What's Up Down South
By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 29, 2007 2:50PM
The race in the 25th Ward has been making the news a lot lately, with both Danny Solis and Ambrosio Medrano taking shots at one another, and each camp doing the backstage maneuvering that goes on in Chicago politics. This is what happens when two experienced politicians take each other on for an important seat in the city council. Although largely associated with Pilsen, the 25th Ward encompasses parts of Chinatown, Tri-Taylor, and Heart of Chicago, and the six challengers to Danny Solis reflect more on the power struggle going on in the Mexican community in that ward (and to a lesser extent in the 22nd Ward) than any specific discontent by residents.
Most significant of the recent news is the decision by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to let Ambrosio Medrano stay on the ballot, despite his status as a convicted felon. Had the commission ruled differently, we might not be writing this post. Adding to the bitterness of this contest is not only Medrano's attempt to reclaim the seat he lost when he went to prison, but the various other people who have thrown their hat into the ring against Solis. Besides Medrano, he is also facing Aaron del Valle and Joe Acevedo, who, while not necessarily strong challengers, have added enough chaos to the mix to give Danny a headache. Having fallen out with the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization (which has seen diminished influence in the wake of federal corruption probes) over his ties to such HDO rivals as Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and Solis' own congressional ambitions, we suspect that they are stalking horses put into the race to muck things up. While it seems a fair bet that he will pull a lot of votes in the election next month, being drawn into a bitter runoff against a strong challenger probably isn't Danny Solis' idea of a good time. Taking on either the HDO or Medrano, and whomever the group of losers throw their support behind, will just complicate things for him.
Solis has been a loyal ally to Daley on the council, breaking with the mayor only once, supporting the Big Box Ordinance. Even then he backed the mayor when it came time to veto. In exchange for this support, Daley has given Solis the freedom to do as he pleases in the ward, including getting his hands into the TIF pot. With the exception of political newcomer Temoc Morfin, a candidate that seems to genuinely embody the goals and ideology of community groups such as the Pilsen Alliance, this race is as much about getting control over the spoils of TIF money and development in the ward as it is about making political careers. Word on the street is that Martha Padilla is connected to developers and will bring the bulldozers into the neighborhood if elected. Medrano may have learned his lesson in jail, and he seems to mean well this time, but with such a big slice of the pie on the other side of the ballot box, can anyone really be sure? With so much at stake, and so many cynical players grabbing for power, it seems that there are no good choices to be made in this race, with the status quo being the only real prize for residents.