More than 700 community members showed up for the 49th Ward aldermanic debate between incumbent Joe Moore and Maria Hadden Tuesday night, which highlighted issues such as community safety and education.
The debate comes before the city council elections Feb. 26, when Chicagoans can cast their votes for each ward’s alderman as well as the city’s mayor, clerk and treasurer.
The 49th Ward includes Rogers Park, which Joe Moore has represented as alderman since 1991. Hadden is a Rogers Park resident and, if elected, would be the first openly gay woman of color to serve as alderwoman in Chicago.
The debate was held at Sullivan High School, around half a mile from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. Kathy Tate-Bradish from the League of Women Voters moderated the discussion, which was centered on audience questions sorted by Sullivan High School students.
Moore and Hadden both labeled themselves as “progressive” in their opening statements and agreed on policies such as protecting undocumented residents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents entering buildings without the owner’s permission.
Hadden said she supported community members in the 49th and 50th ward who created The Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety this past summer. She added she would work toward funding the $1.2 million repairs to get Sullivan High School’s pool up and running again to teach water safety.
Moore said his office met with water safety experts and community members to create a lakefront safety task force following the drowning death at Loyola Beach last summer. The task force is working to come up with recommendations for the city and local community surrounding water safety, according to Moore.
He said he’s also been working with the park district to find a source of funding for Sullivan’s pool repairs.
Hadden and Moore disagreed on the reallocation of police from low-crime areas of Chicago to high-crime areas — Moore opposes moving officers out of the 49th Ward while Hadden prefers allocating police resources to communities that may need it more.
“Yes, there are other parts of the city that may need more police protection but I do not want to lose police to other communities,” Moore said. “As the terrible incidents of this past fall demonstrate, we need to have police.”
Hadden disagreed with Moore’s stance and said she believes in focusing police resources to the areas they are most needed.
“[Chicago] has finite resources and we have a lot of infrastructure, schools and other funding to support,” Hadden said. “I do support allocating police resources in a more equitable way just as I support allocating funds for our public schools in a more equitable way.”
With many members of the Sullivan High School community — including students, teachers and parents — in attendance, education and funding were frequently asked about. Both Hadden and Moore agreed education is key to addressing poverty in the 49th Ward and Chicago as a whole.
Moore said he wouldn’t support a referendum committing to freeze new charter schools and pause expansion of already existing charter schools in the 49th Ward — he said he values having lots of school options for families to choose from. Hadden, however, said she would support such a referendum until local Chicago Public Schools get a better funding formula.
Following the conclusion of the debate, Moore told The Phoenix he wishes the event was held in more of a traditional debate style. Instead, each participant typically had two minutes to answer each audience question, with no room for rebuttal.
“I was a little bit disappointed in the format,” Moore said. “It didn’t really allow for a thoughtful back and forth, it was like two different presentations.”
Hadden said the format was challenging, but allowed for a wide range of questions and opportunities for each candidate to show their positions.
“It was difficult, having so many questions coming one after another,” Hadden told The Phoenix. “I thought they were a really good range of questions. I thought the moderator did a great job.”
Riley Thorpe, a 15-year-old Sullivan student, helped keep time during the debate. She said she was shocked by the community turnout filling her school’s auditorium.
“It’s crazy,” Thorpe said. “I didn’t realize this many people would care and come to an event like this.”