Get to know the candidates running to represent Rogers Park on the Chicago City Council as alderperson of the 49th Ward.
Meet the Candidates Running to be Alderperson of the 49th Ward
In just a few weeks, Chicagoans will go to the polls to elect the next set of individuals who will hold municipal office throughout the city. Three candidates are running to represent the Rogers Park neighborhood as alderperson. The Phoenix spoke with each about their background, priorities and approach to ward services.
In Chicago, alderpersons are elected by the residents of the city’s 50 wards every four years to both represent their individual ward legislatively on the Chicago City Council and manage local issues, such as zoning changes and capital improvement projects.
In the 49th ward, which includes the northern portion of Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, incumbent alderperson Maria Hadden, who was first elected in 2019, is running for reelection against challengers Belia Rodriguez and Bill Morton.
The sitting alderperson of the 49th ward, Maria Hadden is originally from Ohio, moved to Chicago in 2004 and has lived in Rogers Park since 2007. Hadden said her experiences during the 2008 financial crisis led her to be more politically engaged than she had been in the past. When her building’s developer fled the country following the crisis, she led the effort to save her and her neighbors’ homes as condo board president.
Starting in 2012, Hadden became a founding member of The Participatory Budgeting Project, a non-profit advocacy organization centered around increasing constituent influence in how public dollars are spent and utilized. In 2019, she ran for alderperson and defeated incumbent Joe Moore, who had held the seat since 1991. Hadden said she is running for reelection to ensure she can finish goals and projects which she wasn’t able to complete during her first term.
For a potential second term, Hadden said her priorities include completing a planned cooperative housing development and an affordable housing project which are both planned to be built on West Howard Street. She also hopes to reestablish the city’s department of environment and continue to garner community feedback as the Army Corps of Engineers continues to study and work to rehabilitate infrastructure on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Hadden said her proudest accomplishments during her first term include her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — including a “rapid response team” she and her office founded in the pandemic’s early weeks which helped bring residents groceries and medicine — and her work in supporting and bringing new programs to the ward’s public schools.
Legislatively, Hadden said she is proud of the ordinance she sponsored which amended the city’s heating and cooling requirements building owners have to follow. Hadden advocated for the ordinance after three Rogers Park seniors died of overheating in 2022. She also led the effort to get the city to divest fully from fossil fuels and sponsored an ordinance which made transit-oriented development a city priority.
Visit Maria Hadden’s website to learn more.
Belia Rodriguez was born in Chicago and has lived in Rogers Park for 11 years. She is a first generation Mexican American and grew up in the Little Village neighborhood. Rodriguez is the owner of an IT consulting firm, Sun Telesolutions, and has served as president of the Rogers Park Business Alliance (RPBA) since in 2019, the RPBA is a non-profit organization which attempts to facilitate economic development. Rodriguez said she resigned from her post as president when she announced her campaign for city council. Rodriguez has backing from the Rogers Park Builders Group, an organization which promotes real estate investments.
Rodriguez said the biggest issues she has centered her campaign around are crime and safety in the ward and addressing the unhoused encampment at Touhy Park. Rodriguez is referring to the growth of the encampment in the park in recent years which has led the Chicago Park District to close park programs and operations, The Phoenix previously reported. Hadden said operations will be back up and running by the spring.
Rodriguez said she has heard from residents both young and old who say they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood anymore and said she hopes to address these fears.
Rodriguez said the current administration focuses too much on social justice and city-level issues and doesn’t give enough attention to the ward itself. She particularly highlighted instances where she feels the current alderperson’s office wasn’t involved enough in economic development efforts, including the Elevate Devon project and Vision Clark Street plan.
Visit Belia Rodriguez’s website to learn more.
Bill Morton is a founding member and president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Morton was born in Chicago and has lived in Rogers Park for 20 years. Morton owns and runs a music promotion business and is also president of the Leone Beach Park Advisory Council. Morton registered to run for alderperson in 2019 but was disqualified after discrepancies were found in his petitions filings — documents in which potential candidates gather signatures from residents and submit them to the city in order to gain a spot on the ballot.
Morton said the key issues he wants to address include concerns related to public safety, public health, housing, jobs and addressing what he termed “crumbling infrastructure.” Morton said the first thing he would do if elected is house people in Touhy Park but didn’t present a concrete plan for doing so. He is also focused on decreasing the rat population in the ward, Chicago has been named the rattiest city in America for eight years, ABC News Chicago reported.
If elected, Morton said the biggest change he would make to current ward operations would be an increase in communication between the alderperson’s office and residents. During the course of the campaign, Morton has given daily briefings on social media and said these would continue if elected. He also said he would be in daily communication with city agencies, including the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Transit Authority. Morton told The Phoenix he would host monthly job fairs in the ward to match potential employees with local businesses.
Visit Bill Morton’s website to learn more.