Janice Cho

Who’s Running for Fifth Ward Alderman?

Eleven candidates are running to replace retiring alderman Leslie Hairston in Chicago’s Fifth Ward. The Maroon profiles them.

Eleven candidates are running to replace Alderman Leslie Hairston in Chicago’s Fifth Ward in an election to be held on February 28. Hairston is retiring after more than two decades on the Chicago City Council.

The Fifth Ward includes parts of Hyde Park, South Shore, Woodlawn, Kenwood, and Grand Crossing. It houses the University of Chicago campus.

Chicago’s elections are nonpartisan, and candidates must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to win. If no candidate receives an outright majority, the top two candidates on February’s ballot will proceed to a runoff election on April 4.

The candidates running to replace Hairston are Renita Ward, Marlene Fisher, Joshua Gray, Robert Palmer, Tina Hone, Jocelyn Hare, Dee Perkins, Desmon Yancy, Kris Levy, Gabriel Piemonte, and Wallace Goode Jr. A 12th candidate, Adrienne Irmer, was struck from the ballot in January after the Board of Election Commissioners found she did not live in the Fifth Ward. Earlier this month, nearly 4,000 voters were erroneously sent mail-in ballots with Irmer’s name still listed.

Renita Ward

Ward is an attorney, clergy member, and graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School (M.Div. ’18). She is currently an associate general counsel at Northwestern Medicine. Like most other candidates, Ward has identified public safety as the most pressing issue facing Fifth Ward residents.

“Public safety is a primary duty of our government. If we fail in this regard, we have failed to effectively govern,” Ward told the Chicago Tribune. “Violent crime is a public health crisis and must be treated as such.”

She has proposed employing a more data-driven approach to public safety to respond to community concerns that she claims are often ignored at the city level. Ward called for the installation of a city disinvestment control officer tasked with monitoring and directing public and private sector investments into historically underinvested communities. In a Hyde Park Herald interview, Ward identified 71st Street in South Shore as an area in need of more investment.

Marlene Fisher

Fisher is a community organizer currently working at the University of Chicago as an IT security administrator. According to her website, Fisher’s work as a community organizer has centered on cleaning up empty lots to create community green spaces. She serves as the president of the Greenwood University Block and a project lead for Habitat for Humanity.

In an interview with The Maroon, Fisher said her campaign is focused on financial literacy, public safety, and community engagement. She wants to help renters find strategies to afford rent. On public safety, she hopes to work with the University of Chicago Police Department and suggested that private neighborhood security could be used. Fisher also said she would make it easier for residents to raise concerns through an improved ward website.

Joshua Gray

Gray is a political consultant and community organizer. His early career focused on anti–gun violence efforts with Chicago CRED. He worked in education as a teacher and administrator at the Noble Schools, a large network of Chicago charter schools, from 2009 to 2016 before becoming a lobbyist for KIPP Chicago, another network of charter schools. After leaving KIPP in 2018, he served as an aide to Alderman David Moore in the 17th Ward before starting a political consulting firm focused on grassroots organizing. Gray ran an unsuccessful campaign for Cook County commissioner in 2018.

According to his website, Gray’s platform emphasizes public safety, community and economic development, and constituent services. His public safety vision focuses on addressing the root causes of violence through job creation and youth programs. He wants to use existing city programs and partner with commercial developers to bring new businesses into the ward. He also supports hiring new detectives to improve homicide clearance rates.

Robert Palmer

Palmer is a special education teacher who has worked in Chicago Public Schools for 15 years. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022. He pledged that if he were elected, his office would ensure that the ward’s residents were included in decision-making processes. He proposed investing in youth internship and entrepreneurship programs that would help address the root causes of crime.

In an interview with the Hyde Park Herald, Palmer accused current alderman Hairston of being unresponsive to her ward.

“I’m passionate about my community, and I don’t like to see the community mismanaged in the way that it’s being mismanaged and has been mismanaged,” Palmer said. “You can look at some of the data and see that in certain parts of the ward, people are not reached out to, phone calls are not returned.”

Tina Hone

Hone, a graduate of the College (A.B. ’84), is the former chief engagement officer for the City of Chicago. After practicing at a law firm and working with Teach For America as a middle school teacher, Hone moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the federal government as a congressional aide and associate undersecretary at the Department of Commerce. She was elected to the school board of Fairfax, Virginia, in 2008 before moving back to Hyde Park to work for YMCA Chicago and the City.

Hone’s public safety plan calls for both addressing the root causes of violence and improving law enforcement. She hopes to decrease police response times while also investing in affordable housing and job creation. Her website highlights the economic disparities in the Fifth Ward between Hyde Park and South Shore.

“It’s important that we put development dollars into neighborhoods that have been completely disinvested,” Hone told the Hyde Park Herald in an interview. “71st Street should be as vibrant as 53rd Street.”

Jocelyn Hare

Hare is a project director at the Harris School of Public Policy. She unsuccessfully ran for the same seat in 2015. At the Harris School, Hare focuses on urban housing policy. She has spent the past six years working on the South Side Housing Data Project, which maps land usage to improve affordable housing policies.

Hare’s campaign is focused on equity, affordable housing, and public safety. On her website, she claims the Fifth Ward is receiving a “tidal wave of development” that could make the area too expensive for existing residents. To promote equity, Hare calls for city-level financial support to keep existing small businesses open and for the launch of a supplemental income pilot program to keep residents in their homes. Hare also wants to encourage investment in the high number of vacant lots in South Shore.

“There is room for populations to grow, and we know that a density of people brings in more dollars and increased safety,” Hare told the Hyde Park Herald in an interview. “Filling vacant buildings is really important. Having vacant storefronts is really bad for the community. It makes people feel unsafe. It does not bring any revenue. We’ve got to address that.”

Dee Perkins

Perkins is a business manager and professional boxer. After working at a Chicago-based tax firm, she moved to the public sector as a corporate tax auditor for the California Franchise Tax Board. Perkins has touted her business and government experience as a factor that differentiates her in the race.

“Oftentimes, we elect community activists, those with deep pockets and loud mouths, for local positions such as alderperson, when we should be electing socially responsible thought-leaders who have a business background, preferably a financial background,” she wrote in response to a Chicago Tribune questionnaire.

Perkins’s website lists crime and public safety as the primary issue concerning Fifth Ward residents. Her plan calls for the formation of a trained group of ward residents who would respond to public safety issues instead of the police. On housing, she hopes to lower property taxes and increase community ownership of housing. Perkins also wants to adjust zoning laws to align them more closely with community interests and business development plans.

Desmon Yancy

Yancy is a community organizer currently serving as the senior director of organizing for the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. He previously co-founded the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability and the Empowering Communities for Public Safety Coalition, which successfully advocated the creation of the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability, the body overseeing the 22 newly created Police District Councils. Yancy has been endorsed by retiring alderman Hairston.

According to his website, Yancy wants to bring the economic development seen in Hyde Park to other parts of the Fifth Ward. If elected, he hopes to expand access to childcare services and to create a youth council to encourage younger residents of the ward to engage in their communities. On public safety, Yancy believes armed officers should not respond to mental health crises and non-emergencies. He wants the city to partner with nonprofits to improve access to mental health care.

Kris Levy

Levy, a resident of South Shore, is a sales director at Deluxe Wine & Spirits, an Illinois-based alcohol distributor. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1994, Levy took up a variety of posts in Chicago as a salesperson and account director.

Levy’s campaign is focused on economic development, education, and public safety. According to his website, he hopes to increase employment levels by incentivizing businesses to hire workers who reside in the ward. He also wants to increase public education funding and expand trade programs in high schools. On crime, Levy says he would increase the police presence in places like gas stations, grocery stores, and public transit stops, where crimes are often committed, and encourage the use of foot patrols to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.

Gabriel Piemonte

Piemonte is a former editor of the Hyde Park Herald, consultant, and community organizer. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Piemonte lived in Hyde Park for more than a decade before moving to Woodlawn 12 years ago. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Heritage Society of Chicago. He previously ran for the seat in 2019, placing third with nearly a quarter of the vote.

Piemonte is running on a platform focused on economic justice and police reform. His website outlines a “reparative justice” plan that includes requiring a percentage of city contracts to be awarded to the descendants of enslaved Americans and establishing a Freedmen’s Bureau in the ward to lobby for federal reparations legislation. On policing, he supports ending qualified immunity and tying increases in the police budget to measurable progress on public safety.

Wallace Goode

Goode was most recently the executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, a post he left in June 2022 after more than 11 years. Before that, he served as an associate dean of students at the University and as director of the University Community Service Center. Prior to his time at the University, Goode worked in workforce development for the City of Chicago and international corporate education programs.

In an interview with The Maroon, Goode identified affordable housing, public safety, economic development, education, and the environment as the most important issues facing the Fifth Ward. He said that his experience of working at the University and for the City of Chicago and developing relationships with their leaders would help him be an advocate for the ward. He also said he hopes to create a think tank of community leaders, including his current opponents, to assist with policymaking.

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