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ELECTIONS 2019, 46th WARD. Cappleman tries for another term on city council
by Matt Simonette

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Openly gay Ald. James Cappleman ( 46th Ward ) is running for a third term representing his area, which is largely comprised of Uptown and parts of Lake View, on the Chicago City Council. Cappleman is up against five opponents in the Feb. 26 election. He discussed his vision for the ward and his experience as an openly gay politician with Windy City Times.

Windy City Times: What do you think are some of the most pertinent issues for LGBT residents of the 46th Ward right now?

James Cappleman: We have so many different groups to consider. We have transgender youth who go to our schools, and we need to do a better job of addressing their needs, which are very complex. Many of them have been ostracized by their parents and family, classmates and community. So I think transgender youth is probably paramount.

This is a community where people are open and accepting of the LGBT community for the most part. When I ran in 2011, and 2015, and now, as a gay man, people just didn't care.

I'm also concerned about aging. LGBT seniors can oftentimes feel isolated. I'd really like to see some kind of facility around here. The Center on Halsted really got the ball rolling on that, and I'd like to see more of that. The 46th Ward has, I think, one of the highest rates of LGBTQ couples.

WCT: Can you speak a bit about crime and public safety in the 46th Ward, both in terms of keeping residents and visitors safe and ensuring cordial relations between police and the community?

JC: Crime has dropped a lot, especially violent crime, gang-related crime. It's something we're always on the alert for. But it's nothing like it was three or four years ago. I called a task force after my husband Richard witnessed [in 2013] five people get shot at the corner of Lawrence and Sheridan. That task force was comprised of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, the 19th and 20 Districts police [bureaus], businesses in the area, social services, the Chamber of Commerce and community residents. We created interventions, like getting businesses to install security cameras. We [encouraged businesses] to call 911 in emergencies and get other nearby businesses to call. We also worked with court advocates so that those involved with drug busts were not allowed in afterwords; we had geographic restrictions that did not allow the active drug dealers to go pack on private property.

… It was so successful that now police are doing that in other parts of the city. We're seeing some good drops in crime, but you have to do more than that. You have address why people are committing these crimes. The clear answer, to me, is poverty. People who are desperate are going to commit crimes. We've focused on expanding the One Summer Chicago program, which provides job opportunities for people from ages 14-24. We also got the BAM [Becoming A Man] program, which reaches out to youth, many of whom have suffered PTSD from seeing violence and have suffered from poverty, and are at risk for going a gang. If their attendance at school starts dropping, and they start dropping in test scores, we know they are at risk. … That's also producing results. With the Uptown Theater coming in, I really pushed to get the After School Matters program coming in.

I'm very much in favor of the GAPA ordinance, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability. I'm pushing for that implementation, and one of the things I'm asking for is that we find a way of measuring trust. It's one thing to do an intervention that you hope increases trust. But you don't know if it actually does unless you measure it.

WCT: What is the importance of having openly LGBT politicians on the city council, or within any elected body?

JC: I see the change within my colleagues. I go to events with my husband Richard. Before they'd ask all kinds of questions of me—for example, how does the Bible reconcile this or that? Often they were questions that were too personal. But now, because they've had a chance to rub elbows with someone who's not too different from them, it's just not a big deal. The number of my colleagues who know my husband and ask about him, by first name, is amazing. Because my colleagues knew me, when I was pushing for the transgender community to be able to use the bathroom of their choice, it wasn't a big deal to them. My colleagues were able to pass that closely—they knew us and trusted us.

WCT: What is your vision for the ward for the next four years?

JC: When I talk with residents of the 46th Ward—we have Uptown and parts of Lakeview—the overriding consensus is that they value diversity. What's happening right now is, we have a lot of people graduating from college with large amounts of debt, and they're moving to areas of the city where there's mass transit. That Wilson L has become a beacon for a lot of millennials to be close to. We're even finding Northwestern students are moving there, since the Purple Line now stops there. They are moving to Uptown because the housing is cheaper. With that, our apartment vacancy rate is extraordinarily low. We have a lot of millennials coming in, and that is driving up rents. So the biggest task I have is to make sure that our community remains diverse. That's the value across the board that people want. My challenge in the next four years is to ensure that we remain just as diverse by protecting affordable housing and encouraging apartment [owners] to accept low-income trust fund subsidies.

We're into some very exciting times. Double Door is coming in. The Baton is going to have their opening in March. With the Uptown Theater opening, there are a lot of great things happening. It's a good time to be in the 46th Ward. I want to continue pushing for that, but I also want to make sure that we stick to our roots of being a really diverse community. That's always a challenge, but I'm committed to making it happen.

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