West Town resident David Herrera joins crowded race to represent ‘Pool Noodle’ 36th Ward: ‘This is my backyard’
UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A longtime West Town resident and former alderman candidate is running to represent what will soon be the 8-mile-long 36th ward on the city council.
David Herrera, 39, is the latest candidate to challenge the incumbent Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who is a candidate for re-election. Jacqueline “Jackie” Báez and Lori Torres also run, which has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union.
Herrera has a background in municipal finance, consulting and real estate. He said his family had lived in the West Town area since the 1950s and he grew up attending local schools, including St. Nicholas Cathedral School in the Ukrainian village.
Herrera has also been involved in several neighborhood developments over the past few years.
In 2017, Herrera remodeled her family’s two apartments on Chicago Avenue into what was for several years a Commons-operated co-housing building. In 2018, he was involved in a proposal to build a Latin dance hall and supper club in Humboldt Park, which has since stalled.
Herrera also ran unsuccessfully against Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) in 2019, third behind Maldonado and Theresa Siaw.
Herrera – who lives near Smith Park in the Ukrainian Village – has been remapped into the new 36th Ward, which stretches from Montclare on the northwest side to Grand Avenue to include most of the Ukrainian Village and parts of West Town.
Herrera said her candidacy is inspired by her direct knowledge of the West Town portion of the neighborhood, her upbringing in the neighborhood and her involvement in several community associations.
The old eastern boundary of the neighborhood ended miles away in West Humboldt Park.
“Why run? It’s my community. I know him better than Villegas. Without a doubt, I know better. I know him better than most. … I care about my neighborhood. I care about my community. I care about my city,” Herrera said. “This is my garden.”
The new 36th Precinct boundary has been widely derided as an example of extreme gerrymandering, with some comparing it to a “pool noodle” or a waterslide along Grand Avenue.
But Herrera said he would make the thoroughfare his “pet project” if elected as an alderman by rezoning sections north of the street to encourage mixed-use development and pedestrian improvements.
“We’ve seen Division Street, Chicago Avenue bloom, both are strong. Restaurants, bars, shops, pedestrians. Grand Avenue doesn’t have that,” Herrera said. “I would relax the zoning code there to suit the character of that community. I would loosen it up to have four stories, mixed use, retail downstairs and three apartments above.
Herrera said he would also like to conduct a study to possibly build a bike path across the neighborhood, closely following Grand and possibly using land along nearby Metra trails.
“Look at Milwaukee Avenue – it was a hipster highway. I would do hipster highway 2.0. From Grand Avenue to the Metra tracks to Hubbard, from Hubbard to Kinzie, you are already in River North. You are in The Loop,” he said.
Herrera said he would also advocate for the reopening of the 13th Police District, which was closed in 2012 as part of a citywide consolidation of police resources. The district included parts of West Town and Ukrainian Village and was headquartered at 937 N. Wood St.
The idea was floated at community meetings in the greater West Town area over the past few years as carjackings and other thefts spiked in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Herrera said he supports the launch of what has become a popular but controversial tactic in some Chicago neighborhoods: private security patrols.
Private security has become popular over the past year in affluent Chicago neighborhoods such as Bucktown and Lincoln Park, though some aldermen and residents have raised surveillance and civil liberty concerns.
Aldus. Walter Burnett (27th) also recently said he was considering the idea in the West Loop after two recent kidnapping attempts.
Herrera said he would support a year-long safety pilot program to assess its effectiveness.
“We need to deter crime. And I think if the word gets out, we patrol the streets, we’ll see the numbers [decline]”Herrera said.
Herrera also wants to reform the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, system. He said he wanted to redirect TIF dollars to build affordable housing and replace lead water pipes, among other priorities.
Villegas, who was elected to city council in 2015, did not return a request for comment on Herrera’s candidacy. The Alderman for the North West Side served as Leader of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council before stepping down from that position in early 2021.
Earlier this year, Villegas ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Illinois’ newly drawn 3rd District.
When the city’s final neighborhood map emerged this spring, Villegas slammed the elongated boundaries of the new 36th Ward, saying it “deprives” neighborhoods on the northwest side and “disrespects” the Latino community. American.
Now, as Villegas is running for re-election, he has begun to present himself to his potential future voters.
In September, Villegas opened what he calls a “satellite neighborhood office” in the Ukrainian village, although he will not represent the area unless re-elected next year.
“The reality is that there are 58,000 voters who live in the neighborhood and whether you live in … Ukrainian Village or Belmont Cragin, we’re going to provide service,” he told Block Club last month. “And that’s what we did where I was a councilor in this current area where I have five different wards, the same thing here.”
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