By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Hyde Park attorney Anne Marie Miles is betting that the second time’s the charm: she says she plans to challenge Ald. Leslie Hairston in the 2015 municipal election.
Miles was one of four challengers to Hairston in the last citywide election in 2011, capturing approximately 21 percent of the vote — roughly a third of Hairston’s share. The Hyde Park resident of 15 years says she will begin collecting signatures this August and plans to open a campaign office on 71st Street or Stony Island Avenue.
“The 5th Ward has always been known for having its alderman be the independent voice, sometimes considered the conscience of the city. And I don’t see that that role is being fulfilled very well now,” Miles said.
Since her last challenge, Miles has been sealing and expunging criminal records pro bono and running her South Shore-based dog clothing manufacturer, Woofanistas. She has also been involved with the Jackson Park Yacht Club and South Shore Opera Company.
Miles says the alderman is divisive, ineffective and lacks transparency. She also complains that Hairston’s constituent services are lacking, that her communication with different parts of the ward is inconsistent and that her e-mails are irregular.
Miles has been a fierce critic of Hairston’s decision to end the 5th Ward’s participatory budgeting program, in which residents voted on how to spend $1 million in 2013 discretionary funds. She said if elected she would bring the program back, and blasted a lack of progress on last year’s top-voted project, an urban garden at 71st Street and Crandon Avenue.
“What’s become clear to me is that she’s burnt out. She just can’t get things done. Her staff doesn’t follow through on things,” Miles said.
Miles said that if she is elected her first goals would be hiring the best chief of staff possible, as well as establishing a more easily accessible ward office and forming a committee representing a range of local organizations, including civic groups, churches and the University of Chicago.
Miles says the 5th Ward’s top issues are safety, education, businesses leaving South Shore and affordable housing. She is also concerned that smaller Hyde Park residences are being renovated and rented out for higher prices.
“It’s going to take some of the more of the interesting people who add depth and variety to our daily lives out of the community,” said Miles, who seeks to mandate a 15 percent or more affordable housing stock in the city.
Although Miles has yet to file to run, she has already staked several positions. She says she would prefer for Chicago to discuss paying off its pension debt by establishing a city income tax instead of raising property taxes. The East Hyde Parker would support limited permit parking along South Shore Drive during hours that Promontory Point is closed, and, like Hairston, supports a $15 minimum wage. But she said the alderman’s move to enhance penalties for carrying guns in city parks after a recent Jackson Park murder would make no difference.
“If my life was in danger and I thought a gun would protect me,” Miles said, “is it going to make a difference to me if there’s a stronger penalty if I’m caught? Probably not.”
It’s been more than 15 years since the 5th Ward has had an alderman from Hyde Park, but Miles is ready to put in significant time and money into her campaign. Miles — who prefers to call herself a “5th Warder” — says a lack of name recognition, an ill-timed vacation and her husband’s health scare all presented challenges last time she ran.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could win,” Miles said. “And I really thought long and hard about this, this time.”