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43rd Ward Candidates Talk Crime, Schools, No. 11 Bus in Old Town Debate

By Paul Biasco | January 30, 2015 8:48am
 (From left) Jerry Quandt, Caroline Vickrey, Jen Kramer, Michele Smith and write-in candidate Steve McClellan prepare for the Old Town Triangle debate.
(From left) Jerry Quandt, Caroline Vickrey, Jen Kramer, Michele Smith and write-in candidate Steve McClellan prepare for the Old Town Triangle debate.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

OLD TOWN — Transportation, crime and public schools dominated the discussion at the final 43rd Ward aldermanic debate Thursday night.

The debate, which was hosted by the Old Town Triangle Association, was the first that write-in candidate Steve McClellan was invited to after his petitions were challenged and he was knocked off the ballot earlier this month.


Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) highlighted a drop in crime statistics over the course of her first term, and specifically mentioned North Avenue Beach and along Clark Street and the addition of a homeless outreach program.

According to Smith, property crime is down 29 percent since she took office, burglaries are down more than 29 percent, robberies are down 45 percent and violent crime is down 25 percent.

"We have seen results," Smith said of her initiatives.

Crime has been down citywide during that same time period, but specific yearly data by ward is difficult to verify as the city does not publically release ward-by-ward analysis.

Other candidates argued that the alderman's office should be sending out crime alerts and making residents aware of crimes, especially violent crimes, immediately after they occur.

Cited was a shooting that occurred on Smith's block in October, which many in the room said they were unaware of. "That's not transparency, that's not awareness," said Jerry Quandt.

Quandt, who is running on a pro-business platform, said neighbors he has spoken with don't feel safe in the neighborhood and that the crime statistics lack transparency.

"Crimes aren't being communicated by the alderman's office," said Jen Kramer.

Kramer called for a stronger CAPS presence in the ward.

Caroline Vickrey said she would implement a blog-style crime blotter with up-to-the-minute crime statistics.


A discussion on LaSalle Language Academy, the Old Town magnet school, sparked discussion of the Lincoln Elementary annex.

Chicago Public Schools initially proposed changing the boundaries at Lincoln in 2011 to send some students to LaSalle and avoid what eventually ended up as an addition to Lincoln.

Smith shot that idea down, and stood by that decision.

"Not only would it have hurt the kindergartners who were getting ready to go to Lincoln, but it would have denied educational opportunity to the 350 children who attend LaSalle who live outside our boundary," Smith said.

Caroline Vickrey said she requested that Old Town have a forum to discuss the Lincoln overcrowding situation, but Smith rejected that idea.

Vickrey said Smith never discussed the annex with the community before it was announced during a news conference in November 2013.

"We need to have these important discussions in the community before we do something that will irreversibly change our community for the next century," Vickrey said.

No. 11 Bus

The loss of the No. 11 bus, which has been a hot topic on the North Side since the north end of the route was cut in 2012, would bring back business to Lincoln Avenue, argued Jerry Quandt.

Quandt, as well as Caroline Vickrey, were both at the CTA budget hearing in November in support of bringing the bus back and said they would be in support of bringing the portion between Fullerton and Western back.

"With the development that's now going to happen at the former Children's [Hospital] site and hopefully the redevelopment and rebuilding of Lincoln Avenue, I want to have a good artery to bring people north and south," Quandt said.

Smith said she has been collecting data on the ridership and would base the decision to bring it back or not on that data.

Vickrey faulted Smith for not attending that meeting, and said the route should be reinstated regardless of budget issues.

"I realize there is a budget issue. There's always a budget issue, but we are a dense neighborhood that should have the highest level of transportation in the city," Vickrey said.

Jen Kramer also said she would work tirelessly to bring the route back, and said she would use her contacts and connections in city government to do so, especially given CTA's budget constraints.

"This is where the rubber meets the road in your relationships and who you can talk to and who you can work with," Kramer said.

Smith disagreed and said the city works on a more data-driven model.

"The city is really moving away from who you know is how you get stuff done," Smith said. "We are moving toward making decisions that are actually based on data and advocacy."

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