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Friday, December 8, 2023

Editorial: Our choices for City Council: Taliaferro, Gutierrez, Villegas, Comer, Mathias, Walz, Dunne

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With the following choices, the Tribune Editorial Board concludes its endorsements for aldermanic seats in Chicago’s April 4 runoff election.

29th Ward

Incumbent Ald. Chris Taliaferro came just a few dozen votes short of avoiding a runoff in this ward, which includes the West Side’s Austin neighborhood. He remains the clear choice. He’s a former Chicago police sergeant with a strong understanding of police safety issues and the need to improve accountability and community trust in the Chicago Police Department. He delivers results for his ward, and makes sure that his office maintains robust lines of communication with residents. His opponent in the runoff is CB Johnson, a longtime West Side activist who has worked to help people struggling with substance abuse. We endorse Taliaferro.

30th Ward

Incumbent Ald. Ariel Reboyras joined the line of council members deciding to step down this year, vacating the seat for this ward, which includes parts of the Old Irving Park, Belmont Cragin and Avondale neighborhoods.

In the Feb. 28 election, we endorsed Jessica Gutierrez, daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a former high school teacher who demands accountability from two of the city’s most troubled bodies, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Police Department. Holding CPD accountable for its actions will restore community trust in the department’s officers, she says.

“In the 30th Ward, we want to know our police officers the same way we know our mail carriers,” she told us. Her opponent in the runoff is Ruth Cruz, an assistant admissions director at Roosevelt University. We again endorse Gutierrez.

36th Ward

Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, at a City Council meeting, Jan. 18, 2023.

Incumbent Ald. Gilbert Villegas received 46% of the vote Feb. 28 and wasn’t able to avoid a runoff. Voters should still keep him on the council. We like his approach to violent crime that balances better police training and technology with more robust investment in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

“I strongly support infrastructure and job training programs that act as force multipliers in our battle against crime,” he tells us. Villegas has been a strong advocate for his ward, which includes the West Town, Montclare and Ukrainian Village communities. His opponent in the runoff is Leonor “Lori” Torres Whitt, a Chicago Public Schools teacher. Villegas is endorsed.

43rd Ward

Brian Comer, 43rd Ward candidate.

This runoff pits incumbent Ald. Timmy Knudsen against consultant Brian Comer. Knudsen has collected several key endorsements, including from state Reps. Margaret Croke and Ann Williams, and this ward’s former alderman, Michele Smith. He’s smart, energized and capable.

But Comer impressed us enough ahead of the Feb. 28 election to win our endorsement. We especially like his idea to tackle the Police Department’s understaffing problems through a pilot effort that gives DePaul University graduates reimbursement for one year’s tuition if they commit to joining CPD for a four-year stretch. Our endorsement in the runoff goes to Comer.

45th Ward

Megan Mathias, a 45th Ward candidate, talks with Liz McChesney and her husband Steve McChesney outside their home while campaigning, March 15, 2023, in Chicago.

Incumbent Ald. Jim Gardiner narrowly fell short of avoiding a runoff, garnering 48% of the vote in the Feb. 28 election. Clearly, voters looked past his use of profane and offensive language to describe a gay colleague, a female city employee and a female political consultant. Apparently they also weren’t swayed by the fact that federal investigators looked into whether Gardiner tried to withhold ward services for some residents who opposed his agenda.

Gardiner’s supporters may have no problem with his behavior, but we do.

His opponent in the runoff, lawyer Megan Mathias, wants to set up a small business incubator that would mentor entrepreneurs in the ward, which includes the Jefferson Park and Edgebrook neighborhoods. Mathias has an uphill climb against Gardiner, but she’s by far the better choice and gets our endorsement.

46th Ward

Kim Walz, a candidate for the 46th Ward seat, during a candidate forum at the Preston Bradley Center in the Uptown neighborhood, Jan. 31, 2023.

Angela Clay and Kim Walz are vying in this runoff to replace Ald. James Cappelman, who chose not to run again. Clay is a staunch progressive backed by the Chicago Teachers Union. She wants to give Chicagoans property tax relief, but she tells us her approach could entail creating new taxes, including a corporate head tax, a “polluters tax,” and “LaSalle Street tax,” also known as a financial transactions tax. Finding new ways to tax businesses only expedites the exit of companies out of the city, and that’s never good for any municipal tax base.

Walz is a regional director for state and local government relations at Walgreens. She proposes easing the property tax burden on small business owners, and streamlining the permitting process for businesses. Her background includes working with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley as a district director, and as a policy analysis director when Quigley was on the Cook County Board. Walz is the better choice, and gets our endorsement.

48th Ward

Joe Dunne, candidate for 48th Ward, during a community forum at Emanuel Congregation synagogue on Jan. 26, 2023.

The Feb. 28 election in this North Side ward along the lakefront was a crowded affair, with 10 candidates vying to replace outgoing Ald. Harry Osterman. Affordable housing developer Joe Dunne and small business owner Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth made it to the runoff.

We like Manaa-Hoppenworth’s commitment to help the homeless in the ward, which includes parts of Edgewater, Uptown and Andersonville. “We have so much abundance and yet we step over people living in the streets,” she told us. “It’s wrong and immoral.”

Dunne, however, is the better choice. He recognizes that ward residents are feeling the pinch of ever-rising property taxes, and suggests expanding eligibility for exemptions for seniors and longtime homeowners. He also would vote to repeal the current ordinance that ties yearly property tax increases to the rise in inflation.

Small businesspeople in the ward have been telling him they would like to see a return of police officers on foot patrols, so he would work with CPD to bring them back. “We need our police officers to know the community, and for the community to know the officers working our streets,” he told us.

Our endorsement goes to Dunne.

Join the discussion on Twitter @chitribopinions and on Facebook.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

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