48th Ward Aldermanic Candidates Discuss Issues at Forum

The forum for alderperson of the 48th Ward was held in Edgewater as candidates Joe Dunne and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth faced off in a March 22 forum at St. Ita Catholic Church.

The forum for 48th Ward Alderperson was held in Edgewater as candidates Joe Dunne and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth faced off in a March 22 forum at St. Ita Catholic Church.

Both candidates advanced to a runoff election in the race to replace retiring Alderperson Harry Osterman. The runoff follows the first round of voting in which no candidate met the 50% threshold needed to secure an election victory, The Phoenix previously reported

The forum was hosted by the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, Edgewater Chamber of Commerce and Uptown United in partnership with several block clubs. 

Candidates were asked questions on several issues, ranging from infrastructure to education. It was moderated by Pat Whalen, a local late night talk show host on “Good Evening with Pat Whalen.” The questions were submitted in advance by both organizers and audience members. Organizers said 235 people attended the debate — many of which cheered and clapped for their preferred candidate throughout the event.


Both said they’re in favor of affordable housing and a housing-first approach to tackling homelessness. They want to see the passage of the Bring Chicago Home Ordinance, a one-time tax on the sale of property worth more than $1 million led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, but have different ideas on how to get it passed. 

Dunne, vice president of development at nonprofit Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, said he has personal experience in financing affordable housing, including the Lawson House YMCA in Near North Side, a hotel being renovated into studio apartments. He recommended the utilization of rental subsidy programs and Section 8, a federal voucher to subsidize rent for low-income families, elderly and disabled people, to get people off the street and into existing housing. 

Manaa-Hoppenworth said the city needs to demand funding from the federal government to combat homelessness. She said she supports the Bring Chicago Home Ordinance, and is open to modifications, but called on city council members to come to the table for its proposal, since the last time it was raised in council, many members were not in attendance.

Dunne said he believes it’s an important ordinance but has some concerns about its ability to get passed in its current form. 

“There’s some questions about how it’s structured,” Dunne said. “Is a million-dollar threshold the right place? It’s an inflection point right now. As it’s written, if you sell your home for $900,000, you don’t pay this increased tax. If you sell for $1,000,001, you pay that increased tax.”

Joe Dunne, vice president of development at nonprofit Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, said he has personal experience in financing affordable housing. Hunter Minné | The Phoenix


Both candidates spoke about their priorities in the area, presenting different ideas on what they hope to accomplish if elected. 

Dunne spent much of the forum calling for more electric car charging stations and mixed-use commercial and residential buildings. 

In particular, Dunne is looking to the 2025 completion of the Red-Purple Modernization Program at the Bryn Mawr stop on the Red Line. He said the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will sell off its construction sites, opening up opportunities to link car charging stations to the Red Line’s electrical grid. 

“We need to be working together as a community right now and say what we want to see there,” Dunne said during the forum. 

Both candidates agreed that city streets need to be safer for everyone on the road. Manaa-Hoppenworth said that seeing her teenagers learn how to drive has shown her how crowded the roads are.

“We should all be able to use our roads and our sidewalks, whether we walk or bike or use an assistive device,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “We need to make investments because one death is too many.” 

Manaa-Hopenworth called for an overhaul of Chicago’s street and stoplight grid to be more bike friendly as well as increasing the penalties for those who park in bike lanes. She also said the city’s traffic lights need to be overhauled, making it easier for pedestrians to cross busy streets. 

Community Engagement

Both candidates brought up their deep roots within the 48th Ward, having spent decades involved in different local organizations, and seek to expand community involvement.

Dunne advocated for the strengthening of the Ward’s block clubs. The 48th Ward includes portions of Uptown, Edgewater and Andersonville, each with different demographic makeups and needs, according to the Ward’s website. Dunne said block clubs combined with a central office, like the defunct Edgewater Community Council, will help address everyone’s needs.

“Community engagement is critical to governing the ward,” Dunne said. “As alderman, I’m your representative. I need to hear from you, I need to understand what your issues are.”

Manaa-Hoppenworth stressed the importance of local chambers of commerce in community development. As the owner of a dancewear store, Chicago Dance Supply, she said the chambers of commerce help new businesses get started and build the character of each district.

“The neighborhood chambers of commerce are the liaisons from the city to the neighborhoods,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “We’re very fortunate to have three — Andersonville, Edgewater and Uptown.”

Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth has run Chicago Dance Supply in Andersonville since 2003. She is also a co-founder of Indivisible Illinois, a progressive activism group. Hunter Minné | The Phoenix

Experience and Endorsements

Both Dunne and Manaa-Hoppenworth touted endorsements from key figures within Chicago politics. Dunne received the endorsement of retiring Alderperson Harry Osterman and other local politicians, The Phoenix reported.

Dunne said during the forum that if elected, he would retain Osterman’s chief of staff, Dan Luna, which garnered a large round of applause. Luna confirmed this with The Phoenix and said he’s confident anyone in Alderperson Osterman’s office could transition to a new aldermanic office. 

Dunne has been endorsed by former Governor Pat Quinn, former 48th Ward Alderperson Mary Ann Smith, former State Senator Heather Steans and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Stainer, according to his campaign website

Manaa-Hoppenworth spoke about receiving the endorsement of recently reelected 49th Ward Alderperson Maria Hadden and mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson. She has also been endorsed by Congresswoman Delia Ramirez, State Representative Theresa Mah and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, according to her campaign website

Both candidates touted their business experience in Edgewater. Dunne spoke about his experience in development while Manna-Hoppenworth talked about her experience running a small business.

Dunne is vice president of development at Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit that builds affordable housing units across the city. He listed his experience in the area as a selling point of his campaign. Dunne also served on the Local School Council for Peirce Elementary School and the Edgewater Community Council.

Manaa-Hoppenworth has run Chicago Dance Supply in Andersonville since 2003. She is also a co-founder of Indivisible Illinois, a progressive activism group, the founder of ILVOTE, a voter education group and has served on the boards of several other advocacy and theater organizations.

Concluding Statements

The candidates capped off the forum with thanks and promises to improve the ward. The main topics of the event were quickly rehashed as the crowd cheered them on.

Dunne said his history and familiarity with the ward would help improve it. He again touched on opportunities for affordable housing and development around the Red Line.

Manaa-Hoppenworth said she ran for alderperson out of love for the Ward. While she’s been a coalition builder for many years, she said she was ready to enact more systematic change. 

During his closing statement, Dunne said his experience distinguishes him from Manaa-Hoppenworth. He told The Phoenix he and Manaa-Hoppenworth have similar progressive ideals, but his different approach to Bring Chicago Home will help it get passed.

“I think you gotta take a step back and say, ‘Hey, who’s not here? Let’s get them to the table. How are we gonna get this done?’” Dunne said. “Because we all agree on the vote, right? We all think we need a funding stream to address homelessness. Pushing the same rock up the hill is not working.”

In response, Manaa-Hoppenworth told The Phoenix she will look to more experienced elected officials to guide her, especially 49th Ward Alderperson Maria Hadden.

“As any new elected official who’s never served, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “So we need to work with people who have been doing the job and doing it well.”

The runoff election will conclude April 4, when voters go to the polls to decide on the next alderperson of the 48th Ward.

This story was written by Maddie Franz and Aidan Cahill

Featured image by Hunter Minné | The Phoenix

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