By Alex V. Hernandez
Editor in Chief
Residents of the 25th Ward, I have some disappointing news for you. Ald. Danny Solis will not attend the public forum that Adentro de Pilsen was organizing for constituents of the ward.
This might be the first you’re hearing of this and, if so, here’s the short of it.
Not too long after the Feb. 22 Chicago Municipal Elections I began contacting the 25th Ward runoff candidates, Temoc Morfin and Danny Solis, to see if they would be interested in a public forum.
After numerous phone calls and email exchanges I finally had a date set, March 28 at 7 pm, both campaigns interested in participating at Ristorante Al Teatro as the venue hosting the public forum.
Then, last week, after nearly of month of planning, representatives from Solis’ campaign said that the March 28 date and time conflicted with Solis’ schedule.
I proceeded to contact the Solis campaign and offered to move the public forum to a day convenient to their candidate between March 21 and April 4. I didn’t want Solis to be excluded from meeting with the voters who are going to decide if he gets reelected on April 5.
I finally received a voice mail last Thursday from Stacy Raker, the Director of Communications for the Solis campaign. She informed me that the candidate was “not interested in participating in the forum.”
Ald. Solis is in a runoff election against a challenger that is a threat to his incumbency which is why I was stunned by the campaign’s choice of words.
So Adentro de Pilsen asked for clarification, which we received via an email from Raker:
"Thank you for following up with us on the debate with Adentro de Pilsen. I appreciate your time and consideration in offering to co-host a debate. The Alderman has already completed 2 debates with Mr. Morfin on CLTV and WBEZ both of which are available online. He is also participating in another debate this evening with Mr. Morfin on Chicago Tonight. The Alderman wishes that he could attend every debate he’s invited to, but unfortunately time just does not permit him to be everywhere. I’m sorry, but he will not be able to attend a public town hall meeting. If you’d like to send us some questions to publish in Adentro de Pilsen we would be happy to send you his responses. Also, if anything changes in his schedule we will make sure to reach out to you. Thank you again."
Translation: Solis doesn’t want to enter a political minefield.
I understand that completely. If I was Solis and found myself in a runoff election for the first time in 15 years without the political backing of Mayor Richard M. Daley, I too would be weary of public forums that I am not fully in control of.
And even though Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ed Burke have both endorsed Solis, that doesn’t amount to much since Emanuel and Burke are busy getting ready to fight with each other in May. Besides, neither one of them have the same kind of clout that Richie “King” Daley enjoyed in his prime and threw behind Solis in previous elections.
Moreover UIC professor and head of political science Dick Simpson co-authored a report, titled “The Last of the Daley Years: City Council Voting Report”, that was published last week. The report detailed the roll call votes of the Chicago City Council over the past four years. One of the many conclusions the paper arrived at was that the more often an alderman voted with Mayor Daley on issues, the harder it was going to be to get elected to a post-Daley city council.
Solis voted with Mayor Daley 98 percent of the time.
The race can go either way at this point and there are only 11 days before the election. The last thing Solis would want is to have a Pilsen resident making a public fool of him by brining up pollution in Pilsen.
Solis is playing it smart. He knows his recent change of heart concerning Fisk Generating Station, and its resulting pollution, is basically him flip-flipping on an issue that forced him into a runoff to begin with.
As early as March 4, Adentro de Pilsen reported that Solis was going to support the Chicago Clean Power Ordiance. This was completely out of character with Solis’s pre-runoff rhetoric, which basically said that the pollution of the Fisk Generating Station was a federal matter and thus not under the purview of city government.
He changed his position on this lightning rod issue because if he didn’t, he was basically ensuring he would lose on April 5. Again, Solis is playing smart politics.
I wanted an open and clear dialogue between Morfin, Solis and the people of the 25th Ward where issues like Fisk, crime and education could be discussed.
The Morfin campaign was still very enthusiastic about holding the forum once they heard Solis had decided to not participate. They even said they could cover the costs of the event and even provide an empty chair to put on stage to represent Solis. As dramatic as that image would have been, without Solis’s participation the public forum is just political theater for the benefit of Morfin
Adentro de Pilsen is not endorsing either candidate. In fact, the only people we give our complete support to are our readers.
So because one of the two-runoff candidates has chosen to not be present to answer questions from community members, I felt that it would be unfair to host the public forum.
Instead, we will collect questions via email and our social media networks from readers and create a questionnaire for both candidates to answer.
This is a fair, balanced and pragmatic alternative to a public forum that still gives our readers, the residents of the 25th Ward, the chance to ask the questions important to them in this runoff election.
Chicago’s major news outlets, The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, are suffering from slashed budgets and skeleton staffs. They don’t have the resources to send reporters report on every single runoff race in the city.
This is why Adentro de Pilsen exists. We are an independent local news organization dedicated to informing and enlightening residents of Pilsen and the surrounding communities. Serving an undeserved community with original, independent, and informative journalism was the driving force behind wanting to organize this public forum.
So please, send us your questions and, regardless of whom you support, don’t forget to head out to the polls on April 5.
The future of this ward is in your hands.