With only a month left until Chicago’s city election, a few dozen Loyola students and Rogers Park residents gathered at Archie’s Cafe — located at 1228 W. Loyola Ave. — near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus Jan. 25 for a presentation and discussion about the aldermanic elections.
The presentation was given by Colette Copic, a Loyola senior studying environmental science and international studies. Copic is an acknowledged supporter of Democrat Maria Hadden, the challenger of Democrat incumbent Joe Moore for the neighborhood’s 49th Ward seat.
Copic informed event attendees what aldermen are, how wards work in Chicago and the history of Rogers Park.
Copic also focused on the specifics of the race between Hadden and Moore.
While in office, Moore has focused on reducing crime in the ward, The Phoenix reported. He was also one of the first city officials to bring community policing to Chicago, according to his website. Community policing is when police officers are placed in a specific district or ward to familiarize themselves with the citizens living there, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Moore became the first elected official to bring participatory budgeting to the United States, according to his website. Participatory budgeting allows citizens in the ward to decide how money is spent through a direct vote.
If elected, Hadden would be the first openly gay woman of color to serve as an alderwoman in Chicago and would focus on providing accessible housing in the 49th Ward, improving the public school system and improving the economy by supporting local businesses, The Phoenix reported.
Those who attended voiced their concerns about Rogers Park and things they hope to see in the future as both Loyola and its surrounding neighborhood continue to develop. Many spoke about the commercialization of businesses in the neighborhood, such as the Target on North Sheridan Road, which is set be complete in the spring.
Among other issues discussed were the public school system, mental health, police presence and affordable housing, to name a few.
Copic, who helped organize the event, said she was encouraged by the turnout.
“I did not expect this big of a turnout,” Copic said. “I’m really excited for all the energy that was in this room and a lot of the ideas that were in this room. I think it shows that a lot of Loyola students really do care about what happens in this neighborhood and are taking what they are learning from the classroom really out into the streets.”
Roberta Schmatz, a Rogers Park resident and the owner of Archie’s Cafe, said Copic has been a regular customer since the cafe opened last February. Schmatz said Copic wanted to host the event at Archie’s because a variety of Rogers Park residents frequent the establishment, giving it a community-oriented focus.
“It was great to see so many new faces,” Schmatz said. “I think she brought a lot of new people in. Everyone seems excited by being involved.”
Abinaya Wiggins, a first-year economics major at Loyola, said she felt inspired to learn more about the candidates after listening to Copic’s presentation. Wiggins, who’s originally from the Naperville area, said she learned more about what aldermen do at the event.
“I’m from Winfield, which is in the Naperville area,” Wiggins said. “I kind of knew about aldermen but was more of a ‘That’s a Chicago thing,’ but now that I live here, it affects me directly.”
Wesley Tilford, a 26-year-old resident of Rogers Park, said the event made him excited for the upcoming elections.
“This is really the first year that I have gotten involved outside of just voting in local elections which is really exciting,” Tilford said. “I was really excited to learn more about what aldermen do and their effect on the community. I feel like I came away with a lot tonight.”
The event didn’t end after the discussion. Copic invited the group that night to canvass the morning of Jan. 26 — meaning they’d go door to door to gain support for Hadden by explaining her positions on issues.
Copic said the community has a stake in the campaign process and canvassing is a way for people to speak out in support of candidates.
“People profit off of us staying in our own individual lane,” Copic said. “It’s a radical thing to canvass and breaks social norms.”
According to Copic, the group canvasses through ONE People’s Campaign, an election program which has publicly endorsed Hadden. Copic said the program targets marginalized people who don’t typically turn out to vote.
“Technology doesn’t cut it,” Copic said. “I truly believe the only way for social change to happen is to knock on people’s doors.”