Aldermanic candidates for the 10th Ward, incumbent Ald. John Pope (10th) and public school counselor Susan Sadlowski Garza, traded jabs Tuesday night during a heated debate in the city's South Chicago neighborhood.
Pope, who was first elected alderman of the South Side ward in 1999, garnered 44 percent of the vote in the February 24 municipal election, followed by Garza at 24 percent. The ward includes the Calumet Heights, East Side, Hegwisch, South Chicago and South Deering neighborhoods.
While moderators attempted to limit the amount of personal attacks the candidates directed at each other, Pope nonetheless said the ward "could move backwards" if he were not elected in the April 7 runoff election. Garza said she would "not be a rubberstamp alderman" adding that, "The people in the 10th Ward deserve better than what we've been getting, that's for sure."
Moderators also struggled to contain the roughly 175 audience members, who often broke out into applause, interrupted, heckled and outright accused the candidates of lying during the debate.
When Pope accused Garza of not being "diligent on paying real estate taxes," Garza's mother yelled out that, "I'm Susan's mother and she's paid all her taxes. This is ridiculous. I'm ashamed of you, John."
Both candidates said job creation is their number one concern for the community.
"We need to create more jobs to lift people out of poverty to allow them to live the American dream, stay in our community and continue to contribute to our Southeast Side community," Pope said.
Garza said her campaign took a survey and discovered that ward residents were also most concerned about job creation.
"As your alderman I will work very hard to create new jobs within the 10th Ward and use TIF money to entice those small and large businesses to come, to ensure that there are jobs here," Garza said. "I also have a priority of giving the people of the 10th Ward a voice, something that we haven't had for a very long time. No one's ever asked us what we want, what we need or what we'd like to see here and it's time that we stand up and we say 'we want our ward back.'"
To combat crime in the ward, Pope called for more police officers and said he supports tough gun laws, pointing to his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police. A handful of uniformed officers attended the debate.
"I understand not just more police are needed, but more creative ways of addressing criminal activity, using technology where possible and getting people involved," Pope said.
Garza called for a neighborhood watch, adding that the ward's crime rate would drop if more jobs came to the area.
When asked about a community benefits agreement (CBA) for the proposed Lakeside Development, Pope came under attack from both audience members and Garza for not supporting the Coalition for a Lakeside CBA.
The proposal calls for a $4 billion, 600-acre redevelopment of the former U.S. Steel Southworks site. Imder the plan some 140,000 jobs would be created, and the area could see an influx of with more than 13,000 housing units, 17,500,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, a new high school, 125 acres of public land and a 1,500-slip boat marina. The project would take up to 40 years to complete.
The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, a partnership of 35 local community organizations, is pushing for a CBA to ensure that area residents are not cut out of jobs or displaced by gentrification should the proposed project come to fruition.
"I do support a CBA, community benefits agreement, for the Lakeside Development and I've shown my commitment in dealing with the community to ensure that they are represented," Pope said. "For years, we've been working to try to revitalize that site, which will in turn revitalize the neighborhood, and the community has and will continue to be heard."
When asked outright if he supports the plan presented by the Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, Pope said he "supports a CBA, which may include all or more of this CBA."
Garza quipped that she is part of the coalition, has attended several meetings on the matter and supports the coalition's CBA.
"We cannot allow our community to be stolen by profit-driven developers and corrupt elected politicians," she said.
Here's more from Tuesday night's debate:
Pope also came under attack for his response to petcoke, an oil refining byproduct being stockpiled along the banks of the Calumet River on the Southeast Side that pollutes air and water. The alderman has co-sponsored a number of regulatory measures.
"During the last several years, we've taken strict, aggressive actions to address the issue of petcoke in our community ... I've fought polluters in the past and will continue to do so," he said, triggering jeers of "lies" and "liar" from audience members.
In the February 24 election, 86 percent of 10th Ward voters said "yes" to a non-binding referendum asking whether petcoke storage and transportation should be banned in the area.
For her part, Garza attributed petcoke regulatory legislation to neighborhood residents who spoke out against the powdery substance.
She also criticized Pope for receiving campaign contributions over the years from two Southeast Side petcoke operators, Beemsterboer Slag Corp. and KCBX Terminals Co.
Records show Beemsterboer Slag Corp. and its owners, which also contributed to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's 2014 campaign, have contributed more than $22,800 to Pope's campaign since 2000.
KCBX Terminals Co., controlled by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, contributed at least $7,400 to Pope between 2000 and 2005, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
"I will never take money from people who are polluting our neighborhood," Garza said.
Garza has received endorsements from the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31, SEIU* HCII, United Steel Workers, Seirra Club, United Working Families and, among others, Grassroots Illinois Action.
Some of Pope's endorsements come from the Chicago Sun-Times, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D, IL-2), the Chicago Federation of Labor, Illinois Nurses Association and Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.
Mayoral candidate Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia won 47 percent of the vote in the 10th Ward in the February 24 election. Incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel received 37 percent of voters' support.
Garza said she would be voting for Garcia, saying, "Chuy's the man."
Pope, whose re-election campaign has received more than $56,590 from Chicago Forward, a pro-Emanuel super PAC, said he would be "voting for the person who would best support this ward and continue to move us forward."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.