HUMBOLDT PARK — With a blizzard in full swing and the Feb. 24 election around the corner, sitting politicians and those hoping to upset incumbents are tackling snow-clogged side streets to augment the city's efforts.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who often touts paying for extra services using money that he raises from supporters, has hired Joe Muntaner, a Logan Square resident, and Kevin O'Donnell, owner of Pint, a bar at 1547 N. Milwaukee Ave., to plow snow.
Moreno said the two, with the help of 12 other paid workers, are helping to plow sidewalks, side streets and some alleys.
Alisa Hauser says Moreno also used campaign money for snow removal after the 2011 blizzard:
O'Donnell's company, The Plowman, is using two Bobcats to relocate large piles of snow on Tuesday.
"It's usually a part-time gig, but when a storm like this one rolls in, it instantly becomes a full-time job," O'Donnell said.
On Monday, the men, including Moreno, helped to dig out a spot for a woman who was scheduled to have a baby soon, a walkway for an elderly resident and a family with a disabled teen.
"I feel we need to do all we can to supplement city services," Moreno said.
Recognized as a "life contributor" in a 1st Ward awards ceremony at Chop Shop, Muntaner regularly cleans the ward and gets paid $400 weekly as a contractor, Moreno said.
Moreno's campaign paid $3,400 to Muntaner in the the third quarter, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, according to state documents. The payments to Muntaner were mostly for ward cleaning services, with one payment — $400— for political work.
Moreno said on Monday he will be doubling Muntaner's average weekly pay as the storm continues.
Between Muntaner, O'Donnell and the hired shovelers, Moreno told DNAinfo Chicago that he expects to be paying between $15,000 and $20,000 on snow removal, using money from his campaign fund.
That snow removal money — raised from local business owners, real estate developers, and many others — would be close to one-fourth of the money in Moreno's campaign coffers, which recorded $88,801.96 at the close of the last quarter, Dec. 31, according to state documents.
Joe Kopera, a Logan Square resident and former Moreno supporter, said hiring extra plowers and shovelers, which Moreno did during the 2011 election, is "a ploy."
"It makes them look like they are doing something for the ward. It's not your own personal pockets, it's money people have given you," Kopera said.
Kopera added that he told 1st Ward aldermanic challenger Anne Shaw, a challenger to Moreno he is supporting, that she "better get out there and push some snow because Joe is going to post pictures in a day or two."
Kopera clashed with Moreno in a April 2012 incident after he disagreed with the way in which Moreno sought to take action against the Congress Theater, calling a show of police after a fight a "massive overreaction."
Alex Sibincic, a resident of the 1800 block of North Talman Avenue in Humboldt Park, said that the street was much more passable after O'Donnell's plow cleared the snow around 6 p.m. Monday.
"I appreciate his gesture. It's not like I'd prefer [Moreno] didn't do that," Sibincic said.
Moreno said they were clearing snow on North Talman Avenue because of Cynthia Garcia, whose son is disabled. Garcia said she needed the street cleared so she could take her 27-year-old son, who has cerebal palsy, to the hospital for blood tests.
"I called the ward office yesterday morning, they came in the evening, the alderman himself did almost the whole block," Garcia said Tuesday.
Two of Moreno's challengers are helping constituents to clear snow, too.
"We have suspended most of our campaigning today and have been out shoveling the sidewalks - please be neighborly and help your neighbors too if you can by clearing sidewalks, stoops and steps, especially for seniors and those not able to shovel," wrote Anne Shaw on Facebook.
"Just spent the afternoon helping drivers stuck in the snow in the neighborhood. Unless you have an emergency, I highly recommend staying in doors. Stay warm!" Andrew Hamilton posted on Facebook.
Looking for a snow plow in your area? The city plows can be tracked online. Type in your address to see where the plows are located.
Residents in the 1st Ward who want to put in a request for their side street can fill out an online snow removal form.
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