After 11 candidates battled for control of the 46th Ward aldermanic post in February, it is now down to two in the runoff election. Openly gay James Cappleman, 58, the former board president of the Uptown Chicago Commission, now opposes Mary Anne "Molly" Phelan, 39, an independent, progressive community leader with a strong business background.
Both received 20 percent of the votes in February.
Windy City Times: Thoughts as we head into the homestretch of the runoff election?
Molly Phelan: It's a little bit more challenging [than] the homestretch in February.
I've been out [since] the day after [the February election vote], at the bus stops at 6:30 a.m., talking to voters, and also [was] out that night to thank voters and reminding them about the upcoming runoff race. We haven't let our pace down [since] the initial election period.
And it's crazier now because, the attention that was not put on us [too much] with 11 candidates. Now it is. It's great that there are two of us, so it's easier to get my message out.
Windy City Times: Thoughts about Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who has basically stayed away from the runoff in the 46th?
Molly Phelan: Our platforms line up pretty well. The mayor-elect and I see eye-to-eye on numerous issues, specifically, tax increment, financing reform, education reform, and even about making the 46th Ward the music district of the Midwest. He was talking about that not even knowing that that had been part of my platform to re-vitalize our neighborhoods. So, I'm very confident that the mayor and I would work very well together.
Windy City Times: You have talked about improving the entertainment in the 46th. Expand on that.
Molly Phelan: We have had the Aragon and Riviera in the 46th Ward for decades, yet plans for revitalization have not taken off thus far. The difference between my plan and [my opponent's plan] is that we need to celebrate the diversity that is in the neighborhood. We have a tremendous Asian population, a tremendous African-American population, a tremendous Native American population and a tremendous LGBT community. By highlighting each one of those communities, and celebrating it, that will provide for the cultural backdrop that is integral in so many other music districts throughout the U.S., such as, Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn. Even New York City. Each one of those cities has a tremendous entertainment scene, but each city also has a backdrop of these tremendous cultures.
Windy City Times: Let's switch to discuss police and crime, specifically within the 46th.
Molly Phelan: I'm very happy to have both the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce endorsement and the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP] endorsement, because crime and business development are the top two issues in the 46th Wardand they do go hand in hand.
Windy City Times: The FOP endorsement is huge for anyone running in the 46th Ward, given the crime issues in that ward.
Molly Phelan: I'm honored to have the FOP endorsement. It is a key endorsement and it really goes to show that they know that I understand the different ways that we can reduce crime in the neighborhood, and how I can help them do that.
Windy City Times: Talk about the idea of increased police presence within the ward.
Molly Phelan: I want to use my $1.3 million [aldermanic discretionary budget] to enhance the security within the 46th Ward, focusing on lighting in hot-spot areas, [along] with security cameras and other security measures to make the neighborhood safer.
Windy City Times: A lot has been made in the media about what you would do with the $1.3 million, as opposed to your opponent. In fact, you were quoted as saying that he would use it for "flower pots and benches." Talk about that, please.
Molly Phelan: He has a mailer where he says that he wanted to use $1.3 million [for] street beautification. He doesn't really have a business background. His belief that one of the reasons we don't have the economic development in our neighborhood is because our streets don't look that great. The truth of the matter is, people aren't coming to our neighborhood to open their small business is because there's crime [here]. The only thing that the 46th Ward gets coverage for is its shootings on a day to day basis. If you're going to prioritize what the ward really needs, it [starts] with safety, not street beautification.
Windy City Times: The 46th certainly has a strong LGBT factor. What you would want to do for the LGBT community?
Molly Phelan: What I'm struck by, as I go door to door in the ward, is [that] our gay and lesbian neighbors care about the same things that everyone else cares about, [starting with] making our streets safe and creating quality jobs in our community.
I supported Reg. Greg Harris' civil-unions bill, and it was a great step forward toward full marriage equalityand I support full marriage equality for everyone in our community. I also am opposed to the proposed cuts to the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program. For too many residents of our community, this program is their only option for providing life-saving assistance and it's critical to the state to fully fund this program. Moreover, I've spoken with the Night Ministry; they have homeless resources for teens in the LGBT community that I think are critical, not just in the 46th Ward, but throughout the City of Chicago, to make sure those kids have resources and a community to support and protect them.
Windy City Times: What else do you want to do for the LGBT community in particular?
Molly Phelan: I'm going to be an advocate in Springfield, and I also want to provide more sensitivity training. My hope is to really protect kids in high school, those who are questioning their sexual orientation. I know that's a very, very tough road for a lot of kids, so it's easier for kids to truly discover who they are and do it in a safe environment. And also have a zero-tolerance for bullying.
Windy City Times: Talk more about bully, which certainly is a big issue for the LGBT community, but also nationally as President Obama held a conference on bullying at the White House in early March.
Molly Phelan: High school is a very difficult time for many children, and even more difficult when you're dealing with bullies. We just need to make schools a safe place for everyone. I don't have specifics about what I'd want to do. I'd want to look at President Obama's plan to see what he has in order, but it would be one of my top priorities in working with the local schools.
Windy City Times: Where are schools at within the 46th Ward and how do you look to improve them?
Molly Phelan: This goes back to our crime issue. Schools within the 46th Ward … these kids are getting out [of school] at about 2:30 p.m., and [the] families that are most susceptible to being recruited and intimidated by gangs are the same families that cannot afford the after-school programs. What I want to do is, work with some of the small-business owners in our neighborhood to provide scholarships for these families that cannot afford after-school programs for their kids. These after-school program cost [between] $100 and $300 per month, per childand a lot of these families cannot afford that. I really want to promote that partnership between the business community and our local schools to prevent crime, build community and to give these kids a better education.
Windy City Times: Expand about business development within the ward.
Molly Phelan: My plan for job creation in the neighborhood focuses on the pop-up art program, which partners local artists with landlords that have vacant retail real estate throughout the ward. If you put the local artists in there rent-free, the benefit is, the neighborhood has increased foot traffic, the artist has free art space, the landlord benefits because there now are more people walking past his store front which makes the property more valuable. The most important part of this program is, the artist must keep a For Rent sign in the window; therefore, while this increased activity is occurring in the neighborhood, I'm going to go out to recruit new small-businesses to come to the neighborhood.
Windy City Times: Where do you want to go with/for senior citizens in the ward?
Molly Phelan: I really want to work to find employment for people 55 and over. As I have walked throughout the ward, I have met numerous residents who are 55 and over, and they have been laid off from their job and are having an extremely difficult time trying to find jobs. They want to work; they are skilled; they are capable; it's just very difficult for people in that age-[range] to get hired. So, I want to make sure I not only can provide safe housing for seniors who need it within the community, and I also want to make sure that there are job opportunities for them as well.
See www.phelan46.com .