By: Logan Laurie (Loyola Junior) & Natalie Bartel (Loyola Freshman)
To eke out a win and replace retiring Alderperson Harry Osterman of Chicago’s 48th Ward, one of the ten candidates vying for a seat on City Council must obtain 50+ percent of the vote. Should all fail to do so, the top two – the two that manage to wrangle the most votes – will face off in a runoff election slated for April 4th.
Following the aldermanic elections in 2011 – an election that replaced five-time incumbent Mary Ann Smith, an appointee of the then-Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley – Harry Osterman, like his mother before him, who held the seat from 1987-1989 (preceding Smith’s tenancy), was elected.
After serving three terms as alderperson of the 48th Ward, Osterman will not seek reelection, opening a chance for newcomers to bring their vision, experience and talents to the now up-for-grabs, highly sought after position.
One among them is Nick Ward.
At 41-years-old, Ward draws much of his experience from both his academic past (he was raised by two public school teachers in a suburb just outside of Detroit) and his present day community work.
“… they [his parents] were really committed and really believed in public education… they were proud union school teachers,” Ward told us.
In 2004, after graduating from Ohio’s Miami University, Ward moved to Chicago and spent over a decade working as a waiter while pursuing his passion for theater, where he would both write and perform personal narratives.
“I think about the power of arts and culture [and its] unique ability to bring people of disparate backgrounds together beyond these differences that might separate us… I think that’s where a lot of power in art making and culture building [resides],” described Ward.
Today Ward serves as a Goudy Elementary Local School Council representative; he is a volunteer with the 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice group – a group advocating for the furtherance of multiracial working-class Chicagoans – and he volunteers for the Uptown Buena Park Solidarity Network, a mutual aid organization in Chicago’s Uptown and Buena Park neighborhoods.
“Part of the exciting thing about the role of alderperson is that it’s a dual role… On the one hand, it’s Ward services… making sure the trash is picked up, street lights are on [and] trees are trimmed, but it’s also about placemaking in a community… [like] legislative stuff,” Ward said.
Ward went on to say, “I’ve done [work] in the community; I’ve done mutual aid work; I’m on the local school council at Gaudi Elementary, [and] because I have relationships with parents, the school community… and other communities… I have the kind of closest relationship to as broad of a community as possible.”
When asked what the main issues facing the 48th Ward are, Ward said, “preserving and strengthening some of the lower-income housing,” such as the “Pines of Edgewater, the Kenmore Winthrop corridor… [and] also a few long-standing SROs [single-room occupancy buildings] that oftentimes are the last line of defense for somebody who might be in a situation where they need immediate housing.”
Ward detailed his support for the Bring Chicago Home ordinance as a way to address affordable housing – a debated citywide ordinance designed to support Chicago’s unhoused communities by creating a dedicated revenue stream to combat the issue.
Such a policy would raise taxes on property sales exceeding $1 million and funnel the funds into the proposed housing initiative, consisting of building affordable housing; preserving affordable housing; offering renting aids and subsidies and beyond.
If elected, Ward plans to use the aldermanship to target other issues, such as Chicago’s “significant enrollment decline” into Chicago Public Schools, which, according to Ward, has nosedived due to “unaffordability for specifically working-class families” and for which he sees as providing additional credence to the argument for affordable housing within the ward.
Furthermore, Ward hopes to implement policies that offer “treatment, not trauma” by expanding access to public mental health clinics throughout the ward.
When asked what he plans to do should the voters select another candidate, Ward said, “I am deeply committed to this community, and the community work that I’m doing continues.”
Early voting for the 2023 Municipal Election will begin on February 13 in all 50 Wards. Residents looking to cast their ballots in the 48th Ward may do so at one of two locations: 7414 N. Wolcott or 7340 N. Rogers.
For information on how to complete the vote-by-mail application, visit the Board of Elections website.