BEVERLY — Round 2 of the heavyweight battle for 19th Ward alderman was well underway on Tuesday evening.
The two lifelong Beverly residents squared off in a five-way race on Feb. 22, 2011. Schaible received the second-most ballots or 6,526 votes, 28 percent of the total. O'Shea received 14,426 votes or 61 percent of the total.
Despite the highly-anticipated rematch, voter turnout Tuesday was low at the Beverly Woods Restaurant and Banquet Hall at 11532 S. Western Ave. in Morgan Park, according to election workers.
The election judge checking voters' addresses theorized that cold weather throughout the week may have prompted voters to cast their ballots ahead of the election on Tuesday.
Her words echoed through the largely empty banquet hall. By 11 a.m., only 64 voters had cast their ballots in the 20th precinct of the 19th Ward on the far Southwest Side. The polling place opened at 6 a.m.
This bit of anecdotal evidence is in stark contrast to polling figures which typically show the 19th Ward leading the city in voter turnout. In the November election, the ward that includes Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park boasted a city-best 52.3 percent voter turnout.
The average turnout for the November election was 36.4 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. The worst turnout, at 22.2 percent, was in the 15th Ward on the South Side.
As for the 19th Ward aldermanic candidates, O'Shea has firmly planted himself beside his record. Highlights of his freshman term on the City Council include arranging for the financial bailout of the Beverly Arts Center and the construction of an indoor ice rink and gymnastics center in Morgan Park.
Schaible has been critical of O'Shea. She promises to be more of an advocate for public schools, particularly in Mount Greenwood where overcrowding is an issue.
For his part, O'Shea points to classrooms being added at George F. Cassell Fine Arts School in Mount Greenwood during his tenure. Earlier this month, O'Shea also announced a $3 million addition of modular classrooms at Mount Greenwood School.
Both candidates have also shown interest in creating a junior high feeder program as an extension the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. This is seen as a way to ease elementary school overcrowding in Mount Greenwood.
Check out our full 2015 Aldermanic Election guide for more info on the candidates in this and other ward races.
Schaible has also vowed to improve commercial districts throughout the 19th Ward, including finding tenants for vacant storefronts along 95th Street, Western Avenue and 111th Street. To do so, Schaible wants to change liquor laws in these areas to allow for table service of beer and wine.
At their lone debate, O'Shea said he too is willing to get behind an effort to change the law in these designated "dry" areas. However, he would only do so with a viable tenant in mind, rather than the blanket approach supported by Schaible.
O'Shea and Schaible offered varying statistics on public safety in the 19th Ward. The incumbent's figures showed declines in burglaries, robberies, motor vehicle thefts and aggravated batteries. Schaible disputed these stats with figures of her own.
Regardless, both agreed that improvements in crime reduction must remain a priority. Schaible has promised to work to fully staff the Morgan Park Police District.
O'Shea has said such a goal is unrealistic, as police manpower has been curtailed throughout the city. He vowed to continue to work closely with area police, fight for modest gains in staffing and provide ongoing community seminars from his office on topics such as identity theft, burglary prevention and senior scams.
Schaible has also taken issue with O'Shea's voting record in City Council, as well as the voting records of all of Chicago's 50 aldermen. If elected, she's promised to be a more independent voice, post all of her city council votes online and include a reason for voting the way she did.
In reply, O'Shea noted that his voting record — along with that of all Chicago aldermen — already is available on the city clerk's website. He also defended his voting record in light of allegations of being a rubber stamp for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
O'Shea highlighted several public clashes with Emanuel including is objection to the minimum wage ordinance. In other instances, O'Shea said he supported controversial measures only after getting considerations for local businesses.
He specifically noted an ordinance banning plastic bags throughout the city. O'Shea said he voted for the measure only after finding a way to get local grocers County Fair Foods, Southtown Health Foods and Family Pride Finer Foods exempt from the costly mandate.
This spirited race comes to its conclusion Tuesday evening. The polls will be open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. throughout the city. For more information, visit the web site for the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago.
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