EDISON PARK — The owner of two Ace Hardware stores in Chicago joined the increasingly crowded race to represent the 41st Ward on the Chicago City Council.
Joe Lomanto, a 20-year Edison Park resident, and Anthony Napolitano, a firefighter, are challenging Ald. Mary O'Connor's bid for a second term representing an area that Lomanto said continues to be a forgotten part of the city.
Lomanto, 51, said Tuesday he would use his experience as a small-business owner to deliver city services more efficiently and effectively to residents of Edison Park, Norwood Park, O'Hare and parts of Edgebrook.
"The ward is underserved," said Lomanto, whose hardware stores are in Wrigleyville and Mayfair. "I see what goes on in other wards. At a minimum, we should get the same service."
O'Connor said she plans to run for re-election based on her "record of results."
“I’ve diligently worked with this community on accomplishing big things and resolving longstanding problems," O'Connor said. "From schools, parks and our local infrastructure, we have made great strides by working together."
Napolitano declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, saying he was on duty as a firefighter.
During the past three years, O'Connor voted to support many of the mayor's initiatives, and praised him for working with her to expand overcrowded schools in Edison Park and Norwood Park and replace many of the ward's playgrounds.
If elected, Lomanto said he would join the council's progressive reform caucus, which typically opposes the mayor's proposals.
O'Connor's close relationship with the mayor has not benefited the ward at all, Lomanto said.
"I wouldn't want to be an adversary to the mayor," Lomanto said. "But the progressive caucus does a lot that I support."
Lomanto, whose wife teaches at Stock Elementary School and whose stepchildren attend Ebinger Elementary School, said he would work to attract new businesses to fill empty storefronts throughout the ward.
"I've learned a lot about what good city services are," Lomanto said.
As of Sept. 30, O'Connor had approximately $59,000 on hand in her campaign committee after raising about $57,500 since August, according to state records.
Napolitano has about $6,000 on hand as of Sept. 30, after raising approximately $9,000, according to state records.
While Lomanto, an Avondale native, has yet to file campaign finance statements with state officials, a fundraiser on Nov. 13 raised approximately $20,000, he said.
Lomanto, who said he has been reading the city budget, did not rule out raising property taxes to cover the $550 million pension payment that the state Legislature has ordered the city to make to the city police and fire pension systems by 2016.
The budget is scheduled to be approved Wednesday by the City Council.
But Lomanto said he would work to ensure residents take advantage of all of exemptions homeowners and senior citizens are entitled to by making the 41st Ward aldermanic office more responsive.
"It is a bad situation, that's for sure," Lomanto said. "People are struggling to pay their property taxes."
Like Napolitano, Lomanto said the Jefferson Park Police District was understaffed and needed more police officers to protect the Far Northwest Side.
"All of the [police] beats should be manned," Lomanto said. "We deserve to be protected."
Lomanto said he would also spend the 41st Ward's $1.3 million discretionary fund through a participatory budgeting process similar to the one used by Ald. John Arena (45th).
Candidates can submit their petitions to the board of elections to get on the ballot through the end of business on Monday. The election is Feb. 24, and if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will square off in a runoff on April 7.
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