by Charlsie Dewey
Since being appointed 2nd Ward alderman in 1993, Madeline Haithcock believes she has helped the ward become the prosperous community of neighborhoods it is today. Haithcock points to infrastructure improvement, the booming development and significant work with the many schools in the ward as the basis for why she should maintain her position as alderman for the next term.
Windy City Times: Why do you continue to run for alderman?
Madeline Haithcock: I love the job. I love helping people. I like to see the city grow and especially in my ward where there's a lot of development.
WCT: How do you respond to opponents and critics who say you're not present within the ward?
MH: [Well,] what else would they say? That's a thing they say about most all aldermen. ... In this type of business you have to go with the way your ward is situated. So, I go to condo associations [and] townhouse associations. I've always had block clubs in the summer. We have three picnics I try to get them involved in. We have a lot of service-oriented things that we give in different sections of the ward for everybody to come out. I'm trying to get everybody [and] touch everyone, and that is about the only way. Whatever they say they can do, they can't. The ward is too stretched for them to touch everybody personally. You try to get them together, maybe have a town hall meeting. If they want to come to me, I have three offices.
WCT: What are your plans for the West Side?
MH: [Regarding] Madison and Western, we have a committee together to decide which grocery store they want; we're going to get more retail on Madison. ... I inherited part of the 28th Ward, so that's the part we really are concentrating on now. I want a youth center over there, a new library. Those things take time, and that's why I want my four more years.
WCT: Could you discuss a few other issues in the 2nd Ward besides your plans for the West Side?
MH: I want to address getting another school in the South Loop. ... I also want to make sure that [people] can walk down the streets without crime or getting robbed. I want to have restaurants they can go to, different things that they can really do. Most people want parks, so we're getting new parks. I get the developers to help with that, to fund them.
I want to have more affordable housing. I think that's important. I'm working on that, getting tax credits for that. I [am] a former banker, so I know a lot of things that we can do. I'm a champion of entrepreneurs, so any business like that coming into the ward [is something] I want. I've got two or three of them coming down the pipe.
WCT: Do you have specific programs set up to meet these goals, or what is the process like for achieving these different plans?
MH: In each community, I have an advisory board and they will help. They're usually aggressive on what they want in their community; you have to work with the people.
WCT: Could you talk about education in your ward? What's the current situation and where would you like to see it head?
MH: We're going to have to buckle down and get more money. The class sizes might be a little out of whack I'd say, but after we get computers in there for students and the after-school programs and mentoring programs. That's why I work with the principals. I think you have to work directly with the principal in that certain school. I have come a long way where it comes to the schools; I have a lot of them that had closed and have opened back up.
WCT: What about plans for improving safety?
MH: To continue what we have always done. Overall, there [are] 1,600 fewer crimes as of 2003, murders were down 31 percent, sexual assaults 32 [and] property crimes are down 10 percent. We've worked hard for resources, new lighting, a new police station on the West Side, and to demolish or rehab dangerous and abandoned buildings. You have to promote community policing, block clubs and neighborhood watch, and [have] positive alternatives for the youth. They have to have something to do after school, and I believe in that. I kept my two children busy.
WCT: How do you plan to represent LGBT interests? Are there specific things you do or could do to make sure the LGBT community is represented?
MH: I certainly am. I'm doing that, and if there's anything I can do, if an ordinance or anything comes up…I work closely with 44th Ward] Alderman [Tom] Tunney because he's more in tune with it, and I don't think that I have had any trouble in my ward. If there's anything I need to be doing, I think they should tell me so we can go forward. I believe in going forward and that everybody is created equally.
WCT: What specific issues have you worked on related to the LGBT community?
MH: We worked hard on getting the insurance. I was one of the first to champion that. I worked with Alderman Tunney on the Gay Games, which I thought was so great…I need to be more in contact with them and see other things that they need, but they know me. They know that they can get it, whatever they need. We're right there to help them like anybody else…I don't look at them any differently.
WCT: So, the LGBT community can count on you to represent them?
MH: They certainly can. Absolutely.
WCT: What haven't we discussed that people should know?
MH: A lot of things I've done in my ward, I think they're taking it too lightly. [A total of] $360 million has been spent on new lighting, sewers, streets, housing, water mains and parks. We've had a lot of investment in the second ward that is really substantial. The basic infrastructure of any ward makes it great and the 2nd Ward is the fastest-growing one in the city. We manage more new residential and commercial development than just about any community—and we manage it effectively.