So­lis won’t seek an­other term on City Coun­cil

Rep­re­sented 25th since 1996, faced 4 re-elec­tion ri­vals

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - By Gre­gory Pratt [email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @roy­al­pratt

Ald. Danny So­lis, who over the past two decades on the City Coun­cil served as an in­flu­en­tial be­hindthe-scenes player in Chicago pol­i­tics, won’t seek re-elec­tion, he said Satur­day.

Ap­pointed by Mayor Richard M. Da­ley in 1996, So­lis is the coun­cil’s sec­ond­longest-serv­ing Latino. His ward in­cludes the Pilsen neigh­bor­hood. So­lis, 69, chairs the zon­ing com­mit­tee, giv­ing him some power over just about ev­ery de­vel­op­ment in Chicago.

“Af­ter 23 years rep­re­sent­ing the great­est com­mu­nity in Chicago, it’s time to en­ter a new chap­ter in my life and pass the ba­ton of pub­lic ser­vice to an­other,” So­lis said. “Chicago’s chal­lenges are many, but our ca­pac­ity to meet them is un­lim­ited, and I know that the cit­i­zens of the 25th Ward will make their voices heard in this up­com­ing elec­tion sea­son.”

So­lis got his start in pol­i­tics as an ac­tivist and pro­tester who crit­i­cized the power struc­ture as a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago in the 1970s. He later helped start an al­ter­na­tive high school for dropouts and co­founded the United Neigh­bor­hood Or­ga­ni­za­tion be­fore forg­ing close ties with Da­ley and Rahm Emanuel.

In re­cent years, So­lis has drawn crit­i­cism from Pilsen ac­tivists and res­i­dents who ac­cuse him of be­ing too cozy with de­vel­op­ers that are chang­ing the neigh­bor­hood’s char­ac­ter through gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. So­lis de­fended his record on Satur­day, re­but­ting the crit­i­cism by say­ing, “The job of any al­der­man, the first pri­or­ity is to work to make the neigh­bor­hoods he rep­re­sents bet­ter. That means safer, bet­ter schools and cre­at­ing jobs. I think un­der that cri­te­ria, you can’t deny what I’ve done.”

So­lis said he’s worked with or­ga­ni­za­tions to sup­port af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Pilsen and worked to shut down bars that were “bad for the neigh­bor­hood.”

“I have no em­bar­rass­ment,” he added. “I’m proud of what I’ve done in Pilsen.”

In a state­ment re­leased through a spokesman, Emanuel called So­lis a “cham­pion” for his con­stituents.

“Danny So­lis de­serves the thanks and con­grat­u­la­tions of our en­tire city af­ter a life­time of pub­lic ser­vice, and I will be the first in line,” the mayor said in the state­ment. “As a leader in the City Coun­cil for more than 20 years and as a leader in his com­mu­nity for even longer, Danny has been a cham­pion for im­mi­grants, for school stu­dents and for fam­i­lies. His ef­forts have paid div­i­dends in our class­rooms, in the halls of new li­braries and in parks that will de­light for gen­er­a­tions. Danny has trans­formed his ward, and along with it Chicago. I will for­ever look fondly on the eight years Danny and I served this great city to­gether and while the sim­ple view may be that he was an ally on City Coun­cil, the re­al­ity is much more. Danny is a friend.”

So­lis’ re­tire­ment is the lat­est high-pro­file de­par­ture from the City Coun­cil. Long­time Ald. Mar­garet Lau­rino also has an­nounced she’s step­ping down from the post pre­vi­ously held by her father, en­sur­ing some­one from out­side her fam­ily will rep­re­sent the North­west Side’s 39th Ward for the first time since 1965.

The coun­cil’s longest­serv­ing Latino al­der­man, Ri­cardo Munoz, 22nd, an­nounced his re­tire­ment this sum­mer. Ald. Ariel Re­boyras, 30th, and Ge­orge Car­de­nas, 12th, would be the long­est-serv­ing His­panic mem­bers if they’re suc­cess­ful in their re-elec­tion cam­paigns next year.

With at least four can­di­dates vy­ing to de­feat him, So­lis faced a likely tough bat­tle for re-elec­tion in Feb­ru­ary. Many of the coun­cil’s vet­er­ans are ex­pected to have stiff chal­lenges in Feb­ru­ary, in­clud­ing Emanuel’s floor leader, 40th Ward Ald. Patrick O’Con­nor, Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Burke, 14th, and Joe Moore, 49th, set­ting the stage for what could be a markedly dif­fer­ent City Coun­cil next spring.

So­lis’ fam­ily em­i­grated from Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico, decades ago, and his father bought their first home in Pilsen in 1967. So­lis said his po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est stems from his “per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing an im­mi­grant in the great­est coun­try in the world.”

“Even though it’s the great­est coun­try in the world, there’s things that need to be fixed or made bet­ter,” So­lis said. “That’s the at­ti­tude I’ve had most of my life.”

Over time, So­lis said, he “evolved” from a “rad­i­cal” stu­dent ac­tivist who was ar­rested dur­ing protests to a prag­ma­tist seek­ing com­mon ground. As he got older, So­lis said he re­al­ized the im­por­tance of com­pro­mise, which he said helped build strong re­la­tion­ships with Emanuel and Da­ley.

“I think they both re­spected that, even though I had a his­tory of ac­tivism and be­ing rad­i­cal, they also saw the (evo­lu­tion) of be­ing a more prag­matic leader of my com­mu­nity,” So­lis said. “We got along well.”

So­lis praised both Da­ley and Emanuel but said he was “prob­a­bly more in­tim­i­dated by Mayor Da­ley be­cause it’s not just Mayor Da­ley, it’s the whole legacy of his dad and the power that has been in Chicago for decades.”

Emanuel is younger, and the two had a shared con­nec­tion as So­lis’ po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive sis­ter, Patti So­lis Doyle, worked with the Clin­tons along­side Emanuel.

Asked why he’s re­tir­ing, So­lis ticked off 23 years in March as al­der­man, 16 years run­ning a neigh­bors group in Pilsen and UNO, five years at the al­ter­na­tive high school and about half a decade in col­lege.

“I just felt it was time for me to fo­cus a lit­tle bit on my fam­ily, my­self, my grand­kids, my son who is go­ing into col­lege this year,” So­lis said.

Can­di­dates vy­ing to re­place So­lis in­clude Aida Flores, Hi­lario Dominguez, Alex Acevedo, Troy Her­nan­dez and By­ron Sig­choLopez. He said he has not de­cided whom he will sup­port to re­place him.

In ad­di­tion to Pilsen, So­lis’ ward also in­cludes Chi­na­town, West Loop and the South Loop. He said he’s proud that Pilsen re­cently was ranked one of the “coolest neigh­bor­hoods around the world” and said Chi­na­town is “the top Chi­nese-Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood in the coun­try.” South Loop is the “next big neigh­bor­hood” in Chicago, he said.

“I have no re­grets. I think I did my part. I made a dif­fer­ence,” So­lis said. “Some peo­ple will agree with me on that, some peo­ple won’t, but in my heart I know what I’ve done. I’m happy about it.”

BRIAN CAS­SELLA/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE 2016

Ald. Danny So­lis said he is proud of his ser­vice and looks for­ward to more fam­ily time.

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