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The Race for 32

By Kevin Robinson in News on Dec 18, 2006 2:50PM

2006_12_waguespack.jpgLast week ended with 144 aldermanic candidates having filed nominating petitions, among them 47 incumbents. It has been said that there may be a record number of people running for alderman this year. While we aren't certain of the factual accuracy of that statement, we are sure that there are a lot of people running this year. Several races have piqued our interest, in particular the race in the 32nd Ward. In that race, there are three candidates that have filed, including the incumbent, Ted Matlak. Of the other two, the campaign of Scott Waguespack has piqued our interest the most.

2006_12_matlak.jpgA former Peace Corps volunteer and current Administrative Coordinator for the City of Berwyn, Waguespack is an early front runner in this race. Made up of several affluent neighborhoods, including parts of Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park, the Near North side ward is facing a very different set of issues than when Nelson Algren walked the streets. While the face of the neighborhood has changed over the years, many residents feel that the Machine politics of the past haven't. If the number of nominating petitions that Waguespack has filed is any indication (107, with approximately 1,900 signatures) many voters feel that Matlak has lost touch with their needs. Citing "declining services and lack of response from the Alderman's office, rising taxes due to city government waste, and zoning changes that are simply inappropriate for the neighborhoods," Waguespack is hoping that he can unseat Matlak and bring some of these issues back under control.

Perhaps the most unifying issue for many residents is how out of control development has gotten in the 32nd. According to Roger Romanelli, a founder of the 32nd Ward New Leadership Alliance:

One of the primary problems with Matlak is the lack of involvement of citizens in decision-making. He’s on record as someone who believes zoning changes should be given freely to developers.... In both Roscoe Village and Bucktown, he told the community groups he would work with them and has bypassed them. We have a system in 32nd Ward right now where the future is being decided by one person and his political machine.

Along with the overdevelopment has come many of the attendant problems that the newly reborn Chicago is facing: bad schools, rapidly rising property taxes, and a crush on city services for long-time residents.

The election is over two months away, and Scott Waguespack has his work cut out for him. The field of contenders is crowded, and more are expected to file. And the Shadow of Mayor Daley looms over the 32nd Ward as Ted Matlak gears up his guys to hold onto his seat. Chicagoist loves an underdog, and this is one race we'll be keeping an eye on.