Since the Feb. 24 elections, attorney Amy Crawford has been looking to convince 46th Ward residents that she's a better choice than incumbent Ald. James Cappleman, who's trying to retain his post for a second term.
Cappleman won the most votes, about 46.76 percent, but was unable to secure the 50-percent-plus-one-vote needed to prevent a runoff. Crawford received 37.66 percent of the votes. Another challenger, activist Denice Davis, had 15.59 percent. On March 10, Davis gave Crawford her endorsement in the April 7 runoff.
Crawford now has to convince ward voters that, if they want change, she's the best choice. Windy City Times spoke with Crawford about the runoff and her views on several issues that are pertinent to the ward.
Windy City Times: Why you think the ward went into a runoff?
Amy Crawford: I think this ward went into a runoff because people recognize that there is ineffective leadership currently, whether you're concerned about crime or the empty storefronts in the ward, or needing a stronger partner for our schools, or simply lagging behind in constituent services. People recognized that there were other options, and that I represent an effective option. There are people who were upset at how the alderman handled certain issues like Salvation Army and pigeons. I think the vote was certainly a reflection of his continuing polarization of the neighborhood.
WCT: How would you address that polarization?
Amy Crawford: By talking to everybody, listening to everybody, and making sure that everybody is around the table. By not picking on certain groups, or addressing certain agencies as either the good guys or the bad guys. We're all in this together. Sometimes, whether we like it or not. [I would say] "Let's get along, and let's address the common problems of violent crime and the need for more economic development."
WCT: What are your thoughts on tax-increment financing [TIF], and how it's been applied in the ward and what you might want to change?
Amy Crawford: Citywide, I certainly think there needs to be more transparency and accountability around this, so it's a step in the right direction that David Orr started publishing the amount of our taxes that go to TIFs but I think people would like to have more information about what TIF funds are used for. More attention needs to be paid to retiring TIFs once they achieve their objectives. I'm definitely a supporter of TIF reform. Here in the ward, what I'm interested in seeing is not TIF funds used as bigger-picture development projects, the traditional use of TIFs, but [asking] how do we funnel more into small-business improvement funds or other similar projects? TIFs can be used for smaller-scale things. They just historically have not.
WCT: Ald. Cappleman has spoken of transforming much of this ward into an entertainment district. Would you continue with his work there?
Amy Crawford: That's a priority for him rhetorically but not in practice. He's been very focused on what I think are the wrong priorities but he has also been very reactive. When you're a reactive person, and just responding to issues like violence in the neighborhood, you're not going to be able to move the needle on things that require longer-term vision, leadership and planning. I think it's a great idea to build an entertainment district. [But] I've talked about it in terms of a cultural district. I think that reframes it in a way, a way that makes it less centered on Broadway and Lawrence, where we've got the Aragon, Riviera and Uptown, so that we're more focused on a ward-wide, Uptown-wide, approach that leverages not just the existing venues but also the smaller venues as well as our cultural diversity and architecture.
We have these great youth programs, art and dance programs, which can be part of how we build our cultural district. That's what's really excitingnot just to be able to buy tickets to the Aragon six months in advance for a a band you love, but to be able to go out on a Friday night and be able to say, "I want to go to Uptown, there's going to be something cool to do, and it's going to be safe."
The other TIF issue is the Montrose/Clarendon TIF. A lot of folks are very concerned about the lack of progress there. Years have gone into multiple proposals, and yet nothing's happened, because it's currently stalled in the Department of Planning. I think we need an alderman who's going to be able to be a stronger hand at the negotiating table, who's going to be able to work with city agencies to get more done.
WCT: What does the alderman's approach to reducing crime need to be?
Amy Crawford: It's got to be holistic approach, so it's not just about calling for more police, but that's part of it. It's got to everything from getting those additional beat cops, to helping the police engage more effectively with the community to giving our kids alternatives to a path of crime. That means, partnering with our schools to make them better, leveraging the existing programs that we have here so that they can reach more kids and do more things, such as after school programs and weekend programs. Also [it includes] leveraging some of the really promising pilot programs we've seen in other parts of the city, dealing with restorative justice, conflict resolution skills, even part-time job programs for older youth and young adults. It's a big-picture approach, but you've got to have the vision to really want to carry that out. Tragically, somebody else was murdered yesterday, three blocks from here at Agatite and Sheridan. So this violence is continuing. There've been three murders in the past three months. So people are really frightened, as they're concerned about the approaching warmer weather.
WCT: Homelessness is a significant issue for the ward. One development that has come about since we last talked is Gov. Rauner's proposed budget cuts, which would significantly impact money that would go towards resources. As an alderman, you wouldn't have direct control of that, but the issue will trickle down to you. How can an alderman best address that?
Amy Crawford: The proposed cuts are appalling. At the same time, the fiscal situation that the governor was put in, having a budget that wasn't funded, was not appropriate either. Once again, it's an example of state government kicking the can down the road and now it's blown up in our face. But we can't just allow the most vulnerable people in society to bear the brunt of our failure of government. So I think advocating with our local elected officials to, in the short term, mitigate the brunt of these proposed cuts and, in the long term, restoring fiscal sanity is just what's needed.
WCT: How would you engage agencies' responses that have tackled those issues in the ward?
Amy Crawford: I spoke to this earlier, I think. [Cappleman] has a method of polarizing even the agencies and pitting them against each other in a sense, by labeling some as good and some as bad. Really the more productive question is, how do you leverage the services being provided and make them better? How do we get everyone together on the same page so we can do this more efficiently and more effectively?I think when you totally alienate one partner or another in the community, we're not going to get productive outcomes. We need an alderman who's a convener of these services, as well as to neighbors and the homeless population, to better address this issue in a long-term way.
WCT: HIV/AIDS-related services were also significantly impacted in the budget proposals. How might you work on that issue as alderman?
Amy Crawford: It's symptomatic of a larger assault on public health, in a sense, [along the lines of] the closing of mental health clinics, so I think, given the unique population of our ward, there are a lot of public health communities here, and everybody across the ward benefits when people are getting the treatment that they need, whether it's mental health or HIV/AIDS. Obviously I am a big fan of Howard Brown Health Center, a big fan of their work, so I'm concerned about how these cuts would impact them. I'd be interested in working with these impacted agencies, to figure out how we can help them continue doing what they're doing.
WCT: Would you be in favor of moving the Pride Parade, which also goes through the 46th Ward?
Amy Crawford: I think it should stay where it is. I say that not just as a political candidate but as a community member and a resident. I think it would largely lose its special identity if it were to move downtown. The whole character of it calls for it to be centered in Boystown. Can the issues around it be better addressed? Surethere is a need for constant improvement. Redirecting that route so that there was wasn't that bottleneck at Broadway and Halsted was smart. I think that it opens up the parade to a broader group of people. The people at the top of the parade route are different then the ones you see in the middle, or southern end. Sure, there are traffic problems that are a hassle and we need increased police for issues after the parade. I'll definitely be interested in hearing from affected residents.
WCT: Why are you a better choice for the ward's LGBT community than the current alderman?
Amy Crawford: Whether you're part of the LGBT community or not, I think people want safe streets and a more vibrant ward. … I think I've been a more active champion of LGBT people in this community, whether it's about being an advocate of marriage equality or the trans community in my legal work, whether it's my volunteer work with Howard Brown or my mentoring. To me it's not just about checking a box and being a member, it's about understanding issues that are specific to our community, having a history and engaging with it. But it's also just about effectiveness and getting stuff done.
Earlier coverage of the candidate at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/ELECTIONS-2015-Lesbian-candidate-vies-to-win-seat-as-46th-Ward-alderman/50345.html.