Chicago’s magnificent 7: Election just another day

21 Feb

By  Paige Wagenknecht

On Election Day, not every ward of the 50 in Chicago will be buzzing with aldermanic anticipation. For better or worse, seven city council races will have a single candidate.

They are a colorful group. One has a $6.6 million war chest despite never facing opposition, another loves to find city jobs for his family, and one makes arguably the best cinnamon rolls in Chicago. Read on:

13th Ward – Marty Quinn

Frank Olivo took himself off the ballot for re-election, so residents will get a fresh, new face in City Hall for the first time since the 1990s. Quinn, like Olivio, is a strong-ally to Illinois Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, and previously worked as a top campaign organizer for Madigan.

Quinn originally faced three other challengers for the alderman position, but where knocked off the ballot after successful challenges to their petitions. Feelings from 13th Ward residents on the southwest side are mixed: some wish there were more options to chose from while others are anxious and excited for change.

14th Ward – Edward  M. Burke

Burke, a force to be reckoned with in Chicago politics, has been elected alderman of this southwest side ward since 1968. He is the longest-serving current alderman, and longest continually serving alderman from a single ward in Chicago history.  The Chicago Sun-Times gave him the label “most powerful alderman.”

Burke serves as the all-powerful Chairman of the Committee on Finance in addition to serving on many other, key committees.  He was a leader in the coordinated opposition to Mayor Harold Washington and the alderman who supported the former mayor, from 1983 to 1986, a period referred to as the Council Wars. Over the years, donors have helped him accumulate over $6.6 million in his campaign account.

Burke legislative initiatives include protecting non-smokers from second hand smoke, mandating pet-spaying, regulating fatty restaurant food and absolving Mrs. O’Leary’s cow from starting the Great Fire of 1871. He is a principle in the successful law firm, Klafter and Burke, which specializes in property tax appeals, and received both his undergraduate and law degree from DePaul University. He supports Gery Chico for mayor, and his wife Illinois Supreme Court Justice Ann Burke voted in favor of Rahm Emanuel during his residency dispute.

31st Ward – Regnar “Ray” Suarez

Suarez was elected alderman of the 31st ward in 1991, and serves as the chairman of Housing and Real Estate, and sits on seven other committees: Aviation, Budget and Government Operations, Buildings, Finance, Transportation and the Public Way, and Zoning.

Suarez held various city jobs before becoming alderman. He worked for Streets and Sanitation, in the mayor’s office as an Administrative Assistant working with Development Action Grants, and Assistant Commissioner of Department of Street and Sanitation. Before elected alderman, he was appointed to the Illinois Job Training Coordinating Council in 1989, where he advised the governor on how to spend the budget for job training.

Suarez was the first to bring the big box Menard’s into the city limits, and initiated more than 2,500 jobs for residents and at least 19 new businesses in the 31st ward on the northwest side. He was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, and is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

33rd Ward – Richard F. Mell

Mell was elected alderman of the 33rd Ward, which includes Northwest side neighborhoods, in 1975 and serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He allied with Ed Burke during the 1983 to 1986 Council Wars, and also had a long-time feud with Mayor Daley.

Mell’s daughter, Patricia, is the wife of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and he was the driving force behind Blagojevich’s successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign. In 2005, however, the two had a highly public feud when Blagojevich closed down a landfill owned by Patricia’s distant cousin for environmental problems.

Though Mell helped write the Chicago gun control laws, he failed to re-register his own extensive firearms collection in 2007. Along with Mayor Daley, he proposed a one-month amnesty, where gun registration would be re-opened. Registration was closed in 1982, so previous new registration attempts were rejected, but Mell claimed that thousands of Chicago residents faced this situation and would benefit from re-opened registration. Only 25 people registered guns during this “amnesty” period.

40th Ward – Patrick J O’Connor

O’Connor was elected alderman of the 40th Ward, comprised of North Side neighborhoods, in 1983 at the young age of 28. He was appointed Chairmen of the City Council’s Committee on Education as a freshman alderman, where he stayed for 24 years. Recently, O’Connor was appointed Chair of City Councils Committee on Traffic and Safety, and contributed significant efforts to reform the way Chicago Public Schools were managed.

During his first term, a Federal grand jury investigated O’Connor for providing jobs on the Education Committee staff for 15 persons, including family members and close aids in late 1983 and again in late 1984. His hiring practices, which he defends, became known as “All in the Family.” In 2008, he was discovered as one of seven aldermen, who between them got ten of their children well-paying summer positions with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

He unsuccessfully ran as a candidate in the Democratic primary in the Illinois 5th Congressional district special election in 2009, where he lost to mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. His wife Barbara O’Connor is a thriving real-estate broker, and many of the condos and houses she sold could not have been built without zoning changes developers sought from her husband.

42nd Ward – Brendan Reilly

Reilly’s career in politics started early. Shortly after graduating from Hobart College in 1994, he joined the Illinois House of Representatives staff, where he helped shaped environmental issues with the Illinois EPA and Department of Natural Resources. He then earned the top spot as Communications Director for the Illinois House Democrats at just 26-years-old. He also worked as Press Secretary and Communications Director for Paul Vallas campaign for governor in 2000, and for AT&T in 2002 as the Midwest Vice-President of Public Affairs, where he became the youngest regional vice-president at 30-years-old.

Reilly was elected Alderman of the 42nd Ward on the Near North Side in 2007. He serves on five City Council committees: buildings, committee on rules and ethics, health, traffic control and safety, transportation and public way. The alderman, who opposed Mayor Daley’s plan to locate a new Children’s Museum in Millennium Park, has specific priorities for his ward, including improvement of transportation, delivery of city services, maintain downtown parks, balance urban planning, improve public safety, and address the rise in homelessness.

44th Ward – Tom Tunney

Tunney was appointed alderman of the 44th Ward, which includes neighborhoods like Wrigleyville and Boystown, by Mayor  Daley in 2002 when former Ald. Bernie Hanson announced he would retire just months before the 2003 municipal elections. His nomination was confirmed by a City Council vote of 41-0 with the support of Chicago’s Democratic machine, and on February 25, 2003 was elected to serve a four-year term as alderman.

His public service record includes being the former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Founder and Former President of Lakeview Business Center, and founding board members and former Chairman of White Crane Senior Center. As alderman, he chaired the small business subcommittee of the Chicago Economic Development Committee, and was appointed by Mayor Daley to serve on the Parking Task Force.

Tunney is the first openly gay alderman serving on city council, and established programs to help people with HIV and AIDS at Illinois Masonic Hospital. He was inducted to the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1995, and is an avid fundraiser for local gay and lesbian political advocacy groups. As owner of Ann Sather’s restaurants, at least constituents can count on excellent cinnamon rolls in their ward.

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