After facing four other candidates in the Feb. 26 election, openly gay Ald. James Cappleman ( 46th Ward ) is competing against Marianne Lalonde in the April 2 runoff. Cappleman's ward, consisting largely of Uptown and portions of Lake View is one of the city's most diverse, and faces numerous challenges surrounding affordable housing, development, homelessness and safety issues. The alderman, who'd be serving a third term should he win, discussed the election with Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: Were you expecting there to be a runoff?
James Cappleman: Yes. About 50 percent of my staff thought there would be a runoff. Fifty percent didn't. But we were prepared either way. It's not earth-shattering. When there are five people in the election, the odds are high. But I won 39 out of 40 precincts, so there's a solid base throughout the entire ward. So we've been building on that.
WCT: Does your strategy change at all between the general election and the runoff?
JC: Now's the fun part. When there were four other candidates, and you were at forums, you'd get two minutes. When people say things that are just blatantly false, you can't really say muchnow I can. I'm looking forward to it.
WCT: What are the most important priorities for the ward?
JC: Certainly protecting the diversity of the ward. It's one of the most diverse wards in the city, and that's why many of us moved herecertainly why I moved here. But I also moved here because of gay-bashing. Twenty years ago, you were careful about about where you lived; you lived where you knew you weren't going to get bashed. Now that the ward is considerably saferthere's a huge difference between now and twenty years agothere are people like Marianne [Lalonde] moving here in droves making huge demands on housing and more in our ward, so I have to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to retain that affordable stock of housing. Marianne has this perception that I can tell building owners what our rent can be. We do not have rent control in the state of Illinois. I've been anxious to get that message out.
So there's a focus on affordable housing. We hear from residents that, although the area is much safer, they also want to make sure that, going forward, we keep maintaining safety in the area. We do have some gang conflicts and I've talked with many of them, and I'm working with them now to help get them employment opportunities, especially with the Uptown Theater, and a lot of the buildings that we're getting.
We're also really pushing economic development. With the city's pension crisis, we need to do everything we can to make sure we are adding to our tax rolls at the same time that we are providing employment opportunities in the area. There are a lot of restaurants close to the Uptown Theater that run by first-generation immigrants. This will be huge boon to them and the community.
WCT: How do you see the 46th Ward, in terms of being welcoming or not welcoming for LGBT Chicagoans?
JC: When Richard and I were looking to buy a place, we wanted something in an area that is very diverse, but we had to see evidence that Windy City Times was available in that neighborhood. If it wasn't, we weren't going to move there. I'm 66 years of age, and every LGBTQ person I knew who's in their sixties or older have been at some point threatened with violence or they've experienced violence. I don't know anyone in my age group who hasn't been threatened or beaten up, no one. That was very important.
Now, the fact that I'm an openly gay alderman? People don't even think of it. It's like, so what? It just doesn't matter.
We've made huge strides and I'm proud of that. I remember that I was at City Council and they announced the Supreme Court was going to allow marriage equality. I was an emotional messit was so thrilling. A reporter asked, "The movement is overnow what are you going to do?"
But I do now ask, "What am I going to do?" Transgender people [for example] can't even get to use a toilet sometimes. I spoke with the LGBT caucus, and we pushed to get that law passed. That was a really proud moment for all of us. I think that was a proud moment for all of us.
I am just thrilled that the Baton is moving here. I knew that Double Door was coming, and we'd been working on that for about a year. I had Jim Flint come to my office, and he mentioned that, I was beyond amazed. After he told me, I told one of my staff, "Can you believe this? The Baton in the 46th Ward?"
They said, "Yeah," like it was no big deal. I said, "It's a huge deal!"
When I came here 20 years ago, I would not have thought it was possible. To have one of the pioneers of the LGBT community, to have the Baton here, is just thrilling for me.