Alderman, challenger talk Fifth Ward

Election issues include Obama library and rising housing costs.

By Wendy Lee

In the race for alderman of Chicago’s Fifth Ward, experienced candidate Anne Marie Miles is facing off against current Alderman Leslie Hairston. Miles is the leading contender among five challengers to Hairston for the seat. The Fifth Ward stretches from 47th Street to 79th Street, encompassing Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore, and parts of Grand Crossing.

Hairston has represented Chicago’s Fifth Ward since 1999. Anne Marie Miles, a lawyer specializing in elderly law, ran against Hairston in 2011 as well. Both candidates are Democrats.

In an interview with the Maroon, both Miles and Hairston voiced their support for the University of Chicago’s bid to bring the Obama presidential library to the South Side. “The library belongs on the South Side of Chicago, and the community could have been more involved earlier in the conversation,” Miles said. She said that the Obama presidential library has the potential to change socioeconomic dynamics within Hyde Park. “One of my main goals is to shape discussions about how to preserve Hyde Park’s history and retain its strong neighborhood feel,” she said.

Hairston shared similar views on the importance of the Obama presidential library to the Fifth Ward, advocating for the library’s placement in Jackson Park. Hairston was quick to say, however, that she will not sign onto anything until she formally addresses the issue with her constituents.

At the January 10 forum hosted by the Coalition for Equitable Community Development (CECD), both Miles and Hairston were present along with fellow alderman candidates Robin Boyd-Clark, Tiffany Brooks, and Jocelyn Hare. One of the major concerns raised at the forum was rising housing prices and the departure of small businesses from the Fifth Ward. If reelected, Hairston insisted that she would continue to work with small businesses and local banks. “[We] have been working for several years to link small businesses with larger corporations in order to help them stay and grow in the community as well as to stabilize the community itself,” she said, citing her team’s past success in the South Shore neighborhood.

Her opponent noted similar goals at the CECD forum, stating that if she were to be elected as alderman, one of her main goals would be to keep housing in the ward affordable. Miles also emphasized her desire to increase the accessibility of the Fifth Ward’s main office. Criticizing the office’s current location in the Southeast corner of the ward, Miles said that she would like to “move the ward office to a busy street in the center of the Fifth Ward because it’s hard for people to get [to the office] as it currently stands.” Miles also aims to increase the accessibility of the ward by creating “a business and an affordable housing council as well as other committees depending on the community’s needs.”

Miles also questioned the lack of economic development on Stony Island Avenue under Hairston’s leadership at the January 14 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) forum. In response, Hairston responded, “It’s funny that [Miles] would mention a lack of economic development when I brought the city’s first drive-through Starbucks to Stony Island, as well as the Save-A-Lot, Anna’s Linens, and the K&G Fashion Superstore. Development is constantly happening. Her assertion that has been none is absolutely incorrect.” Other points of disagreement between the two candidates include Miles’ plan to bring the Fifth Ward’s participatory budgeting program back, in which residents of the ward join together to come up with proposals to improve the ward.

The election will take place on February 24.