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Where is Ald. Lona Lane? 18th Ward Residents Wonder as Runoff Nears

 Challenger Derrick Curtis and 18th Ward Ald. Lona Lane
Challenger Derrick Curtis and 18th Ward Ald. Lona Lane
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Lona Lane; Derrick Curtis

ASHBURN — Ald. Lona Lane is in a tight battle for re-election, but 18th Ward residents say you would hardly know it. 

The two-term City Council member, who was the first African-American and first woman to serve as alderman in the ward when she was appointed by Mayor Richard Daley in 2006, has made very few appearances since challenger Derrick Curtis forced a runoff in last month's election. Curtis had 3,618 votes, or 30.4 percent, slightly ahead of Lane's 3,557, or 29.9 percent. 

“Ald. Lane doesn’t come to anything. She’s been missing in action,” said Carol Tucker, president of the neighborhood's Wrightwood Coalition Group. 

She's also done very few media interviews. While Lane's campaign promised to make her available to speak with DNAinfo Chicago on three separate occasions since late February, she canceled all of them, including one scheduled for Wednesday.

"I apologize for the alderman's absence. She is under the weather at this moment," office manager Iesha Allen said in an email Tuesday.

She said she would see if she would be available to speak over the phone. She was not.  

Lane's campaign also did not respond to a request to list the community events the alderman has attended or provide a schedule of upcoming campaign events. The most recent newsletter on her website listing her public events appears to have been posted last summer, and her Twitter account makes reference to two public events since the Feb. 24 municipal general election.

"She has been absent for a while,” said Curtis, who vowed to open the ward office to constituents on weeknights and weekends if he is elected. "You have to be able to face the people. The people want to talk with the person that they chose to represent them.”

Tucker hosted a debate last Saturday, but only Curtis, a former Lane ally who is the Streets and Sanitation superintendent for the ward, attended.

“Unfortunately, the alderman did not show up. It’s pretty normal around here,” Tucker said.

Tucker said Lane told her 10 minutes before the event that she was attending the late Rev. Willie Barrow’s visitation services, but also said she didn't want to be attacked by the debate's moderator, Mike Davis, who  also was a candidate in the February election.

“She tells me it was a conflict in her schedule,” Tucker said. “She said she didn’t show up because she felt that Mike Davis was trying to ambush her.”

Tucker said Lane has missed at least four forums since election season began, but she said she hopes Lane will attend Saturday’s debate at Greater Water Church, 8422 S. Damen Ave., at 10 a.m. She also said she didn't come out for a peace march after a recent murder in the area.

Resident Kelvin Edwards, 54, who has lived in the ward for 19 years, also said he  wants to see more of Lane.

“Ald. Lane is not accessible. She doesn’t keep her word. She’s not a good alderman,” Edwards said.

Lane campaign manager Chuks Onyezia, who ran against her in the February election, said that the ward has a large demographic of older residents who don’t understand city budget cuts and other changes that are out of the alderman’s hands.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand the role of an alderman, so they blame her for everything,” he said.

Allen Crighead, 54, who is president of his block club on Talman Avenue and 82nd Street, said he realizes there are complaints about the alderman, but he said she has been accessible and attended his block club meetings. 

“I think she has done a great job,” Crighead said, who said Lane has gotten more police patrols after garage break-ins and has repaved sidewalks in the area.

In one of her few, if only, media appearances since Feb. 24, on "Chicago Tonight" on WTTW-Channel 11, Lane apologized for the state of the ward after a Fox News report that garbage was being dumped illegally on a vacant property.

She said Curtis never told her about the dump.

Curtis said he had issued more than 70 tickets to the property. 

"I've been loyal to the community and to my job," she said. "I love the community, and I wasn’t accessible to a point. I sit on seven committees for the City of Chicago. I am going to apologize for the ward not being as clean as it should be. I apologize for that. But it will never happen again." 

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