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ELECTIONS 2019, 40TH WARD. Andre Vasquez on why running, LGBT issues
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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The son of Guatemalan immigrants, Andre Vasquez was born and raised in Chicago and is currently an AT&T area manager for Illinois. To give back to his community, Vasquez became a leader within Reclaim Chicago developing community and political events in the 40th Ward. Vasquez is running for the 40th Ward aldermanic seat against incumbent Patrick J. O'Connor and fellow challengers Maggie O'Keefe, Ugo Okere and Dianne Daleiden.

Windy City Times: Your campaign website talks about replacing machine politics with movement politics. What does that mean to you?

Andre Vasquez: Historically, Chicago's machine politics have been funded by big donors who do not serve the interest of working class Chicagoans. Movement politics puts people inside that vehicle of power. Building a community where engagement is encouraged, opening access for people to meet regularly, and holding their elected officials accountable.

WCT: What are the most pressing issues for the 40th ward and how would you address them?

AV: Constituent services, economic development and affordable housing. Currently, only if you live close to the alderman will your issues be addressed, and that is wrong. Everyone should be serviced equally no matter where they live in the ward and it is something I am committed to doing, as well as developing local independent businesses in the empty storefronts across the ward. In terms of affordable housing, we cannot be afraid of increasing density. I am advocating for 30 percent affordable housing in city subsidized units.

WCT: What has been your experience with the LGBT community?

AV: I have evolved from where I was growing up as a street kid and a rapper in an artform that was plagued by toxic masculinity, misogyny and homophobia. My experience working in many roles where I was exposed to LGBT people who were living their authentic lives taught me to be more understanding and aware of my past mistakes. I do have a lot of regrets for the way I behaved when I was younger.

WCT: What is your vision for the LGBT community?

AV: I have grown to understand how difficult and oppressive society can be for any marginalized community, including LGBT people. I would love to work with community organizations to learn about and advocate for LGBT-specific needs. I am running to create a world where everyone can live as their true self. I would also like more LGBT history education in our public schools, because I believe that when we learn more about our shared experience, we see the common bonds that build community.

WCT: Are any of your campaign staffers openly LGBT?

AV: My campaign manager and a number of our volunteer team are.

WCT: HIV prevention and awareness are still important issues for the community. How would you address this if you are elected?

AV: The funding cuts that were made under previous administrations must be reversed. Next, we need to make sure we are equitably funding comprehensive awareness and prevention campaigns cross the city, not just the North Side.

WCT: Do you back an elected school board?

AV: Yes, with a [school board] president who is a certified teacher with classroom experience.

WCT: Tell me about this Civilian Police Accountability Council you are proposing. How will this affect people of color and the transgender community?

AV: It is similar to an elected school board, civilians investigate all complaints levied against the police. If you are a Black trans woman who was being harassed by an officer you currently have to identify yourself to file a complaint. That places a target on the back of someone who is already profiled at a higher rate. We need to modernize tracking complaints against law enforcement. Also, police officers should not get any lead time before answering for any possible wrongdoing on their part.

WCT: What is the ideal minimum wage for the city of Chicago?

AV: Fifteen dollars an hour and indexed to inflation/rising living costs

WCT: How should Chicago increase its revenue stream?

AV: TIF money should not be going to development projects in the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods. They are intended for blighted areas. TIF surpluses should be directed to city needs, not mayoral discretion. We also need to ensure that large corporations pay their fair share.

WCT: Are you currently backing anyone for mayor?

AV: No.

WCT: Why should people vote for you instead of the incumbent or other challengers?

AV: The incumbent has been there for 35 years, ran for office originally to resist Mayor Washington's agenda, does not want to represent our neighbors and he is on record in that regard. The ward is ready for a change in leadership; one that is transparent and accountable. Among the other challengers, this campaign has the largest volunteer base and I have personally out canvassed everyone. I am the only challenger in the race that has career experience managing something of this scale, and we are the best shot at unseating the incumbent. It is time for an ethical upgrade that I will bring to the city council.

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