Gery Chico is a lawyer who is aiming to be Chicago's next mayor. He is a former Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners president and Illinois State Board of Education chair.
This race is not the first rodeo for Chico, who has run for the U.S. Senate and who ran for mayor eight years ago. ( Little-known fact: Chico has lived in eight of Chicago's neighborhoods. )
He recently talked with Windy City Times about LGBT issues and his connections to controversial Ald. Ed Burke. However, he started the conversation by talking about an issue important to him.
Gery Chico: So we had discussions in City Hall all the time about fixing streets, the police, lights and other things. But it's important to know how things work. I'll give you an example: We were talking about water mains one day. What is a water main? How big is it?
We went out to a job site one day; then, they see all the dirt piled up on the neighbors' parkway, trucks that take up parking spaces and other things. What did they get out of this? They see how things work; it's important that when you see something, you understand the ramificationsand you come up with better ideas of how the city operates.
I used to ride around in my car all the time, calling 311; there was a poor guy assigned to me ( named Abe ), there was such a heavy volume. Streetlights would be out, there'd be unreadable street signs… It was the way I grew upno detail was too small. I drove down Michigan Avenue one day and there was a pothole this big [demonstrates with hands].
You need someone who's going to be rabidly attentive to these things. It's the same thing with graffitinot murals, but graffiti. But gangbangers who put up the graffiti? Out it goes.
You gotta do stuff like that in order to have a city that's maintained. Obviously, this is just the housekeeping stuff. There's bigger stuff, like crimeespecially regarding the LGBTQ community.
Windy City Times: What is the best way to at least cut down on crime?
GC: I believe in community policing. I started it in 1992-93; it was revolutionary at the time. Mayor Daley had a great idea: to change from the reactive policing to 911 calls, and to get out in front of itto talk with neighbors at the beat level. People should have faith in the police so they can report things to them.
WCT: I do know some people who'd call that snitchingor they're intimidated, and they wouldn't abide by it.
GC: The United States Justice Department lives on snitching; they pay for it. It's called whistleblowingcall it what you want.
As citizens, if you see someone get shot, you're supposed to report it. But you can anonymously give someone a tip. It's about justice and safety in the streets.
I also believe in equal protection under the law. As a lawyer with a constitutional background, it was a fairly easy call. When I ran for the Senate [in 2004], the headline read, "Chico the only candidate to support gay marriage." It surprised me; Obama said "no" and [State Comptroller Daniel] Hynes and other candidates waffled. [Editor's note: Obama had previously supported same-sex marriage, in 1996, but then backtracked.] The Church did not give me communion at Mass because of my position; I stood my ground and I'm proud to this day [that I did so].
In my career, I have done all sorts of things to make it things for same-sex couples. Transgender, bisexual and queer lifestyles have become much more prevalent now, but [even back] when I was in government I wanted to make sure that people in same-sex couples could leave property for others, among other things. One guy told me he wanted to get LGBT people in the school curriculum; it's a no-brainer to me. Maybe [Boystown's Legacy Walk] could be an integrated part of the curriculum.
There's still so much work to be done on so many frontslike with PrEP, which is hugely important to the community. We also need to make other medications financially available to those who need them.
We need to fight discrimination on a number of levels. One, you have to model behavior; you have to work and appoint LGBT people to different positionsthat's the public sector. At the same time, when you find that people are discriminating in the private sector, you have to help prosecute, or at least investigate. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations used to have that ability, but they gutted this.
WCT: Who are "they?"
GC: The Emanuel administration… Now, were they trying to save money? I suppose, but doing so infects the fabric of the city in a lot of different ways.
WCT: The controversy regarding Ald. Ed Burkemayoral candidate Bob Fioretti said that Burke had endorsed you last year. What's your response to that?
GC: The other people in this race who have all scattered for the corners… I've known Ed for years, and he's been kind to me; his wife has been kind to me. Does that mean that I condone what's alleged in that criminal complaint? Absolutely not.
At the end of the day, we all stand on our own two feet. Ed Burke wasn't with me at Chicago Public Schools. He wasn't with me when I worked at the mayor's office with Rich Daleyand, frankly, the two didn't get along that well. He wasn't with me at the Park District, and he certainly wasn't with me at the State Board of Education. At all those places, I made demonstrable improvements.
So I don't run from my association with him. He said, "I think Gery Chico is the most qualified person to run this city." Daley said that, too, in 2011; [candidate] Paul Vallas said that in 2011. So I must have a hell of a lot of endorsements out there.
Also, there should be no outside jobs if you're alderman. They pay you 120 grand.
WCT: And that would also work for the mayor?
GC: , Oh, yes. You just draw a paycheck from there. When I worked at the mayor's office, that cost me a couple hundred grand; I was making a lot more at Sidley [& Austin]. I don't need any extra money.
WCT: What's your biggest strength in this race, and what's your biggest weakness?
GC: My biggest strength is a passion for this citythat and a knowledge of the government. My grandpa came here in the '20s. My mom and dad met at Gage Park High School. I went to Kelly High School, my wife went to Senn and my kids went to public school. Chicago is in my blood.
Biggest weakness? I love to eat too much.
WCT: THAT'S your biggest weakness?
GC: Yeah. I imagine there are some others, but eating's a big one. I'll be at Beverly today and I want to stop at that pancake house down there. They have the best apple pancakes.
See chicoformayor.com/ .