NORWOOD PARK — Residents fed up with noise from jets using O'Hare Airport's newest runway pressed the three candidates running for 41st Ward alderman Monday about what they would do to turn down the racket.
Ald. Mary O'Connor, who is seeking a second term, Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano and business owner Joe Lomanto took turns answering questions at the forum hosted by the Oriole Park Community Club at Oriole Park Elementary School, 5424 N. Oketo Ave.
O'Connor, who is the vice-chairwoman of the City Council's aviation committee, said she had tried to present a realistic view on what can be done to address the hundreds of flights every day over parts of Norwood Park, Edison Park and Edgebrook, where residents heard very little jet noise until a new east-west runway opened in 2013.
"We should have had a voice 10 years ago," when the O'Hare Modernization Program was approved by city, state and federal officials, O'Connor said.
"You can't just make changes like that," O'Connor said, snapping her fingers.
Lomanto said he would work with Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, an anti-O'Hare noise group that has been fighting the new flight patterns for more than 1½ years.
"We need to use all of the runways," Lomanto said. "I will be out there pushing for a solution."
Napolitano said issues like airport noise made him worry that families who don't have to live in the city will leave, hurting property values.
"We can't give up," Napolitano said.
The candidates were also quizzed on what they would do to relieve overcrowding at schools throughout the Far Northwest Side.
O'Connor said she was proud of her record in office, saying $100 million had been invested in the ward's schools during her tenure, including three new elementary school annexes and a $17 million renovation project at Taft High School.
"When we met four years ago, you gave me a to-do list," O'Connor said. "I've accomplished that list, and I want to continue to fight for this ward."
O'Connor said she was proud that all of the ward's playgrounds will be renovated by the end of 2016 and that the city had spent $30 million in repairing the ward's streets, sewers and bridges.
Lomanto, whose stores are in Mayfair and Wrigleyville, said he would ensure that the 41st Ward receives the same level of city services as other parts of the city.
"This ward is well underserved," Lomanto said.
Lomanto said he would allow residents to spend the ward's $1.3 million discretionary fund through a participatory budgeting process.
"We need to get people involved in these decisions," Lomanto said.
Napolitano, who was a Chicago police officer from 2000 to 2005 before joining the fire department, promised to be a more responsive, transparent alderman with an "open-door policy."
"I'm a normal working grunt," Napolitano said. "I will advocate for the area 30 feet in front of your front door and 30 feet behind your front door."
The three candidates all agreed that more police officers should be assigned to the Jefferson Park Police District.
In races where no candidate earns 50 percent of the votes cast on Feb. 24, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place April 7.
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