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ELECTIONS 2015: 2ND WARD Restauranteur Bita Buenrostro aims for aldermanic seat
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-02-18

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Bita Buenrostro is a senior executive with a local restaurant corporation that manages three successful Chicago-area restaurants. However, for the second time, she has set her sights on an aldermanic seat, having previously run ( in the 43rd Ward ) in 2011.

The main issues on Buenrostro's platform involve safety, city services, and jobs and economic development. She recently talked about those issues as well as LGBT-related topics and a controversial police flyer.

Windy City Times: How would your restaurant experience help you as an alderman?

Bita Buenrostro: Don't kid yourself—being an aldermanic is all about customer service. And I wouldn't have survived in the restaurant business if I [hadn't] listened to people. I'd like to think of the constituents as customers in a restaurant. Would I survive if they weren't happy? Unfortunately, these people do not have the choice of not coming back—they live there. Ultimately, it's about service and getting things done.

WCT: Back in 2011, you ran for alderman in the 43rd Ward. Did you move between then and now?

Bita Buenrostro: No, I haven't. Every 10 years, the map changes. So the ward where I live was touched by the remapping. I'm just two streets over; I have a year to move into the 2nd Ward.

WCT: So how does running before help you now?

Bita Buenrostro: Oh my God—I have so much experience, so much that I've learned from last time. When you run for the second time, you understand that you have to get in touch with people. It's not just the endorsements of the politicians that matter; it's the endorsements of people that matter. Last time, I relied on politicians; this time, I'm getting in touch with the people of the 2nd Ward.

WCT: Let's say you're elected alderman. Give me three items on your platform that you would push for within your first year.

Bita Buenrostro: The first thing is the safety. The second thing are the city services we deserve, but that we're not getting. The third thing is local economic development, which [involves] bringing good-paying jobs to our ward. I believe the 2nd Ward is not receiving our fair share of city services. I will work with the city departments to make sure we get those services. Also, I will work to bring more mentoring and after-school programs.

One other thing I have to tell you: I've gone through three different educations in my life. There's the wraparound program, which they're just getting to around here; I'm a big promoter of that.

WCT: I noticed that there's apparently a controversy involving one of your opponents [Alyx Pattison] who allegedly used a flyer with a fake policeman. Did you want to speak to that? [Editor's note: The original article is at chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/285938/2nd-ward-aldermanic-candidate-ripped-mailer-includes-police-impersonator .]

Bita Buenrostro: Yes—I'm married to a police officer and am endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. That, to me, is disrespectful; men and women have died for that uniform. If you're doing that to fool voters, what's the next thing you're going to do? You mean in a city that has almost 10,000 police officers, you couldn't find one who could take a picture? If not, what does that show about you?

Being endorsed means I have a duty to protect the uniform, especially with everything that's going on, like in Paris. I'd like to know how they got the uniform. It's not legal. My husband noted that it didn't say he was impersonating a police officer. We know what they were going for—you know it and I know it. And that's a shame.

WCT: On our questionnaire, you indicated that you would've indicated the city's minimum-wage increase. What do you tell a small-business owner who supports that in theory but may have to let some employees go?

Bita Buenrostro: This is perfect because I'm on both sides of the question. I am that business owner who has to pay the gradual minimum wage; I'm proud to tell you that everybody in my restaurant makes above minimum wage because I know how hard it is to live in Chicago on minimum wage. I think it's going to take five or six months—maybe a year—for people to adjust to that gradual increase. Maybe in the beginning they'll freak out, but I think they'll adjust.

WCT: What do you think of the current city council?

Bita Buenrostro: I'm going to tell you the truth: The first thing that comes in my mind is a bunch of big boys rubbing elbows—but, knowing me, I'll be a thorn in their side. Right now, it seems it's divided—some are supporting the mayor, and some are not; it's a hodgepodge right now. I think a lot of issues are being rubber-stamped, and that's not fair. I think the city council is in the middle of a hectic situation.

WCT: Also from the questionnaire: What do you feel is the biggest problem the LGBT community is facing?

Bita Buenrostro: Well, the community is going in the right direction—being able to get married, for example. However, they're not being recognized the way they should. Marriage is right; if someone wants to dedicate themselves to someone else for the rest of his life, who am I to say no?

I would support something like the Harvey Milk School [asked in the questionnaire]. I would advocate for mandatory anti-bullying policies and training in Chicago Public Schools. I would also advocate for mandatory LGBT-inclusive material to be taught in schools, starting in middle school. I also think gay couples should be able to adopt children; as long as the couple is [loving], I'm all for that.

This is an important question to me. I was a woman in Iran—and had to deal with prejudice was well. It's very important to favor equality. Most of the LGBT are very gracious and easygoing, just like everyone else.

I had a party recently for one of my gay employees who got married. It was so fun.

WCT: What do you feel is your biggest disadvantage in this race?

Bita Buenrostro: I'm not an attorney or career politician; I'm just a person who has the same challenges everyone else has. To be honest, I don't have any challenges except that my English is not the best, although I do speak five languages. I'm more qualified than any other candidate, although one of my opponents is a machine candidate and could have insiders working for him. I'm the people's candidate.

Visit www.BitaNow.com .

See more election-related coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gaynewsarticles.php .


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