NORTH CENTER — Ald. Matt Martin (47th) will not need to defend his City Council seat in 2023.
Martin was the only candidate to submit nominating signatures by last week’s deadline for the aldermanic race representing parts of North Center, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Lakeview, Andersonville and Uptown, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
As a freshman alderman whose term overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic, Martin praised his constituents who he said have long stepped up for each other.
Neighbors regularly collaborated during the winter holidays to help donate food and warm clothes to people in need, Martin said. During the worst days of the pandemic, neighbors also found ways to support small businesses hurt by restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19, he said.
“When you’re just a regular resident, you see what you’re able to do and might see what some of your neighbors are interested in doing and you spread the word that way,” Martin said. “But to have the position I do, you get to see all across the ward and beyond all the different ways people come together to support one another, to help improve their lives, day in and day out, is really inspiring and invigorating.”
Martin said goals for his second term include continuing to expand affordable housing options in the ward and throughout the city, including more ways to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing, like two- and three-flat residential buildings.
He also said he wants to complete the Leland Avenue Greenway and build more infrastructure to better protect pedestrians and cyclists from drivers.
The Leland Avenue Greenway project was initially announced by the Chicago Department of Transportation in 2019 but has been delayed in part due to the pandemic. The project was set to break ground over the summer but has been pushed to next year, Martin said.
Once built, it would create a create a continuous, low-stress bicycle connection between the North Shore Channel and Lakefront trails and change the traffic pattern at Western and Leland avenues to create a more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly crossing.
Martin also hopes to break ground on a concrete protected bike lane along a stretch of Clark Street between Irving Park Road and Montrose Avenue.
Martin’s office has been reviewing annual collision data since taking office and combining that with feedback from residents to identify the most problematic areas where drivers are hitting pedestrians and bicyclists, he said.
That’s resulted in new street infrastructure, especially around the neighborhood’s elementary schools, he said.
“That’s something that we’ve taken really seriously,” Martin said.
Martin also received requests from residents about expanding electric vehicle charging options and is looking into how stations could be installed across the ward’s commercial and residential streets, he said.
Other priorities include working to reestablish the city’s Department of the Environment and continuing to advocate for alternative policing initiatives like street intervention, free therapy and expanding support for organizations that help address the root causes of gun violence, he said.
“I’m proud of our work around public safety during what’s been a very challenging several years, particularly when the pandemic hit us in earnest,” Martin said. “I’ve been very thankful to have a job where I can take my own frustrations and channel them into constructive ways, like advocating for the mental health first responder team that covers all of the 19th Police district, including most of the 47th Ward.”
Martin, who previously worked as a civil rights attorney for the Illinois Attorney General’s office, was one of the nine candidates in 2019 vying to replace former Ald. Ameya Pawar, who made an unsuccessful bid for city treasurer.
Martin decisively beat former Rahm Emanuel policy chief Michael Negron in a runoff.
Martin also campaigned in 2019 on affordable housing. After he was elected, Martin worked with developers to double the amount of on-site affordable housing above the city’s previous minimum requirement of 10 percent, he said.
He’s also backed a plan from developer Community Builders to build a six-story, 63-unit development at 4715 N. Western Ave. featuring ground-floor commercial space and 18 public parking spaces.
The Lincoln Square development has been controversial and underwent several revisions since it was first proposed in 2020.
The project won key approval last week and is set for a City Council vote.
“I’ve been really heartened with the way our community has come together to support the next piece affordable housing proposal at 4750 N. Western Ave.,” Martin said. “It will be terrific addition to a community that really needs more affordably priced homes as well as a corner that could benefit from some additional commercial presence.”