Ald. Thompson in 16th Ward runoff for second time

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Last month’s aldermanic elections resulted in several Black incumbents forced into an April 5 runoff and Alderman JoAnn Thompson was among them.

Last month’s aldermanic elections resulted in several Black incumbents forced into an April 5 runoff and Alderman JoAnn Thompson was among them. She defeated incumbent Ald. Shirley Coleman in a 2007 runoff for the seat in the 16th Ward on the Southwest Side. This time she’s vying to retain her post against community activist Hal Baskin, who has run for alderman in the ward six times, twice against Thompson. “I have been fighting for the 16th Ward for years and I won’t stop until I see improvement,” Baskin told the Defender. “I have lived in this community for 50 years and I have seen it go from bad to worse.” Not winning the Feb. 22 election outright didn’t disappoint Thompson who got 43 percent of the vote, with a total of nine candidates on the ballot and low voter turnout. Baskin received 22 percent of the vote, according to Chicago Board of Elections. Thompson needed 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff. There were nearly 22,000 registered voters in the ward, with only 6,100 casting ballots, election data from the Chicago Board of Elections showed. “When you are an incumbent everyone goes after you and I had to run against eight candidates,” she explained. “Had it not been for so many opponents running against me I would have won the election. People think you are vulnerable as a first time alderman.” Thompson said representing the ward is challenging, but she loves it. “As a first term alderman I did my best to improve a ward that had been neglected for years,” Thompson told the Defender. “And over the past four years I have made strides in rebuilding this ward and I want to continue on that path.” First elected in 2007 the former lieutenant with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department points to a medical campus that includes a senior, assisted living facility, and a single room occupancy apartment building for low-income individuals, as projects completed on her watch.  And she is in talks with Walmart Stores Inc. about building a store in the ward. “I have spoken to Walmart who plans to expand throughout Chicago with 30 new stores. A Walmart in the 16th Ward would do wonders and I am working to identify possible sites,” she explained. But her retail plans don’t stop with just the big box. “I want to bring more retail to the ward. More retail brings more people to the community to shop and that means more economic growth and hopefully more employment opportunities for residents,” said Thompson. Still Baskin is certain this time around will pay off for him. Baskin said he has nothing against Thompson he just feels he can do a better job. In regards to generating revenue for the city and the ward he suggests selling advertisement space on city-owned light poles, which he said totals 255,000. By his estimates, that could generate $120 million annually. Baskin, 59, a former steel mill worker who is now a self-employed real estate professional, added that if elected he plans to improve the ward’s two high schools, Gage Park and Richards Career Academy, convince Walmart to open a store in the ward, work with local police commanders to improve safety and help residents get jobs. “I have been married for 34 years and I have two children, so I know how to dedicate my life to those I love,” he said. “I love my community dearly, which is why I will continue fighting for it.” Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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