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Ward Politics Mon Mar 28 2011

The 15th Ward

The 15th Ward is the name of a website that I found in the Google Ads here at Mechanics. I had hoped to post about this before the February 22nd municipal elections. I wanted to share this with you now because of the runoff there between Ald. Toni Foulkes and Raymond Lopez.

Here is the introduction on the homepage:

It seems that every four years we come to a decision that we strongly believe may end our misery. We vote. We listen to candidates that pride themselves on Union backing yet neglect creating jobs, pride themselves on involving themselves with youth yet help only a small handful, favor opening businesses solely on racial make-up. We certainly buy into it. Where has that pattern taken us? Absolutely no where. We seem to be going backwards in the 15th ward while the rest of the city of Chicago seems to be moving forward. What's happened and when is it going to finally change?

Here's an article from the Chicago News Coop about the race in the 15th Ward. From there, some background:

With unemployment stubbornly high and City Hall grappling with annual budget deficits, economic development has been the leading issue in ward races across Chicago. Candidates have debated the best ways to lure businesses, fill empty storefronts, improve infrastructure, halt an epidemic of foreclosures and create jobs.

Perhaps no other community has as many pressing challenges -- and so little political clout to use in addressing them -- as the 15th Ward.

The ward is shaped like a toppled capital L and includes large chunks of the historically working-class neighborhoods of West Englewood and Chicago Lawn. Its irregular borders and a history of lackluster aldermen, low voter participation and disinvestment have left it without the political power that could have turned things around.

Alderman Toni Foulkes, a former cake decorator elected to a first term with heavy union support, says she has made progress and needs more time. Her seven opponents -- six on the ballot and one mounting a write-in campaign -- say the ward has continued to slide and cannot afford another four years of weak representation.

Over the last decade, the ward lost 6 percent of its population, including nearly half of its white residents, and household income fell in most of the ward's census tracts, according to census estimates. The ward is now about 65 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and 4 percent white, though almost all of the Hispanics and whites live in the western Chicago Lawn part of the ward.

More than 2,500 properties there have gone into foreclosure since 2007, one of the highest totals in the city, according to researchers at the nonprofit Woodstock Institute. Some blocks have several boarded-up homes on each side of the street.

The 15th Ward website -- which has since been edited -- talked about the candidates. However, it seems the author of this website doesn't like any of them. Including the incumbent Foulkes, whom he or she derided for her previous occupation as a cake decorator, and used an image to take a shot at the SEIU. Alas, the site only lists four of the candidates and doesn't list those candidates that the author does like.

In place of the candidate page are links to letters and videos of the candidates in action. For example, here's a video of Ald. Foulkes rambling on about all she has done and will do for the 15th Ward.

In an update earlier this month, candidate Lopez made appearances on not only "Chicago Tonight", but also CLTV's "Politics Tonight." Unfortunately Ald. Foulkes opted not to make an appearance on either show. In fact, on "Politics Tonight" host Paul Lisnek noted that the people associated with Ald. Foulkes declined such offers as coming on another evening, using a surrogate, or even calling in by phone from the neighborhood.

I wonder if that video of her apparent rambling is one reason she doesn't want to be on TV in full view of a citywide audience.

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