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ELECTIONS 2015: 49TH WARD Donald Gordon makes second run at Ald. Moore
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

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Donald Gordon maintains a long list of community organization and leadership since his arrival in the 49th ward more than 30 years ago. They include the 1988 founding of the Rogers Park Community Council, the Rogers Park Conservancy in 2003 and—shortly after his unsuccessful bid for alderman in 2007—the creation of Voters Organized for Truthful Election Results ( VOTER ).

Now he is making a second bid for Ald. Joe Moore's seat. In doing so Gordon—an author and adjunct lecturer in Political Science at Northwestern University—asserts that he will take no contributions and will run his campaign with just $2,500 of his own money. If successful, among his highlighted priorities is to "fire Rahm."

In a phone call with Windy City Times, Gordon detailed his campaign and his plans for the neighborhood.

WCT: Why this second run? What did you learn from the first?

Donald Gordon: I can do better than our alderman has done for us over the past 24 years—improving our schools, mitigating crime, creating more business development and certainly running a more efficient office. We need to change the face of politics in Chicago. We need to get money out of politics. We need more candidates who put the interests of their constituency ahead of the special interests of campaign contributors. I lost in 2007 by a mere couple of hundred votes.

The first time I ran for office, I deferred to people who had run campaigns before and who said "this is what you need to do." This time around I'm running on my own terms. Our alderman spent just over a million dollars to win [the 2007] election. It's not always the amount of money spent, it's how you spend it. One key opportunity we missed was getting the message out early enough. I've been campaigning hard for the past year. During the signature period, I talked to well in excess of a thousand people face-to-face for three months.

WCT: You are also running against the Emanuel administration?

Donald Gordon: That's certainly part of the strategy here. Our alderman is an unabashed supporter of this mayor and his voting record shows that he's with the mayor 97 percent of the time. I'm in favor of an elected school board, a moratorium of TIF and I'm firmly against the privatization of our public school system. Those are divisive issues here in this community and clearly define the differences between this alderman and myself.

WCT: So what are the principal issues that the LGBT community faces post-marriage equality?

Donald Gordon: They're very much the issues that face all of us—economic issues as far as jobs and being paid a living wage, healthcare and access to affordable education. Homelessness is a problem for everybody. We all at some point could be at the ledge of finding ourselves homeless. With the LGBTQ community, it has hit youth much harder. We need to direct more resources to help get them off the street. There's still a lot of discrimination out there. It breeds hatred that leads to crime.

WCT: Talk about some of the solutions you would bring to the issue of homelessness.

Donald Gordon: You can have all the legislation you want but, in the end, what's going on in a [job] interviewers mind is not necessarily going to be disclosed. There are all sorts of creative ways that people can hide the reasons for why they're not hiring somebody and, in effect, skirt the law. An alderman has a large voice in his or her community. I think the message needs to create a positive image of those in the LGBT community. We can provide workshops that are geared towards employment for the LGBT community. I don't think typical vanilla job fairs really do much service to those having a hard time finding jobs. There has to be sensitivity and acknowledgement of who we are bringing into these job fairs and that employers will not be discriminatory for any reason. The fairs need to include workshops both for the employers and the candidates. Youth with criminal records are being tossed aside as not being worth saving.

WCT: Ald. Moore maintains that crime in the 49th is down despite the high profile incidents over the summer. Do you agree with that assessment?

Donald Gordon: You can throw all the facts you want at people but the perception is that Rogers Park is not a safe community. So when we have a year like last year where we had ten murders and some forty shootings in this community—one on a Sunday afternoon at the Act One restaurant—it's going to take a while to heal that perception if we can at all. A lot of crime is being perpetrated by the six gangs in this community. We need to cut off the recruitment process for these gangs and inoculate these kids in school. We also need to come down aggressively on problem building owners. It's not good enough for an alderman to just sit back and take complaints from tenants.

WCT: Would you open your office to undocumented immigrants? How would you help them?

Donald Gordon: People need to feel safe walking into an elected official's office without the fear of ICE coming in to grab them. To throw up your hands and call it a Federal issue is just not good enough. I'm going to go out on a limb here. I believe, as a city, we need to issue a statement that says, "If you're undocumented, you're safe here. We will do all we can to prevent ICE gathering up undocumented workers and sending them back." It's absolutely wrong. We need to tell Congress, "Get your damn act together and figure this out. In the meantime, we're going to protect these people."

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