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The 40th Ward O’Connor continues in office

Submitted on Thu, 03/01/2007 – 17:35.

Story by Anna Marevska

Patrick O’Connor secured his seventh term as the 40th Ward alderman.

One of 10 alderman running unopposed Feb. 27th, O’Connor garnered 5,625 votes. One in four registered voters in the ward’s 49 precincts voted.

Although there will be no runoff in the 40th Ward, several other incumbent alderman must continue to campaign for the April 17 election. The increase in runoffs shows voters are fed up with their leaders, said political scientist Dick Simpson.

“The runoffs are a healthy sign of democracy,” Simpson, a former alderman who teaches at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said Feb. 28th on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight show.

“We are getting choices, and there is a debate about the future. We have a more reform-minded council,” he said.

It has been at least eight years since Ald. O’Connor, a long-time ally of Mayor Richard Daley, had an opponent. Rafael Chagin, who tried to run against the alderman four years ago and again this year, dropped out both times.

Jeanette Antman, a resident of the 40th Ward for the past 48 years, said on election day that O’Connor has done many “good things” while in office.

“Lots of condos, many renovations, but I still want to see more retail stores and restaurants,” she said.

The alderman has helped oversee the building of a library and a police station in Lincoln Bend/Budlong Woods on Lincoln Avenue, and helped get a fountain in Lincoln Square. The library and police station replaced several motels that were a center for drugs, crime and prostitution, leading to a significant drop in crimes and stabilizing the Lincoln Bend neighborhood, said Sgt. Ed Brennan.

“Ald. O’Connor has done a tremendous job for the 40th Ward,” said Brennan, who works in the Chicago Police Department’s 20th district, located in the heart of 40th Ward. “With his help, we managed to make our ward the lowest crime rate district in the city of Chicago. We are very proud with this tremendous achievement.”

Local business leader Mimi Acciari agrees the alderman has been good for the ward.

“The alderman has done an outstanding job in the renovation and redevelopment of Lincoln Avenue,” said Acciari, executive director of the Lincoln Bend Chamber of Commerce. “No wonder he ran unopposed, look at the results.”

Many business owners are also very pleased with the gentrification and renovation of the area.

“I really like all the new condos and better-looking buildings,” said Petar Jasimovic, 38, owner of Uteha Cafe on Lincoln and Berwyn. ” It seems to me that the area is attracting wealthier people, which is great for my business. I cannot complain.”

During his new term, O’Connor says he plans to:
*further transform the ward by continuing to develop the neighborhoods
*create more senior housing, similar to the one on Peterson and Ravenswood
*give public schools “face lifts”, and
*expand the streetscapes, a program that pays for new sidewalks, curbs, lighting, planting and crosswalks.

As a chairman of the Chicago City Council’s Education Committee, the alderman also plans to transform Mather High School, located on 5835 N. Lincoln Ave., with a $30 million “face lift.”

Among other reforms for the 40th Ward, O’Connor promises to invest in the further gentrification of Lincoln Avenue. The corner of Bryn Mawr and Lincoln has recently been designated by the City Council as a site for acquisition.

Now the corner features a billboard; the plan is to turn the area into a green area, immediately across the street from the new library, and near a new mixed-use development that will go on the southwest corner.

There is also potential for the development of the Oh-Mi Hotel, the Guest House and the gas station that lies between.

Even O’Connor’s critics praise the alderman for focusing on redevelopment.

“I don’t like the fact that he is running unopposed,” said Lydia Wiseman, 58, a resident of the 40th Ward for the past 15 years. “I believe that every politician should be challenged during elections; however, I see the difference in the neighborhood. It is prettier and safer.”

Local Politics North Side Public
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