25th Ward Race: Byron Sigcho-López vs. Aida Flores


Jacqueline Cardenas

Left: Byron Sigcho-Lopez, the current Alderman for the 25th Ward and a candidate in the upcoming aldermanic race, sits at a city council meeting in January. Right: Aida Flores, a candidate in the 25th Ward race, walks neighborhoods in her ward to ask constituents what issues they care about most. Courtesy of Ida Flores’ Instagram

Reducing violence, resisting gentrification, rising property taxes and improving access to education…the issues facing the 25th Ward are clear to most, and many of the proposed solutions seem similar. The main question that the voters of the ward will answer this Tuesday, Feb. 28 is who will be the best person to fill the role of Alderperson and face these problems together with the community: Byron Sigcho-Lopez or Aida Flores?

Recently, there have been changes on the map of the wards in the city of Chicago. The 25th Ward — located in the West Loop — is made up of Pilsen, Chinatown and Little Village, among other neighborhoods. Although the adjustment means new responsibilities for whoever takes office, the overarching challenges remain the same.

Daniel Flores, a Latino student and resident of Pilsen, spoke about the current situation in the neighborhood. 

“There was one of the highest property tax increases. It’s getting harder and harder to live here,” he said. 

Flores also said that “people do not feel safe” and that “it is a difficult time for Pilsen.”

Byron Sigcho-López has been the 25th ward Alderperson since 2019 when he replaced Daniel Solis. Solis was involved in several scandals that led to him backing out of the race for reelection. That race was characterized by an intention on the part of the voters to seek an alderperson who would focus on affordable housing.

Sigcho-Lopez, an Ecuadorian immigrant and educator in Pilsen, was recognized in his neighborhood since before his appointment for his experience as an organizer and activist. His start in activism was linked to his opposition to school closures and other actions proposed by then-mayor, Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Solis. Later, he became the Executive Director of Pilsen Alliance and began his attempts to become an alderman. He is a mathematician and business administrator from Cumberland University, has a master’s in economics from the University of Illinois Chicago and is a PhD candidate in Urban Education Policy.

Aida Flores, born in Pilsen and an influential educator in the neighborhood, is recognized for her experience as a school administrator and teacher of public schools. Her experience as a mother and as a member of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system brought her closer to community issues, as she shared in an interview with Block Club Chicago. She has a bachelor’s from Georgetown University, a master’s in teaching from National-Louis University and a master’s in education from Harvard University.

This will be the second time that Sigcho-López and Aida Flores have competed for this position. In the previous race, Aida Flores finished fourth, while Sigcho-López passed and won the runoff against Alexander Acevedo. On this occasion, only Sigcho-López and Aida Flores are candidates in the race.

The platforms of both candidates are progressive, as both propose to seek solutions to violence from the community and oppose the increase in property taxes to combat the gentrification that affects their ward.

Aida Flores said that one of her main strengths is her type of leadership, inspired by her experience as an elementary assistant principal. In this role, she said she has had to see how policy and practice interact, allowing her to have a unique and up-close point of view that will help her on the Council. 

“I have been a part of it. And I bring the same spirit,” she said. 

Her endorsement from mayoral candidate Jesús ‘Chuy’ García has also attracted a lot of attention.

Sigcho-López’s strengths come from his management over the last four years and the activism he did in the past. He opposed property tax increases and has helped community members to appeal them. He also promoted solutions from the community to the safety problems in the ward while also fighting for police accountability. 

“We are executing the community plans,” he said.

But not all that is being said is positive.

Among other accusations, Aida Flores said that Sigcho-López has “an inefficient and harmful type of leadership,” with two main accusations to support this: “He did not submit the applications for the ‘Menu Money’” in his four years as alderman, and that the 25th Ward during his administration was “one of the wards with the most 311 unsatisfied requests.”

The ‘Menu Money’ is a $1.5 million annual budget “allocated per ward and dedicated to addressing specific local needs.” This is invested by the Chicago mayor’s office, according to what each alderperson requests for their ward. If an alderperson does not indicate where this budget should be spent, the city would decide without necessarily taking into account the specific needs of the ward.

No evidence was found to support this accusation, since there is a budget requested for each year in the record from the city. An independent investigation led by Bike Lane Uprising, a group of advocates for the rights of cyclists, did not show the 25th Ward as one with the least unsolicited budgets. A video on Facebook shows the planning of how the proposals of the community were going to be collected and the form to make them.

3-1-1 is a number called “to find information, request non-emergency services or report non-emergency issues.”

This accusation regarding the 3-1-1 line is more difficult to verify. Since the requests are categorized by the appropriate city department and not the ward from which the call was made, it is impossible to know which requests would be relevant to the 25th Ward. In addition, as these requests are in charge of the departments, their status is not controlled by the Alderman’s office.

For his part, Sigcho-López said that choosing Aida Flores would be “returning to the ghosts of the past.” His main criticism is directed at the politicians who support her campaign and the organizations that help finance it. For this, he accused her of not being independent.

The first of these connections mentioned is with former Alderman Solis. In the 2019 election, Aida Flores was a candidate against Solis, in the same way that Sigcho-López was too. Despite the fact that the Aida Flores campaign said that “there are no connections,” after Solis backed out of his reelection campaign, Sol Solis, daughter of the former councilor, gave Aida Flores her support and thanked Flores in a Facebook post. Also, Jackson Chiu, a former Solis staffer, went on to work with the Aida Flores campaign. These two connections are from the 2019 campaign, not the present one.

The other connection mentioned by Sigcho-López is the one Aida Flores has with current mayoral candidate Jesús ‘Chuy’ García. Recently, he has been the target of scandals linked to his presumed relationships with the CEO of FTX and Michael Madigan

Finally, Get Stuff Done PAC, connected to Kyrsten Sinema, has been helping Aida Flores campaign against Sigcho-Lopez, especially attacking his position against more police involvement in the ward.

The Aida Flores campaign mentioned that some of the donors for the Sigcho-López campaign were – at the time – donors to the Solis campaign. This is true as in the case of Ivy Garden Learning Center and 21st Century US – Sino Services, Inc, among others, who also donated to the 25th ward Regular Democratic Organization, whose president is Daniel Solis.

Both candidates have received donations from organizations and individuals who have also donated to Lori Lightfoot’s mayoral re-election campaign, despite the fact that neither Sigcho-Lopez, nor Aida Flores, support her as a candidate.

Despite everything, some believe that participating is the best option for things to improve.

Voting is the first step. It is easy to think that things are not going to change, but the truth is that we do have a voice,” Flores said.