To help 5th Ward voters see where their candidates stand on the issues most important to them, the Herald put together a questionnaire composed of questions from readers about topics like parks, public safety and housing.
See Gabriel Piemonte's answers below. See how other candidates answered here.
Gabriel Piemonte is a community organizer, writer and former Hyde Park Herald editor
After a decades-long effort by community members to preserve Promontory Point’s limestone stair-step revetment, the park has been granted preliminary Chicago landmark status. Do you support making Promontory Point a city landmark?
In the November 2022 general election, seven precincts across the 5th, 7th and 10th wards all voted overwhelmingly in favor of an advisory referendum to stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and prohibit cutting any at the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Do you support the preservation of the area tree canopy as outlined in the advisory referendum?
How would you work with the Chicago Park District to ensure that residents have a say in the planning process for these parks?
Your premise – that “working with” the Park District is the way to influence the planning process – is not borne out by experience. Influence in the Park District comes from demanding change and identifying staff who are amenable to hearing from regular citizens. Institutionally, the Park District system doesn’t welcome outside influence. When cooperation with the local alderman is needed, then the alderman has an opportunity to represent the needs of constituents to the PD, but that still is once removed. The Park District needs to be dramatically overhauled to make it a servant of the citizens of Chicago, who should control the park, and not a stumbling block to democratic participation, which is what it is currently.
Do you support the proposed overhaul of the public golf courses in Jackson Park and at the South Shore Cultural Center?
I have opposed the development of the Tiger Woods Golf Course from the very first time we local park advocates heard about it.
Would your campaign accept contributions from real estate developers and area property management companies?
Never. And I strongly suspect they wouldn’t offer that money to me.
Would your office involve constituents in decision-making, regarding things like development, housing or other ward issues? What would this look like?
I have outlined my approach to inclusivity in decision making in my platform on my website at gabeforfive.com, especially in the “local deliberative democracy” platform plank. I will establish local, elected development councils in three of the four neighborhoods represented in the ward (btw I am skeptical about a part of East Hyde Park as a balkanized, tiny South Kenwood subsection – that seems like a planning department edict) and coordinate in Woodlawn with Ald. Taylor’s development advisory council. I will implement participatory budgeting. I will help to establish a Freedmen’s Bureau in the south end of the ward which will be an independent advocacy group for Black American concerns, which will help amplify the influence of this word-majority group’s voice in decision making. I will optimize information dissemination and input from constituents in order to facilitate people providing their views in their preferred mode of communication.
Will you hold regular constituent meetings?
In November 2022, the Bring Chicago Home Ordinance was indefinitely tabled after 25 aldermen — Hairston among them — skipped out on a City Council meeting during which a vote would have been taken on making the ordinance a referendum on the 2023 municipal ballot. If it passes, the ordinance would impose real estate transfer taxes on properties worth $1 million or more to pay for more city services for people without housing. Would you support such an ordinance?
As real estate investors buy up more property around the mid-South Side, residents are increasingly concerned about gentrification and displacement. How would you work, locally and in City Hall, to slow or stop the displacement of middle- and lower-income tenants and homeowners?
There is no short answer to this question. Visit my website at gabeforfive.com to see my full analysis. Some specific policy steps:
- Pursue bad landlords with fines, court, and when needed, eminent domain.
- Establish a housing staff person in ward office to advocate for residents.
- Pursue a citywide eviction moratorium; intervene through housing staffer in local evictions and base support for development in part on developers having a good track record with tenants.
- Establish a simple-to-apply-for fund for renters and homeowners in crisis.
- Provide information and support for application for programs to help renters and homeowners in financial crisis.
- Pursue funds to mitigate assessments based on onerous laws impacting South Lakefront high-rises.
In November 2021, the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition and other local groups announced their demands for a South Shore CBA. Among these demands are protections and subsidies for both homeowners and tenants, as well as the bookmarking of all city-owned vacant lots for affordable housing development. Would you support such an ordinance?
The University of Chicago has long been a major landowner on the mid-South Side, operating hundreds of off-campus apartments and a rapidly increasing abundance of commercial property. How would your office work with the U. of C.? Do you have any demands for the institution?
End the special access the U of C has with the planning department so they have to negotiate with the alderman to expedite projects; support a Graduate Student Union; create a University planning body including U of C officials, non-affiliated residents, students, and others to provide local access to the deliberative process of the University as it makes plans for the campus and the community; develop an citizen oversight board for the UCPD. I am in favor of working in a positive fashion with the U of C, but I think signaling a desire to compromise before one has even been elected is an unwise tactical choice.
How would you improve public safety in the ward?
Smart police budget, not a bigger and bigger one, including performance-based budget allocation (money for RESULTS in crime reduction using modern methods). Treatment not trauma - use the right professionals for the situation to avoid escalation.
Economic programs to provide employment and stabilize household incomes and expenses.
Stabilize the local housing market to reduce housing insecurity, which is proven to reduce violent crime. Dramatically increase funds to support violence interrupters, both direct and indirect violence reduction, community-based programs.
What are the most pressing issues for 5th Ward residents?
Housing insecurity, public safety, and overall quality of life. The next alderperson needs to make information much more readily available and feedback has to be routinized (so we use technology to allow everything from simple feedback such as Y and N questions for basic issues to appointments for matters requiring full meetings). The civitas should be in perpetual conversation, and the alderperson’s office should be present and available at all times for that discourse.
What makes you the best fit for City Council service?
I have spent 24 years living in and engaged in independent public service in our ward. The things I have accomplished have been through coalition with regular citizens. Through that approach, I helped create a credit union with $4 million in assets which serves everyone; brought a $3 million restoration project to Woodlawn and raised more that $1 million towards that project with a partner and secured a commitment that the site would be comprised entirely of Black contractors hiring Black crews; and lead a citywide coalition of white people working as organized allies in support of the efforts of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people’s efforts to face our past and take action to correct Chicago’s built, monumental history. I have worked in the Fifth Ward the whole time I have lived here – including for eight years as editor of the Hyde Park Herald – to make our communities as welcoming and nourishing for everyone, all our neighbors, as possible.
For more information on Piemonte, visit: gabrielpiemonteforfifthwardalderman.com
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