Crime, business issues discussed in 38th Ward
by SEAN KEENEHAN
Seven candidates running to replace retiring 38th Ward Alderman Timothy Cullerton discussed issues that included crime, education and attracting new businesses to the ward at a forum held on Jan. 21 at Saint Pascal School, 6143 W. Irving Park Road.
The candidates are Jerry Paszek, Tom Caravette, Heather Sattler, Nicholas Sposato, Michael Duda, Carmen Hernandez and Belinda Cadiz.
In his opening statement Paszek, who has worked for the Cook County Forest Preserve District Police Department for 23 years and who ran for alderman in the 41st Ward in 1995, spoke of his commitment to democracy and said that he wants to give residents "not only a choice, but a voice."
Caravette, who ran for 38th Ward alderman in 2011, spoke of his small-business experience with a background in real estate and said that there is a "lack of ethics" in city politics and that he would be a "full-time alderman" if he is elected.
Sattler, the daughter of Cullerton’s former chief of staff, spoke of her experience in public service and her passion to expand programs for adolescent girls in the ward.
Sposato, an 18-year Chicago firefighter and the alderman of the neighboring 36th Ward, discussed his focus of giving back to the community where he grew up and his commitment to running an "open government" with an independent voice that is "elected to serve the people, not the mayor or other special interests." Sposato recently moved from the 36th Ward to the 38th Ward.
Duda, a Hiawatha Park resident and a retired city worker, said that he entered the race because he wants to help families that are in need in the ward, that there is a "disconnect" between the community and the offices and that he has a "lack of trust" in Chicago politicians.
Hernandez, a retired military veteran, spoke about the importance of quality of life for families in the ward and said that he rejoined the National Guard at the age of 45 after the September 11 terrorist attacks, serving 17 months as an MP in Iraq, for the same reasons that he is running for alderman. "I believe in the country, I believe in my ward, and I believe in the city," Hernandez said.
Cadiz, a City Hall legislative aide, spoke of her relationships with local businesses in the ward and of her "calling" to public service. "I know city government," she said. "If you hire me, you’ll be hiring one of your own."
Asked about how to attract new residents and businesses to the ward, Sattler, Sposato, Hernandez and Cadiz agreed with Paszek’s response that attention to improving infrastructure is the key to growth, while Caravette said that "underutilized" tax increment financing funds should be used and Duda stressed the importance of building a new high school in the Portage Park/Dunning area.
Most of the candidates agreed with the idea of opening a new high school in the ward. Sattler and Paszek said that many schools in the ward are overcrowded, and Caravette said that he is "on the fence" on the issue due to the need to issue bonds to fund the school and his concerns about opening a charter-based school.
Duda agreed with Caravette that a charter school is "not fair" and agreed with Hernandez that a better quality high school is needed in the ward, saying that admission to Taft High School is too difficult and that Steinmetz High School is for underperforming students. "Taft is a good school, Steinmetz is not a good school," Hernandez said.
Cadiz asked if a new school is necessary and if the current schools can be improved. "What is it they’re not offering?" she said. "What are people looking for?"
On the issue of crime, the candidates agreed on the need to increase the number of police officers. "The 16th District occupies the most amount of land of any district around, and we probably get the least amount of officers," Sposato said. The candidates also stressed the importance of the involvement of residents and the CAPS program.
All but Duda agreed that the ward more bike-friendly by adding bike lanes and Divvy bicycle stations. "They’re taking over Milwaukee Avenue, you’ve got to think of the drivers," Duda said. "I don’t think we need any more bike paths."
"I’m not sure that this is a Divvy bike type of community," Sposato said. "If the community wanted Divvy bike stations, I’d be all for it."
The candidates split on their responses when asked if they think there should be an elected school board. Caravette, Sattler and Duda said they oppose the idea, suggesting that an elected board could become politically motivated. "It creates an issue of is it pay to play," Caravette said.
Sposato, Hernandez, Cadiz and Paszek said they support an elected school board and said that an elected board would provide more accountability and less corruption. "Having an elected school board, the process is more democratic," Cadiz said.
The forum was moderated by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune.