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Three Set To Challenge Heir For 33rd Ward Alderman

Outside Ald. Deb Mell’s (33rd) ward office. Photo Credit: Michael Matthew Esparza

Three candidates have met Monday’s deadline to file petitions challenging 33rd Ward Ald. Deb Mell, who’s running to retain the seat Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to in July 2013 when her father stepped down.

The three challengers include Tim Meegan, 38, a social studies teacher; Annisa Wanat, 41, a former employee at National Democratic Institute, which is a nonprofit; and Tyler Solorio, 25, who is a decorated Army veteran.

All the candidates got the required minimum of 473 signatures needed to be considered on the Feb. 24, 2015, ballot. Meegan said he turned in petitions with 2,178 signatures, while Wanat said she turned in more than 1,400 signatures and Solorio said he “stopped counting” at 820 signatures.

In phone interviews, all three agreed the aldermanic election in the 33rd ward is likely to require a run-off. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes in February, the run-off would be April 7.

Meegan, who has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, has a master’s degree in education and national board certification as a public school teacher. He has taught social studies for 10 years at Roosevelt High School in Albany Park, according to his website, and is also a member of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council.

He has a little more than $1,600 in his campaign funds, having raised $10,551 and spent $8,900, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections totals.

Meegan said he is not a Republican or Democrat, and is running “an issue-based campaign as an independent, progressive candidate because I want to improve the quality of life for my neighbors and my students in the 33rd Ward,” according to his website.

In a phone interview Monday, Meegan criticized Mell, who succeeded her father, former Ald. Richard “Dick” Mell, who held the position for 38 years.

“Ward residents are not happy with the way Mell was appointed by the mayor, and they are not happy with the level of services,” Meegan said. “She has not done anything to help the schools.”

Mell doesn’t understand neighborhood schools and is not up to date on education issues, he added.

“She votes with the mayor 100 percent of the time,” Meegan said. “She’s not going to be a strong advocate for public education.”

Ryan Cowden, an aldermanic assistant for Mell, said Monday only Mell or her chief of staff could respond to criticism from her challengers.

Two calls were made to the alderman’s office, but no one was available for comment. A message was left with Cowden for Mell, but no response was received.

Mell has about $70,000 in her campaign fund, having raised close to $79,000, the most money from all 33rd Ward challengers. She has spent nearly $8,200, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.

Wanat is from Albany Park and a former employee of the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit headquarted in Washington, DC. The organization is working to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. She is also a member of the Albany Park Multicultural Academy’s Local School Council and tutors at the Albany Park Community Center, according to her website.

She has a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University and served in the Peace Corps service in Bulgaria, according to her web site. In a phone interview Monday, she stressed she has 20 years of experience in working with neighborhoods.

Wanat said Mell has not addressed budget shortfalls. She also called for more transparency when working with developers.

“Development doesn’t just happen,” she said. “This is a unique ward. We don’t want developers to come in and turn this into a cookie cutter neighborhood.”

The 33rd Ward includes the neighborhoods of Albany Park, Avondale, Irving Park, Ravenswood Manor, Edgewater, North Park and North Center.

Wanat said the alderman should discuss with residents what kind of changes they want to see in the neighborhood, noting there’s a need for more bookstores and places for children to play.

The Illinois State Board of Elections shows Wanat has about $7,100 in campaign funds, having raised nearly $12,500 and spending about $5,400.

Solorio is a board member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and attends DePaul University. A transfer student from Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, he’s majoring in public policy and communication studies.

DePaulia, the student newspaper at DePaul, reported that Solorio enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2009 while living in California. He volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan, where he spent all of 2011. After leaving from service, Solorio settled in Chicago last year.

He served as vice president of Oakton’s Student Government Association and served as an intern for U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Illinois).

In a phone interview Saturday, Solorio said he favored raising the minimum wage to $13 an hour. He faulted Mell for failing to communicate with ward residents, adding that her father was always “good about talking to families.”

He has about $500 in his campaign fund, having raised just a little more than $1,000 and spent $550, according to Illinois State Board of Elections report totals.


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