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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Political veteran Kim Walz joins aldermanic race for Chicago's 46th Ward
by Michelle Zacarias

This article shared 2349 times since Thu Feb 16, 2023
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Longtime political operative Kim Walz is a contestant in the aldermanic race for the 46th Ward on Chicago's North Side.

Walz previously worked as director of policy analysis and chief of staff for then-Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley between 2000-2009, then went on to serve as district director/deputy chief of staff when Quigley went to became a congressman.

Walz's resume includes political consulting and advising for Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign as well as work for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. She was also the director of Illinois Women for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Walz is one of six candidates running to replace retiring Ald. James Cappleman, which includes a portion of Lake View and much of Uptown.

Windy City Times: What made it the right time to launch your own political campaign?

Kim Walz: I've always enjoyed engaging in politics. My first campaign was in the 6th grade when I was young growing up in Freeport [Illinois]. Our public school didn't have funding for the music program, so we went door-to-door to get funding in order to raise enough money to keep that program going. Those were the values my parents instilled; my mother was a nurse, and my father was a high school teacher who served as the Illinois Education Association representative for his region. Even as a mother to a 20-week old baby, wanting to make the world a better place for her [felt] like an instinct.

WCT: What would you say are the most pressing issues affecting the 46th Ward that you intend to tackle?

KW: From day one, my door is open to all community groups and organizations. Part of the challenge in the ward is that we have these siloed conversations—we need to bring people together to come up with long-term solutions.

One of the issues I've had with our approach throughout the city, specifically pertaining to the unhoused, is that we're not asking the "why." The city offers housing to individuals in encampments, and then comes back and says that there are people who are opting out. But if someone is choosing to live in a tent during a Chicago winter, we need to ask why—it's multi-prong.

Some shelters won't let people bring their personal belongings, and people don't want to leave all their life belongings because that's all they have. Some shelters have bed bugs, or safety issues. Some shelters offer a bed for one night but then are expected to get back in a waiting line for another bed the next day—so how are you supposed to work or get a job?

We must bring dignity to our temporary housing situations and make them safer. We have 20-30% less shelter beds than we did at the beginning of the pandemic, and we have not restored them to full capacity yet. This relates to violence prevention as well. You have to offer affordable housing options; all those investments in the community are an important part of that.

The problem I find with the City of Chicago's budgetary allocation is that there's not a lot of transparency and there's not a lot of accountability structures. We budgeted $85 million for violence prevention programs last year and we only spent $5 million—It felt as though this was the city's way of checking a box. We need to spend the money we're allocating; the main reason they gave for not spending it all is that they wanted to make sure that the programs they invested in were effective. The University of Chicago Crime Lab has many [studies] that they've put out, and we need to invest in them heavily because not only will it help us deal with safety issues now, but also safety issues for future generations.

WCT: What is the most valuable insight you've gained from working in local politics versus national campaigns?

KW: The main thing that I've learned is the importance of bringing multiple stakeholders to the table to get things done. One example of this is the Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. I don't know if you remember, but back in the day, people used to be allowed to smoke in bars and restaurants. One day I said to Quigley, "I'm really tired of people smoking indoors all the time" and he said, "Well, do something about it."

So I wrote the Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, and it was very controversial at the time. But we had to bring together a coalition of bar owners, literally exotic dancers from unincorporated Cook County, libertarians, the American Heart Association, the Respiratory Health Association—and all these individuals together helped get the bill passed.

The bill then led to the Smoke-free Illinois act, which was really important, and I'm really proud of that. It was also a good reminder of how many people you must get to the table to bring about groundbreaking change, which, if you think about it, now it seems obvious not to smoke indoors, but back then it was really controversial and divisive to prohibit smoking in all public places.

WCT: You speak in your campaign about "reinvesting back into the community" what does that mean to you?

KW: Firstly, we must invest money in after-school programming. The challenge with that in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois is the way that the funding model works, we don't have enough resources. So, schools with affluent communities can raise all this money for incredible programming, but not every neighborhood or parents' group can afford that. There's unequal access to after-school programming depending on what areas you live in. That goes back to what I fought for in my own school growing up; arts and music was such an important part of my upbringing, but not everyone has the same access and that's a problem.

WCT: You have publicly advocated for hiring more law enforcement to fill vacant positions, how would you improve public safety?

KW: We need to make sure that there's more resources and training. I was happy to hear about a pilot program for police that allows officers to receive follow-up surveys, in which they can receive real time feedback to identify areas of improvement. Not only does it provide an opportunity for people to provide private feedback so that they can feel heard, but also, if there are officers who engage in misconduct regularly, that negative review might make them think twice.

I think that accountability is important because it will allow Black and Brown neighbors to feel more at ease in their interactions with law enforcement. Public safety also means increasing social safety nets—not just the number of police officers, but having social workers and mental health professionals engaged. The solution isn't always what people have presented in front of them, and we need to work to provide a variety of options.

WCT: How do you intend to advocate LGQBTIA community?

KW: I've focused on being an ally to the [LGBTQIA+] community since before I worked with Quigley. I helped to add transgender protections to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance in the early 2000's. It's something that's important to me and I will continue to work towards that, not just in my legislative life, but in my personal life as well. I was happy to hear the city passing the ordinance to pass gender-affirming care. Even looking at the demographic makeup of the neighborhoods; we have some of the most diversity, not just in Chicago but of all the wards. It would be my job as alderwoman to protect the diversity and inclusivity of the 46th Ward.

This article shared 2349 times since Thu Feb 16, 2023
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