AUBURN GRESHAM — After missing yet another debate on Saturday, Ald. Lona Lane (18th) is losing some of her support in the ward, some constituents say.
Her opponent, Derrick Curtis forced her into the April 7 runoff last month by capturing 3,618 votes, or 30.4 percent, slightly ahead of Lane's 3,557, or 29.9 percent.
What should have been a debate at Greater Walters AME Zion Church, 8422 S. Damen Ave., turned into a question-and-answer session between Curtis and the audience.
Residents of 18th Ward said Lane, who has been in office for eight years, hasn’t attended any debates during this election. The forum was put on by the Wrightwood Coalition Group, a local community organization started by resident Carol Tucker, and moderated by Mark Buford.
"It’s a shame that she’s not here,” Curtis, a city Streets and Sanitation superintendent, told DNAinfo Chicago after the forum.
“It’s hard for me to talk about a person who’s not here, but I’m looking to be accessible to the people. She’s not, and it shows," he said. "It’s a terrible thing.”
Tucker said the invitation was extended to both candidates.
“She ignored the invite, but I called her campaign manager, and he stated that they were going to be out knocking on doors,” she said.
Some residents of the ward said Lane is unavailable to address their needs.
“I’m voting for Derrick Curtis because he says he will be accessible. The current alderman is never accessible,” said Shirley Henderson, who has owned her home in the ward for more than 30 years.
“She’s never at any of the forums that we have; there’s always an excuse. I would like to give her two boots and let her walk,” Henderson said.
Tonnette Williams, who owns Children’s Center, a day care at 7956 S. Western Ave., said she hasn’t had any problems with Lane. “I’ve always supported Ald. Lane, I’ve supported Derrick Curtis in his current position. Whoever is alderman here, I’ll support,” Williams said.
During the Saturday event, Curtis said he wants to eliminate vacant homes and abandoned property from the ward. He said that he supports allowing developers to use TIF funds to purchase and rehab multiunit buildings and homes.
Curtis said that he wants 2,000 more police officers and proposes forming a public safety committee of police officers who live in the ward to help fight crime.
“There are too many shootings. Our kids are getting shot and dying,” Curtis said.
A community center is desperately needed, Curtis added, saying he has a couple of sites in mind.
Alex Levesque, CEO of the Automotive Mentoring Group, a nonprofit that provides educational and job-training opportunities for former gang members, said that he would like Curtis’ help in turning an old industrial building into a satellite location.
Curtis said he supports a casino in the city, with two conditions: 85 percent of the jobs are filled by Chicago residents and the casino’s tax revenues go to the city’s pension funds and to public schools.
Lane’s campaign canceled an interview with DNAinfo Chicago last week after promising and then canceling on three other occasions since late February.
After a DNAinfo Chicago story headlined “Where is Ald. Lona Lane? 18th Ward Residents Wonder as Runoff Nears” was published on Friday, Lane tweeted: "I am usually in the 18th Ward Service Office, riding the ward or City Hall."
Curtis has received endorsements from Democrat Chicago lawmakers state Rep. Mary Flowers, state Rep. Kelly Burke and state Rep. Andre Thapedi.
“Derrick has been open and willing to work on all issues important to residents, including good city services, access to state programs and funding from Springfield, and I know he will strive to include all 18th Ward residents in important community decisions,” Burke said in a news release.
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