First Ward Alderman Joe Moreno is yet again throwing his hat into the ring this upcoming election in hopes of holding onto his position for another term, despite recent controversy about a stolen car that he blamed on “miscommunication,” according to Our Urban Times and Block Club Chicago.
Moreno first became alderman after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him to replace Manny Flores as alderman of the 1st Ward in 2010. He was reelected in 2015 and now is seeking a third term. He has received endorsement from the Chicago Sun-Times.
LoganSquarist sat down with Alderman Moreno to learn what he has done as 1st Ward, thoughts on his opponent, his future plans for the ward if reelected and the historical impact of the upcoming election. This interview has been edited and consensed for clarity.
LoganSquarist: What is your connection to Chicago?
Joe Moreno: I’ve been in Chicago for almost 22 years. I grew up in western Illinois. I had a family with a lot of love, but not a lot of money. My dad is Mexican and my mom is from a small farm town. I have served as alderman of the First Ward for eight years. The diversity of our ward is our strength. I do not care if you have been here for six months or six years, everybody is welcome.
What is the importance of being an alderman?
Aldermen of Chicago are unique to this country and to the world. We are responsible for everything—everything—which is a good thing, I
What are some accomplishments you are most proud of?
I passed more citywide ordinances than any other alderman. There are two that I am most proud of: One [is] that I introduced the $15 minimum wage last summer, [a 45 percent increase in the minimum wage since 2011 that helps 410,000 Chicagoans]. The administration at the time, not the mayor but the staffers, snickered at me and said, “We are never going above $10 Joe.” We got to $13 and we are still pushing for $15. With opposition, we passed it.
Then, earned sick time. Before my ordinance passed, 40 percent of Chicagoans could not earn a sick day off. If you are sick with the flu, a single mom and you got a job, you have to decide to go to work sick or stay at home and not get paid. Now, after my ordinance passed, all, not just government employees, but private employers, have to guarantee after 90 days you earn the minimum of five sick days. I am proud of that progressive legislation.
What are some problems the 1st ward faces?
There are always challenges. If anyone doesn’t say they have challenges then they are either naive or they are lying. The challenge is that people want to live in the First Ward. People want to live in Logan Square. People want to live in Wicker Park, people want to live in Humboldt Park. As property values go up, we have to insure what I have done for the past eight years, which is leading the city and making sure that we have set development.
None of [the developers] want to put affordable housing on sight, and I get it. They are bottom-line guys, they are in business. You can either put affordable housing on sight or pay into a fund. They just all want to pay into the fund. As business people, I get it, it is cheaper for them. This happens to most wards on the North Side; however, we don’t do that.
We now have one of the first two pilot programs [to preserve affordability in gentrifying areas] that now is doing 20 percent onsite units [for new developments]; before the ordinance was 10 percent. We want everybody in the First Ward. Sometimes it’s cruel, and people are saying, “We don’t want renters or transients.” I think that is shaded classism or racism. I
Are there any plans to update the infrastructure in the ward?
Absolutely. I have led the city in putting in the most bike lanes and bike-centric protections like curb cuts and what not. We are going to transform Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. We have not gotten the plans done yet. I have already advocated the dollars and it has been a promise.
We are going to make sure that infrastructure on Milwaukee Avenue is better for cyclists and pedestrians and not against cars. It is a tough thing.
We also just got a million dollars from the Small Business Improvement Fund for Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square—that matters. We want to keep Logan Square, as well as the rest of the ward, as much as we can independently and locally
If reelected, what are your future goals for the 1st ward?
One is that we have 15 public schools in the 1st ward. Nine of those 15 are now rated level 1 or level 1+. We need to continue that. I put $80 million, that I had advocated for, into our schools over the last six or seven years. I could never be a teacher—that is a job I could not do—that is why I respect them so much. However, I do have a role in education. My role is to advocate for funding and get that funding.
If you go to Clemente High School or Wells High School, you see beautiful brand new multi-million dollar fields that those mainly low-
Even if you don’t have children, or you don’t want to have children, or your children are already grown, we improve and invest in [schools]. It also helps with safety and vagrancies. So schools are more than just for education. Some
Why do you fit the position of alderman better than your
I was on the local school council, I was in the campaign against the death penalty in a Wicker Park Committee and then was on the National Board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. I was on the board of Humboldt Park Social Services [and] I was on these nonprofits as a volunteer board member.
As as a progressive
democrat, what I got tired of is meeting with elected officials that were so-called progressive democrats and would talk a great game and give a great speech and protest with no results. That’s why I got into this, that’s why I won and that’s what I want to continue. I don’t see anyone else that actually wants results.
I see people that want to stir up anger, that want to stir up fear between people and that’s been the history of our ward. Latinos versus Whites, those who have money versus those who don’t have money. New-comers versus old-comers. I’ve always despised those kinds of politics; unfortunately, they are reentering from those that are opposing, and I would never do that. I would rather lose an election than try those tactics of fear.
My opponent protested two buildings and said, “Don’t move here.” Could you imagine someone who wants to be alderman saying “don’t move into my ward?” When you been here eight or 10 years—people have been here 50 or 60 years and you are telling people not to move here and you just moved here? That is ridiculous; that is so hypocritical. We want everyone in the first ward. We want to provide housing and opportunities for as many people as we can. That is why I am way, way more qualified than any other guy or gal running against me.
What is your response to accusations of you having connections with developers?
I’ll address that
If I didn’t have that process I would say, “Yeah, all he listens to is developer money.” I don’t. Every year I have spent over $80,000 before I print one “Vote for Joe” sign on things like additional ward services, contributions to nonprofits, my back to school fair that costs $20,000—all of those before one “V
They criticize and say, “Oh, you don’t take money from developers, but you take money from architects, you take money from 35th Ward.” You gave them a $10 million tax break to a Nissan dealer and they gave you a contribution, and that’s okay, but if I take money from a developer it’s not? I disregard that.
Any final comments or thoughts?
No matter who wins for mayor, the council will be stronger, as it should be. Everyone says it is the most important election ever. For us, you probably will not see this unique of an election where there is not a strong front runner. There isn’t a mayor that is going to come in with millions and millions of dollars. This is truly a time when your alderman on the council is going to matter, as our council is supposed to. Strong council, weak mayor.
It is by far, realistically, a very unique election in Chicago, where you don’t know who is going to be mayor. It is either you are going to get a mayor and hopefully, they will be good, or you are going to have the opportunity to have a very strong council and your alderman is going to matter in a different way than they have mattered in the last generation.
Featured photo: Moreno’s Facebook page