At least 13 Chicago wards are set for new City Council leadership come next year due to an exodus of alderpeople. And while a few of those existing City Council members are leaving their seats to run for higher office, many are saying they’re opting out simply because it’s time to move on.
After announcing she would not run for re-election, Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) explained her reasons for leaving to “Chicago Tonight.”
“I’ve spent my entire life giving back to people in the 10th ward, 32 years to be exact, as a counselor and educator and as an alderwoman,” Garza said. “It’s time for me to give back to my family and my friends and myself, quite frankly.”
When the City Council’s newest member, Timmy Knudsen, was appointed this week to take over the vacant 43rd Ward seat, she had this advice for him: “Welcome aboard, buckle your seatbelt and kiss your family goodbye.”
To Chicago Tribune political reporter Greg Pratt, Sadlowski Garza’s reasoning makes sense – and it isn’t limited to alderpeople.
“The past couple of years have been really terrible, right? I mean, with the pandemic and with the civil unrest and with all of the terrible things that happened,” Pratt said. “They’ve been really hard years to be in public office … and that’s led to resignations all across the country in all sorts of professions.”
A large turnover on City Council could signal a shift to the left for the city, said Block Club’s Jamie Nesbitt Golden.
“I do believe that we’re seeing a lot more folks again who are left-of-center come into this race and it’s going to be really interesting to see how that all sort of shakes out come next spring,” Nesbitt Golden said. “I think a lot of folks have seen how [Mayor Lori] Lightfoot handles issues like police violence, like education and they are not really happy with it. They want someone who is receptive to them, who hears them out. Lightfoot has kind of shown that when it comes to police reform, she’s on her own mission.”
Pratt said that while there are rumblings about more conservative candidates running to counter those progressives, he has yet to see anything concrete.
“There’s been a lot of noise by conservative labor unions and businesses against some of the incumbents,” Pratt said. “Those people are not putting their money where their mouth is so far. They’re criticizing, but they’re staying low and so, you’re not seeing that yet, which doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it’s not happening yet.”
Illinois Latino Agenda’s Juan Morado Jr. had previously expressed disappointment that the recent ward remap did not secure 15 majority-Latino wards, so he says his organization sees opportunity presenting itself in these open ward seats.
“It needs to happen at the ballot box. It’s certainly one of the ways in which we’re going to be able to take some seats that should probably be represented by Latinos,” Morado said. “I’m thinking specifically of the 14th Ward, which is overwhelmingly populated by Latinos and has not been represented by a Latino in a very long time. And so I think for our community, that’s one of those tier one target races to see that flip.”
Ald. Ed Burke, under federal indictment on racketeering, bribery and extortion charges, currently represents the 14th Ward.
CHANGE Illinois was also displeased with the remap – but advocacy director Chaundra Van Dyk sees reason for optimism in the open seats.
“This is an opportunity to ensure business as usual doesn’t continue in City Council. It’s an opportunity to ensure residents have a voice in who their elected representatives are,” Van Dyk said. “We’ve said again and again, we’re living in a revolutionary time … Now it’s revolutionary because people are truly engaging differently. And although we have work to do to increase public engagement, this mass departure could help restore a lot of the trust in communities. Residents have grown tired and restless with having the same representatives year after year with no change to the conditions of their communities.”