Napolitano elected new alderman of 41st Ward
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano unseated Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) by about 700 votes in the April 7 runoff election, following a heated campaign that focused on controversial issues from airplane noise and participatory budgeting to increasing ward businesses, fixing pensions and increasing police presence.
“It was really clear that the residents of the ward wanted change,” Napolitano said Tuesday night. “Both sides ran a passionate campaign.”
Unofficial returns had Napolitano with 9,251 votes (52 percent) and O’Connor received 8,535 votes (48 percent), with 96 percent of the precincts reporting.
Napolitano said during the election that he felt that he knew that he had enough momentum to defeat the freshman alderman because people wanted change.
In the February municipal election, O’Connor received 7,132 votes (47.7 percent), while Napolitano had 6,353 votes (42.5 percent), and Ace Hardware store owner Joe Lomanto had 1,449 votes (9.8 percent).
Napolitano ran a campaign that focused on advocating on residents’ behalf and having an open door policy with ward nights so he could listen to their concerns, increasing police presence in the ward and fighting property taxes. Napolitano said that he would continue to hold meetings of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board, which was established by former alderman Brian Doherty.
Napolitano said that he was very concerned about the pension crisis that is facing the city and the state and that he would spend much of his time as alderman working on finding a solution. He supports having a casino in the city.
Napolitano was a police officer in the 15th (Austin) District before he became a firefighter, and O’Connor owns O’Connor’s Deli and Market, 7280 W. Devon Ave., and is a former president of the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce.
O’Connor ran on a platform of growth and was an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and she has said that she has worked with him to bring improvements to schools and parks in the ward. She also said that she has worked to relieve school overcrowding and to bring businesses into the ward.
At a debate in January, Napolitano criticized Emanuel for not addressing the needs of the 41st Ward, pushed for an elected school board and supported participatory budgeting. O’Connor opposed participatory budgeting because she felt that a select group of residents would get to say how the alderman’s discretionary funding should be spent.
The two candidates have debated issues such as airplane noise, participatory budgeting, how to run the ward and its services and how to increase business and fix pensions, and they have discussed increasing the minimum wage and medical marijuana dispensaries.
Both candidates said that they oppose having a medical marijuana dispensary in the ward until they could see results of the affect they have on other wards. Napolitano said that a dispensary has the potential to benefit to the community but that he personally would not like to see one in the ward.
The candidates supported increasing the minimum wage in a uniform manner so businesses do not move into the suburbs.
O’Connor attacked Napolitano for taking campaign donations that have ties to anti-union organizations but Napolitano said that he supported all unions. Napolitano said that O’Connor has failed the unions by not working on solutions to the pension problem.
Napolitano said he has been endorsed by several labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union. He said that O’Connor “has voted with the mayor 98 percent” of the time.
“I need people to know that I am not here just looking for a job,” Napolitano said. “I have some conservative views, but I am pro-labor and I genuinely want to help this community.”
O’Connor said that she had worked from day one to improve the ward.
On the increase in jet noise since the opening of a new runway at O’Hare International Airport in October of 2013, both candidates have said that the issue is complicated because the federal government has led the airport expansion effort.
O’Connor had said that a solution was to get noise insulation for residents who are not currently on the noise map and decreasing the 65-decible level threshold that is required for federal noise insulation.
Napolitano said that O’Connor has not done enough to fix the problem and has not advocated to get Emanuel to help with the issue.