ROGERS PARK — After handily beating his lone opponent last week — and now readying for his seventh term in office — Ald. Joe Moore said he sees a bright future for the neighborhood, from new development to reduced crime.
And he wants to lead the neighborhood with Mayor Rahm Emanuel back at the helm. Rogers Park voters were the only ones on the North Side to give challenger Jesus "Chuy” Garcia the most votes at the polls Tuesday. But Emanuel has since taken the lead in the 49th Ward by 13 votes after mail-in ballots were counted.
"I’m going to support the mayor," he said. "I think he’s done a good job, and he’ll be the right person for what are going to be some incredibly difficult times ahead for the city as we grapple with our unfunded pension liability and … deficit."
Ben Woodard says the election was smooth sailing for Moore:
Moore said Emanuel had done a lot for the neighborhood. He used his clout to bring Jewel-Osco to the Howard Street shopping center that Dominick's abandoned, Moore said. And he advocated for the reconstruction of Rogers Park's "L" stations and playgrounds.
The neighborhood had been first on the mayor's list for those improvements, Moore said.
"My close relationship with the mayor has benefited the people of Rogers Park," he said.
Now, hand-in-hand with Emanuel, Moore sees a bright future on the Far North Side.
The outcome of last week's election in the 49th Ward was just what Moore expected when he blew out challenger Don Gordon, grabbing two-thirds of the vote, he said.
"Each [election] has it’s own unique characteristics," Moore said. "Certainly this one was a lot less stressful. I felt very confident going in that I was going to get re-elected."
Moore had been through it before. He was first elected to the City Council in 1991 after David Orr left his 49th Ward seat to become Cook County Clerk.
Since then, the neighborhood's changed, especially on Morse Avenue, he said.
"It was a far different street with a far different feel" 10 years ago, he said. "It’s become our downtown."
Moore mentioned businesses like Rogers Park Social and Bullhead Cantina as indicators of the street's success. He also points to Col. Jennifer Pritzker's investments there, at the Mayne Stage and Act One Pub, and most recently at a rundown strip mall that Pritzker bought and intends to redevelop.
Howard Street, another neighborhood thoroughfare, is also on the upswing, Moore said.
Sol Cafe anchored the beginning of the street's revival in 2012, he said. The vacant, city-owned lot to the east has been transformed into a community garden, managed by the Peterson Garden Project, while the city waits for the right developer to sell the property to.
Now Avondale's Factory Theater Co. plans a move to Howard.
Moore said public safety has also improved under his watch, with violent crime — murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft— dropping 28 percent over the past three years in the Rogers Park Police District, which includes the West Ridge community.
"Over the years, it’s about half of what it was when I first took office," Moore said of crime. "We’re continuing to make progress."
But 2014 was a bloody year for Rogers Park. Markeyo Carr was shot dead. Keno Glass was shot dead. Wil Lewis was shot dead. Mutahir Rauf met the same fate.
"It was a rough year," Moore acknowledged.
In 2015, the first — and so far only — homicide of the year happened hours after Moore began celebrating his re-election. Albert Turnage, 23, was fatally shot in his chest 4:10 a.m. Wednesday in the 1700 block West Touhy Avenue.
Much of the violence in the neighborhood can be attributed to an ongoing gang war between two rival factions of the Gangster Disciples. Moore said police had recently implemented a new intervention program — called custom notification — to help teens and young men involved in gangs choose a different life.
Moore said the community has become stronger, and he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"I have come to the conclusion that this is where I belong," he said. "This is where I can have the biggest impact."
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