by Charlsie Dewey
Chris Adams thinks that it's time for a change in the 49th Ward, and he believes that he is the person to lead that change. After six years as a Rogers Park resident, Adams says it isn't hard to notice aspects of the community that need attention. After his neighbors approached him asking that he run for office, Adams decided to examine these aspects further, leading him to his decision to run for alderman. In September 2005, he left his job as an editor and devoted his energy full-time to running.
Windy City Times: As far as your background, why do you feel qualified, compared to the incumbent who has been in politics for a while?
Chris Adams: I've got a couple of answers to that. One is that, as a newspaper editor, you get involved in the community. You work directly with mayor's offices, city councils, civic organizations and the public. You deal with issues that are important to the community that you are serving as a journalist. You learn to look into both sides of issues. You offer, as an editorial writer or columnist, solutions to people. ... Also, as someone who is accustomed to dealing with the public, you're accustomed to taking those phone calls.
Second, I personally don't believe that public service should be a career. I think it's important that people do many things in their life so that they broaden their backgrounds, and our current alderman worked in the city attorney's office for a while and then he became alderman. It's really the only job he's ever had. He's never had to balance a budget. He's never had to deal with a real boss. I think that he sort of lacks, even now, some of the experiences that would have benefited him if he had work in a corporate or office type of environment. I know how to balance a budget. I know how to deliver a budget that has a 5 percent reduction in it. ... I was the executive editor of four daily newspapers in a statewide news bureau. … I know how to balance the needs of people who are in far-flung areas.
WCT: What do you see as the primary concerns for your ward?
CA: The first priority that I think we have to address is public safety—and, I think that entails a broad spectrum. We're not just talking about making it safe to walk the streets; we have construction sites all over the ward and the sites need to be secure. I think that many of the things we want to do in the ward, short-term and long-term, revolve around the issue of public safety. ... My top priorities are to have a strong working relationship with the District 24 commander, to be an active part of all of the CAPS programs that affect the ward and to be a part of recruiting a new audience to CAPS. ... We need to engage more people. We need to be more open-minded about where we have CAPS meetings.
I think education is a neglected part of this ward. The schools in the 49th Ward were among the top performing schools in the city. Now, we have two out of every three kids in our grade school score below the 50th percentile. Less than half of the kids who move from our grade school to Sullivan High School graduate. ... I think we need to work harder to make school more accessible to families. ... We need to embrace the governor's plan to offer pre-school to every 4-year-old in the state of Illinois.
A third issue is that we don't have any significant economic development. The development that we have is real shotgun. ... I certainly appreciate the fact that Rogers Park has been traditionally a community where families come and start their lives and tend to move on, but we need to have a full-service community: places to shop [ and ] eat; good schools; [ and ] safe streets, so that when young families decide that this is where they want to start their lives, they stay. There's no reason not to stay.
The fourth reason is the declining affordability of housing. We need to have not only a strategy for the neighborhood to help protect affordable housing. This is maybe the biggest issue where leadership out of the alderman's office in a citywide sense is going to make the biggest difference for our neighborhood.
WCT: How will you protect and represent the issues of the LGBT community?
CA: It's [ the LGBT community ] very much a part of Rogers Park right now. Some of the communities that have moved the fastest have been ones that have had growing gay and lesbian communities. You look at Pullman; in a very short time Pullman went from the dark ages into the 21st century, probably faster than a lot of other neighborhoods in the city. This has always traditionally been a very welcoming neighborhood to that community.
WCT: Have you come across any particular LGBT issues in the 49th Ward?
CA: I've spent a lot of time over the last 16 months going through the neighborhood and nothing has singularly raised its head in that sense. One of the things that I find heartening is that the mayor himself is a big advocate of the gay and lesbian community, and so I think he's going to be someone who is easy to partner with when it comes to addressing big issues, and if we have specific issues in our neighborhood that, certainly, City Hall is going to be there to help move whatever boulder is in the way to try and fix a specific problem. ... One thing that marks this community is that people are really open to all points of view, different backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles.