I came to America alone as a teenager after a severe financial crisis forced my mother to send me here to build a better future. Having grown up in these circumstances, I experienced firsthand how poor policy decisions and governmental neglect can have dire consequences. In our household, I was tasked with doing the grocery shopping. However, as the financial crisis worsened, and cash became scarce, I remember approaching the cashier apologetically to ask if I could defer payment until my parents, both government employees, finally received their salaries.
These experiences compel my activism still. For the last ten years, I have been an instructor at UIC and a progressive community organizer. I’ve seen how policy failures can severely impact people’s’ lives, but I have also seen what we can accomplish when we work together, reject the tactics of those who try to divide us, and stand up for our shared concerns. That’s why I stood with our community to help save local schools when the Emanuel administration sought to close them. That’s why I worked with small businesses in the community to prevent regressive taxes, helped prevent a toxic metal shredder from opening across the street from Benito Juarez High School, and work to stabilize housing costs for renters and homeowners alike.
My experiences also motivated my academic career and research. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, I pursued a master’s in economics, and am now completing PhD studies in Urban Education at UIC. My research uncovered financial schemes within the UNO (now Acero) Charter School that saw the misappropriation of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for students. This research resulted in federal civil fraud charges leveled against UNO, the resignation of top officials, and ultimately saved taxpayers $15 million dollars.
It has been ten years since I made my home in Pilsen where I live with my wife, Loreen, and our dogs, Buster and Wisła. Loreen is a scientist at the EPA who works to protect our lakes but, at the time of this writing, is locked out of her job because of the government shutdown. Loreen and I love our community but, as is the case across our ward, much of what drew us to the neighborhood is gradually eroding under the strain of escalating rental prices, lack of funding for our public schools, and the persistent failure of government to be accountable to the needs of ordinary people.
So when Alderman Solis remained silent in the face of attacks on our public schools and other challenges to our community, I challenged him in the 2015 municipal elections – and was just 70 votes short of forcing Alderman Solis into a runoff. The names on the ballot are different this time, but what is at stake in our communities is not. I know we can do better for all the residents in the ward.
To be clear, I am not the only candidate running on a progressive platform. I am, however, the only candidate who has advocated for our community for the last ten years; who is refusing support from developers, advocates of privatized charter schools, corporate interests, or machine politicians; and who has demonstrated a willingness to challenge the status quo.
In Chicago, we are used to candidates promising progressive public policy and political reform, and we are used to being disappointed. I am asking for your support because I have demonstrated my commitment to bold policy reform and independent leadership for a decade right here in our community.