Through nearly a quarter-century as alderman of the 49th Ward, Joe Moore has weathered his share of storms including successfully defending five challenges to his seat, allegations of ethics violations in 2013 and last year's wave of summer violence. Meanwhile, Rogers Park has become one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago. In 2010, it was the first in the country to institute participatory budgeting allowing residents to decide how "menu money" allocated to the neighborhood is spent.
Now Moore faces a second challenge from opponent and community organizer Don Gordon who was unsuccessful in 2007 but maintains the lessons from that campaign have helped provide the strategy needed to defeat the incumbent.
Moore sat down with Windy City Times to discuss his tenure as alderman and his plans for the community should he prevail on February 24. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: Talk about some of the accomplishments in the past 24 years of which you are the proudest.
Joe Moore: We have demonstrated to the city and the nation that a mixed-income, racially and ethnically diverse community can not only survive but can thrive. We have made significant progress economically and with public safety while still maintaining our diversity.
WCT: However the gang problem in Rogers Park is still prevalent and there were some high-profile incidents last summer. What are you doing to combat that?
Joe Moore: Things have improved considerably since the early '90s. The challenges, while there, are much less daunting. Our police district ( the 24th ) was one of the first to begin community policing. As a result, our rate of violent crime has dropped by over 50 percent and citizen and resident engagement is part of the fabric of our community. Public safety is more than just policing; it's also promoting economic development, creating jobs, providing affordable housing and improving schools. We've made considerable progress on each and every one of those fronts over time. The incidents over the summer were very tragic and obviously a cause of concern but overall violent crime continues to decrease. We're half of where we were eight to 10 years ago.
WCT: Transgender women, particularly those of color, have talked about profiling and abuse by the CPD. How do you ensure police sensitivity and accountability citywide?
Joe Moore: It starts at the topsending a message to the police department that a lack of professionalism will not be tolerated and that everyone should be treated respectfully. Clearly the CPD is a work-in-progress in that regard. The Independent Police Review Authority ( IPRA ) was a substantial reform in the right direction to help hold the police department accountable. I would continue to beef up IPRA and insist that sensitivity to the transgender community be part and parcel of recruit and ongoing training of police officers.
WCT: Homelessness is a significant issue. Are for the creation of more affordable housing and how would you encourage the businesses you are bringing to the 49th to hire LGBTQ youth?
Joe Moore: Homelessness is the next frontier. When LGBTQ people are looked at more as human beings rather than stereotypes, you're open to acceptance and embracing them with the same dignity that you should be given to a brother or sister. We have strong laws in place to prohibit [employment] discrimination and, if those laws are enforced, we will get there. Under my watch there have been well over a thousand units of affordable housing created in this neighborhood and I would be open to housing particularly focused on LGBTQ individuals.
WCT: Your opponent talks about your opposition to an elected school board and your support of the privatization of schools.
Joe Moore: I was opposed to an elected school board long before Rahm Emanuel became mayor. [He] is ultimately accountable for the policies, directions and the success or lack thereof of the schools. Rather than have one person accountable, you would have members all pointing fingers at each other with nobody taking responsibility. The schools have made significant progress under the current system. Test scores and graduation rates are up.
If someone can point out to me any study whatsoever that shows an elected school board leads to a measurable improvement in the quality of education our children receive, I'd be all for it. I am not for the privatization of schools. I am for providing low and moderate income families with the kind of choices that are enjoyed by middle and upper income families like Mr. Gordon's who sent his children to a private school. Shouldn't a family barely earning a living wage have a choice as well? That being said, there are clearly non-performing Charter schools that should be shut down.
WCT: And the closure of 50 public schools by the Emanuel administration?
Joe Moore: I would be the first one to say that the process by which the decisions were made and carried out left a lot to be desired. There should have been more collaboration. That being said, those who criticize their closure have yet to tell us where we would have found the funds to keep those schools open.
WCT: HIV prevention and awareness are still paramount issues for advocacy groups. How can you assist them?
Joe Moore: We have limited resources but it's a question of priorities and there is no greater priority than the health and safety of citizens. I'm all for additional resources for organizations leading the battle for education and awareness.
WCT: Twenty-six percent of residents in the 49th are foreign-born. Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants live in a constant state of fear. What can be done for them in the city and your neighborhood?
Joe Moore: I would be happy to sit down with advocates and hear from them. Maybe there are things we can do to provide protection, help and assistance. I'm pro-immigration reform. I believe immigrants offer so much to the vitality and economic health of our city and our nation. Right now we have a [national] policy that is based more on fear than reason.
Visit www.ward49.com and www.facebook.com/joemoore49 .
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