Despite playing out on near-opposite sides of the city, the races for City Council in the 10th and 30th wards share similarities.
Residents in both wards want stronger public safety and more community investment. And each race features some political newcomers with familiar names.
Ana Guajardo and Peter Chico are competing in a runoff in the 10th Ward on the Southeast Side to replace Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, who isn’t seeking reelection after two terms.
Chico, a Chicago police officer and a cousin of former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico, won 40% of the vote during the February election. Guajardo, an Army National Guard veteran and labor organizer, received 27%.
In the 30th Ward on the Northwest Side, Jessica Gutiérrez, the former policy director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, received 38% of the vote in February. Ruth Cruz, an assistant director of admissions at Roosevelt University, got 27%.
‘The community can organize, can make noise’
After 20 years, Ald. Ariel Reboyras is retiring from representing the 30th Ward, which is made up of parts of many neighborhoods, including Belmont Cragin, Irving Park, Portage Park and Avondale.
Jessica Gutiérrez, 34, is making her second bid to represent the ward after narrowly losing to Reboyras four years ago.
“We had a typical rubber stamp alderperson who was just a yes man for the mayor,” Jessica Gutiérrez said. “Our message is the community can organize, can make noise, can hold their elected officials accountable.”
Cruz, 39, agrees the ward is ready for a change in leadership.
“This is an exciting time for Chicago and the 30th Ward,” Cruz said. “The community wants to see something new. They’re tired of the political machine and old dynasties.”
Both candidates identified public safety as one of the main issues for the ward. Cruz said she supports implementing Treatment not Trauma, reopening mental health clinics and conducting block safety assessments.
Both Cruz and Jessica Gutiérrez want more city funding directed to the ward for economic stability and development.
“We have so many different business corridors falling apart, vacant storefronts and struggling small businesses,” Jessica Gutiérrez said. “But there is money available. In Chicago, we don’t have a budget problem, we have an allocation problem.”
If elected, Jessica Gutiérrez would start with conducting an audit of the ward to identify the most glaring issues.
‘Can we just get a breakfast spot here?’
Public safety, youth services and economic development are among the key issues in the 10th Ward, which includes all or parts of the South Chicago, Hegewisch, South Deering and East Side neighborhoods at the border of Indiana.
Peter Chico, 40, and Ana Guajardo, 44, are natives of the ward with connections to the steel mills that once employed thousands of residents but shut down decades ago. Guajardo’s father is a retired steelworker, and Peter Chico’s grandfather served as a steel union president.
Peter Chico worked for United Way and in child welfare services before becoming a police officer.
Guajardo’s work as a labor organizer spans decades. She founded Centro de Trabajadores Unidos to serve the Southeast Side’s immigrant and low-income worker communities.
“We have the ability to be a very strong community just as the North Side is. We have the skills, we have the land, we have people who care,” Guajardo said. “Unfortunately, we deal with other structural issues that keep us down.”
To address public safety, both candidates want more police officers hired in the Chicago Police Department’s South Chicago District, which covers most of the ward and employs Peter Chico as an intelligence officer.
Growing up, Guajardo said she remembers seeing beat cops walk around the ward and build relationships with the community. She wants that work to return and for the city to continue investing in existing anti-violence programs in the 10th Ward.
“We are 50 officers short. When I tell people that, they’re appalled because they’re thinking if we had those 50 officers on the street, we could respond to 911 calls a lot quicker,” Peter Chico said.
Both candidates said they’d like more investment in the ward’s public schools and youth programs.
Gujardo would like to bring in a multipurpose community center that offers a variety of activities for kids and seniors — similar to The Kroc Center at West 119th Street.
“This would connect on so many issues, like public safety. You’re keeping kids safe and off the streets,” she said.
Both candidates said they’d focus on economic development in the ward by bringing in more businesses that hire directly from the community.
Guajardo wants to strengthen protections for existing small businesses and establish a chamber of commerce.
Both worry about consumer dollars going to northwest Indiana. Just across the state line, Peter Chico said, Indiana offers Wal-Mart, IHOP and cheaper gas.
“I’ve been asked so many times, can we just get a breakfast spot here?” Peter Chico said. “A lot of people are realizing our money is going to Indiana, but they just want something for the community.”