ROGERS PARK — Ald. Joe Moore (49th) is fighting for his political life in Rogers Park.
At a unique time in Chicago history, when a cacophony of calls for reform echo through the chambers of City Hall, it’s a tough time to be an incumbent. And Moore is more seasoned than most — he’s been the 49th Ward alderman since 1991.
Moore has long called himself a progressive, independent alderman, a visionary who brought community policing and participatory budgeting to his ward. He often went toe-to-toe with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, voting with him just 51 percent of the time from 2007 to 2011.
But since June 2011, Moore has voted with current Mayor Rahm Emanuel more than 98 percent of the time, according to former Ald. Dick Simpson’s “rubber stamp” reports, leading Moore’s critics to say he has lost his way as an independent alderman.
Moore insists his voting record has more to do with Emanuel, who has pushed some progressive policies, than anything else.
“I didn’t change, the mayor changed,” he said. “I don’t think [Emanuel] gets enough credit for some of the real progressive things he’s done that Daley resisted.”
Enter Maria Hadden. A political newcomer with a history of activism and community organizing, Hadden would be the first openly gay black female alderman in Chicago history if she’s elected. She has pledged to join City Council’s Progressive, Black and LGBT caucuses if she takes Moore’s seat.
With a who’s who of progressive political figures backing her — including former longtime County Clerk David Orr, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi — and real dollars behind her, Hadden is a threat to Moore’s political reign.
Since entering the race, Hadden has raised more than $145,000. She has over $95,000 of campaign cash on hand, according to recent campaign finance reports. That kind of money allows her to compete with a politician like Moore, who has more than $228,000 in campaign cash on hand, according to records.
Moore has nabbed endorsements from both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. With serious name recognition and a sizable campaign staff behind him, Moore feels primed to win another election.
One of the biggest differences between Moore and Hadden is how they see their role as alderman in City Council. Hadden takes a holistic approach and believes aldermen have to focus on more than just their wards.
“For the City Council that I want to contribute to, we need to get out of our wards,” she said.
Moore tends to focus exclusively on Rogers Park, as evidenced by his explanation of why he attended just 34 percent of his committee meetings from May 2015 to May 2017. Moore said that much of committee work involves “routine” and “ministerial” matters that are often ward specific and not involving the 49th Ward.
“I think my time is much better spent paying attention to the needs and concerns of the neighborhood and my constituents rather than sitting in a committee meeting occupying a chair for matters that often have no relevance to my ward or city-wide issues,” he said.
Their differing approaches to the job is further evidenced by their thoughts on policing. Moore has been a sharp critic of Hadden’s answers to a recent candidate questionnaire, in which she indicated she would be in favor of reallocating police resources from low crime to high crime neighborhoods. He centered a recent political ad around the issue.
“I think the West and South sides should get the protection they deserve and need, but not at the expense of my community,” he said. “And to say ‘let’s all be fair,’ yeah on one level, but not if it leads to a loss of police services and protection.”
But Hadden took issue with the ad, calling it “fear-mongering” and “manipulative.”
“We live in a city with finite resources and crime does not abide by ward boundaries and political borders,” she said. “Public safety resources are allocated by need using data from reported crime statistics and 911 calls. That’s the way it should be.”
Hadden argues the point is mostly moot since alderman don’t have much direct control over how police allocate resources, but it highlights a difference between the two campaigns.
The two also have different ideas when it comes to development in the ward. Moore believes that working with developers is part of the job, and that development should balance the interests of business with those of the community.
Moore has taken campaign donations from developers, and he insists his record of development in the ward speaks for itself.
“I think smart development looks like what we’ve seen in Rogers Park for the last 30 years,” he said. “And that is a balanced approach that allows for both market-rate and affordable development.”
Meanwhile, Hadden has refused to take any money from developers and has made the issues a focal point of her campaign. If elected, she promises she will continue to refuse developer cash.
Too often, aldermen wait for developers to come to them with ideas, Hadden said. Instead, she hopes to seek out developers whose ideas will fit her plans for Rogers Park.
“I think the alderman on behalf of the community should have a plan,” she said. “Smart development should look like more than just spot development. Because that’s not urban planning.”
The two sharply clash when it comes to their thoughts on controversial Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) Districts.
Hadden would support a complete moratorium on new TIFs until transparency can be restored — something she believes is sorely lacking.
“TIFs are used without controversy in 48 different states,” she said. “But here they are plagued with a lack of transparency and some heavy misuse and overuse.”
Moore said that cities are largely on their own these days, and TIFs are one of the only ways to promote real economic growth.
“TIFs, if done the right way, are probably really the only effective tool we have in our toolbox,” he said.
Moore hopes to further expand the program by advocating for TIF districts on commercial streets, citing Clark Street in Rogers Park as a perfect candidate. He cites neighboring Evanston as a great example of using TIF dollars to effectively grow business districts.
The two also disagree on the issue of schools. Hadden said that she would call for a freeze on all charter school expansion. She supports an elected school board, or at least a hybrid model.
“Either would be better than what we currently have,” she said. “I’m confident that if we had the political will behind it, we could design an elected school board system that was inclusive and equitable.”
Moore has championed charter schools, saying there’s “been a false choice” between charter and public schools. He says that CPS selective-enrollment and magnet schools have caused more problems to the public school system than charter schools.
“I’m a big believer in good schools,” he said. “I don’t care whether they are charter, public or private.”
The biggest knock against Hadden, as made clear by Moore, is her lack of political experience. Moore has cautioned voters that if he is ousted, much of his large staff will go, too. Since Moore sits on various committees, his aldermanic budget is inflated and Hadden would have to make cuts as a freshman alderman.
But Hadden said the alderman’s lengthy tenure is not a reason to re-elect him. She said her “lean campaign” will be reflective of how she will spend her finite resources if elected.
When it comes to revenue, both agree that tough decisions will need to be made in order to trim the fat from the city budget. Both candidates support bringing cannabis dispensaries to the neighborhood, but Moore is against a LaSalle Street transfer tax — an idea to tax trades within Chicago’s financial exchanges — that Hadden supports.
The 49th Ward is a diverse one, and residents care deeply about maintaining the ward’s reputation for advancing progressive ideals. Since both Moore and Hadden are billing themselves as independent and progressive candidates, it will fall to the voters of the 49th Ward to decide who truly fits the bill.
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