Longtime Chicagoan and Hermosa resident Colin Bird-Martinez announced his candidacy on July 18 for Alderman of the 31st Ward, an area which includes parts of Hermosa, Logan Square, and Belmont-Cragin. He is challenging incumbent Alderman Milly Santiago, who took office in 2015.
A co-founder of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association, Bird-Martinez said that he views the position of alderman as being the “Chief Community Organizer” for the ward, a role that he believes he is well-suited for because of his community work in Hermosa. He began the Neighborhood Association after noticing a “lack of identity” in the community. It grew from a social group that would visit local businesses into an organization that sought to learn about and have a say in area politics. He has also served on the Local School Council of Nixon Elementary since 2016, representing the school at Board of Education meetings and helping get a new playground installed. Now, he wants to continue that work on a governmental level.
“The reason I decided to run is that I’m already doing this community organizing, going to people’s homes, knocking on their doors and learning proactively about issues,” Bird-Martinez said. “And as alderman, you just have so much more power… so I want to provide really superb constituent services.”
Bird-Martinez cited poor infrastructure at neighborhood schools, public safety, and basic constituent services as some of the issues plaguing the 31st ward. And though he acknowledges that these problems are often representative of larger, citywide issues, he thinks that Alderman Santiago’s inactivity on the legislative front is part of the problem.
“[City services such as] Streets and Sanitation, the Department of Transportation, they’ve been starved of resources to effectively do their job,” Bird-Martinez said. “An alderman can’t just advocate for their ward, they have to advocate for the whole city.”
He pointed out that Santiago hasn’t been the primary sponsor of a single ordinance on City Council, and he wants to bring a progressive voice to the council to replace her. Santiago did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by LoganSquarist.
The son of two artists, Bird-Martinez was born in San Diego but moved to Chicago at the age of three. He bounced around the Chicagoland area throughout his childhood, then returned to the city after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He moved to Hermosa four years ago and lives with his husband, two cats and a dog. He works as an automotive analyst, in addition to his volunteer work as a community organizer.
“[Colin] has taken the time to understand why the neighborhood is important to people like me,” said Edgar Valladares, a lifelong Hermosa resident and member of Colin for Chicago’s executive committee. “I had given up hope for my neighborhood, but in one of the talks we’ve had, Colin sparked this fire in me that is not just giving me hope, it is making me get involved.”
Bird-Martinez proudly points out that all $25,000 of the money he’s raised in campaign contributions have come from friends and neighbors, as opposed to developers and businesses.
Bird-Martinez will begin his campaign by hosting events and talking to neighbors throughout the ward during the summer and fall. Find out where he will be next on his website.