At a pivotal moment for Chicago’s left, North Side alderman tries to bridge socialism and pragmatism

Ald. Andre Vasquez was completing the arrangement of chairs inside a church basement in Edgewater when the Rev. Beth Brown delivered a warning about Mayor Brandon Johnson’s new plan to house migrants in encampments. Brown expressed concern about winter temperatures and the controversial private security company overseeing the plan. Vasquez agreed that the tent plan was misguided and later found himself in the middle of a progressive and traditional crime-focused public safety community meeting.

Vasquez, a self-styled democratic socialist in his sophomore term, has been trying to balance the needs of his progressive constituents and their concerns over violence and property taxes in a wealthy ward. He has managed to anger both ends of the spectrum at times, but his focus is on finding ways to govern effectively in an ideologically divided City Council.

Despite moments of independence and criticism toward the mayor’s administration, Vasquez has expressed concern about the political left squandering the opportunity to accomplish things with the progressive mayor in office. He emphasized the importance of being fiscally responsible and called for a police budget audit at a recent meeting. The article also reflects on Vasquez’s vote for Lightfoot’s COVID-19 budget, which preserved CPD spending, leading to his renouncement from the local DSA.

The article suggests a conflicting view within the DSA on how much purity to demand from elected socialists and the challenges of maintaining radical perspectives while in office. It also highlights the surge and subsequent fading of “defund the police” protests, paralleling Johnson’s position on the issue, and Vasquez’s preference for a non-dictatorial approach within the socialist collective.

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