Grassroots Illinois Action endorses 23 aldermanic candidates, including six on the Southwest Side

Grassroots Illinois Action executive director Amisha Patel (at podium) introduces aldermanic candidates endorsed by the group, including Rafael Yañez (second from right) of the 15th ward. Photo courtesy of Grassroots Illinois Action.

Grassroots Illinois Action executive director Amisha Patel (at podium) introduces aldermanic candidates endorsed by the group, including Rafael Yañez (second from right) of the 15th ward. Photo courtesy of Grassroots Illinois Action.

Grassroots Illinois Action, a political action group backed by community and labor activists, endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor and 23 aldermanic candidates, including six on the Southwest Side.

“This is an incredibly important election,” said GIA executive director Amisha Patel. “After years of having resources stripped away from our neighborhoods, we have a chance to put a real progressive champion on the 5th floor at City Hall, and elect a City Council that truly listens to neighborhood residents.”

GIA endorsements included Maureen Sullivan in the 11th ward, Pete DeMay in the 12th, Rafael Yañez in the 15th, Ald. Toni Foulkes in the 16th, Ald. Rick Muñoz in the 22nd, and Byron Sigcho in the 25th.

At a press conference announcing the endorsements on January 27, Brighton Park activist and GIA member Anita Caballero described the impact of the current administration’s policies on her neighborhood.

“Every day I see vacant houses, schools deprived of the resources they need, and neighbors struggling just to get by,” she said.  “I see the city putting up red light cameras, increasing fees, and upping our utilities.  Meanwhile they take millions of dollars of our tax money, money that should be going to schools, and put it downtown. Is that what Rahm calls tough decisions?”

DeMay, who’s gone to court to challenge an election board ruling tossing him off the ballot and is planning a write-in candidacy if that effort fails, said, “I’m sick of seeing our public schools privatized and upset that the gulf between the very rich and regular folks keeps growing….It’s time for the rich to stop leaching off our tax dollars and pay their fair share.”

Yañez noted the ways citywide issues impact the 15th ward. “A mental health clinic was closed in Back of the Yards, we have 24 bars and liquor stores in a one-mile radius, six schools were closed in Greater Englewood, and $5 million was cut from the budget for Kelly High School,” he said.  “How can we build safe neighborhoods when the mayor shuts down our mental health clinic? I’m ready to fight for the resources our community needs.”

Muñoz stressed his accomplishments.  “During my administration in the 22nd ward, we have built five new grammar schools, one new high school, two new libraries, a new police station and a new fire station.  We have built public schools — we don’t want charter schools, we don’t want any schools that are going to divert funds from our public schools.”

Sigcho called for an elected school board and for renegotiating financial “swap” deals that he said have cost Chicago Public Schools $70 million, but which the Emanuel administration has defended. He called for a financial transaction tax “so LaSalle Street also pays its share.”

Unable to attend the press conference, Garcia issued a statement lauding GIA’s “incredible work to unite working families to build independent political power for our communities” and  calling for TIF reform.  “While our neighborhoods get vacant buildings, closed schools and neglect, downtown continues to flourish,” he said. “This is how Chicago works under Emanuel.”

In a statement, Sullivan said, “I am proud to stand with GIA and against the business-as-usual, pay-to-play politics that are taking things away from working families only to give them to already wealthy players whose lobbyists work City Hall and Springfield.”

GIA sponsors the takebackchicago.org website which tracks aldermanic voting records.