PILSEN — The race for 25th Ward alderperson is down to the incumbent seeking a second City Council term and an educator making her second run for the seat.
Pilsen native Aida Flores is the only candidate challenging first-term Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th). Daniel Montes, who announced his bid in August, dropped out of the race and endorsed Flores.
Sigcho-Lopez formerly was executive director of Pilsen Alliance, a prominent community organization, before he was elected alderman.
The 25th Ward covers Pilsen and a small part of Little Village under the city’s newly drawn ward map.
The election is Feb. 28.
Here’s more on both candidates.
Flores said her deep roots to Pilsen and her experience working in CPS has made her uniquely qualified to be the 25th Ward alderperson.
Flores is an assistant principal at Darwin Elementary. She was previously a principal at Hernandez Middle School on the Southwest Side, an assistant principal at Kelvyn Park High School and a history teacher at her alma mater, Benito Juarez High School.
Born and raised in Pilsen, Flores said her educational path was “untraditional.”
She had her first child when she was 14 while attending Benito Juarez High School. She went on to attend Georgetown University and Harvard University, she said.
“I was very fortunate to have the support of my family, to have community interventions and resources and to have teachers at Benito Juarez who found my intellect, my critical thinking and really nurtured me,” she said.
Flores would bring collaborative decision making to the top issues in the 25th Ward, including public safety, affordable housing, environmental concerns and public school enrollment and funding, she said.
“I’ve dedicated my entire career to education to ensure that children like me, children like my friends and neighbors have the same opportunities,” she said. “Every single step of the way, I used my lived experience in the work that I do to serve my community.”
Flores was recently endorsed by Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, who’s is running for mayor.
“I feel very hopeful of my experience growing up here, my experience being able to bring and work across different stakeholders for the greater good of our community,” Flores said.
Flores is running again because she wants to bring a leadership style that would unite neighbors and work for “collective solutions,” she said.
“We envision making sure that our youngest residents to our eldest are fulfilled and age gracefully and independently and live a fulfilled life,” she said.
Montes said dropping out of the race was a difficult decision, but he wanted to do what was best for the community. He is backing Flores because her platform aligned most closely with his.
“It really comes from my love for the community,” Montes said. “[The ward] deserves more than what we’re getting.”
Flores has about $26,000 in campaign cash on hand, records show. She has largely self-funded her campaign but counts numerous individual donations.
Sigcho-Lopez was elected in a 2019 runoff after unsuccessfully challenging former Ald. Danny Solis in 2015.
Some of his greatest accomplishments as alderman have been shepherding community input into the affordable housing development coming to 18th and Peoria streets, funneling funds into violence intervention and prevention efforts and calling for more accountability over environmental concerns, he said.
To fight back against gentrification and maintain affordable housing in the area, the alderman also said he would continue fighting for community input and transparency on any future development projects — as he’s done with the Archdiocese’s intended sale of St. Adalbert’s Church.
“I know how hard it has been on our small homeowners and tenants,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
To address public safety concerns, Sigcho-Lopez said his monthly community meetings would continue, as would plans to fund after-school and summer programs for kids.
“We know that we need to talk about the root causes [of violence],” the alderman said. “We understand that there’s a huge issue of poverty, of inequality in our communities. We know increasing our police budgets hasn’t worked. Continuing to expand those budgets has not kept our community safe.”
Since the ward is changing boundaries to include a small part of Little Village, Sigcho-Lopez also said he’ll continue working with neighbors in the area to facilitate conversations between the developer who bought the beloved Discount Mall and its vendors who worry about the fate of their small businesses.
The alderman also said he’s had conversations with Little Village street vendors who have been targeted in recent robberies and would continue listening to suggestions on strategies what would make them feel most safe.
The alderman said he’s proud of the work he’s done in the ward in the past four years, and he would continue representing community interests in matters of affordable housing, public safety concerns and environmental justice causes.
“I’m proud to have been an independent voice in the City Council, and that’s what I want to continue to be — the voice of the working people,” he said.
Sigcho-Lopez has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union and United Working Families. He’s gotten heavy financial support from unions, including about $30,000 in recent contributions from the CTU and SEIU, records show.
He has about $116,000 in campaign cash on hand as of January.
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