Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza is among the many individuals aiming to be Chicago's next mayor.
Her supporters say she brings many assets to the table, including a fighting spirit ( telling Windy City Times she was posting signs during the recent polar vortex ) and a glowing resume ( including being the first Hispanic independently elected to statewide office in Illinois ). Mendoza's detractors, however, cite her connections to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and embattled Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, among others.
Mendoza gamely talked about those items and more with Windy City Times recently.
Windy City Times: What separates you from all the other candidates?
Susana Mendoza: In terms of my LGBTQ policy, I'm very proud to say that I've been at the forefront of some of the biggest fights the LGBTQ community has had to face.
When I was elected in 2000representing one of the most conservative Catholic districts in IllinoisI showed that I was for equality regarding marriage ( or civil unions, back then ); everybody should be treated equally. I reached out to the Equality Illinois folk to see what I could do to help; back then, it seemed like such a long shot that we would even have civil rights. Of all the candidates running for mayor, I feel that I'm the only one who took the time to fight when it mattered the most.
WCT: Let me switch gears for a second. There was an article in the Patch that talked about your connections with [Chicago Ald.] Danny Solis and the Daley machine…
SM: Oh, is that the [piece] by Mark Konkol? That's utterly false; I wouldn't give any credence to that piece.
WCT: But he's not the only one that's talked about your connections with Madigan and Burke. What's your response to those people?
SM: Here's what I would say, because it's a fair question. Let me put things in perspective: I was elected as a state rep of the Southwest Side of Chicago; by design, I had to work with these people. And I had working relationships with my colleagues, both Democratic and Republican. Yes, some of those people have gotten into trouble in the pastbut that's a question of their actions, not mine. It's not fair to paint me with the same brush.
Number two, I went on to become city clerk of Chicago, so I had to interface with all 50 aldermen. I had nothing to do with people's dirty actions; I carry myself with the highest form of integrity. Now, as state comptroller, I have to interface with all 118 state reps, 59 [state] senators, mayors and trustees; I know every elected official. It's not fair to impugn my integrity because of someone else's actions. I have nothing to do with what they do behind the scenes.
But as for that garbage article coming from [Konkol], who has never spoken to me once in his life and who does not know memaybe I should consider it an honor badge coming from him.
WCT: You did mention 50 alderpersons earlier. Would you be in favor of reducing the size of the City Council?
SM: I think that's a debate we need to have. I think you have to get rid of aldermanic prerogative; otherwise, all you would do is give way more power to, say, 15 aldermen. We'd go from having a small fiefdom to having a huge chunk of the city. There is a movement to cut down the number of aldermen and, from a fiscal perspective, you could argue that it would work. But you have to look at aldermanic prerogative; you're actually consolidating power. New York [City] has fewer aldermen, but they don't have unchecked power like we do here, and that's a big concern. We can limit the number of aldermen, but we have to limit aldermanic prerogative as well.
WCT: Your LGBTQ platform [which is on your website] is pretty comprehensive. What do you think are the biggest problems the community faces?
SM: For the last 18 years of my life, I been involved in the fight for equality, and I don't believe that the fight for equality is over. Big issues include healthcare access, safety, economic equity and basic rightsthey have an even bigger impact on the LGBTQ community, right? I plan for a future that supports members of the LGBTQ community, and that includes everyone.
WCT: I told a friend of mine I was going to interview you, and he said to ask you if you plan on raising property taxes.
SM: No! Tell him that's the last thing I plan to do. I hate property taxes and, unfortunately, we're victimized by a rigged and corrupt property-tax system that was championed by former assessor Joe Berrios. Toni Preckwinkle, who's running for mayor, had so many opportunities to smack that down.
WCT: What do you feel is your biggest strength and biggest weakness in this race?
SM: It's a tough question because I feel I have a lot of [strengths]. But what separates me from the rest of the candidates is that I just managed the state through the worst fiscal crisis in its history. Chicagoans need a fighter who's honest, but it's important to have someone who can navigate finances. The truth is that Chicago might be entering a recession in the next two or three years, and whoever is mayor is going to have to handle that.
WCT: And your biggest weakness?
SM: Hmmm. I like to think I'm pretty strong. I have cold-induced asthma, but I was out there putting up signs yesterday. I'd like to think I'm the strongest I've ever been.
I'm a human being, and I'm fallible. As for a weakness, I can only think of nacho cheese Doritosand that I have a potty mouth, so I have to work on that.
See susanamendoza.com/ .