BACK OF THE YARDS — A Southwest Side activist with political experience is running for a City Council seat next year.
Vicko Alvarez, who most recently served as Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez’s (33rd) chief of staff, announced Tuesday her candidacy for the 15th Ward on the Southwest Side.
Alvarez couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
“I grew up in a working-class, immigrant family and understand the importance of well-funded and healthy neighborhoods,” Alvarez wrote on Twitter. “Let’s make this a priority in the 15th ward!”
The 15th Ward — which covers parts of Back of the Yards, Gage Park, Brighton Park and West Englewood — will get a new alderperson in 2023 election. Ald. Raymond Lopez, one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s biggest critics, announced in April he’s running for mayor.
“I want to reaffirm my commitment to running for Mayor of Chicago. I am not running for 15th Ward Alderman,” Lopez said in a statement Tuesday.
Alvarez is the first to throw her hat in the ring for Lopez’s seat.
While working for Rodriguez-Sanchez, Alvarez oversaw day-to-day functions of the 33rd Ward office, “including filing hundreds of neighborhood service requests, overseeing infrastructure projects, and assisting the Alderwoman in policy research,” according to her campaign website.
In a Facebook post, Alvarez shared a Sun-Times story and wrote, “Defund and abolish. You can get it done through hearings at City Hall or the people will get it done on the streets by fire.” The image of people standing in front of a building and truck on fire came from a story about unrest in Kenosha after police there shot Jacob Blake.
Some neighbors raised concerns about the post at a time when the city was struggling with spiking gun violence.
Alvarez’s position on public safety and police differs from Lopez’s, who has a reputation on City Council for being one of the most conservative members, particularly on crime. He was harshly critical of the mayor’s approach on dealing with looting and unrest in summer 2020, and he has made crime the center of his mayoral campaign.
On Alvarez’s campaign website, she calls for a new, bold approach to deal with public safety, “one that prevents harm and crime by treating its causes, instead of punishing its victims.”
“I am calling for us to reopen public mental health clinics, invest in street outreach workers, alternative response models and homelessness prevention,” according to Alvarez’s website. “As Chicagoans, we have poured our tax money into policing for years, yet it has not prevented or solved crime.”
Alvarez founded the Southside Mutual Aid Solidarity, a project composed of Chicago Democratic Socialist Alliance members and 15th Ward residents to distribute hygiene and other essential items during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alvarez, who moved to Chicago from Texas in 2006 to attend the University of Chicago, has a passion for worker organizing and school arts programs, according to her campaign website. She worked as a campaign director at United Students Against Sweatshops and Lead Worker Organizer with the United Steelworkers Union, and she taught art programs at Hernandez Middle School in Gage Park and Hamilton Park in Englewood.
Lopez, a two-term alderman who grew up near Midway Airport, was first elected in 2015. Before being elected, he was a skycap for Southwest Airlines.
Lopez said Tuesday he plans to support Robert Martinez, a former 15th Ward staffer who has not officially announced his campaign.
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