HERMOSA — Colin Bird-Martinez may have lost the 31st Ward election, but he hasn’t stopped working in local politics.
The former aldermanic candidate has teamed up with his former campaign staffer Andi Aguilar to launch a new political group aimed at “raising the voices of vulnerable people” in the 31st Ward.
“It’s about immigrants, young people that don’t have a voting record, women and other peoples’ voices that you haven’t really heard represented in the community,” Bird-Martinez said of the new group, tentatively called the 31st Ward Independent Political Organization.
“In general, the communities on the Northwest Side are controlled by a small group of men. It’s that ‘buck stops here’ mentality. They’ll handle it; you don’t need to know what’s going on. [This group] is about transparency.”
Bird-Martinez was knocked off in the general election after securing only about 26 percent of the vote. In the runoff between Felix Cardona Jr. and incumbent Ald. Milly Santiago, Cardona Jr. ultimately came out on top with 54 percent of the vote.
The new group, while focused on politics in the 31st Ward, is not “anti-Felix,” Bird-Martinez emphasized, adding, Cardona Jr. ”represents the community, so in that way we want to see him succeed.”
In a written statement, Cardona Jr. said he supports the new group.
“For too long, the most vulnerable residents of the 31st ward have had their voices go unheard, and my administration in conjunction with other neighborhood groups are working to change that. I believe any additional organization that promotes community involvement and activism has a place in our ward,” Cardona Jr. wrote.
The incoming alderman worked for the Cook County Board of Review and the Cook County Assessor’s Office. His father served as vice president of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee in the 1990s.
While he wishes the outcome of the election had been different, Bird-Martinez said the new group isn’t about him either — it’s about empowering working people in the 31st Ward to get involved in local politics and make their voices heard when a luxury development is proposed or a school is in danger of closing, for example.
The majority-Hispanic 31st Ward, which includes parts of Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, Portage Park and Logan Square, lacks formal organization when it comes to local politics, according to Bird-Martinez.
“This is nothing that’s really happened on the Far Northwest Side. Typically, these [groups] happen in whiter, more privileged neighborhoods — they need organizing, too, but communities of color need it more,” Bird-Martinez said.
Bird-Martinez is no stranger to launching neighborhood groups. He founded the Hermosa Neighborhood Association in 2014, also in an effort to bring the community together.
The new group has met once, shortly after the general election. The next meeting is set for 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Logan Square Library, 3030 W. Fullerton Ave. At Saturday’s meeting, Bird-Martinez expects to discuss priorities for the summer and decide on the group’s service area and mission statement.
Members of more established, independent political groups in the area, including United Neighbors of the 35th Ward, will be at the meeting to offer guidance. Bird-Martinez said his group plans to work closely with United Neighbors of the 35th Ward and other like-minded groups in the coming months.
“Longer term, we want to build a relationship with the Working Families of the 33rd Ward. We want to be tied into this tapestry of other organizations,” he said.
To learn more, visit the group’s Facebook page.