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.


Ald. Chris Taliaferro Headed to runoff

Contesting candidates:

  • CB Johnson Headed to runoff

Population: 53,635


  • 62.7%  Black
  • 21.7%  Latine
  • 12.4%  white
  • 1%  Asian

Neighborhoods included:

  • Montclare
  • Galewood
  • Austin

Median household income:

  • For Austin, $35,555, as of July 2022.
  • For Montclare, $55,882, as of July 2022.
  • For the City of Chicago, $62,097, as of July 2022. 

Top issues, according to people we interviewed:

  • Shopping 
  • Grocery stores
  • Public safety


  • Columbus Park
  • Laramie State Bank Building 
  • Austin Town Hall Park
  • Amundsen Park
  • Mars Chocolate North America

Austin was once a bustling community area that boasted more than 120,000 middle-class residents at its peak in 1930. There were street railways to downtown every half mile, and booming businesses on Madison Street, Lake Street and Chicago Avenue. 

However, there’s been a tremendous population loss since then. Today, there are just a little over 53,000 residents in Austin, and most of them are Black. And those bustling business corridors are now vacant lots, dilapidated storefronts and crumbling facades after experiencing decades of divestment.

In the 29th ward, incumbent Chris Taliaferro is focused on retaining his aldermanic power after a fleeting run for Cook County Judge in 2021. Contesting candidates CB Johnson, who last ran in 1999, Walter Adamcyzk, a republican, and Corey Dooley, who is facing allegations that he is not a registered voter in the ward, have a hard-won battle ahead.

For our West Side wards profile series, The TRiiBE interviewed three Black women who reside in Austin and in Galewood, a small bungalow enclave within the community. Together, they painted an eclectic portrait of a neighborhood that once had rich communal ties but is now lacking affordable housing, political power, amenities such as grocery stores that are abundant in neighboring towns like Oak Park.

Francis Howard, 72 years old

Neighborhood you live in: Galewood

Occupation: Retired

Homeowner or renter? Homeowner in Galewood for 13 years, and owns another property in Humboldt Park.

Do you feel safe? “Nowhere is safe in this area. That’s just how I feel.” 

Do you know who your alderperson is? “I guess so. I read about him in a paper or something. He’s never come to this block [Newcastle Avenue]. People on this block don’t know who he is. Most of them. And I’ve only seen him at meetings. He’s never ever in the neighborhood.”

What do you know about your alderperson? “I’ve never seen him in person [outside of a political setting] and the one time I reached out to him via email, he responded he would get to repaving our street and alley [in his] next term . . . .Is he really the alderman? Are we in the 29th Ward?” 

What do you like about your ward? “It’s okay. It’s nothing to write home about like it was 20 years ago. Because, one thing is, it was like six Blacks on this block when we moved here. Now it’s many more Blacks from Austin that’s on this block now.” 

What do you dislike about your ward? 

  • Lack of neighborhood feel: “[Most neighbors] don’t participate in anything. We were talking about getting a block club, but we would have to do all of the work and I’m not walking these streets, being bothered to teach people and ask them for money and stuff. It’s not that kind of neighborhood. It’s not them kind of people on this block.”
  • Crime: “At night now, we don’t go outside. We used to work all night, party and go out. No. I don’t even trust Galewood. It’s not a lot [that’s] been happening over here. Every once in a while, somebody might get killed or something. One time somebody got shot at 7-Eleven since we’ve been over here, but I don’t feel safe over here. You know what? I’m not talking about my people, but some of them look dangerous. Some of the guys that walk through here look dangerous to me. With those hoods on their heads, it’s just ugh. I’m afraid of them.”
  • Taxes: “Taxes are high. Taxes went up at least $1,000.” 
  • Increase in grocery prices: “We go to Jewel’s. It’s so expensive.”  

Do you plan to vote in the 2023 Chicago municipal election? “Yes. 

How do you get your news? “Nextdoor app.” She also used to get a lot of her news from Ald.  Nicholas Sposato’s newsletter when she lived in Humboldt Park.

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? 

  • Repave streets and alleys
  • Better street parking

More police patrols: “I’ve been here about 13 years and I guess I’ve seen a police car drive through here five times.”

Denish Robison-Newell, 59 years old

Neighborhood you live in: Galewood

Occupation: Retail Store Manager 

Homeowner or renter? Homeowner. Also owns another home in the same neighborhood.

Do you feel safe? “Yes”.

Do you know who your alderperson is? “Mmhmm. I know he was trying to run for judge but I don’t really know anything [else about him] actually.”

What do you know about your alderperson? “I’ve never seen him out, only when he was knocking on my door [while campaigning].”

What do you like about your ward? “I’ve owned another house down the street, so 20 years I’ve lived over here. The neighborhood is a quiet neighborhood. Finally, some friendly neighbors.”

What do you dislike about your ward? 

  • Street parking: “With our block, there’s a parking issue because it just seems like there are so many people with cars. You can never find parking.”
  • Shopping: “They should probably put more stores. [They’re] tearing up that little mall [a mixed residential and retail development on North Ave. and Harlem Ave.] down there. But I think that should be a little more convenient, almost like a downtown like Oak Park has restaurants. It’s just more frilly shopping. It’s more of a hangout spot with restaurants and stuff, and we don’t have that here in our neighborhood.”

Do you feel like your neighborhood is communal? “No, not really. I think on my block it’s more communal, but I think outside of the block, I don’t think people know each other. A lot of blocks have block club parties. We’ve never had one, at least since I’ve been here.”

Do you plan to vote in the 2023 Chicago municipal election? I definitely will be up there to vote, as usual. I just voted in this last election. So I definitely plan on voting.”

How do you get your news about the election? “I know Lightfoot’s the current mayor but I don’t know who’s running. I only watch TV. I’ve gotten text messages from different offices.”

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? 

  • More street parking 
  • More stores 


Crystal Gardner, 39 years old

Neighborhood you live in: Austin

Occupation: Associate Political Director for United Working Families. [Editor’s note: United Working Families, which Gardner works for, endorsed Brandon Johnson for mayor]

Homeowner or renter? New renter after living in her family’s home in Austin for 30 years. “We’re being priced out. I’m a little upset at the idea that I can’t afford the houses in the neighborhood that raised me.” 

Do you feel safe? “I absolutely feel safe in all parts of Austin.”

Do you know who your alderperson is? “Yes, I do. Chris Taliaferro.”

What do you know about your alderperson? “I know him through family relationships. My mother was an avid supporter of his during his first campaign [for alderperson in 2015]. So I am familiar with him on a more personal level. Now, politically? I am not as keen as I would like to be on his platform. The one thing that I do recall him being open and willing to engage in the conversation was around the Anjanette Young ordinance. He participated in the conversation, but it didn’t pass. I sat on the Concerned Women of Illinois Committee of Rainbow PUSH. And we had a forum where he was open to answering questions from not just the West Side, but the statewide coalition of women, regarding the Anjanette Young ordinance.”

What do you like about your ward? “The West Side is the best side. It’s the rich history and culture, and the families. I’ve lived in Austin for 37 years. There’s so many other families that have remained in the neighborhood and have survived the concerted efforts of disinvestment. I think that the resiliency and pride of the residents is part of the beauty of Austin. And, I mean, Austin does have some really beautiful homes, and Columbus Park is a very beautiful feature of the community as well.”

What do you dislike? 

  • Political engagement: “I want to see neighbors more politically empowered and activated.” 
  • Grocery stores: “I also want to see more grocery store options, specifically for free produce.” 
  • Homeownership access: “I’m a little upset right now at the idea that I can’t afford a home in the neighborhood that raised me and developed me and that I pay taxes in.” 
  • Affordable rent/amenities: “I don’t have any AC. I live on the third floor. Now I have a shared experience [renting] and it makes me want to fight even more. I need to educate myself on how we can demand more. But that’ll only happen through issue based campaigning like—Hey, how are you feeling about your rising rent?” 

Do you plan to vote in the 2023 Chicago municipal election? “Yes. My parents were politicians so I absolutely do vote. I gotta vote. It’s like brushing my teeth. I truly believe that our power, our voice is in our vote. It hits different now.”

How do you get your news? “Probably Block Club Chicago, The TRiiBE as well. More localized [outlets] because those big name publications can be triggering with how they title stories. I may watch MSNBC, WGN in the mornings because they’re a little more lighthearted.”  

What do you wish your alderperson would do to improve your ward? 

  • Public safety: “I feel comfortable having necessary conversations to if not create a safe space, but identify — this might not be as safe, let me move around.” 
  • Youth engagement: “That’s an important resource we’re lacking — opportunities for our youth to be engaged in a safe space and be developed. 
  • Affordable housing: “I can’t afford that [homeownership] in Austin. How ironic is that — I remained there for 37 years and I still can’t.” 
  • Grocery stores: “Austin deserves every single resource and service that exists in Wicker Park and Oak Park. I would like to see us having multiple options for grocery stores.”
is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She recently covered housing as a 2020 City Bureau fellow.