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by Meghan Streit

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Dolar has lived in the 50th Ward since she was only three years old, when her parents emigrated from the Philippines. Today she is raising her two young children in the same house where she grew up. She says she has watched her Northwest side community has decline over the years—and that it's time for a change in the Chicago City Council. Windy City Times: For people who might not know you yet, tell me a little bit about your background. Naisy Dolar: I come from a long history of public service. I used to serve as the director and community liaison for Asian affairs at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. I have a master's in counseling and administration, and have done work in diversity training. WCT: I watched your YouTube clip, and you said there that you have watched the 50th Ward decline over the years. How have you observed the neighborhood decline? When I was young, I was able to ride my bike and feel safe. Now what we see is that there's been a steady decline in feeling safe around our business districts, around our parks. We don't have an advocate for our educational system. The schools are overcrowded. And because of the diversity in our neighborhood, many people are underserved. The business districts have declined to the point where there are open, empty storefronts. Devon Ave. is an international marketplace that really hasn't realized its full potential. And lastly, when I was growing up, my family was never reached out to by the alderman or our precinct captain to engage us in civic participation and help us understand what the city has to help our family. People are still [ being ] ignored. WCT: If you're elected, what would you do to make the city friendlier for LGBT people and their families? ND: Well, I want to start out with the ward itself, and the role of the alderman's office. I believe that it's important for the staff in the alderman's office to really be conscious of the diversity that makes up the ward. And so to have a ward office that has information for people of all backgrounds to feel comfortable asking, and I think that goes along with training. What I want to do is dedicate one member of my staff that seeks out additional grants and supplemental resources for our school community, so that we can provide diversity training for the families in the area. WCT: Even though it is beyond the scope of the Chicago City Council, what do think about same-sex marriage? ND: I believe that it is the right of every person to make that decision. I would be supportive, I am supportive of same-sex marriages and/or civil unions. I know that Chicago has been pretty good about making sure that there are same-sex partner benefits. I know that it's a federal decision and a state decision, and that the city doesn't have really much to do with it, but I am supportive of that. The government should not have the right to say that if someone wants to get married, it has to be between a man and a woman. WCT: Another issue that remains important is funding for HIV treatment and prevention. What do you think Chicago could do better on that front? I think that Chicago should really make some strong statements about promoting education about HIV and promoting HIV prevention initiatives and materials. It's unfortunate that HIV prevention usually ends up being the first to be cut in these types of things [ when there are ] budget crises. That's why it's important for an alderman to really look at what is happening as it pertains to health issues within your ward, and find supplemental ways to raise the issue. WCT: You're a mom. When your kids are older, will you want to send them to Chicago public schools? ND: I was a product of public school, actually. It is my intention to put them into the public schools during elementary school. That's why I'm starting now to make sure our education systems get the support they need. My kids are three and one years old, so it's a long-term plan. And that's the reason why I quit my job to focus on community issues. The more I realize that we are suffering from aldermanic neglect in our area, the more I want to take action and step up. As I met more and more neighbors who are part of my campaign, they want to step up, too. So this is about all of the talent in our community, and those that are passionate in our community getting engaged and involved in making things better. WCT: What are some of your accomplishments that you are most proud of, and that you think have best prepared you to be an alderman? ND: Having worked in city government, I have an understanding of how to navigate the city's system, which is an important aspect that I bring to my neighborhood. Another accomplishment that I think needs to be highlighted is there were 24-hour parking meters that were installed on Devon Avenue in 2001, and many members of the community complained to me during that time—particularly cab drivers who were not allowed to park on the residential streets because of an ordinance. I also found out in the City Council's journal of proceedings that there was no record of [ the meters ] being approved by Chicago City Council, so they were illegally installed. We held the alderman's office accountable, and the city had to change [ the meters ] back to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., which I believe is a great victory for the people of the 50th ward. WCT: Ald. Stone says his three decades of experience are valuable to the 50th Ward. How would you respond to that? ND: I believe it's time of a new generation of leadership. Within the last 15 years, we have seen that he has not paid attention to the key issues that are important to the families in this neighborhood. Being a candidate who's lived in the neighborhood practically all my life, and somebody with city government experience, I believe it's time for a transition of respecting the past, and moving us forward with a long-term vision that is best for the 50th—not just good for the 50th. WCT: So will 'Best for the 50th' be your Web site if elected? [ Ald. Stone's Web site is ] ND: Our theme is 'Expect More' and 'Expect More for Our Ward.' Frankly, Ald. Stone has been a status quo alderman, and when you ignore these kinds of issues, it just begins to falter. WCT: Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers? ND: I've been a strong advocate for equal rights for the LGBT community. When I worked at the Chicago Youthnet Centers, I did work for Horizons and I did family therapy at Alternatives. I have always partnered with the LGBT issues council when I worked for the Commission [ on Human Relations ] . I was an advocate in that work, and on Chicago's City Council, I would be a strong voice for the community as well.

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