LOGAN SQUARE — Two newcomers and a former alderperson are trying to unseat Ald. Daniel La Spata in the battle for the 1st Ward City Council seat.
La Spata is seeking a second term in office. As a political novice, he won the 2019 election over then-incumbent Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno. Moreno was under criminal investigation during the election and charged with multiple felonies shortly after losing his seat.
Moreno is back, hoping to reclaim the City Council seat representing parts of West Town, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Also vying for the role are community leader Andy Schneider and attorney Sam Royko.
Royko and Moreno both fended off efforts to remove them from the ballot.
The election is Feb. 28. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two will go to a runoff April 4.
More on each candidate:
Daniel La Spata
La Spata easily won the 2019 election to oust Moreno after nine years in office.
As alderperson, La Spata has been a big proponent of affordable housing and bicycling infrastructure, including protected bike lanes. If reelected, he said he’d continue to make strides in improving public safety, building more affordable housing and boosting the local economy.
La Spata said he’s helped small businesses apply for city grants and developers have incorporated dozens of affordable units into their projects under his leadership. On public safety, he said he’s advocated for more police along with wrap-around services and alternate crisis response teams.
“I think we are building this informed and evidence-based ecosystem of services and policies that promote a healthy and safe neighborhood, and I’m really excited to keep doing that work,” La Spata said.
On the campaign trail in 2019, La Spata framed himself as a change candidate, a departure from Moreno, who has faced criticism for his domineering style and for taking campaign cash from developers building large projects in the ward.
La Spata accepted campaign contributions from the developer of a 56-unit project in Logan Square in 2021, but he refunded the money to make it clear there was no impropriety.
La Spata is on several City Council committees. He introduced 39 ordinances and resolutions in his first term, far more than his colleagues, who averaged about seven pieces of legislation during that time, according to his campaign.
An avid biker, La Spata is a vocal advocate for bicyclist safety and awareness. A man threw a drink at him in October as he was biking through West Town with supporters. Bob Zwolinski, who lost a 2016 election for Illinois state representative, took credit for the incident.
La Spata has the most cash of all the candidates, with $143,574 in his “Neighbors for Daniel La Spata” account as of Dec. 31, according to campaign finance records.
Proco ‘Joe’ Moreno
Moreno was appointed 1st Ward alderperson in 2010 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace Manny Flores. He won in a landslide in 2011, then narrowly beat three challengers in 2015 with just under 51 percent of the vote.
Moreno was charged with insurance fraud and obstruction of justice after the 2019 election for falsely reporting his car stolen. While that case was pending, he was charged with drunken driving and reckless driving after crashing into parked cars on the Gold Coast.
Moreno pleaded guilty in both cases. He was given “second chance” probation for the first case and community service and court supervision for the DUI.
Now, Moreno wants another shot at City Council. He told Block Club in October he’s received treatment for alcohol addiction, conducted community service and straightened out his life.
In his time as alderperson, Moreno made headlines for trying to block Chick Fil A from moving into the ward and bullying the owner of the Double Door music venue in Wicker Park. He was also known for approving large developments in gentrifying Logan Square. A Block Club analysis in 2019 showed many local developers who got zoning approval in the ward donated to Moreno’s campaign.
Moreno has denied engaging in “pay-to-play” politics. He said he’s used community input to make zoning decisions more than “95 percent” of the time.
Moreno declined an interview request for this story. In an emailed statement, he said public safety is the biggest issue facing the 1st Ward.
If elected, he said he plans to allocate up to $4 million from aldermanic discretionary money to build a 12th District satellite police station in the 800 block of North Wood Street, bring back patrol officers to Chicago Avenue and Division Street and “fully fund” anti-violence organizations such as Chicago RED and READI.
Moreno said he also plans to “advocate strongly” for additional patrols and work to increase funding for mental health services and the police department.
Two West Town residents petitioned to have Moreno kicked off the ballot, arguing he didn’t have enough valid signatures and he shouldn’t be eligible to run for office because of his past legal troubles. Elections officials disagreed and ruled this month Moreno should remain on the ballot.
In a statement, Moreno said the challenge “was a desperate attempt to challenge my legal record and mislead the voters.”
Moreno’s “Friends for Proco Joe Moreno” campaign chest had $95,758 as of Dec. 31, according to campaign finance records.
Royko is a West Town lawyer and the son of late columnist Mike Royko.
Royko’s girlfriend was carjacked in 2021, which led him to form the Greater West Town Community Coalition and eventually launch his bid for office.
Since then, Royko has become a frequent commentator in local media on the rise in crime, holding meetings, news conferences and organizing letter-writing campaigns to elected officials.
“We started to feel like we were making real gains by organizing and working together, and we thought that doing the aldermanic race may be the next step of being able to have more influence to make a bigger difference for our community,” Royko told Block Club last summer.
As a community leader and now a 1st Ward candidate, Royko said his “first and primary” focus is public safety.
Like Moreno, Royko said if elected he’d use aldermanic menu funds to boost police in the ward, while also funneling money to intervention programs — a “twofold” approach meant to increase public safety and address the root causes of crime.
In running for office, Royko said he draws inspiration from his dad, arguably the most famous Chicago journalist of all time, having written almost 8,000 columns over a more-than-three-decade career at the Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune.
“I think I’ve always been inspired, growing up as my dad’s son, to try and do good in the city. I really want to help make Chicago better and I think right now it’s very important that we get on the right path,” Royko said.
Royko survived an effort to remove him from the ballot over an address dispute.
Campaign finance records show Royko had $100,280 in his “Royko for Chicago” account as of Dec. 31, 2022.
Schneider is the longtime president of influential neighborhood organization Logan Square Preservation.
As the leader of the group for the past decade, Schneider has played a major role in Logan Square politics, helping to shape big projects including the Logan Square traffic circle redesign and the Lucy Gonzalez Parsons affordable housing complex. He also advocated to preserve historic buildings and relics, such as the St. John Berchmans bell and Grace United Methodist Church.
A staunch preservationist and proponent of repurposing existing buildings and land, Schneider also led a legal fight against the billboard company holding up redevelopment of the Grace’s Furniture building and worked with city leaders to open a food truck plaza on a vacant Sacramento Avenue lot.
Schneider said he’s dedicated his life to improving Logan Square, where he’s lived for nearly two decades.
In addition to reviewing zoning applications and infrastructure projects, his group plants trees along the boulevards, clears snow from the square and hosts historic house walks.
“I have a very long track record of engaging with our local government and our people and being a conduit, which I think makes me ideally and uniquely placed to serve in that role officially,” Schneider said. “If you look at my opponents — nobody can match me in that regard. Nobody has spent the length of time doing that and covered the breadth of issues.”
Schneider said he’s provided “steady, consistent and relentless advocacy” for the community over the past decade, and he plans to continue that work in an official capacity if elected alderperson.
The 1st Ward needs a leader who will listen to the community’s concerns and bring people together “instead of choosing winners and losers and trying to ride into office on a single issue,” he said.
Schneider is a real estate professional who worked as a news reporter before becoming active in the community with Logan Square Preservation.
A well-known figure in Logan Square, Schneider was the target of an email scam last year: Someone impersonating Schneider announced his candidacy for 35th Ward alderperson and lambasted Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.
Schneider had $90,914 in his “Andy for All” campaign account as of Dec. 31, 2022, campaign finance records show.
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