When Maria Hadden moved to Chicago from Ohio she quickly got involved in political activism, registering voters for the 2004 election. From 2007-2010, Hadden and fellow condo building neighbors organized to stay in their homes after the housing bubble burst. Along with her decade of community activism, Hadden has helped build two national non-profits which give communities and governments tools to make democracy more equitable and inclusive.
She is running against incumbent Joe Moore for the 49th Ward aldermanic seat.
Windy City Times: Your campaign site has "community choice, community voice" as your message. What does that mean?
Maria Hadden: We are building this grassroots campaign with over 300 volunteers who are committed to making me the next alderman. This ward has a tradition of independent, progressive voices and I want to be able to continue that. In office that means making decisions centered around the people that live here.
WCT: What are the most pressing issues for the 49th Ward and how would you address them?
MH: Affordable and accessible housing, assisting neighborhood public schools and promoting our vibrant small business community which provides a path for many immigrants economic security
My focus will be on creating a plan for development without displacement.
The current alderman has promoted charter schools, despite funding challenges in our public school system and against community will. There needs to be more equitable funding for the public schools, not an expansion of charters in our ward. About 62 percent of ward residents feel the same way as I do.
During the campaign, I have had town hall meetings and coffees in people's homes to talk about these issues and that will continue when I am elected.
WCT: You're an openly lesbian candidate. Why do you think it is important to have more LGBT voices on the city council?
MH: Having more marginalized voices in any decision-making body is vital because more perspectives lead to better decisions and representation matters. We need to set examples for future generations that being public and open about one's identity is something we deserve.
WCT: Are any of your campaign staffers openly LGBT?
MH: Yes. My staff has representation from every marginalized group, not just LGBT people.
WCT: What is your vision for the LGBT community?
MH: Focusing on the challenges that our LGBT youth population still face, including making them feel safe everywhere in the city.
The health and wellness of all Chicago residents should be of paramount importance in legislation, planning and ensuring that this city is still here in the next 100 years.
WCT: HIV prevention and awareness are still important issues for the community. How would you address this if you are elected?
MH: Our ward has one of the highest concentration of people living with HIV and AIDS and we need to bring more visibility that is empowering and holistic around public health awareness and access to care.
WCT: What are your recommendations for better relationships between the police and citizens they serve, including people of color and the transgender community?
MH: The consent decree is a good first step. A culture change within police leadership and other city officials is key. That means a line has to be drawn on what is acceptable behavior. There needs to be mandatory anti-bias and sensitivity training and real accountability when police violate people's rights. I am hopeful that we are moving in that direction but it will be contingent on who hold leadership positions in our city and what our new Illinois Attorney General plans to do.
I will work on re-establishing relationships between ward residents and the police who patrol our neighborhoods so they trust each other. The code of silence between officers has to end.
WCT: Do you back an elected school board?
WCT: What is the ideal minimum wage for the city of Chicago?
MH: Fifteen dollars per hour and, over time, it should be adjusted for inflation and the rising cost of living.
WCT: How should Chicago increase its revenue stream?
MH: We need a progressive income tax, LaSalle Street Tax and to legalize and tax marijuana. Prioritizing paying our bills first and that includes our pension obligations and increasing accountability to prevent legal fees and settlement payments due to police misconduct will help the city's bottom line. We also should stop giving away public dollars to corporations and other entities.
WCT: Are you currently backing anyone for mayor?
WCT: Why should people vote for you instead of the incumbent or other challengers?
MH: I am asking for my community's vote so I can be a public servant who is not only committed to taking care of the basic services in our ward, but also working in our city council to address some of the big problems we face at the city level around housing, public schools and community safety. I will be an independent progressive representative who will prioritize the needs of 49th Ward residents over those of outside interests or the mayor, because I believe that our city can and should do better. To do better, we need elected officials like myself who will commit to making that happen by centering people in the decision-making process.
See www.mariafor49.org/ .