The field has dwindled to three candidates for the Fourth Ward, as aldermanic elections slated for February 25 rapidly approach.
Incumbent Toni Preckwinkle stated in a telephone interview that the most contentious issues of this year's campaign will be the future residential development of the ward. She pointed to current housing redevelopment programs in Bronzeville to illustrate her point.
"Some of the redevelopment programs we are doing include 500 units of housing, 120 of which will be public housing and 240 of which will be affordable housing," she said. "The rest will be sold at market rates."
Norman Bolden, a Preckwinkle challenger and marketing executive at WGCI radio, fears that the plan to provide housing for low-income residents will not live up to its billing, resulting in the displacement of a majority of area residents.
"With the closing of the public housing facility at Lake Park 14 years ago, residents were promised that they could come back," he said. "They say that all of these city funds are being put into development, but who are they developing for? If you just take a look at the area around 43rd Street, you'll see the displacement."
Fifth Ward alderman Leslie Hairston lent her support to colleague Preckwinkle, describing her as a strong proponent of affordable housing.
"Toni has been intricately involved with this from the beginning," Hairston said. "She has strived to achieve a balance in mixed housing with high end and low to moderate income housing."
Hairston denounced comments people have made about Preckwinkle and housing developers, calling these remarks misplaced.
"She has fought the hard battles against the city administration and has won on behalf of the people," Hairston said.
One particular attention-grabbing battle involved her opponent Bolden. In the fall of 1999, Bolden applied for a $569,958 grant through Chicago's Empowerment Zone Program to renovate property he owned on 43rd Street to open a restaurant. The program receives federal funds and provides job opportunities to promote community development in low-income neighborhoods.
The following fall, his proposal was defeated, in large part due to the efforts of Preckwinkle.
"I have only supported nonprofit projects in my tenure as alderwoman," Preckwinkle said. "What Norman wanted was $500,000 for himself and for his own properties. He was unsuccessful in that, so I guess he decided to run for alderman."
Bolden defended his proposal, claiming that its conception would have brought half a millions dollars to the impoverished neighborhood.
"Instead of allowing my project to provide jobs and an economic boost to the area, she allowed her political arrogance to come into play," Bolden said. "An alderman is supposed to serve all of the constituency of the ward. One should not have to be connected or have a certain economic status to participate in the process."
Bolden and Preckwinkle, along with Chicago fire chief Ezra McCann will get a chance to air their differences on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. They represent the lone survivors of the initial campaign phase.
Two other challengers, 23-year-old Russel Grady, a recent college graduate, and Arthur Horton, a professor at Lewis University, were forced out in the past two weeks.
According to the City Board of Elections, Horton failed to collect the 250 petition signatures necessary to run, while Grady failed to show up for election hearings following a formal complaint filed against his campaign.
The forum hosted by the neighborhood club will feature a debate and a 30-minute question and answer session. Kaitlyn Devic of the Hyde Park Herald will moderate the debate, and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference President Homer Ashby will moderate the question and answer session.
Ashby said in a phone interview that the forum will offer the candidates the chance to present their records and history to the public. He said the turnout is usually good, estimating that about 30 people attended last year's forum.
"We are focusing on making sure the community has a chance to hear what each candidate has to say and be better informed as they make their votes," Ashby said.