Even with a wide variety of alternatives to choose from, we are endorsing Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) for another four-year term. Hairston continues to manage a ward that extends across multiple neighborhoods with passion and commitment. While there are always Hyde Parkers to be found who say she spends too much time in South Shore and vice-versa, we believe she is the most qualified candidate in a crowded field.
Her closest rival, Anne Marie Miles, is growing as a candidate but continues to delight in the “gotcha” brand of political campaigning that has been so deleterious to our public discourse. We value her presence as a seasoned opponent, which has elevated the seriousness of the campaign. We hope that, should she continue to run, her campaigns focus more on policy and less on attempting to paint Hairston as a craven vote-grabber.
The truth is, the 5th Ward, as a result of years of progressive leadership when it sat wholly within Hyde Park, was remapped years ago with the intent of making it unmanageable. It was believed at the time that the interests of South Shore, Jackson Park-Highlands, Woodlawn, Hyde Park and other pieces of neighborhoods now in the ward could not be brought together. It is very easy to say Hairston — or any alderman of the ward — is not doing everything that could be done, but it is hard to convince us that somebody else could do a better just based on his or her say-so.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any candidates in this race of six opponents that might prove to be compelling candidates in the future. Robin Boyd-Clark’s business savvy may prove a great asset to the ward. Jedidiah Brown’s big-picture thinking could help shape a collective vision for the various neighborhoods. Other candidates have equally formidable strengths.
For now, we believe Hairston is our best choice — but not without a caveat or two. We have heard stories of mistreatment by members of Hairston’s staff that are concerning to us. Everyone who walks through the doors of a ward office should be treated with respect.
We also found the meteoric rise and fall of participatory budgeting in the ward a bit troubling. It seemed to us that the program could have been more completely understood on the front end, so there would not have been a price-tag surprise that killed it, as Hairston says happened. Also, when it seemed that the inclusive budgeting process was flailing, the whole ward should have been brought into the conversation to try to salvage it. It was a great idea, a true sign of progressive leadership; letting it quietly die seemed somewhat unimaginative to us.
It’s easy, after several terms, to get too comfortable in one’s political position — or entrenched in one’s ways. A six-way reelection fight should let Hairston know she needs to beef up her service delivery and let some sunshine into her deliberations. Let’s give her four more years to do so.