UPTOWN — The area’s housing needs, transit infrastructure and public safety were debated at a forum of 46th Ward candidates Tuesday.
Six candidates are running in the open race to replace a retiring Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who served three terms in the office. Five of the candidates participated in a forum Tuesday at the Preston Bradley Center, 971 W. Lawrence Ave., held by Uptown United and the Uptown Chamber of Commerce.
The forum included discussions about ways to support the neighborhood’s economic growth, how to handle development in the ward, ways to improve schools and their ideas for boosting transportation and mobility in the community.
The five participating candidates were scientist Marianne Lalonde, community organizer Kim Walz, community organizer Angela Clay, bartender and union steward Roushaunda Williams and real estate broker Michael Cortez.
Patrick Nagle, a federal chief administrative judge, was out of town for work and could not participate, he said. Uptown United will pose the same questions to him Friday. This story will be updated with his responses.
The candidates will square off in a Feb. 28 election. If no candidate secures 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote earners will proceed to a runoff April 4.
Here is, in their own words, how the candidates answered questions at the forum.
How will you balance the needs for continued development and investment in Uptown with the need to make sure that Uptown remains affordable?
Michael Cortez: “I think the most important thing is to keep the the 20 percent of new developments [affordable] and just promote the area, making it more affordable for builders to come in.”
Roushaunda Williams: “We need to create good jobs, right? That should be one of the things that we are paying attention to, because not being able to afford where you are living starts way before people are homeless.
“We also need to make sure that we are paying attention to what types of developments are coming in and their impact in the community. We need to make sure that we are definitely in real deep and understanding what people need.”
Angela Clay: “When we are thinking about development in his ward, we need to think about it as development without displacement. The community and culture that has always been here and will continue to be here thrive off of the affordability aspect that we have in the 46th Ward.
“We need to make sure that, again, we are building housing stock that is going to make sure that all of our ward thrives. We are a community of elementary schools. Families rely on affordable housing. … We need to make sure that we are developing equitably and with everyone at this table. We have a say in how we want to build our community and we have been left out of that process for a very long time.”
Kim Walz: “In order to deal with affordable housing conditions, we have to look at this systemically. … We really though have to have a conversation about how we’re helping the unhoused.
“We don’t have enough short-term solutions and we don’t have enough long-term housing solutions to help those who are going through this crisis. … We also have 20 to 30 percent less shelter beds than we did before the pandemic and there are no plans to get it back to this original rate. So as we talk about affordable housing, it’s not just about rents, but it’s helping individuals get into homes in the first place and I’m committed to both of those as alderman.”
Marianne Lalonde: “When we think about building more affordable housing in the ward. I think it’s really important that we do it with wraparound services. This will help advance economic upward mobility.
“Not only are we thinking about more affordable housing and keeping housing affordable at every level, what we need to think about are resources for shelters in our neighborhood. … We have the opportunity to add more resources on the North Side. It’s our responsibility to be doing that to maintain the character of our ward but also to make sure that everybody has the space throughout the North Side and access to the services that they are accustomed to.”
What policies and practices do you support to improve mobility and safety for all pedestrians, cyclists and CTA riders?
Kim Walz: “We have to have more protected bike lanes throughout the city and throughout the ward so that individuals can feel safe biking to work, biking for recreation, biking to visit their family.
“We also have to improve our public transit. People are dramatically impacted by ghost buses. They don’t feel safe in the CTA and that’s making ridership decline which is bringing revenues down and creating a perfect storm of unsafe conditions where we can’t afford improvements. There is a complete lack of accountability between the City Council and the CTA. As alderwoman, I want to demand that we have safer trains including unarmed conductors, public safety officers in areas where there’s a lot of crime and helping deal with the unsanitary conditions on the train.”
Marianne Lalonde: “This all comes down to staffing and CTA is incredibly short staffed now. We’re not seeing the reliability or the safety on the CTA that we’re used to. Bringing the CTA back to pre-2020 staffing levels can be done by partnering with City Colleges, UIC and others to create job placement programs to better recruit good workers to stay at CTA.
“When we think about pedestrian and bicycle safety, one of the plans that I’m a fan of is Bike Grid Now. It’s 450 Miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city. When we think about our ward, I think we have opportunities to add them down the full length of Broadway, on Lawrence [Avenue], which is actually the US bike route, and possibly on Addison [Avenue].”
Michael Cortez: “There’s two problems with the CTA. They’re not on time, and there’s not enough safety. I felt so safe when they used to have the canine units and our police on board. There’s barely any of that anymore. That all needs to come back.
“I’m a bike rider myself and I’m really for the bike lanes but there are an awful lot of bike lanes. I think it should be main thoroughfares, the streets that can fit bike lanes, and then maps that actually show the bicyclist where the routes could be.”
Roushaunda Williams: “I understand that the CTA is shorter staffed right now, and that can be challenging, but we have to hold CTA accountable. If my son can order a pizza and track it from the restaurants to his mouth, we should be able to do a better job at being able to track our bus.
“Also, a good campaign can be so beneficial in so many ways. We don’t want another child or anyone to get hurt because of bike lanes not being safe and drivers not paying attention. We need to take our opportunities to run a great campaign for biking. It can look something like, if you bike here, I’ll give you 10 percent off your ice cream.”
Angela Clay: “When we’re thinking about CTA, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is why is it now our mental health hospitals and our shelters? When we’re talking about us not feeling like we are protected on our public transportation, we first need to look at why are people sleeping on the trains? We don’t have enough access to affordable homes, to shelter beds and to safe spaces for people to actually grow.
“Secondly, we also need the bike grid. … We need to fix the Sheridan Red Line stop. It is a deathtrap for a lot of our neighbors. This is an issue that is been in our ward for so long and I really want to tackle it.”
What are the most pressing safety issues and what strategies would you implement to build a safer Uptown?
Marianne Lalonde: “The police aren’t doing a good enough job solving crimes. We need to have a higher detective capacity to increase this case clearance rate.
“We need to invest in violence-prevention programs. We’re very reactionary with what we do now. I’d like to invest in Communities Partnering For Peace, that’s the street intervention program, as well as the Peace Book ordinance which is an intervention program driven by young people, and [the proposed ordinance] Treatment, not Trauma.”
Michael Cortez: “The problem is there’s just not enough police. We need to bring in more police. And they have to be police that are trained, respectful to the citizens with no force.
“I also think we need some more cameras. … And not only that but have cameras in the alley.”
Roushaunda Williams: “I think everything is partly solvable by good jobs, right? The have-nots are going to seek ways to feed their families. We can help them out with that. We can make sure that our ward is spotlighting great programs where they can get good jobs.
“I would love to actually bring back the campaigns, the little signs that say ‘we call the police.’ I don’t know if any of you remember that, but I think that that was very helpful in a lot of communities and I would like to see that.”
Angela Clay: “We need to make sure that we are having meaningful relationships with the people who are we are paying to protect and serve us. That means getting out of your car. That means talking to young people.
“We need to make sure that we are properly setting our police officers up for success because right now they are responding to mental health crises that they are not equipped to handle. We have an ordinance called Treatment, not Trauma, that will send a mental health personnel to the scene of a mental health crises instead of a police officer. … We also need to make sure that we are engaging with our young people.
Kim Walz: “Public safety involves two things, one feeling safe in your community and to feeling safe in your interactions with police officers. Not only do we have to fill the 1,500 vacant position to the police department, we need more detectives and evidence technicians to actually solve crimes.
“We also have to talk though about feeling safe with the police. … The resources and options available to the police are limited and they’re not trained to deal with these [mental health] situations. That’s why I would be so excited as alderwoman to help expand the pilot program that brings mental health professionals to these calls. We have to improve the training that’s being mandated through the consent decree and actually follow the consent decree.”
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