CHATHAM — Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) easily won her fifth term on City Council.
With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, the incumbent garnered about 71 percent of the vote to Linda Hudson’s 17.8 percent and Sean Flynn’s 10.8 percent. Harris has been on City Council for 16 years.
The 8th Ward includes parts of South Shore, Grand Crossing, Chatham, Burnside, Pill Hill, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, Cottage Grove Heights and Pullman.
Three South Side hopefuls initially challenged the four-term alderperson. Geno Young, a South Side musician, was booted from the ballot in December after election officials found he didn’t have enough valid signatures. Flynn, who formerly served as Ald. David Moore’s chief of staff, left the post to battle Harris for her seat. Hudson ran against Harris in the 2019 election.
After 16 years of leadership, it was time for the 8th Ward to have a “fresh pair of eyes” to fix looming problems, Flynn said. Under Harris’ leadership, the 8th Ward witnessed constant crime, declining traffic safety and a lack of economic development, Flynn said.
In the 2019 race, Hudson told WTTW the 8th Ward needed an alderperson who served “the entire ward, not just favored areas of it.” Hudson, then the interim president of the Avalon Park Advisory Council, also accused Harris of not doing enough to address sky-high levels of lead in its public park drinking fountains.
Harris was appointed to City Council in 2006, filling Todd Stroger’s seat after he left to become president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. She was elected in 2007 and easily won reelection in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
In February 2021, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Harris as a council floor leader. She is the chairperson of the Rules Committee and led the creation of the controversial ward map that will go into effect in May.
Over the years, Harris has championed major feats, such as building South Shore International College Prep, remodeling Rosenblum Park, rebuilding Jesse Owens Park and adding a $53.6 million indoor track and field facility to Gately Park.
Developments still in the works for Harris’ ward include a 40,000-square-foot art incubator founded by artist Theaster Gates and the city’s only Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express restaurant. She also wants to see the expansion of Art in Motion charter school for high school students come to fruition, she said.
To tackle drag racing, carjackings and car accidents in the ward, Harris installed more cameras and plate readers along Stony Island Avenue amid pushback from neighbors last year. She will work with local leaders to add more to her ward, she said in September.
Harris previously said she hopes to build a cafe for doctors and staff at Jackson Park Hospital in South Shore and create a hotel near Gately Park for students competing in NCAA Track and Field competitions.
In February, Harris joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot to break ground on the $100 million Regal Mile Film Studios In South Shore.
“I’m still enjoying it,” Harris said. “I think you should leave when you stop having love for the job. This job can be very demanding on people, but I’m still loving helping to transform my community. I will do whatever I can to get someone to come here, invest in and transform my community. I’m going to use all the resources I have at my fingertips to do that.”
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