Conversations with the aldermanic candidates of the 32nd Ward
Topic: Your opponents’s ideas.
Part of working in government is working with other people and taking ideas where they come. Is there any idea you’ve heard from your opponents during this campaign that made you say, “You know, I didn’t think of that, but that’s a good idea!”
No. (Laughs.) To be honest, I haven’t looked at their websites, but I figured if they were going to put anything out on the table at one of the debates, they would have a solid plan. To tell you the truth, every debate or forum has been basically smash and bash Scott. I talked to a few people last night who went to the last one, and they went through the entire hour-plus event and didn’t hear any good ideas.
My door is always open to everybody. Anybody can walk in that door and have a sit down any time they want. I mean, if I’m not here – obviously call ahead. I tell people all the time, “You don’t have to come in on Monday night. You can come in any time of the week. Just call ahead and make sure I’m here.” That’s what we’re paid to do.
One of them was like, “Let’s have participatory budgeting.” That’s one area where I’m like, “We put everything we’re doing online, show everybody what the process is for prioritizing ward infrastructure.” I don’t believe in participatory budgeting. It’s sort of a good concept, but if you’re doing things the right way and people believe in the process, then you’re okay.
One guy’s lived in the ward for less than a year, and the other two guys, the door’s been open for four years and I’ve never seen them walk in with an issue, or call, or say “My name’s Brian, Bryan, or David.” Not that that should preclude them from having good ideas, but the door was always open. I get a lot of ideas, actually, from looking at other cities and talking to other elected officials, both at the federal level, and at the local level.
Do you do the same with other wards as well? Other aldermen where you feel, “Yeah, he or she, they’ve got some sharps…”
Yeah, maybe on education issues I’ve talked to some other aldermen. None of them have the zoning and development guidelines, but a lot have called and said, “Can I have a copy?” A lot of them. And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll share – they’re online. You can take whatever you want.” It neutralizes the whole money issue. Of course, a lot of them want the money for the campaign contributions.
Look at my guidelines: during the process, no money. I’ve turned away thousands of dollars. I don’t have a need for it. A guy came in yesterday and said, “What can we do for you?” “Nothing. It’s the best time in your life, because you’re doing a change,” – you know, a zoning and development change – “and you don’t have to kowtow to an alderman.”
He was laughing, “Wow, that’s a first.” (Laughs.) “Yeah. You don’t have to do anything.” It feels good to say that in a meeting.
Absolutely. We talked about it last night, how to deal with the rat issues that are plaguing the ward. One of my opponents clearly laid out some of the problems with rats, essentially garbage laying on top of the dumpster. The process right now, if I’m a concerned neighbor in a rat-infested community, I call 311. And that may take up to three days for someone to get out there and write up that particular restaurant or business that has the garbage teeming over the top. Three days later, the garbage has been collected, but the rats have already had their meal and the problem continues. That was a problem and a process that I had not thought about that way. That was Bryan Lynch.
That got me thinking, Okay, here is a problem I hadn’t thought of, a situation, a number of elements that creates a problem. And then I started thinking, What can we do? How do we solve that? Do we have a rat task force? Is that a priority where instead of calling 311, you call the alderman’s office directly, a hotline number, and then you send a streets and sanitation person from your office to write them up at that point? They’ll eventually deal with it if they know they’re going to get busted. Right now, if a restaurant in Bucktown has garbage, there’s really no incentive other than their own personal obligation.
So that would be an example of well-intentioned people who get together and brainstorm ideas. He presented the problem in a way I had not heard before, and then I thought of possible solutions to that problem. It’s been interesting.
Like I said before, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between myself and the other three candidates in terms of each individual issue. Obviously, some folks waffle on the idea of police protection, whereas I say, “This is something that needs to be made a priority, making sure that we meet those 2000 officers that we’re short right now.” That should be a priority of government. While others are saying, “Well, you know, the money’s simply not there.” There are, on the margins, some areas of disagreement, but for me it’s about process, it’s about doing the job.
When you’re running for office and you’re presenting hopefully solutions to these issues, you try to dig a little deeper as to how these things are. So it’s been, if nothing else, a pretty awesome educational experience for me about the problems that are facing the city, and the potential solutions.
(Long pause.) Honestly, no, I don’t think that there’s been anything. I think a lot of what has been said in either one forum or another has been out either in the press or has existed in another level of government. I’ve talked about, and I know some of the other candidates have talked about, reforming budget issues. I’ve said I think we should have an independent office of budget management. I would love to take credit for that, but I couldn’t, and I don’t think any of our other candidates can take credit for that either, because that’s existed within our federal government for ages. Obviously there’s a little more parity there because you’ve got Republicans and Democrats that keep each other in balance. In city council, who are we going to have? Our own members of city council monitoring the budget? I think we need to bring in outside people.
I’ve heard ideas that come out, but I don’t know that there’s been authorship or ownership of any ideas that I’ve heard that I haven’t heard elsewhere. There’s been some reflection on some of the ideas that inspector general David Hoffman put out in his report about reform and his investigations related to streets and san – I’m pretty sure I was the first candidate to talk about that in a forum. I don’t have ownership of that idea. That’s stuff that David Hoffman came up with, and I’ve spoken with David Hoffman, and I know him, and I think he’s done a lot of great things. When I read his report on streets and sanitation – I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that – very helpful to just talk about how we are operating inefficiently because of the inability to hold people accountable.
So I’ve heard things come out, but I don’t know that there’s been any particular idea that sprang forth from any one candidate crafting it themselves. If it was, I’d absolutely give them credit, because nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything. I think that anyone who steps into the void and says, “Look, I’ve got this figured out, and I know this,” is probably the person that knows the least. You learn something from everybody everyday.
Honestly, no, and – have you been to any of these forums?
I was at the forum at the Wicker Park Lutheran Church.
It’s a shame but you heard it yourself. People cite the inspector general’s report. People cite this guy’s report. People say, “Well, an expert said if we do this, it will be great. I consulted the Civic Federation…” Yeah, that’s great, you should consult everybody from Joe Blow that walks into the office with an idea about no-leash laws in parks all the way up to the head of the Civic Federation who’s got an idea for a comprehensive tax plan. But no, nobody’s been saying, “Here’s my specific idea for how we’re going to do anything.”
That’s what’s been a big part of what I’ve been trying to do. No campaign’s done a jobs fair. No campaign’s out there shoveling snow. No campaign has set up its own neighborhood watch and paid for the neighborhood watch signs themselves. No campaign has said, “Hey, I dissected the budget myself, and I know that we need to revisit tuition reimbursement, because I think that we have a ton of MBA holders and current lawyers that we could be hiring instead of paying a city worker to get that right now. Nobody’s been out there specifically saying things like, “Let’s revisit the definition of charity so that these multi-billion dollar hospitals aren’t shifting bad debt to the charity side of the balance sheet and getting a tax break and a water bill break.” Nobody’s out there saying, “Let’s dig in and see what we’re doing with the 911 call center.”
This hasn’t been in anyone’s proposals, so it’s not making it to the table. I have fifteen proposals for how immediately, day one, we can start doing this stuff, and seeing an impact on the budget. I’m the only one that has hunkered down with a real bad budget before on the state level and said, “Soup to nuts, how do we stretch nickels.” Because I’ve had to.
I mean, we’ve had cash flow issues on the state level where it was, “How do we find the money to make payments on our bills?” I did that. I sat down with the budget and said, “What are we doing wrong?” I think it’s a copout to say, “There’s a six hundred million dollar corruption tax.” Somebody said, “There’s a six hundred million dollar corruption tax. I’m gonna change the way we do business.” You know what? The guy who finds a six hundred million line item for corruption tax in the budget and how they’re gonna get rid of it, they get the job, because it’s not there.