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South Chicago, East Side

Óscar Sanchez, East Sider Who Went On Hunger Strike To Protest General Iron, Running For 10th Ward Alderperson

Sanchez's platform will center environmental justice, equitable education, affordable housing and workforce development among other points, he announced Thursday. He will challenge two-term incumbent Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza for the seat.

Óscar Sánchez speaks as organizers, neighbors and community groups march in Logan Square May 20, 2021 to rebuke Mayor Lori Lightfoot's first two years in office.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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EAST SIDE — A Southeast Side environmental activist and youth organizer who joined a 30-day hunger strike to protest a metal scrapper’s planned move into his neighborhood will challenge Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) to represent the community in City Council.

Óscar Sanchez announced his candidacy Wednesday for the seat held by Sadlowski Garza, the two-term incumbent. News of Sanchez’s candidacy was first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.

“I have urgency because I’ve seen so much suffering in the last two years, where our safety nets don’t work,” Sanchez told Block Club Thursday. “We are ready to have leadership that’s coming from the community and led by the community.”

The election for mayor and City Council is Feb. 28, 2023.

Sanchez will run on a platform that centers “clean air, equitable education, walkable and accessible communities, affordable housing, sustainable and resilient workforce development and collective community safety,” he said Thursday. He created his campaign committee Aug. 3.

Sanchez participated in a hunger strike in February and March 2021, calling on the city’s health department to deny the final permit needed for Lincoln Park metal scrapper General Iron to move its assets and most employees to Southside Recycling’s new facility in East Side.

It was “disgusting” for local and state officials to consider bringing more heavy industry to the already-polluted community amid a respiratory pandemic, Sanchez said at the time.

One year after the hunger strike began, the city denied Southside Recycling’s permit.

Though the city ultimately declined to issue a permit, its “driving role” in the scrapper’s planned move was discriminatory, as the plans would have benefited the mostly white Lincoln Park community at the expense of Black and Latino Southeast Siders, federal housing officials said last month.

It’s time to “enforce what environmental justice is” through an ordinance to address the cumulative impact of pollution on Chicago’s neighborhoods and reparations for residents affected by decades of health inequities, Sanchez said.

He wants to discuss reparations more with his neighbors before outlining what that should look like, but ensuring their financial health, improving their health care access and providing resources to help them maintain “a well-balanced lifestyle” are starting points, he said.

Sanchez is also involved in community organizing with a focus on young people, having co-founded the Southeast Youth Alliance as well as the pandemic mutual aid group the Southeast Response Collective.

“Youth have a voice, and if you want people to be living here for the long term, you have to give them ownership in the community,” he said.

Sanchez voiced support for the students and faculty who have demanded green, carbon-neutral buildings for George Washington elementary and high schools. Improved facilities are just one step toward ensuring “equitable education,” he said.

Students “need resources to not only learn the minimum, but to ensure they have successful careers in different types of areas,” Sanchez said. “We can build a sustainable economy with the homegrown talent we have here.”

Sanchez is the first challenger to declare his candidacy for the Far South Side ward, which includes parts of South Chicago, East Side, South Deering and Hegewisch.

Sadlowski Garza confirmed to Block Club on Thursday she will seek re-election. Her campaign committee raised $92,000 from April-June and has just over $155,000 in available funds.

“I’m just getting started,” Sadlowski Garza said. “In the past seven years, we have brought numerous developments to the 10th Ward that have provided thousands of jobs.”

Sadlowski Garza chairs City Council’s workforce development committee. She touted the committee’s passage of “right to return to work,” anti-retaliation and fair work week ordinances, as well as her own co-sponsorship of a compromise “clean air” ordinance passed last year.

“There is more work to do,” Sadlowski Garza said. “I’m proud and humbled to serve the people of the 10th Ward and look forward to the next four years.”

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