Susan Sadlowski Garza will become the first Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) member to serve on the City Council when she is officially sworn in to office today. She says the biggest change to come to the 10th Ward–which was helmed by John Pope for 16 years–boils down to one issue: more community input.
And for Garza, who represents a ward with some of the fewest boundary changes in the city, a former industrial powerhouse until the late 1990s, that doesn’t just mean constituent services. The 10th Ward is home to one of the biggest plots of undeveloped land, roughly 600 acres of prime real estate on Chicago’s lakefront. It’s the last and largest piece of undeveloped lakefront land in the city, and Garza wants complete transparency between the site’s developers, McCaffrey Interests, and the residents who live near by.
“I want to make sure that whatever is put there is a green [project] with union-led jobs, and that people in the neighborhood have a say in what is happening. We need to have a community benefits agreement,” Garza said, adding that she is looking forward to sitting down with the developer to work out a plan for the former U.S. Steel South Works site that first opened in 1901.
McCaffery Interests is partnering with U.S Steel to develop the land. They have proposed building more than 13,000 single family and high rise units, 17.5 million square feet of retail space, 125 acres of open park space, a marina with docking stations and a new high school. The city has already rerouted and built a new South Shore Drive, U.S. 41, through the site.
Garza is not opposed to development. In fact, she say there has been too little investment in the area, and most of the ward is old and in need of serious repair. “I just don’t want gentrification [and] there has to be affordable housing,” Garza adds.
Garza is a lifelong resident of the 10th Ward and has worked for Chicago Public Schools for 20 years. Her last job prior to her election was as an Area Vice-President of the CTU. She oversaw 69 schools, including all public schools in the 10th Ward. A daughter of one of Chicago’s last regional Steelworkers’ District leaders, Ed Sadlowski, Garza has strong labor ties, which came in handy this election cycle. The labor umbrella group United Working Families (UWF) put a significant amount of money and manpower to help her through the runoff, one of the biggest fights after during the runoff.
Garza was named the official winner of the 10th Ward race when the Board of Elections certified the results on April 23rd, but with the threat of legal action from the Pope campaign, she remained in limbo up until last week, when Pope withdrew his court petition and conceded the race. On reflecting on the extended campaign, Garza laughed and said, “It was a long couple of weeks. Let me tell you.” She adds that she is ready to move forward and get started on the following priorities.
Citywide Priorities: Creating an elected School Board, addressing the pension crisis and finding different revenue sources, like expanding the sales tax, are at the top of Garza’s list. Being the only CTU member on the City Council, Garza says that gives her an advantage of, “having a deep inside of what goes on inside the [city’s] schools”. When asked if she thinks the City Council should have more oversight of CPS, she said “absolutely not”, because she believes educators are the only ones who should be making decisions on education policy.
Local Priorities: In addition to the development project on the lakeshore, Garza will focus most of her energy on building up her constituent service office. She accused incumbent alderman John Pope of having too little transparency in the ward. She plans to institute participatory budgeting and form advisory committees on education, traffic, safety, and business, so that, “everyone has a say in how it’s done”. She says she has already received numerous calls and had “so people walk into her office” to say that they are excited to get started on putting everything together.
Caucus Alignment: Garza is committed to the Progressive Caucus and will consider joining others after she gets settled. She says that she has already received a lot of help with the transition from Ed Burke (14), Pat O’Connor (40), and Rick Munoz (22).
Ward Office: 10500 S. Ewing Ave.