Cuauhtémoc Morfínknown by the 25th Ward residents simply as "Témoc"has a formidable obstacle in his attempt to become alderman: incumbent Daniel Solis, who has led the ward since the mid-1990s. Morfin talked with Windy City Times about his opponent (levelling some heavy charges), term limits, abortion and, of course, LGBT issues.
Windy City Times: How confident are you going into this election?
Témoc Morfin: Very confident. This has been a long journey. I ran in 2007 for the same position and I came very, very close to a runoff election, and I have been very active ever since. I'd been working as a juvenile probation officer, as vice president of the local chamber of commerce, as vice president of the local school council at Benito Juarez High School. I founded Community in Action; the objective of this organization is to get peopleespecially young peopleinvolved in cleaning up our community and focusing on recycling. I've been really active and people know that[and] I'm really, really confident.
Everything we do in the 25th Wardespecially since the alderman [Daniel Solis] took officeseems to be a struggle, a fight.
Windy City Times: You mention "struggle." Can you name me three things you feel the current alderman is doing wrong?
Témoc Morfin: Let's start with the [Fisk] coal plant. It's a hot-button issue because you're talking about residentsnot only in the 25th Ward, but citywide. We're talking about the 21st century, and this plant is not up to codeand it's in the middle of communities, parks, schools. Statistics show that there are 41 premature deaths a year and 2,800 cases of asthmathe highest in the nation.
Windy City Times: And those are all connected to the coal plant?
Témoc Morfin: They're all connected to the coal plant here. There are two [coal plants]: one is on [1111 W.] Cermak and [Crawford] is on [3501 S.] Pulaski. The alderman has been in their pocket; he's taken $52,000 in the last 10 years from them. Quite frankly, he's letting them get away with murderbecause that's what it is. People are dying. That's blood money he's been taking.
But there are other issues, [such as] the violence. Just in the last six days, there have been five different shootings in the Pilsen area. We're talking about the gang violence and the exposure of drugs here, especially in Pilsen. [Solis] is talking about how he's doing the police camera here, with the flashing lights, but I used to be a juvenile probation officer and I know what works to prevent violence. We need to open community centers; we need to open up the schools and utilize themhave them implement programs so young people have an option instead of being recruited by gangs. The alderman has done nothing about that. We need to allocate resources to implement these programs.
Part of my platform [involves] dedicating 25 percent of my salary for aldermanic programming, and I will strongly advocate that every other alderman do the same. That's quite a bit of money.
I'm a community individual; I've been in this community for 30 years. I know all the issues. I know that, as a community, we can tackle these issues. We can make the community safer and healthierwe just have to get the people involved. We need a leader, not a politician who always caters to special interests.
Windy City Times: Let's say you become alderman. What would you like to accomplish within your first 100 days of office?
Témoc Morfin: Well, I have a lot of ideas that I'd like to throw on the table once I'm elected alderman of the 25th Ward. I'm also for term limits; I strongly believe that the aldermen and mayor should have term limits. If the president of the United States, then so should the mayor and aldermen. Politicians, if they don't have term limits, [issue] broken promises. There are some aldermen who have been [in city council] for 20 years. So that's one of the things I'd propose right away.
Also, aldermen are making $110,000 a year. We're going through harsh economic times; aldermen should take a pay cut and dedicate some of the money to help out with scholarships and programs.
Also, I want to take a closer look at TIF [tax-increment funding] money. Often, we don't know what's going on with the money until it's already been allocated. What I want to do is convene a budgetary committee of residents and business owners so we can determine what our priorities are in the 25th Ward, and put that money to use in the right way to create jobs and programs. It's really tough right now; you take a walk down 18th and Cermak, and every other business is an empty storefront.
Windy City Times: Going back to term limits for a second, what should be the maximum?
Témoc Morfin: I would say three terms should be enough. If you're a good elected official, there shouldn't be any reason why you can't move forward.
Windy City Times: I was looking at some websites about your ward. I didn't realize just how diverse it is. How do you bring everyone together while dealing with the needs of each particular group?
Témoc Morfin: It's a very diverse ward; as you know, it includes Chinatown, Pilsen, University Village, Heart of Chicago, Little Italy, Tri-Taylor. You have Asian Americans, Latinos, Italians, African Americansbut the hardest part is the Chinatown area. We have so many irregularities going on there with the election because the alderman has it on lockdown. We have some attorneys who'll be present on election day because of the irregularities. The language barrier makes it tougher.
Windy City Times: So it's hard for you to get through to the residents of Chinatown?
Témoc Morfin: Right. Most of the voters there are senior citizens and they've been told, "You gotta vote for Solis." He definitely has the upper hand with the resources and the established base he has there but we have Asian-American students who are helping out; they're very dedicated to helping me over there.
Windy City Times: Switching topics, where do you stand regarding abortion?
Témoc Morfin: I would say I'm pro-life. I was raised as a Catholic and come from a huge family; I have seven sisters and three brothers, so I'm very family-oriented. That's one of my strongest assets. [Note: Interestingly, in his Windy City Times survey, Morfin said that he believes "unequivocally in a woman's right to choose whether or not to end her pregnancy. The rights of women to do so have steadily eroded since Roe v. Wade. I am alarmed at any effort to de-fund entities which help woman obtain access to safe, legal abortion."]
If you elect to have sexual intercourse and your partner becomes pregnant, then you should be responsible. I'm an individual who believes [strongly] in responsibilityand this is one of the reasons I'm in favor of gambling. I believe that as long as it's regulated gamblingpeople are suffering and need jobs.
If someone decides to get an abortion, you're killing a human being and you're [taking away] a chance for someone to be born. I come from a big Catholic family and, for me, family is always first. When I was a juvenile probation officer, it just devastated me that there are so many families who neglect to give quality time to their children; that's one of the main reasons people who want attention get recruited by gangs.
Windy City Times: Speaking of families, where do you stand on same-sex marriage?
Témoc Morfin: Again, it's about choices of people. If you elect to marry someone of the same sex, by all means you know what you're doing. It's all about what people elect to doand I respect that.
Windy City Times: Can you talk about your own experiences with gay or HIV/AIDS organizations?
Témoc Morfin: Well, I have a lot of friends who are gay and friends who are HIV-infected. They're great human beings. To me, friendship is one of the things I value the most. It doesn't make a difference to me if you're gay or straight, or if you have an illness. I have a very good chance of winning on April 5 because I have about 450 volunteers who are of [all backgrounds]. The fact that someone chooses to be gay or chooses to do something makes no difference to me.
Windy City Times: You do understand, though, that people don't choose to be gay.
Témoc Morfin: Oh, yeah; I understand. Of coursesome people are born [this way].
In the Latino community, one thing I have noticed is that it's taboo to talk about sex, same-sex marriage and using protection. We need to educate Latino communities and communities in general. We have to accept people for who they are.
Windy City Times: What do you think is the biggest problem the LGBT community faces?
Témoc Morfin: The Latino community and communities in general don't accept LGBT [individuals], and we need to educate. I'm a big [proponent of] education; I believe that if people are educated and have the facts, people are more accepting. When I'm elected alderman, I'm going to convene [meetings] and we're going to discuss all topics to inform and educate our community.
See www.morfinfor25thward.com .