Heneghan, Napolitano butted heads over 2016 zoning proposal
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee meeting on June 1, 2016, marked the unofficial start of this year’s aldermanic race between Tim Heneghan and Alderman Anthony Napolitano.
That’s when the two clashed over a zoning proposal for Downtown Edison Park.
Usually no more than 20 people are in the audience for advisory committee meetings, but that particular meeting attracted about 400 people, many of whom had received an e-mail from Heneghan.
Initial plans had called for 44 apartments, but the proposal, which eventually never materialized, was later reduced to 30 condominiums.
In the e-mail, Heneghan wrote that the zoning change being sought for the developer of 6655 N. Oliphant Ave. would have allowed a maximum of 127 residential units on the site and that he was concerned about the 10 percent of affordable housing units that, by ordinance, must be included in the development.
The e-mail included a link to the city’s affordable requirements ordinance, and Heneghan said that the link was intended to help residents educate themselves about affordable housing.
"We all see what is happening in our neighboring wards. It is important that we maintain the character of the 41st Ward," Heneghan wrote in the e-mail.
At the meeting Napolitano called Heneghan "a liar," and the alderman recently issued the following statement: "The proposal in Edison Park was for a Type 1 zoning change to develop 30 condos. The plans would have been tied to the zoning change. It would have been against the law to build anything else.
"He sent an e-mail stating the developer could build up to 127 apartments and that he was concerned about the required 10 percent of affordable units. He did this in hopes to scare his own community and help his political aspirations. This is dirty politics at its best," Napolitano said.
Heneghan responded that Napolitano’s accusations "couldn’t be any further from the truth." He said that the community had traffic and other concerns about the development, which would have been located next to a railroad crossing, and that his goal was to make sure that residents were aware of the proposal.
Despite some of their differences, Napolitano and Heneghan have similar backgrounds.
Currently both candidates are serving their first term in a publicly elected office, as Heneghan is the ward’s Democratic committeeman. Each candidate also has worked as a firefighter, is married with three children, lives in Edison Park and has coached youth or high school sports.
Napolitano said that he has seven union endorsements, including Teamsters Local 700, Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. Heneghan said that has been endorsed by Chicago Teachers Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, Plumbers Local 130, Operating Engineers Local 399 and Chicago Regional Council Carpenters.
Heneghan, age 56, who is a community representative on the Ebinger School Local School Council, recently retired from the Elmwood Park Fire Department after 27 years of service.
Heneghan said that his focus as committeeman has been to help organize or sponsor community events. He said that they include a pancake breakfasts to raise funds for bullet-proof vests for police officers, a paper-shredding event and smoke detector giveaways.
Heneghan said that residents often express concerns about the general lack of city services in their community, high property taxes and jet noise. "I’ve gone out of my way to visit every part of the ward," he said.
Heneghan said that he considers himself a public servant and not a politician and that he would not collect a city pension if elected or accept donations from developers seeking zoning changes.
"I’m in it for the right reasons," Heneghan said. He added that while on the campaign trail, voters express an overall lack of faith and trust in their elected officials.
Napolitano, age 42, who served as a police officer for 5 years before becoming a firefighter, said that he operates on the premise that his personal opinion on an issue does not matter and that his job is to represent the overall view of his constituents.
"Do what your neighbors want," he said.
Napolitano said that he has worked with other Northwest Side aldermen for more officers to the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District because residents want a stronger police presence on the streets. He said that the district had about 182 police officers when he was first elected in 2015 and that the total has been as high as 246 in recent months but that it can be a struggle to maintain the recent gains in officers.
"We get ahead of it but the hardest part of it is just the rate of attrition," Napolitano said.
Hiring officers has been made difficult in recent years, as the city has experienced a large drop in the number of applicants, Napolitano said. Current and prospective officers are worried that "the department is not going to back you up" even in cases when proper procedures are followed, he said.
Napolitano said that another top priority has been roadway projects in the past 4 years, acknowledging that construction-related detours can be difficult on a community. "(Residents) want city services and see the Northwest Side getting some infrastructure improvements," he said. "’Getting It Done in 41′ is our slogan.’"
The Edgebrook Community Association will hold a forum for 39th and 41st Ward aldermanic candidates from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, in the school hall at Saint Mary of the Woods, 7033 N. Moselle Ave.