Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston has been parked in the same political spot for a while now. Unfortunately, the meter has expired, but her car is still there. It's time to call the tow truck. Other people would like to park there.
As of this past Monday's filing deadline, 9 candidates have received the call from dispatch, and are currently on the ballot to take Leslie Hairston's parking spot at the job she has held, with very little to show for it, since 1999.
We think this crowded field is a good thing. The factors that have contributed to stasis on the City Council, and indirectly in the 5th Ward, have slackened considerably in 2010. Chicago city politics, like politics on the national level, are currently wide open and tumultuous.
This does not bode well for status-quo politicians who have preferred to coast on complacency. Hairston is an incumbent in a time of anti-incumbent sentiment. Her bread-and-circuses approach to discretionary spending reveals a lack of long-term vision for the ward. Employment opportunities in the ward, which would have benefited from 200 new jobs had she helped shepherd the Doctors Hospital project, remain scarce. The major city players who have supported her in the past are leaving the picture -- both Mayor Daley and 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle.
There are thus good reasons for challengers to take on the 5th Ward Alderman. On the basis of her record, Leslie Hairston is vulnerable in ways that she was not in any of the previous three elections. Even if more than half the field drops out before the end of the year, the current Alderman will still face at least one qualified opponent worthy of the 5th Ward's historic tradition of independent, visionary politics: Anne Marie Miles.
We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Anne Marie several weeks ago, and are very pleased that such a strong candidate has officially entered the ring for the February 2011 aldermanic elections. Before too long, we'll be interviewing Anne Marie Miles on HPP to give readers a better sense of who she is and where she comes from.
For now, though, we'll let her speak in her own words.
From an undated letter to the editor shared with HPP:
I am running for Alderman of the Fifth Ward of Chicago, because I believe that the Fifth Ward no longer represents the independent voice of reason that it once was for so many years. Over the last decade that voice has diminished and is now on the brink of extinction.
Bona fide leadership is sorely lacking, while there are many issues in the ward that are not being addressed; constituent services are at the top of that list, especially when voters cannot receive coherent responses to justifiable concerns. Constituents continue to wait for communication on education programs, crime prevention, broken pavements, potholes, gutters and tree limbs.
I became utterly committed to run for alderman, when I learned that in a summer with the highest youth unemployment rates in years, vital ward funds were being used to pay for parking spaces for people who live in the co-ops and condos along the lakefront. How many summer jobs could have been created for Fifth Ward residents with that money -- over $100,000.00 -- in Ward funds -- spent on free parking spaces, most of which were never used.
The priority of the Fifth Ward must be economic revitalization. Concern for community, children and senior citizens must be at the very top of that agenda. Common sense leadership is required in City Council; leaders who are willing to confront issues urgently affecting the city, and who can provide a productive plan for economic development, encouragement for children to graduate from high school, and facilitate increased community program development.
I bring a strong commitment to the Fifth Ward where I have resided and raised a family, since the 1990's. I bring renewed energy and resources, and will relentlessly call upon business leaders, parents, educators and youth program directors, to ensure the revitalization of the historic Fifth Ward community and its place in this great city of Chicago.
Anne Marie Miles is an advocate, community activist and a loyal, passionate Fifth Ward supporter. She is involved with parent associations and local community groups focused on improving children's lives and reducing teen violence. Miles is the former Secretary and President of the University of Chicago Comer Hospital Service Committee, and has worked for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services providing free legal services to lower income residents. She is currently on the steering committee of Safe Youth Chicago of the Union League Club of Chicago.