My name is Nick Ward. I’m a community organizer, renter, artist, former restaurant worker, and one of ten candidates running for Alderperson to replace the retiring Harry Osterman, who’s served the 48th Ward for three terms. I’m proud to live in a community where so many want to serve, but I believe I'm able to deliver the kind of principled, engaged, and active leadership that the people of this ward deserve.
I was raised by two public school teachers just outside of Detroit. My parents raised me to value our public institutions, respect the dignity of all in our community, and strive to provide everyone with the resources and support they need to thrive, especially those in marginalized communities. I also saw that their union membership gave us a right to a comfortable and dignified life, something everyone deserves.
I moved to Chicago in 2004 to be an actor and found a life pursuing the art that I loved while working in restaurants to survive. For the past eighteen years, I’ve produced, acted in, cast, told stories, and worked the box office at dozens of plays and literary events in performance spaces across Chicago. My artistic background drew me to the 48th Ward, where we’re home to nearly a dozen storefront theaters and some of the best independent bookstores in the city. I currently live in Uptown with my partner Tarah and our cat Soda.
While pursuing my artistic career, I made a living waiting tables at restaurants throughout the city. I worried constantly about making enough money for rent, bills, and groceries. The bussers, food runners, and cooks that I worked alongside and I had to work multiple jobs just to pay rent and feed our families. That’s why I am determined to build a Chicago where working families are centered and supported.
For the past four years, I worked at Young Chicago Authors (YCA), a thirty-year old arts organization that teaches creative writing to Chicago Public Schools students. YCA’s students and colleagues told me on many occasions how our work saved their lives. I believe that investing in more poetry, arts, athletics, robotics, chess programs, and more can have a profound impact on the life of a young person.
I’ve also been deeply involved in our community. Prior to my decision to run for Alderperson, I worked with the Uptown-Buena Park Solidarity Network. We delivered groceries to seniors, distributed direct cash payments to the recently unemployed, and gave out propane tanks to homeless residents during the Polar Vortex. Engaged in mutual aid organizing, I saw the needs of people in our community and how difficult it is for a small collection of volunteers to sustain this work without help from the government. I also helped found our neighborhood independent political organization, the 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice.
Since 2020, I’ve been an elected Community Representative on the Goudy Elementary Local School Council. It’s an incredible school where over 40 languages are spoken. It’s also a school facing some big challenges. I formed a Housing and Enrollment Committee to study why so many students were leaving the school. We documented how rising rents in the neighborhood contributed to an enrollment decline at nearly double the rate of Chicago Public Schools as a whole. In one instance, the conversion of an affordable building into luxury studios led to an enrollment decline of 90 students in four years.
Difficulties with affordability affect all of us. The families forced to relocate have their lives disrupted. Those on the margins who can remain further struggle to afford their necessities. And even those who are fortunate enough to endure the increases in rents or property taxes see how displacement interferes with maintaining strong and vibrant communities. This puts pressure on our schools, our small businesses, and nearly every critical concern in our ward.
I announced my campaign for 48th Ward Alderperson in January of 2022 because I am confident that, with the right kind of leadership, we can better address the issues that affect us all: both the citywide priorities and the issues block by block in every neighborhood. If I’m elected, a key priority of mine is to provide comprehensive and compassionate ward services to everyone in our community through the ward office, in the same way that we provided those services as volunteers in recent years.
I know what we can accomplish together, because I’ve seen the impact of people coming together to organize around shared concerns. Even when people disagree on the finer points, I’ve found that most of our neighbors want us to address the same issues: ensure affordability, strengthen our schools, make people feel safe in their neighborhoods, create better and safer transportation options for pedestrians, bikers, and users of public transit, and establish a more climate resilient future.
Our campaign demonstrates our values. I’ve supported and donated to striking workers at Starbucks, who unionized in three Edgewater stores, and Howard Brown Health workers, who just won their union election with 97% of the vote. I’ve opened a campaign office that is open and accessible to all, where my next-door senior neighbors from All-American Nursing Home stop by every day to grab a cup of coffee or ask questions about housing or jobs. I’m proud that organizations on the front lines of these efforts such as the Illinois Nurses Association, Cook County College Teachers Union, and Northside Democracy for America have endorsed my campaign because they know I will use my seat in City Council to fight for nurses, teachers, and everyday people, not special interests.
Chicago’s City Council will look very different next year. At least one third of the wards across Chicago will have a new Alderperson in 2023. It’s important that the newly elected City Council members are able to work together and build a strong vision for the city’s future. From combating rising unaffordability for families, to fighting climate change, to making sure our streets and sidewalks are safe for cyclists and pedestrians to travel, to supporting artists and culture, 2023 is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a Chicago for everyone. Today, I’m asking you all to be part of that change by supporting my run for Alderperson of the 48th Ward.
Yours in service,