Visit The TRiiBE Election Center to learn more about the upcoming 2023 Chicago municipal election. Click here to find your Chicago ward and police district.

Incumbent:  Ald. Jason C. Ervin Re-elected

Population: 52,614


  • 71.3%  Black
  • 10.8%  Latine
  • 9.4%  white
  • 5.7%  Asian

Neighborhoods included:

  • West Garfield Park
  • East Garfield Park
  • Near West Side
  • Fifth City
  • Tri-Taylor
  • Greektown

Median household income:

  • For West Garfield Park, $29,443, as of July 2022.
  • For East Garfield Park, $23,067, as of July 2022.
  • For Near West Side, $93,202, as of July 2022.
  • For the City of Chicago, $62,097, as of July 2022. 

Top issues, according to people we interviewed:

  • Drugs and illegal substance abuse
  • Lack of investment
  • Crime
  • Lack of grocery stores


  • Malcolm X College — West Side Learning Center
  • Garfield Park Gold Dome Field House
  • Garfield Park Conservatory

The 28th Ward is home to some of Chicago’s many cultural gems. The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest conservatories in the nation, according to the Chicago Park District. Unfortunately, like many majority-Black and brown neighborhoods in Chicago, some of the neighborhoods within the 28th Ward have experienced decades-long disinvestment. 

In Oct. 2021, the ALDI at 3855 W. Madison Street closed without notice. Its closure left just one grocery store in West Garfield Park, a Save-A-Lot at 420 S. Pulaski. The Save-A-Lot temporarily closed in Feb. 2022 due to health code violations. Since then, community members have come together to bridge the gap with access to fresh food and produce. The Garfield Park Grocery Pop Up runs weekly on Tuesdays at 4316 W. Madison. The shop is a full-service supermarket with over 30 types of fruit, vegetables and more. 

According to an analysis by West Side United, people who live on Chicago’s West Side “have a projected life expectancy up to 14 years shorter than people who live downtown.” West Garfield Park residents have a life expectancy of 69 years. In contrast, people who live in Chicago’s Loop have an average life expectancy of 85 years, according to the analysis. 

Although areas within the ward have experienced a lack of investment, community residents remain steadfast in their commitment to helping one another, whether accessing groceries and health and wellness resources. 

A local running group Garfield Park native Jackie Hoffman founded in 2020, called the Peace Runners Club, raises awareness about increasing the life expectancy for West Side residents. The Peace Runners have hosted a Juneteenth 5K run for the last two years. 

There’s also promise in the ward that has residents hopeful about its future. In Jan. 2023, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation announced the Sankofa Wellness Village in West Garfield Park as the second winner of the 2022 Chicago Prize, which provides $10 million in funding. The Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative is leading the project. The project will provide the neighborhood with health care and wellness programs, before and after-school childcare and employment opportunities. 

Ald. Jason Ervin has led the 28th Ward since mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him in 2011. Ervin is also head of the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus. He is seeking his fourth term in office. Three challengers, Beverly Miles, Shawn A. Walker and Timothy Gladney, entered the race to unseat Ervin. By late January, Miles and Walker had been removed from the ballot due to a lack of valid signatures, and Gladney withdrew from the race, which meant that Ervin would have been running unopposed. 

On Feb. 21, following a ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court that Walker had enough signatures, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners agreed and added Walker back onto the ballot. The ruling means incumbent Ald. Ervin is no longer running unopposed.

For our West Side wards profile series, The TRiiBE interviewed four people that are residents of the 28th Ward and asked them about their experiences living and working in the ward and what improvements they’d like to see going forward. 

Carol Johnson, 66 years old

Neighborhood you live in: Austin

Neighborhoods you’ve organized in: Near West Side and Garfield Park

Occupation: Founder of the Westside Cultural Alliance, historian and part-time project manager at Swank PR

Do you know who your alderperson is? “Of course; it’s Jason Ervin.”

What do you think your alderperson has done for you and your ward? “I have a pretty positive relationship with him because I’ve known him for over 20 years. What I’ve seen since the Lightfoot administration [started] is more money poured into West Garfield Park than I’ve seen in a long time; prior to that, investments went into East Garfield Park, where the conservatory is.”

What do you like about working in the 28th Ward? “I like the sense of community. Austin has always been a community where there’s been a lot of investment; it’s considered a middle-class community, especially to Black people. We’ve been getting our part of the resources.”

What do you dislike about working in the 28th Ward? 

  • Prior lack of investment: “I dislike the previous lack of investment into the ward. Because of the lack of investment, there’s been a lot of economic struggle — and people look down on people who are not on the same economic level. So I dislike how people view that particular part of the 28th Ward, West Garfield Park. 
  • Drugs: “There are also a lot of drugs, particularly around the Pulaski/Madison corridor and West Garfield Park. I’ve seen people come out off the Green Line train to buy drugs right off Pulaski and by the conservatory. All these people I saw were not residents; you could tell because they were white. They’d go buy drugs and go to this building that was [later] torn down by Ald. Burnett, shoot [up] their drugs, leave their needles there and get back on the train. That still happens; people know where the spots are. When we do clean-ups, we pick up a lot of needles. But the problem is not the residents; it’s the people who come in there, buy drugs and treat the area like it’s a dumping ground. People think they can just dump things in our community and others think it’s us — but that’s just not true.
  • Negative image: “So I don’t like the negative image of our community, and I don’t like that other people just come in and take advantage.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? “One of the things I think should happen is that I think the community should have a say in what is done with the menu money. [Editor’s note: Each ward is given $1.3 million to be used for a “menu” of infrastructure maintenance and improvements every year]. In some of the other wards, the community decides what is done with that money; that’s not done in the 28th Ward. We need to have a voice in that.”

Are you going to vote in the 2023 municipal election? “Yes.”

Do you know who you’re going to vote for? “To be honest with you, I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for, [for] alderman or mayor. I know every aldermanic candidate who’s running: Ald. Ervin, Beverly Miles and Shawn Walker. [Editor’s note: Timothy Gladney was initially also running]. Everyone asks me, ‘Who are you going to vote for?’ I say, ‘First of all, I wouldn’t tell you.’ I’m going to see how this rolls out because I know good and bad things about all of them. I want to see what they plan on doing for the community. One of the things I look at is how active they’ve been in the community. As far as the mayor is concerned, I’m going to let it get down to four candidates. I’m going to wait until some of them fall off.”

Carrie Woords, 43 years old

Reporter’s note: The TRiiBE interviewed Woods ahead of a campaign rally in Garfield Park for Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She received a phone call from a campaign worker inviting her to the rally.

Neighborhood you live in: Garfield Park

Homeowner or renter? Homeowner 

Occupation: Manager in the Shared Services Department at US Foods

Do you know who your alderperson is? “I don’t.” 

What do you like about the 28th Ward? “I don’t have a like or dislike. Well, I do have several dislikes. My kids are safe. They’re in a house. We’ve had a lot of turmoil in that area. I didn’t know exactly where I was moving to when I bought the home. So it’s been very interesting.”

What do you mean by turmoil?  “I mean, we’ve had bullets flying near our home. My boys saw people get shot. We talked through it because I am a mom that communicates, and I let them know what goes on outside our home. This is my first time trying to get active in the community.” 

What brings you to today’s rally for Mayor Lori Lightfoot? “I want to do more. So, I would love to build a transitional home for homeless folks or just something in the community. We are in a food desert in this community and it’s not good. So instead of moving to a different state, I’m trying to figure out how to become more active.”

Are you a native of Chicago? “Yeah, born and raised.”

On the West Side? “No, I was born on the North Side, but we moved to the West Side when I was 10.” 

What do you dislike about the 28th Ward?

  • Crime
  • Food deserts
  • Lack of activities for young people
  • Abandoned buildings and schools

What about your block? What’s it like there? “It’s always been quiet. I live on a block that’s across the street from the expressway. The expressway is loud and noisy. There was a petition to build a wall there, but I don’t know what happened to that.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? “More grocery stores and community huddles so we know what’s happening in the ward. So maybe more communication with the community, letting us know about rallies or things. I wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t gotten a phone call about today’s town hall. That way, we can see what is there for us to do. Maybe even asking the community if we want to be involved. Even if it is volunteer work, a lot of people in the community want to do that. So more community involvement and grocery stores and shopping opportunities, so we don’t have to go to Cicero [Illinois].” 

Are you going to vote in the 2023 municipal election? “Yes, I’m going to vote by mail. I have my ballot; I just haven’t made my decisions just yet.”

Chris Balthazar, 39, years old

Neighborhood you work in: South Austin

Occupation: Executive director of TaskForce Prevention & Community Services

Do you know who your alderperson is? Yes

What do you think your alderperson has done for you and your ward? “That’s a good question. I have been trying to figure that out. I’m sure there are things he has done, but conversations with him would really help me to better understand that. I know there are issues with our community that are not addressed, and part of the reason I wanted to meet with him was to address some of those because I think he has a very powerful platform with him being chair of the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus. He has an ability to hold the mayor and institutions such as the Chicago Police Department accountable, and I’m curious about what he’s done and what he could do — but we haven’t been able to meet.”

And you’ve tried more than once to meet him? “I’ve tried many times to meet him. The TaskForce staff and community members have been passionate about issues concerning violence against trans women as well as many other issues regarding violence that happen. I initially wanted to engage him around those issues; in June, I sent two emails about a week apart, and there was no response. I thought maybe it was the email address and then I sent three more emails; I also emailed his chief of staff and sent one to another person. I got a response saying he’s available on Jan. 4, 2023, so now I have a meeting set up for then. I also want to add that I’ve spoken to other executive directors and community leaders who have had similar issues. I don’t want to bash someone; I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when it seems like multiple people have the same issue, it’s not good.”

What do you like about the 28th Ward? “I think there’s a strong community. I think those within the Austin community are proud of Austin, and they’re about supporting one another. It’s funny because I was just having this conversation with someone and there are issues, for instance, with policing and how that makes us feel less safe instead of more safe, right? But whenever there’s an issue, I feel the people of Austin are really passionate and supportive of their community. Everyone cares for each other. It’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘us.’

What do you dislike about the 28th Ward? 

  • HIV/AIDS: “Austin suffers from so many things disproportionately. If we’re talking about HIV, Austin has one of the highest incident rates of HIV in the city.” 
  • Illegal substance abuse: “If we’re talking about substance use, Austin has one of the highest deaths related to opioid overdoses in the city.”
  • Lack of investment: “There are so many barriers, and so many are structural. There’s a lack of investment in that community — and when there is an investment, it takes too long to trickle down to the folks who really need it.”
  • Policing, and violence against LGBTQ folks: “I think the ward has a lot of challenges. There are issues around policing our communities. There’s a lot of violence against trans and LGBTQ-identified folks; there’s a lot of work that needs to be done around that. The community suffers from a lot of structural violence.”

What do you mean by structural violence? “I’m talking about the policies and laws as well as the way the system of government is designed, and how that system doesn’t serve our communities well at all. We talk a lot about investing more money into public health, but how much of those dollars are actually reaching the people in the Austin community? How many of those grants are actually going to organizations that serve the Austin community? That, to me, is an example of structural violence. Communities are not getting money, perpetuating a system of oppression. It is an act of violence.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? “I think he needs to meet with his constituents. We want him to come to TaskForce and have a conversation — not just with me but with the community we serve. We want him to hear from them because they’re dealing with real issues. I think he has the power to address some serious issues around funding inequities that exist with the organizations in Austin. There are many issues. He’s in this position where he can hold people in power accountable, and it’s just not happening.”

Are you going to vote in the 2023 municipal election? “Oh, absolutely.”

Do you know who you’re going to vote for alderperson or mayor? “I will say this: I think I know but I am remaining open. I’m seeing who’s having the conversations and who’s willing to promote the kinds of policies that we really need. I have had several conversations about our current mayor. While I think it’s amazing how a Black lesbian is a mayor, I think there could be more work around the policies that are implemented that affect the communities she represents. It’s not enough to have representation — the policies need to be reflected through each and every part of the mayor’s office.”

Ayesha Jaco, 42 years old

Neighborhood you work in: “I work in the 10 West Side communities area.” 

Occupation: Executive director of West Side United, headquartered in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood.

Do you know who your alderperson is? “Yes; Jason Ervin.”

What do you think your alderperson has done for you and your ward? 

  • Support of Sankofa Wellness Village: “I’d like to highlight the Sankofa Wellness Village that he is supporting. What I do is work to decrease the life-expectancy gap between downtown Chicago and the West Side communities. People in Garfield Park have a lower life expectancy so it’s important in our line of work to focus on economic vitality. We’re leveraging hospitals and their ability to hire and invest locally, especially with small businesses of color. The work we’re doing with the Garfield Park Right to Wellness Collaborative, in Jason Ervin’s ward, requires the activation of different resources to revitalize the corridor like having a wellness center. Jason Ervin has supported the village as well as our partners at Erie Family Health and Rush University Medical Center. You can only do something of this magnitude with support from the alderman.”
  • Support of MAAFA Center for Arts & Activism and grocery stores: “We’re also looking at access to arts through the MAAFA Center for Arts & Activism, how we activate the ALDI sites and revitalizing Save-A-Lot. The alderman has been supporting this collaborative.”

What do you like about the 28th Ward? 

  • Resilience of residents: “I like its resilience. You have people who have been there for decades who care about their community. I think of the Garfield Park Community Council and champions like Angela Taylor [the council’s wellness coordinator], who’ve been leading the charge for healthy food. I think about the legacy residents.”
  • People wanting to rebuild: “The corridor that we’re looking to work along dealt with the riots of 1968 and 2020, when George Floyd was murdered, and people are there who want to rebuild their communities. As a former resident of that ward, I’m inspired by that. It means a lot to me to do what I can to support the resurgence of jobs and other core pieces. There are a lot of challenges there but the spirit of the people and the actions and intentions of stakeholders on the ground are very inspiring.”

What do you dislike about the 28th Ward? 

  • Lack of branded and notable spaces: “We are working to put our flag up for that community. When you think about corridors on the West Side and where there’s great impact, there are Little Village and 26th Street — and the fact that it’s the highest-grossing retail corridor after Michigan Avenue. There’s the burgeoning Soul City corridor in Austin. You have North Lawndale, where you’ve got 16th Street and the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. You’ve got the Homan Square Foundation and that resurgence of the Sears campus as well as organizations like UCAN and the North Lawndale Employment Network. You also have Paseo Boricua in Humboldt Park’s corridor. These are places that are branded and that are cultural enclaves that people are proud of — and we want that for the 28th Ward and the Sankofa Wellness Center. I’m sad that it’s not there yet, but I know it’s coming. We want to make sure this area has that same vibe and recognition. Actually, I can’t say I’m sad because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • Recent closures: “I am sad about the recent closures of grocery stores in the community. Seniors and all residents have the right to have affordable and fresh groceries and produce. Then again, it’s part of our plan to get that back.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? “I hope he continues the momentum and support. I think he’s on the right path in terms of being present, responsive and action-oriented.”

Are you going to vote in the 2023 municipal election? “Absolutely. It’s important to do so and I plan to exercise that right.”

is the Digital News Editor for The TRiiBE.
is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.