47th Ward Candidates Forum at Coonley Elementary

By Samantha Abernethy with photos by Brad Bretz. | Friday, February 4, 2011

It was a full house at Coonley Elementary Gymnasium. Photo by Brad Bretz.

We here at Center Square Journal have been snowed under with work and our own 32nd Ward Candidates Forum, so we apologize for this belated recap of the 47th Ward Candidates Forum on January 26.

All four aldermanic candidates attended the forum at the Coonley Elementary School Gymnasium sponsored by Northcenter Neighborhood Association, Roscoe Village Neighbors, Lakeview Action Coalition and Organization of the North East.

It was standing room only, as folks piled in to hear from those vying to replace outgoing Ald. Gene Schulter: Ameya Pawar, Matt Reichel, Tom Jacks and Tom O’Donnell.

While there is no incumbent, O’Donnell has assumed the role, and the other three candidates have treated him as such. While Reichel, Pawar and Jacks spoke of shortcomings in the community, O’Donnell defended the work of the current alderman’s office.

“I think Alderman Schulter has done an admirable job and the city is on the right path,” said O’Donnell during opening statements.

Earlier in the day O’Donnell’s campaign announced that Schulter was endorsing him, a significant, but not surprising move considering their relationship.

O’Donnell did not officially begin his campaign until after Schulter announced on January 17 that he would not run for alderman again. He hired a campaign manager January 21.

While other candidates spoke off-the-cuff at the forum, O’Donnell read his responses off a piece of paper, occasionally fumbling with the words as if he were reading it for the first time.

The other candidates treated O’Donnell as the incumbent, too, targeting him on the issues. While discussing politically-motivated hiring practices, Jacks drew smirks from the crowd when he said “anointing your successor” is part of the “old Chicago way.”

O’Donnell embraces that role, though. Before and after the forum, O’Donnell’s staff passed out flyers stamped with a gold seal proclaiming, “Endorsed by Retiring Alderman Gene Schulter.”

Center Square Journal and Inside Publications have scheduled a candidates forum for Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western Ave. The moderator will be Mick Dumke, political reporter from the Chicago News Cooperative.

All four candidates have been invited. Each candidate has also responded to our extensive questionnaire on the issues.

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