Napolitano and Struebing make final pitches in 41st Ward aldermanic race ahead of election
by BRIAN NADIG
Two-term incumbent Anthony Napolitano and Edison Park Community Council vice president and lawyer Paul Struebing recently discussed their campaigns and issues facing the ward ahead of the Feb. 28 election.
“We ran in 2015 to eliminate the rubber stamp,” Napolitano said. He added that his predecessor, Mary O’Connor, was an ally of former-mayor Rahm Emanuel and avoided challenging the mayor on key issues.
Napolitano said that he brought independent decision-making back to the ward. “No one has done it more than I,” Napolitano said. “We gave the voice back to the 41st Ward.” He won the last election with 71 percent of the vote against Timothy Heneghan.
Napolitano said that he voted against “the two largest property tax increases in the history of Chicago, one of which included future tax increases tied to inflation for at least the next 30 years.”
Struebing said that Napolitano has missed 70 committee meetings in the City Council since being re-elected in 2019, citing a WBEZ report. “We need someone who will show up (and) do the committee work,” Struebing said, adding that resources for wards get allocated on the committee level. “We’ve lost out. We felt the pain.”
Napolitano countered that the 70-figure is overblown and that there have been mistakes in council records due to the confusion of implementing virtual meetings due to the pandemic. “It was .. new to us,” he said.
“If I missed a (committee meeting), it was because my ward came first,” Napolitano said, adding that attending important local events or addressing local issues sometimes takes priority. He said that final decisions come at full council meetings where he can vote for or against a resolution or ordinance.
Struebing said that one of his focuses as alderman would be a “comprehensive public safety” plan for the ward. It would include calling for more police officers and detectives and better technology but also better road designs, which prioritize safety over speed.
“You are more likely to die in a car crash in the 41st Ward than in a violent crime,” Struebing said. “We need to make sure our kids can bike to school and make it back in one piece.”
As a member of the Edison Park council, Struebing said that he helped to gather 800 signatures on a petition calling for roadway improvements to help calm traffic on Northwest Highway, where he said speeding is a problem.
Other priorities would include a focus on improving the ward’s commercial corridors, parks and schools and addressing “quality of life issues,” including flooding and loss of the tree canopy.
Napolitano said that public safety is the top issue on voters’ minds. “Crime is out of control in the whole city,” he said.
Napolitano said that the current mayoral administration has ignored the pleas of the eight aldermen whose wards are located in the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District, which he said is the most understaffed in the city given that it is the largest district in size.
Napolitano said that he has endorsed Paul Vallas for mayor because he understands police are “not the enemy” and will do the best job of restoring law and order and beefing up police resources.
Napolitano said that more than a dozen new Police Observation Device surveillance cameras, with license plate reader technology are in the works for the ward and that these cameras will be monitored in the district’s new Strategic Decision Support Center.
“It’s going to give us more of a leg up (on the criminals),” Napolitano said of the cameras. Napolitano said that he will continue to fight against high-density development in a third term and continue to focus on infrastructure improvements for the ward, including the resurfacing of side streets.
“”I love my job,” said Napolitano, a former police officer who is on leave from his firefighter job while he is alderman.