After participating in eight or so public forums in local church basements, schools and storefronts, the aldermanic candidates in the 25th ward are sounding more and more alike: they want to maintain families living in their neighborhoods and eliminate corruption in the ward.
In the big picture, this consolidation of agendas should benefit the diverse residents in the gerrymandered ward, but in the short term it has many voters feeling torn about who to vote for.
Residents in Ald. Danny Solis’ (25th) ward are watching out for indicators that could predict if the candidates—Alex Acevedo, Hilario Dominguez, Aida Flores, and Byron Sigcho-Lopez— will actually deliver on their promises and move away from the flawed legacy of Solis.
Among the things to consider are the candidates’ official endorsements, what the candidates were doing before they ran, their past associations to the missing-in-action alderman, and the nature of political contributions to their campaigns, particularly from developers.
One relentless candidate, Sigcho-Lopez, is calling out the most recent and largest donation to Dominguez’ coffers.
Early in his campaign, Dominguez told this reporter in a recorded interview that he would not accept any corporate or PAC donations. The Purple PAC, however, just gave $32,000 to Dominguez, records show.
The PAC is overwhelmingly funded by Howard Labkon whose family owns scrap metal company General Iron Industries. The family sued Labkon in 2011 for working with rival, Pure Metal Recycling, on a $30 million scrap metal shredder project across the street from Benito Juarez Academy that Solis approved but parents and environmentalists opposed.
The project was halted when the Pilsen Alliance and Sims Metal Management filed a joint lawsuit to revoke the zoning permits, and it later disintegrated when the company went bankrupt.
Pure Metal Recycling stakeholders have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to former zoning chief Ald. Solis.
The alderman could not be reached for comment; his term ends in May.
Tom Bowen, president of the consulting firm New Chicago LLC, confirmed they no longer speak on Ald. Solis’ behalf. Their website dropped the disgraced alderman’s name from their client roster.
“When the PAC looked at each candidate's history of coalition-building, Hilario stood out from the rest,” Dominguez’ campaign spokesman Trevor Tejeda-Gervais explained. “At countless forums and community events, Hilario has laid out his vision for a community-driven zoning process, where the people get to decide what is built in their neighborhoods… No development would come to the 25th Ward without approval from the community through that process.”
Dominguez’ campaign pointed out that Purple PAC has supported a wide range of candidates. Indeed, the latest recipients of Labkon’s money are mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), and the Latino Leadership Council that is funding Tanya Patiño's run in the 14th ward.
Sigcho-Lopez said, “It is clear that the sources, ways and means through which Dominguez has acquired a massive amount of campaign funds invites serious scrutiny. On Dominguez’s own campaign website, he commits to refusing ‘contributions from corporations that have bought the ability to ignore the demands of the community with political donations.’ Accepting these funds is a betrayal of that commitment and a dishonest move.”
Another donation raising flags in the 25th ward race is a 2016 contribution to Alex Acevedo from his largest donor, Realtors PAC.
Elections are Tuesday, February 26th.
Check illinoissunshine.org for the latest numbers.