Skip to contents
Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lincoln Park Aldermanic Hopefuls Pledge More Neighbor Involvement, Better Public Transit If Elected

The six hopefuls for the 43rd Ward race shared similar priorities at a community forum, but they are split on a City Council-backed dispensary slated to replace the former Salt n’ Pepper Diner.

43rd Ward candidates from top left: Steve Botsford, Brian Comer, Rebecca Janowitz, Timmy Knudsen, Steven McClellan, Wendi Taylor Nations.
  • Credibility:

LINCOLN PARK — All six candidates campaigning to represent the 43rd Ward discussed how they’ll handle new developments and improve public transportation while including neighbors in decision-making at a community forum. 

More than 100 neighbors gathered Tuesday night at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard Road, as the candidates discussed public safety, property taxes, neighborhood beautification and transparency in government. 

Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd), who was appointed to the seat in September, faces five challengers as he seeks a full term. The other candidates are Steve Botsford, a real estate developer and former political staffer; Brian Comer, president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association; Rebecca Janowitz, an attorney and former political staffer; Steven McClellan, founder of an after-school program; and Wendi Taylor Nations, a public affairs consultant.

Janowitz and McClellan ran against former Ald. Michele Smith in 2019. Smith endorsed Taylor Nations in the race.

Comer said he hopes to build trust in local government by consulting residents, especially their neighborhood groups, about all developments coming to the area, including the new dispensary planned for the former Salt n’ Pepper Diner, 2573-81 N. Lincoln Ave.

Development plans should also include components that make nearby roads safer for bikers and pedestrians, like more protected bike lanes, Comer said.

“If residents are for a new development, I’d work with them to make sure it fits their corner of the neighborhood,” Comer said. “Our neighbors are smart, they can tell us what they want and it’s the job of the alderperson to make sure what they want is what happens.”

Credit: Kayleigh Padar/Block Club Chicago
The six candidates running to represent the 43rd Ward spoke during a Jan. 24 forum at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard Rd.

Knudsen emphasized the importance of community involvement and said the “tension” at lively neighborhood meetings about new developments makes the community stronger because there’s “no one-size-fits-all approach to development.” 

Allowing neighbors to contribute their ideas pushes developers to do better, he said. Knudsen said he’s working with neighborhood groups to work out a strict plan of operations for the potential new dispensary if it should open. 

Knudsen said his office is bringing in new technology to “blow up” the way they handle constituent services and communicate with constituents more effectively. For example, neighbors could soon receive text alerts shortly before street cleaning on their block.

“Constituent services is truly at the core of this job and I think it’s important to be visible,” Knudsen said. “Our ward and government across the board needs to innovate. Our office has four hardworking employees who service thousands of residents, we need to set them up for success.”

The alderman also said he favors more City Council oversight for the CTA, which has been beset with complaints about shoddy conditions, safety issues and inconsistent service. He’s also working with high school students to draft legislation that would prevent cars from idling to reduce emissions and improve traffic flow in the city, he said. 

Janowitz said she’s willing to hold developers accountable and won’t hesitate to back up her neighbors during difficult negotiations. She also wants to protect old buildings from demolition and would make an effort to restore them instead. Janowitz doesn’t support the potential new dispensary, she said. 

As a devoted walker, Janowitz would push to improve sidewalks and do her best to support the CTA to encourage people to use more sustainable methods of transportation, she said.

“The thing about walking is you really see how deteriorated the sidewalks are,” Janowitz said. “If you don’t pay attention every minute, you’ll trip over something that you maybe can’t even identify. … I really believe there are healthy modes of transportation we can do more to support.”

McClellan said he believes the first step to improving transportation in the city is ensuring that train conductors and bus drivers feel safe, supported and want to come to work. He also plans to advocate for more protected bike lanes and a solution to connect The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail to the Lakefront Trail, he said.

McClellan emphasized the importance of being transparent with and accountable to neighborhood associations when deciding which developments to bring into the ward. He also does not support the dispensary proposal, he said.

“I want to be the kind of alderperson that you guys can see and touch, a person that’s going to pick up the phone and be there for you,” McClellan said. “I’m always accessible. I’ll be there to answer the tough questions. … I want you to feel comfortable having me as your alderperson and feel like you’re able to voice your concerns.”

Taylor Nations said she wants to attract “high quality” developments that suit the character of the neighborhood and are transit-oriented so there are fewer cars on the road. She suggested seeking out partnerships with businesses to raise money to improve existing parks and to buy the former General Iron site, 1909 N. Clifton St., to turn into a park.

“Parks are vital to this ward, they’re very over-loved though,” Taylor Nations said. “We need to expand our green space if we want to bring more folks to our ward and we can do that by investing in private-public partnerships.”

Taylor Nations said resident voices are the most important to consider and she has been going “toe-to-toe” with developers at community meetings for years. She said she’d support the potential new dispensary if it’s what neighbors want. 

Botsford, who was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, said all developments should be easily accessible by transit and/or include plans to improve public transportation infrastructure to discourage people from driving. 

“For one, it’s going to be greener if you’re able to use the CTA, with less carbon emissions,” Botsford said. “And two, one of the worst parts of development is all the traffic. That’s going to be a major concern of mine, I can’t stand it. I want to make sure we’re as transit-focused as possible.” 

He supports a new dispensary but believes it should be placed in a busy commercial corridor instead of a quiet residential area, he said.

In addition to adding more protected bike lanes, Botsford wants drivers who park or idle in them to receive automatic tickets. Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance to City Council this month that would use cameras on buses and other areas to help track down drivers blocking bike lanes.

To improve the CTA, police should be responsible for security at train and bus stations instead of a private company and there should be blue buttons that commuters can use to call 911, Botsford said.

All the candidates said they would be a full-time alderperson if elected and committed to not running for any other leadership positions throughout their term.

The election is Feb. 28. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two will proceed to a runoff April 4.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: