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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Sparks Fly at 44th Ward Debate
by TRACY BAIM
2003-02-12

This article shared 3775 times since Wed Feb 12, 2003
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Well, it wasn't like it had been all sunshine and roses up until Feb. 5. But the debate was heated and personal at the 44th Ward's only specifically GLBT debate, held at Bailiwick Theatre, hosted by Chicago Professional Networking Association, and sponsored by Steamworks.

Hundreds of people filled the auditorium and applauded loudly at frequent points during the debate. The crowd seemed mostly made up of partisan supporters of the candidates, but some people had truly come to be swayed in the Feb. 25 election.

Openly gay candidates Ald. Tom Tunney and attorney Rick Ingram were joined by attorney Dean Maragos and community activist Karen Kennedy—who had fought hard to be included on the panel. It was actually a relief to have Kennedy—in part as a comic relief, since Kennedy showed quite a humorous side to the crowd, eliciting the most laughs during the evening.

Moderator for the forum was Dr. Paul Lisnick, former CPNA president, author, lawyer and public speaker.

Following are highlights from the debate.

Question: Ald. Tom Tunney, what are your qualifications, beyond what we already know of you. ... Also, how will you be independent from the mayor, or will it be politics as usual.

'I am honored to have served Chicago's LGBTs for the last 20 years,' Tunney said. 'Ann Sather's has become the unofficial community center of the gay community. I along with other GLBT leaders have had the opportunity to play an instrumental role in the creation and development of nearly every major AIDS organization in Chicago, as well as gay and lesbian organizations. As one of five directors of the John Baron Fund, I assisted in distributing over $5 million (to AIDS and gay groups). I started my own unofficial gay and lesbian community center at 909 Belmont, which at one time housed six AIDS organizations. ...

'As an openly gay delegate, I helped elect Bill Clinton as president in 1992, and also helped elect Carol Moseley-Braun to the U.S. Senate. I also supported out lesbian and gay judges and state Rep. Larry McKeon.

'Today in the City Council I introduced an ordinance to downzone the remaining portions of Halsted Street to Belmont. This will help preserve the integrity of this gay area. [He also has formed a new 44th Ward Community Directed Council, which will help him decide further issues related to this debate on development.]

'I also worked today with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago to lobby my fellow aldermen to help increase the city's funds for HIV prevention by over $1 million. Having seen and helped so many with this disease over the years, I think I can offer new insight into the devastation HIV has had on our community.

'I will champion domestic-partner benefits at every opportunity, until we achieve full parity with married heterosexual couples,' Tunney concluded.

Question to Ingram: We know you have worked on development, but the issues in the ward are about more than that. What other experience do you have? In addition, you got in the race first, but Tom Tunney seems to have a far more visible campaign.

'Development relates to many issues ... parking, congestion,' Ingram said. 'I have made a career fighting overdevelopment. Most of my background, but not all, has been on development. As Lakeview Action Coalition president I worked on hate crimes and increasing police bike patrols. I helped organize the community's response to Fred Phelps at Broadway United Methodist Church.

'When Ald. Bernie Hansen's condo pals put up the Dakota by Circuit, and then Bernie asked why anything special should be done with Halsted, none of the other candidates spoke up. In fact, Tunney and Maragos said they would not be in the race if Hansen was running. It is not leadership if you come late. It's taking tough stands on tough issues. I didn't need anyone's permission to seek this office.'

Dean Maragos used his opening statement to read his entire letter printed as an advertisement in the Free Press. The letter attacks Tunney for a new direct-mail piece which says Ingram and Maragos 'represent the special interests.' It has a photo of Ingram next to the headline 'Lawyer for big developers.' And with a Maragos photo, 'Lawyer for bars and rooftop owners.' These are statements of fact, but both Maragos and Ingram criticized Tunney for the mailing, saying it mischaracterized them. Ingram said his law firm did not represent clients in the ward, and Maragos said he will disclose any conflicts of interest he has if elected.

Initially, Karen Kennedy was not invited, at first because it was going to be just a gay debate, then because her campaign war chest is small. CPNA relented, and it was a welcome relief to have Kennedy's off-the-cuff humor to ease the tension in the room. In her opening statement, she said because she was a big, tall girl starting in the fifth grade, she knows how it is to be different: 'I celebrate being different.' She said one of her favorite days of the year is the Pride Parade, representing 'Freedom at its fullest. I love you because you're here together as gays.'

She then named some lesbians and gays she has known personally—and how they experienced horrible discrimination. This included a lesbian couple of 50 years who were torn apart by family, and a close friend who died of AIDS. She also mentioned dancing at the old Paradise disco, and gave some sound advice about funeral wear: 'Don't ever wear spiked heals in the rain when you're a pallbearer. I know.'

Question: How would you work with both residents and businesses on Halsted?

Halsted is not a residential street, it is a 'gay downtown,' Ingram said. The burden should be on the developers, not on the residents, to prove they should do a project. 'Wherever possible, you need to try and downzone the ward,' he said, adding that 'The city should also promote and market the area more around the country as a gay destination.'

'As a municipal lawyer,' Maragos said. 'I have extensive knowledge of liquor licenses and how they work. Any new projects on Halsted must maintain the business nature of Halsted.'

Kennedy talked about how fun it is to explain to her kids, as she drives them to Mt. Carmel school, about the 'creativity' of Halsted Street. She discussed the sound problems on Halsted, but instead of saying the condo Dakota shouldn't be there, she said Circuit, the gay bar that was there first, should not have been there. She then also said she felt that discrimination cuts both ways, and that the anti-'breeders' attitude was also wrong—that it's 'more than just a gay community.'

Tunney spoke of his plan to lower the density levels of Halsted. But the debate over zoning changes, he said, must involve both residents and businesses. He said the area must remain commercial, but that residents deserve to have input as well.

Question: Affordable housing issues.

Maragos said he would meet with the Metropolitan Planning Council to see what plans the city has for the 44th. He said he would empower local community groups through citizens' advisory boards, and the developers would have to go through that process before meeting with the alderman. He said he would also enforce the new Zoning Reform Act, and create a booklet for developers looking to build in the ward.

Kennedy stressed that seniors are being 'taxed out of the ward. We need affordable taxes for everyone.' She wants neighborhood groups to have input on zoning and development.

Tunney questioned whether the proposed 25 percent set-aside would work for all areas of the city, including some where there is no middle class. He said he would support it for some areas of the ward.

Ingram said he does support the proposal by Ald. Tony Preckwinkle which would force 25 percent set-asides for affordable housing units in new developments. He said affordable housing is needed not just for seniors, but for GLBT youth, single-room occupancy [SRO] buildings, and others.

Question: The issue of police and the possibility that the Town Hall 23rd District might be closed as Supt. Terry Hillard re-maps police into higher crime areas of the city.

Maragos said he would oppose the closing of the 23rd District and that he has experience working with both the police and city on changing major projects. He also said his experience with city budgets will help with overseeing the $1 billion in the new city budget allocated to police, making sure the 44th Ward gets its fair share of services.

Kennedy proposed additional beat cops walking the streets instead of sitting in their cars.

Tunney said he would move police officers to higher crime times at night, and have more of them walking the streets. He said he would fight to keep the 23rd District open, and to keep every police officer in the district.

Ingram pointed to his efforts to help get the police bike patrols at night along Halsted, which led to a decrease in hate crimes and other crimes.

Question: Parking permits and parking problems.

Kennedy said there needs to be a more aggressive plan for 'dual use' of bank, church, school and other parking lots which are vacant at night. She said most places fear the insurance costs if they rent their parking out at night, and the city should find a solution to this problem.

Tunney said his first day in office he established a separate bank account for the cash-based parking permit fees in the ward. He and others want the money to remain separate and not mingled with other ward funds. Tunney also said he supports more enforcement of the zoned parking, and also that he believes the renovations of the train stations to make them more accessible will alleviate traffic and parking problems. Tunney said he worked with the new development on Sheffield and Belmont and is disappointed it is not just for parking.

Ingram asked for an accounting of past parking fee money. He also said he fought the development of the Sheffield and Belmont lot and 'did not see Tom there.' He said while it will add 60 new parking spaces, it is not enough for the needs.

Maragos said local areas should decide how to cope with parking problems.

Question: Homeless issues, particularly gay and lesbian youth around Belmont and Sheffield:

Tunney noted that he has been in that area for more than 20 years and has worked with agencies such as Neon Street and Open Door Shelter to help youth. He said he wants to expand housing availability, and will eliminate the idea of 'not in my backyard.' Tunney also said the GLBT Center on Halsted should have a way to help GLBT youth, either in the new facility or nearby.

Ingram also said it is important to maintain the economic diversity of the area, including by keeping the SROs such as the Diplomat on Sheffield.

Maragos said the solution is more education and jobs, and by engaging the business community to create solutions.

Kennedy said as a former volunteer for Deborah's Place, a shelter for women, she knows about the needs of the homeless.

Question: How do you bring together neighborhood groups who often only care about the area immediately surrounding where they live?

Ingram said the question assumes people are selfish. He said he has worked across a lot of diverse groups and that there are great neighborhood groups who see beyond their own boundaries. 'I would be a full-time, full-service alderman. It's [services] the No. 1 thing to provide. But there is so much more the alderman can do.'

Maragos said he would be a pro-active alderman by empowering local groups and establishing a dialogue between those groups. He also said he would use technology to increase access to city services.

Kennedy, who was first in pushing for a technology solution to ward problems, at www.Kennedyworks.com, said her goal is to make working on these issues easier. She said developers and the city 'chase you down and wear you out,' making people jump through hoops to find out what is happening in their own areas. 'I would stop the chase,' she said.

Tunney said Ald. Hansen was good on services, but that he did not get out enough in the ward. 'Service is my strength,' Tunney said. He also said he has been critical of Mayor Daley's spending on projects such as Soldier Field and Millennium Park, so he would make his voice heard on spending issues. While such spending happens, people complain about the quality of the schools, he said. He then added that he will give his aldermanic pay raise back to the schools (which he did last weekend).

Ingram said he would not vote for a city budget that contains a property tax increase.

Question: The Belmont Rocks project.

Maragos said the new report issued on a similar project in Hyde Park needs to be reviewed. He said re-using the limestone is both the safe and economical way to go.

For Kennedy, the Rocks issue has been one of her passions. She is a member of the Save Our Shore Coalition, which 'had our first revolutionary meeting at Ann Sather's.' She is very much in favor of major changes to the current plans, and would fight strongly against the construction.

Tunney said he has met with the city departments and asked for a delay in construction. He also mentioned the long-anticipated AIDS Memorial Garden might be planned for the new area. 'This process is not finished. I am working ... to make changes,' Tunney said.

Ingram said reusing the limestone saves money and is aesthetically pleasing. As long as it can have handicapped access, he supports changing the plans.

Maragos said he would work with neighbors and the city to create a workable plan.

_____

The audience then was allowed several questions for the panel.

The first question was on hate crimes, especially around Wrigley Field on Cubs game days.

Tunney said he has worked with the police on hate-crime issues for a long time, and that he has also worked with the Gay and Lesbian Police Association to address these issues.

Ingram said that reports actually show there is not an increase on crimes on game days, perhaps because there are more people on the streets. However, he said the issue of crime in that area still needs to be addressed.

Maragos said hate crimes do not just impact one group. He said the crime related to Cubs day is one reason the 23rd District needs to remain open. He said he would help educate police to deal better with all crimes.

The next question was about schisms in the gay community, as well as to the non-gay candidates, 'Why should gays and lesbians deny our opportunity [for a place at the table] by giving you our vote?'

Tunney said he believes the GLBT community needs more grassroots activism because a few people control others. 'We need to bring every agenda of the gay and lesbian community,' he said. 'I want to open up the process, to bring people of color, women and other gay men equally forward.'

Ingram said it is a shame the aldermanic race is caught up in 'who backs who.' 'What is relevant is the issues,' he said. 'I am proud of my ability to build bridges. I am sick and tired of the bitchy infighting of the gay community. I won't put up with it.'

Maragos said he is honored to receive the gay and lesbian vote, 'sexual preference is irrelevant to me. The gay and lesbian community is probably the most intelligent community. They are going to choose the candidate who they believe best represents them.'

Kennedy said this has been a strange election. She said she has successfully fought a dual petition challenge. On the issue of infighting, she said 'I don't think you have to agree on everything. I think it is a really healthy time. Do Puerto Ricans have to all agree? The yuppies? On certain issues it is extremely important you come together. On particular gay issues. But anyone who represents Lakeview better be willing to come out [fighting] for the gay community. We hold one of the most fabulous gay parades in the world.'

The next question was on AIDS funding, and the decrease on city funding. AIDS Foundation of Chicago is lobbying for a $1 million increase.

Ingram said $1 million is not enough. He proposed increasing the city cigarette tax from 16 cents a pack to 32 cents a pack, to raise $13.8 million for AIDS and the health department in general.

Maragos also said $1 million is not enough and that he would help look for alternative sources from private funding.

Kennedy blamed part of the problem on decreasing funds from the federal government, and President Bush's plan to eliminate birth control information in the U.S. and the world.

Tunney was emotional in his response to this question. He pointed to the other candidates and asked where they were 'when there was no funding from the government for HIV. Where were they? I have been out there. We're about the same age—where were they when we were helping. When Chicago House, Open Hand ... This is how naive this group is—$1 million is an increase of $1 million. .... These people don't know what they're talking about. ... I was there when we asked Mayor Daley for more money [with Danny Sotomayor]—where were they?'

The next question was about the proposed smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

Maragos said he has represented many restaurants and hotels. He supports a ban in restaurants because children are allowed in. However, in taverns where it is 21 and over, he does not support a ban.

Kennedy, as a smoker, said it is 'unamerican' to ban smoking, and she supports a 'smoker tax' for places that do want to continue to allow smoking.

Tunney said he supports a ban on smoking where food is served. He also pointed to the costs for healthcare and insurance for businesses whose employees are exposed to second-hand smoke. He does not want to ban smoking in bars.

Ingram wants to ban smoking in restaurants, but is not sure if he wants to ban it in bars. He said he would need more research to see what the bars want.

On the question of being an 'independent' alderman, one man wondered if that would mean the 44th Ward would suffer negative repercussions if the elected representatives constantly went against the mayor.

Kennedy said the 44th Ward pays a huge amount of taxes into the city and therefore the city and the mayor would not risk choking off services to the ward. She said Lakeview taxpayers are paying the burden for more than 120 TIF districts in the city and other people's tax breaks. She said she feels Lakeview can have a thoughtful, independent alderman who speaks her mind.

Tunney said many have attacked him for being 'handpicked' by the mayor. But Tunney said he is proud of being supported by Daley. 'The mayor needs young, creative people, he doesn't need any more attorneys. [some boos from the audience] He needs small business people. People who know how to balance budgets. I bring a unique perspective as a small business person and an openly gay person.'

Ingram said he doesn't think 'you have to be a pushover to get services. You can be independent. I think it's difficult for someone to be independent if the mayor is selling fundraiser tickets for his campaign.' Ingram also said just because Tunney sued the mayor, when he was head of the Illinois Restaurant Association, 'in a manner that helped his own business,' is 'hardly independent.'

Maragos said he has been fortunate to serve in both worlds, having worked with the mayor. But he is also financing his own campaign.

Kennedy was emotional when she talked about democracy not being easy. She has spent several weeks fighting petition challenges by lawyers for Tunney and Maragos, and she said she resents it.

The next question was about how much percentage of time the candidates would dedicate to being aldermen.

Ingram said he will leave 'the evil practice of law' to be a full-time alderman. He also questioned how long it is taking Tunney to sell his stake in Ann Sather's to meet his goal of being a full-time alderman.

Maragos, too, said he will be full time, but that he does have a law practice with his father that he will maintain. He said he will do no business in the 44th Ward, and that he will disclose a list of all of his clients.

Kennedy, once again getting great laughs for her content and delivery, noted how much time she spent as a mom—'Being a full-time alderman looks like a cakewalk.'

Tunney said he has always been a 24/7, full-time businessperson, and he will do the same for the ward. Selling Ann Sather's is difficult, and he is working with his siblings and others to make sure the sale will allow Ann Sather's to continue as an important community institution.

The situation of the Chicago Public Schools was the next question.

Maragos said schools are among his top priorities and he will work with the community and businesses to push for more public and private funding.

Kennedy said she would work with all of the many talents of Lakeview to find solutions for the schools.

Tunney also said he would work on increasing both public and private funds for the schools.

Ingram said he would call on experts in the community to become a part of the educational process, such as on AIDS or Jewish issues.

The next question was about working with women businesses and residents.

Kennedy pointed out that she is the lone woman candidate trying to survive in the race. She said minority contracts are good—and questions why gays are seeking this. It would only benefit white gay men, after all, since women and people of color already are covered. She said she would want to enforce the contracting provisions because in many cases women are only 'fronts' for the contracts.

Tunney said more than 50 percent of his staff are women, and that he has supported pro-choice and women's groups such as Personal PAC for years. 'My job is to help advertise and market the community to women,' he said.

Ingram said his staff, which is much smaller than Tunney's, has one woman—which is also 50 percent of his staff. Ingram said he does support gays being included in minority contracts because there has been a 'lavender ceiling' on contracts.

Maragos said his staff, too, is 50 percent female. He said he would strongly push for more women-owned businesses in the ward.

The forum then moved to closing statements, with the moderator joking that Kennedy would be at Davenport's on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Kennedy, thinking he meant it was a drag bar, joked that people 'always think I am an transvestite.'

Kennedy said former Mayor Harold Washington really opened the door for the gay community, and that no community understands more than the gay community about speaking up for their rights. She said she has fought hard just to be heard during this campaign.

Maragos said under his leadership, the community would be the first to control decisions at the local community level. He also said he would have an LGBT person on his staff. Other issues he would work on are involving seniors, crime, and overdevelopment.

Ingram said this campaign is not about 'who makes the best cinnamon rolls' but about leadership. He said he would not be afraid to speak his mind, and 'I will not let you down.'

Tunney said his commitment to the gay and lesbian community, and to Lakeview, has been clear for the past 20 years as he has lived and worked here. 'I have spent every working day in Lakeview, not downtown,' he said, helping add to the quality of life in the area. 'I have never been controlled by anyone,' Tunney said, only by his customers—and now by the voters. 'I have a history of independence. ... We have lost too many people by not being represented in City Hall. I plan to change that Feb. 25.'

_____

Next week: The Windy City Times election guide, with endorsements from a variety of GLBT and progressive groups.


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