of new development, according to Herrera, who pledged to use Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars and other public money to revitalize the ward.
“There’s seven vacant lots [on Division Street] that should’ve been filled years ago. [Maldonado] is sleeping behind the wheel. There’s things he can do,” Herrera said.
Siaw stressed the importance of not only building more affordable housing, but also creating new jobs in the community that cater to low-income people and minorities.
“Everybody keeps saying we want affordable housing, what is affordable housing? Affordable housing over here is completely messed up,” Siaw said, adding, “We need to make sure minorities are able to buy a home. That is something I’m working toward.”
Maldonado recently called for the extension and renaming of the neighborhood’s most culturally rich corridor: The commercial strip of Division Street between Western and California avenues known as “Paseo Boricua.”
Division Street from Western to Grand avenues is now known as “Puerto Rico Town,” according to Maldonado’s legislation.
The alderman said he did this to preserve the neighborhood’s Puerto Rican culture, so that everyone, whether they’re Puerto Rican or not, “can feel proud of what happens on Division Street.”
“Some of you may have said I did this on my own. This is my vision and this is the vision of community input,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado’s plan also calls for creating a special district along Division Street, though not much is known about that component.
Siaw, who is Ghanian-American, said while she supports any effort that aims to preserve the corridor’s Puerto Rican culture, she would like to get more people involved in the process of revitalizing the ward’s commercial districts.
“We need to make sure that everybody is involved, and not just one group,” she said.
Herrera said he’d like to revitalize Division Street so it’s on the level of Miami’s Calle Ocho, a stretch brimming with Cuban culture.
“Why can’t it be similar to that? There used to be more businesses on Division when the flags went up. We’ve gotta have meetings with local businesses, call them in and have workshops,” Herrera said.
Maldonado said crime in the ward has gone down under his leadership.
“Because of you, and working together, we have improved the public safety climate in ways that we have never seen before,” Maldonado said.
Siaw, on the other hand, charged that one shooting is too many.
“I want to know how you think crime is down when people are still dying in our community,” she said. “I hear shootings a lot — to the point where I’m afraid. And a lot of you are afraid, too.”
Herrera, who grew up in East Humboldt Park/Ukrainian Village area, said he’s been attending community policing events regularly over the past three years, and he rarely sees Maldonado.
Hererra also slammed Maldonado for a 2017 video that captured the alderman arguing with the police, insisting they let him drive through a crime scene.
“We need someone who is going to garner the respect of the command staff of the police department, and that’s what I intend to do,” he said.
The 26th ward includes Humboldt Park and parts of Logan Square, West Humboldt Park, Hermosa and West Town.
For a full guide to the 2019 municipal elections, check out Chi.Vote here.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.