Candidates meet constituents in new 45th Ward
by BRIAN NADIG
All of Edgebrook and Wildwood north of Devon Avenue is part of the re-mapped 45th Ward, and residents had the opportunity to meet five of the six candidates who are running for the ward’s aldermanic seat.
A crowd on Dec. 19 packed City’s Edge, 5310 W. Devon Ave., to hear the candidates. Sponsors included 41st Ward Democratic committeeperson Joe Cook, the Edgebrook-Sauganash Chamber of Commerce, Everyday Edgebrook, the Edgebrook Community Association and North Edgebrook Civic Association.
Susanna Ernst: “I would be transparent … have an open door. You can talk face to face (with me) … or any mode you feel comfortable with,” Ernst said.
When knocking on doors she said some residents raised concerns about the recent anti-Semitic vandalism at Edgebrook School. “We want to let people know we won’t stand for that in our community,” she said.
Ernst said that she plans to work with the new police district councils to help address public safety issues. “People are concerned about crime in general,” Ernst said. “We’re going to solve this by all working together.”
Ernst is the former president of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association and a former board member of the Jefferson Park Forward and now serves as president of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society. “I helped to bring ‘Open House Chicago’ to the Northwest Side,” she said, adding that the annual event has showcased the community’s “architectural gems.”
Alderman James Gardiner: “Anybody who runs for office, my hat’s off to you,” Gardiner said of his challengers. “It’s a very difficult job. I commend you for stepping up.”
Gardiner, a firefighter, said that the politics were new to him when he ran for alderman in 2019, defeating two-term incumbent John Arena, and that he looks forward to “continued success” if he is re-elected.
Gardiner added that about $475 million worth of investment, including several large redevelopment projects at Six Corners, is coming to the ward. “If you haven’t been to Six Corners recently, please drive by,” he said, adding that updated plans for the redevelopment of the former Peoples Gas site at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave. are in the works.
“I’m not afraid to fight for something when I think it’s right,” Gardiner said. “It’s not a secret I’m not a fan of the current mayor … voting against three of four budgets … I didn’t come here to make friends.” He added that he has opposed property tax hikes.
Gardiner said that he grew up in the Gladstone/Rosedale Park community and that his father was a longtime union iron worker.
“I’ve done it with grit,” Gardiner said of his first term.
Megan Mathias: She said that growing up in a union household taught her the value of hard work and that she became the first of her family to go to college and law school, paying her own way.
Mathias later established a law practice in the 45th Ward. “I’ve had people work for me for 15 years. (This) reflects how I’d run (a ward) office,” Mathias said.
Mathias said that she will host ward nights for constituents to meet with her and that she plans to appoint liaisons in several key areas, such as schools and public safety, so that she has quick access to information and resources on those issues in addition to community feedback.
Mathias, who chairs the Belding School Local School Council, said that she has gained a lot of information knocking on thousands of doors and talking to residents, sometimes being invited for “meet and greet” with neighbors in their homes.
“That’s hard work on the ground,” Mathias said. “I hope we get out and knock on (another) 10,000 doors” by the end of the election.
James Suh: He said that in 2019 he organized a community protest in support of the proposed 10-story, $130 million Clarendale senior living project at 4747 W. Irving Park Road because he felt politics were holding up the development, which is now under construction. He owns the nearby Car Care Auto Spa, 3618 N. Cicero Ave.
“I just want to see progress,” Suh said. “I get involved and want to be part of the solution. … I joined (a local school council) to effect change.”
Suh is a plaintiff in two lawsuits against Gardiner. The lawsuits claim that the alderman tried to retaliate against him by having his old arrest record released and that Suh’s access to the aldermanic Facebook page was unfairly restricted.
Suh said that he fully understands residents’ concerns about crime because he recently had a gun pointed at him during an attempted robbery at his business. “I don’t support 16th District officers being sent out elsewhere,” he said.
“I’m a real big proponent of community engagement,” Suh said. “People want to get rid of all the divisiveness.”
Marija Tomic: She said that she grew up in the Jefferson Park area and attended Saint Cornelius School, later graduating from DePaul University and now working as a finance and accounting manager at the University of Chicago.
“My parents are immigrants,” Tomic said. “I’ve seen their sacrifices.”
Tomic said that she decided to run for alderperson because she feels her community was losing its safe, “small town atmosphere.”
“I love it here, (but) I was one of those people on the sidelines complaining,” Tomic said. “There are several reasons I decided to run. … It’s time for new leadership.”
“We need to fully fund the police and fill those vacancies,” Tomic said. “There is no denying crime has increased.”
Tomic said that she plans to hold “open ward nights” in different parts of the ward.
Also running is Ana Santoyo, a librarian who has said as alderperson she would seek socialist solutions.
Several organizations in the ward are planning to hold an aldermanic forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.