January 25, 2011

Newsome fills interim seat for fourth ward alderman

Mayor Richard Daley’s appointment of Shirley Newsome to fill the Fourth Ward alderman seat was unanimously approved by the City Council on January 13.

She will hold the interim position, which was left vacant on December 6 when Toni Preckwinkle assumed her post as President of the Cook County Board, until after the regular February 22 election results are announced. She said that she will not run in the upcoming election.

Newsome, who is Chairman to the North Kenwood-Oakland Community Conservation Council, Vice-Chair of the University of Chicago Charter School, and has served on the Quad Communities Development Corporation, said her familiarity and involvement with the ward would make the transition easy.

“This was not something that was new to me. I’ve been doing this on another level and I’m very much familiar with the issues of the ward and I know very much what [constituents’] major concerns are. Preckwinkle was very good about bringing me about during her aldermanic tenure,” she said.

Newsome hopes to address issues of affordable public housing and potential commercial development, including the Harper Court renovation, as well as dealing with upkeep of public utilities.

“We’re looking at improving commercial development,” she said, citing five potential transformation sites within the ward. The renovation of Harper Court is among developments Newsome will be working on until the new alderman assumes office.

Preckwinkle initially recommended Will Burns (A.B. ’95, A.M. ’98), but after he rejected the interim position, four other candidates applied. Two did not meet the residency requirement and were immediately dismissed from consideration. Daley put Newsome up for the position on the 12th, after which she received confirmation from the City Council.

“We have this joke that I was appointed [to the Chair of the North Kenwood-Oakland Community Conservation Council] long before Preckwinkle was,” said Newsome. In the time leading up to Preckwinkle’s permanent leave, Newsome was caught up on the workings of the Ward, integrating and familiarizing herself with its issues.

Although the Fourth Ward’s aldermanic seat had been left empty by Preckwinkle’s departure, the Ward office continued its day-to-day services for residents. Those working for Preckwinkle and in the business community had anticipated the delay in picking an interim alderman, according to a January 19 article in the Hyde Park Herald “In surprise to few, Newsome named Ald.”