Read it on RogersPark.com.
Steve Cain interviewed our candidate for RogersPark.com and wrote a wonderful article that tells the story of Belia Rodriguez and why she is running for city council to represent the 49th Ward.
Belia Rodriguez never planned on running for the Chicago City Council. Even when encouraged by friends and associates, she pushed back, worried that she would have difficulty balancing the needs of the community and her thriving small business.
But she was also increasingly uncomfortable with the neighborhood’s direction in the wake of the “triple whammy” brought about by the pandemic, civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd, and the sharp political left turn under the leadership of the new Alderperson who talks a lot about consensus but who always seems to side with a core group of far-left ideologues.
Ultimately, Belia said it was her concern for her own wife’s safety that finally led her to think that she should at least try to be the change she wanted to see in the neighborhood. Although she knew it would be an uphill struggle and a rough ride, she decided that something needed to be done, and that she might just be the right person for the job.
In a lot of ways, Belia is the perfect distillation of all the demographic and social trends that have been shaping Rogers Park and Chicago for the past several decades. A child of immigrants, Belia grew up in Little Village to Mexican-born parents who met and married in Chicago. She attended Chicago Public Schools through the high school level and then went on to study at the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the country’s most diverse institutions of higher learning.
As a young adult, Belia decided that the North Side of the city might be a better alternative for an ambitious, coming-of-age queer Latina than the more traditional Mexican-American neighborhood in which she grew up. She first moved to Boystown where she met her future wife. They later moved to Uptown but then decided Rogers Park was more to their liking. They have lived together in the neighborhood for the past eleven years.
The couple chose Rogers Park for many reasons, including its friendly vibe, incredible diversity, large LGBTQ population and nurturing environment for small, locally-owned businesses. Belia founded and runs Chicago Info Tech which provides tech and IT support to mission driven organization and small businesses. As the company evolved, Chicago Info Tech developed a particular niche providing these services to small, independent charter schools across the city.
As Belia’s business grew and her Rogers Park roots deepened, she became increasingly involved in local volunteer and non-profit work, including a six-year stint as a Board member of the Rogers Park Business Alliance, including two as Board President. She reluctantly gave up her position as President of the RPBA Board in October 2022 when she officially announced her run for 49th Ward Alderperson.
Belia is a proud Democrat and considers herself a pragmatic progressive. She is solutions-driven and has honed her skills as a problem solver after many years as an IT consultant. Belia has wide ranging experience in accounting, sales, operations, and as a small business owner and IT consultant. This broad experience has provided the training and expertise to be able to understand that solutions involve many people working together towards a common goal. She recognizes the challenges facing Rogers Park, but believes empowering community members and encouraging business development is the best way to ensure that everyone in the community is able to thrive.
Belia lists a number of specific issues that she believes are not being adequately addressed under current leadership, and for which she believes she has better policy prescriptions. These are:
- The spike in violent crime;
- The lack of investment in the community, including development of new housing;
- The housing crisis; and
- The dramatic increase in homelessness, particularly in Touhy Park which is no longer a viable recreational asset for the surrounding community.
Other issues she would like to address in Rogers Park and beyond are:
- Climate change and its specific impact in Rogers Park with regard to shoreline erosion, protection and design;
- Smarter energy policies, including increased use of solar power and greater access to charging stations for electric vehicles; and
- Food self-sufficiency, the food economy and the positive impacts that farm-to-table and vertical farming could have both in Rogers Park and across Chicago, leading to better access to healthy foods and more new economy jobs for local residents.
Needless to say, none of these problems has easy solutions and none will be solved overnight. But, Belia firmly believes that any solutions must come from the stakeholders in the community and the democratic consensus building that comes out of the political process.
Belia believes that this process has been hijacked by the political far-left under the current administration. These extremists delight in framing everything in social justice terms and will attack anyone with opposing views or opinions as racist, capitalistic or beholden to corporate America (and, not infrequently, all of the above).
Suffice it to say that this is not Belia’s model for community building. As a child of immigrant parents growing up in a lower-income community, Belia understands very well what it is to be born without privilege or status. As a queer Latina, Belia also understands prejudice and intolerance. Her response to these challenges has not been to rage against injustice but to look for positive solutions that create opportunity for herself, her family and her community.
As Belia said during our interview, revolution may be sexy, but you need to have a roadmap of where you want things to go after the revolution is over. Better, by far, to pursue evolution, expanding the opportunity that our society has created more equitably across a wider group of people who have not traditionally benefited from the current power structure.
To that end, Belia is a strong supporter of continuing to grow the minimum wage to allow more people to live better and be able to more fully participate in community life. And as important as it is to have a just society in which all people, regardless of background, can thrive, it is equally important to support the businesses – large and small – that provide the jobs and tax revenues that allow important policy decisions to move forward.
Belia recalls her own father’s trajectory after coming to the United States, scrimping and saving to purchase a three-flat in Little Village that became the home of his family and the families of two of his siblings who followed him from Mexico to Chicago.
Rents from the two apartment units were just enough to pay for the real estate taxes, utilities and other expenses with little to nothing left over for capital improvements, not to mention any “profit” to the owner. When the building needed new tuckpointing to keep it in good condition, it was Belia and her dad who did the work. There was no spare cash to cover this expense.
Belia’s own experience as a condo owner and, most recently, as the proud new owner of the “Leopard House,” has brought home the reality that rapidly rising taxes and utility costs leave little room for the critical maintenance work that all older properties require.
At the end of the day, Belia believes that Democracy cannot thrive if there is not a reasonable range of options from which voters can choose. With Belia now in the race for 49th Ward Alderperson, there is a clear choice between a consensus builder and an ideologue.
Steve Cain is editor and writer for “The Builder,” the quarterly newsletter of the Rogers Park Builders Group.