LAKEVIEW — With Election Day less than a week away, there’s no forum too small for incumbent Ald. James Cappleman and challenger Marianne Lalonde as they try to secure votes in the 46th Ward race.
The duo squared off Tuesday in a condo building on Lake Shore Drive, where a group of about two dozen people asked them questions on everything from pigeon poop to affordable housing — in a debate that showcased the priorities of more affluent 46th Ward residents.
One of the biggest issues of the night was the proposed redesign of Lake Shore Drive, known as “Redefine the Drive.” The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation have been working on the project for years in an effort to improve the northern stretch of the iconic Chicago street.
Lalonde has criticized Cappleman for one version of the plan that removed the Wilson exit from Lake Shore Drive, but Cappleman said it’s too soon for him to fully support any iteration of the project. He added, however, that federal funding for the revamp will only come if highway exits are spaced out properly.
During the Feb. 26 election, a non-binding referendum showed 46th Ward voters overwhelmingly supported keeping the Wilson exit where it is.
While housing affordability has been a big issue in the race so far, Tuesday’s forum focused more on quality of life issues for condo dwellers on the southern end of the ward, who complained of noise pollution from motorcycle racing, fan overspill from Wrigley Field after Cubs games and pigeon droppings.
While some residents said they were glad issues of homelessness were being addressed, they said those who do own property in the ward need to be taken care of as well.
“We need your help just as much as the poor people do,” one resident said.
The experience factor
Cappleman, who has served as alderman since 2011, continued to stress his experience and many years residing and working in the ward throughout the evening. He also did not miss any chance to mention that Lalonde has only lived in the ward for three and half years.
Cappleman said he’s helped bring the Uptown Entertainment District, once a pipe dream, to life and he proudly listed the upcoming Uptown Theatre renovation as a major accomplishment.
He also highlighted his numerous endorsements from politicians, including Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and State Rep. Sarah Feigenholtz.
“Those relationships are important because it allows me to work with those people to get things done,” he said.
Lalonde played up her background as a scientist and said her time as a block club president motivated her to run after seeing how her community was neglected.
She proudly touted her endorsement of, and by, mayoral hopeful Lori Lightfoot — the pair endorsed each other back in January when neither were doing particularly well in the polls.
“We deserve better for our communities, and I have the expertise and the heart to bring that to our neighborhood,” she said.
The candidates were also asked to talk about their largest financial donors. Cappleman listed Mayor Rahm Emanuel as his largest contributor while Lalonde said her campaign has been largely financed by close family and friends.
Asked about developer donations, Lalonde said she has and will refuse donations from developers. Cappleman said his policy is that no developer is allowed to contribute to his campaign six months before they request a zoning change or twelve months after.
What about Lakeview?
On issues of sustainability, Lalonde said she would support breaking the city’s contract with Waste Management.
“A lot of recycling gets rejected and when it does Waste Management makes a profit,” she said.
Lalonde said Chicago has been leading the nation in many ways, but the city is lagging behind when it comes to sustainability. She said the city should divest from fossil fuel companies and make a long term investment plan to replace its lead piping.
According to Cappleman, composting is one of the best ways to promote sustainability. Offering incentives to residents and businesses was one of the number one ways the city can go green, he said. He also said the city needs to continue discouraging the use of cars.
“If we are going to be sustainable we need to be focused on encouraging more mass transit,” he said.
Some residents at the forum said they have felt ignored or left behind by Ald. Cappleman. Most of the 46th Ward is comprised of the Uptown neighborhood, but the northern tip of Lakeview also falls within the ward.
Cappleman promised to work diligently to strengthen the relationship between the two neighborhoods if re-elected. Lalonde said the divide highlights the need for a new alderman, promising that she would make Irving Park Road less of a dividing line between the two communities.
Throughout the evening, neither candidate missed an opportunity to attack the other. Cappleman continued to highlight Lalonde’s lack of experience and time in the ward, while Lalonde accused Cappleman of being too close with developers, saying the community desired a change in leadership.
The forum questions were developed by the League of Women Voters and Jane Adams Seniors in Action.
The runoff election ins April 2.
Election Day is April 2. For everything you need to know, 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.