Alderman Michele Smith is serving her second term as Alderman of the 43rd Ward; the ward encompasses the vibrant Lakefront communities of Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast and Old Town and is a critical social, cultural and economic hub of the City of Chicago.
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School,, Alderman Smith began her career in public service in the United States Attorney’s Office, prosecuting hundreds of narcotics, white-collar criminal, and political corruption cases.
Alderman Smith next spent 16 years at Navistar International Corporation, becoming General Counsel for the Engine Group, a $2.5 Billion subsidiary, She led the company’s intellectual property management and patent litigation group, as well as the corporate law division. Among many other accomplishments, she participated in the team that helped reform Navistar’s retiree health care liabilities, preserving benefits while preventing a company bankruptcy.
Returning to public service as Alderman in 2011, Smith has placed a premium on providing constituent services to the people she serves. Her constituent service office fulfills more than 14,000 individual residential service requests per year for the citizens of the 43rd Ward.
During her tenure, the ward has seen major improvements to our infrastructure, including new streets, critical improvements to sewer lines and water mains, new sidewalks and hundreds of new trees. The ward has also benefitted from beautification efforts such as murals at the Armitage El stop and in the Division Street pedestrian underpass. Pedestrian safety is a focus, with Alderman Smith having CDOT build new pedestrian crossings to service the Green City Market, the Lincoln Park Zoo and Supera Park.
Alderman Smith has prioritized prompt and electronic means of communicating with her constituents via Facebook, Twitter, See-Click-Fix, and direct texts related to city services. She regularly communicates with her constituents through her well-regarded newsletter, which reaches 22,000 people.
Alderman Smith has fought for and won additional public safety resources for our ward, adding new police officers to the 18th and 19th Police Districts. The 18th Police District has recently received a Strategic Demand Command Center to bring tech-driven tools to law enforcement. In the wake of new forms of crime, she has advocated for changes in State laws to empower prosecutors to tackle carjackings. She has fought for improvements in the juvenile justice system to ensure the right balance of both rehabilitation and accountability for juveniles.
Alderman Smith regularly informs her constituents of public safety issues and organizes forums regularly on key safety topics. She is a vigorous supporter of the court advocacy program, often attending court with constituents. She advocates strongly for gun safety legislation and has fought to close gun stores.
Alderman Smith has been a champion for our schools. She obtained funds for Lincoln Park High School to undergo a $20 million renovation and lead the effort to make Lincoln Park High School a Wall-to-Wall International Baccalaureate School. She secured $25 million in funding to create the new West annex to relieve overcrowding at Lincoln Elementary. She also obtained a new $1.5 million playground and field for Alcott Elementary School and won funds from the Park District to repair the drainage at Trebes Park, which is used by Oscar Mayer School.
Alderman Smith works closely with parent groups and school administrations and is proud that every school in the 43rd Ward is rated an A+ school. Many have national rankings, such as Lincoln Elementary, the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago, and Lincoln Park High School, the top neighborhood high school in Chicago.
Alderman Smith is committed to our public park space. She has devoted hundreds of thousands of aldermanic “menu” funds to the parks, including $180,000 to Oz Park for a new playing service and rehabbed tennis courts, $20,000 to the new water park at Adams Playlot, and $300,000 to Goudy Playlot as part of community funding drives. Under her leadership, and working with the community, almost every Park District playlot in the 43rd Ward has received new playground equipment, picked by each community.
Alderman Smith is committed to ensuring that as our neighborhoods continue to grow and develop, residents of the community will always have a voice in the direction and scope of that growth. She requires that developers earn any development rights via a vigorous community-oriented process to achieve outcomes that consider the best interests of the entire community.
The effectiveness of this approach can be seen throughout the ward. It is evident in the redevelopment of the Lincoln Park Hospital location, which resulted in a decrease in the intensity of site usage, and the development of the Children’s Memorial site into a new neighborhood crossroads including housing options for a variety of income levels, an assisted living facility to serve some of our community’s aging population, and more than acre of new plazas to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.
She also has helped support a cultural renaissance in the Ward, by creating a Cultural Plan with the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, which is leading to the revitalization of Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street. She believes in preserving the charm of our community, successfully landmarking numerous properties including the Mulligan School and the Lakeview Row Houses.
Alderman Smith views her role as protecting taxpayers from excessive and wasteful spending. She pressured the city to investigate its absenteeism and overtime problems, which cost the taxpayers unnecessary millions. As a result, for the first time in its history, Chicago now has electronic timekeeping, and is implementing basic human resources practices to cut down on improper overtime and absenteeism. She continues to fight for property tax relief for long-time homeowners, and is a vocal advocate for full pension reform to relieve financial stress on the taxpayers.
Alderman Smith is a hard-working advocate for our condominium dwellers. With our State Representatives, she organized residents to successfully resist the implementation of mandatory – and costly – sprinklers in hi-rises. She led the effort to protect homeowners from Airbnb, leading to the toughest regulation of the short-term rental industry in the nation.
Smith is also a leader in standing up against threats to women’s safety and privacy. She has served as the Aldermanic liaison for the Chicago Women’s March and helped lead efforts to protect a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Alderman Smith has long had the vision to guide the community to protect its interests. She organized the community during the 2011 redistricting process to prevent the 43rd Ward from being split up amongst five different wards. Her leadership and foresight ensured that the community continues to have a single voice representing and serving as their advocate in the City Council. Today, she is working with our neighborhood groups and other organizations to lessen the impact of new development outside our Ward boundaries and to obtain much-needed park space.
Alderman Smith has lived in the 43rd Ward since her Law School graduation, and raised her daughter here, participating as a Girl Scout leader at the Menomonee Club. She and her husband Leigh live in the Lincoln Central area, and enjoy walking, biking, and everything the city has to offer. She also enjoys spending time with her energetic four year old granddaughter Kaylie.