David Mihalyfy, an openly gay home healthcare worker who also works as a writer and labor activist, is challenging incumbent 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson for his seat on the Chicago City Council. Mihalyfy spoke with Windy City Times about his platform and what motivated him to throw his hat in the ring.
Windy City Times: Why do you think you can do a better job than Ald. Daley Thompson?
DM: Daley Thompson has done some nice stuff, like with the viaduct lighting, and smaller impact stuff like the mural projects. But he's been taking a lot of corporate money and donations from Rahm [Emanuel]. He's voted for Rahm's garbage tax and property tax increase, which was unnecessarily large and has hurt a lot of families in the community.
WCT:What are the most pertinent issues for the 11th Ward?
DM: Our big two issues are youth, and helping people with cost of living. With youth, we need to have after-school activities and re-invest in CPS, and we need to uplift with neighborhood high schoolswe need to advocate for a rebuilt high school up near Chinatown, where there's been a historic need. That dovetails with growth in University Village and South Loop.
With cost-of-living, the [main aspect] is taxation. They should be taxing big banks and luxury goods first, before they do Rahm's garbage tax and unnecessarily large property tax. That's nickel-and-diming, and really squeezing people. In addition to that, we could have more innovative uses of our city development fundthat would help people. For example, instead of investing in developments like Lincoln Yards, we could be using that same money better by investing in home solar programs that lower utility bills and provide economic growth, allowing people to pay that money back over time.
WCT:You previously mentioned concerns over youth in the ward. Have you had any ideas about LGBT youththat is a demographic disproportionately affected by homelessness and challenges within schools.
DM: I was a rank-and-file volunteer at the 2014 LGBT Youth Homelessness Summit. I am very concerned with that issue. As an alderman, I'd be in favor of Chicago Teachers Union's advocacy for wraparound services, where people can be linked into social services that meet their needs as a matter of course. As alderman, I'd be another voice in that fight for a common-sense sort of approach.
I would also go after all this money that is being diverted from CPS into charter schools. Oftentimes, there is excessive administrative overhead, and, through TIF funds, there are excessive handouts to big developers. That's been under-recognized, but thanks to work from people like Ben Joravsky at the [Chicago] Reader and Chance the Rapper, there has been a good amount of raised consciousness, and I think we can really take on that fight now, and recover more of those funds and apply them to youth, where those funds have always belonged.
WCT:What do you think are some other pertinent issues for LGBT residents in the ward?
DM: A lot of it is cost of living. A big component of this is that people are underemployed, and either have low-wage jobs, or exploitative part-time jobs. We could pass municipal labor ordinances to rein in some of that and help stabilize people's incomes. That's also where housing costs are going through the roofif we passed fair taxation, it would help somewhat with housing costs. It should also pass accessory dwelling unit ordinances, which would allow apartments above garages [for example], and would raise housing stock and allow working-class residents to remain at home, [opening up] new housing stock closer to the city-center, for example, at affordable rates. That would help with the generalized housing costs.
WCT:If you were elected, you'd presumably be a member of the LGBT Caucus on the city council. The city has strong anti-discrimination laws, but what role does an alderman have in ensuring that those are vigorously enforced with workplaces and landlords, etc.?
DM: In general we need to make sure that enforcement is well-funded. There are large questions about the inspector general's offices, for example, with anti-corruption work. People like [mayoral candidate] Lori Lightfoot are questioning whether the inspector general's office is robustI'm open to that same kind of thinking, with whatever kinds of proposals exist to improve enforcement.
WCT:You've spoken in the past about the need for additional services for LGBT Chicagoans to be more widely available on the South and West sides, specifically healthcare and HIV resources. How would you use an alderman's resources to make sure those are equitably distributed?
DM: In the budgeting process, I'd want to make sure that we could get a fair allocation of resources. If that did not happen, I would use my platform as alderman to call attention to these inequities. As a candidate this past summer, for example, I pointed out the favoritism that had resulted in a plan to close National Teachers Academy and reopen it as a high school for wealthier residents, which was to the detriment of the elementary school community that was 80 percent Black, 70 percent low-income. Thankfully, that plan was derailed by an anti-discrimination lawsuit. Depending on what issues arise, I would not hesitate to be an advocate in the same way, using whatever platform is available to draw awareness to inequities.