Richard Gonzalezwho maintains he is the only of the candidates vying to represent Illinois' 4th Congressional District who already planned to run before current Rep. Luis Gutierrez said he was stepping downhas been working two jobs for years. He's both a police official and executive director of a housing organizationand says this compressive background makes him a good fit to represent the 4th District in Washington D.C.
Windy City Times: What inspired you to run?
Richard Gonzalez: I'm the only candidate who decided to run in the [district] prior to Luis Gutierrez announcing his retirement. It's a position of great importance, can bring about change, and is not a position that someone can just decide overnight that, "Wow, I'm going to be a great congressman." The night before he announced his retirement, not of the candidates had been thinking about the office.
I sat down with my wife, family and friends and I really talked about whether I would be effective in joining this race and competing with Mr. Gutierrez for the seat. It took me about two months to weigh all the factors and decide that I indeed would make a great difference in this district.
There's only been one issue in this district that's been addressed and that's immigration, which I think is a very important issue that needs to be addressed effectively. Even the civil rights movement took less time than our current immigration reform. Today, immigration reform possibilities are worse than they were 25 years ago when Luis Gutierrez took the helm. But there are other issues that are very important, including education, jobs, economic development, crime, infrastructure; so much needs to be brought into our district.
WCT: What in your background speaks to your potential success taking on these issues in Congress?
RG: In order to be a Congressman, it's not really about governing. You're not there to tell the folks what they should and should not have. The job of a Congressman is to listen and represent the constituents of the district. I am great listener. I'm also a Chicago police sergeant for over 25 years, so I'm used to fighting for what needs to be done. That's something that is second nature to me. That's embedded in police officers, knowing there is a situation at hand and that you have to find a solution. I've worked with CAPS offices and for many years I led the CAPS offices in the 12th and 13th police districts. I needed to work with elected officials and listen to the concerns of the residents of those districts and I had to bring solutions to those concerns, otherwise I wouldn't be doing my job effectively.
I have a bachelor's degree in accounting from DePaul and a master's degree from Illinois Institute of Technology in Public Administration. I'm also the Executive Director of Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation. … I started with the company 25 years ago as a bookkeeper. I used to get out of work at the police department and work nights; I did that for my first four years. I'm now the president, so I worked my way up the ladder, and that came about because of the strong leadership qualities I possess.
We just did groundbreaking on a property that we have at Central and Diversey; we just closed it December 29th, and it was affordable units for members of the LGBT community. That was an idea that I thought we needed to bring into Chicago, into Bucktown, which is completely ridiculous [in price] to live there. We decided, we want affordable housing and we want it to be for the LGBT community, because we want them to feel comfortable.
WCT: How do you divide up your time between the two jobs these days?
RG: As human beings, we are creatures of habit. I've been doing these two jobs for the last 25-plus years. It's one of those things that I just don't think about and just do. I'm used to hard work and motivating myself to get the job done. The day that I only have one job will be like retirement for me.
WCT: What kind of work or engagement have you already had with the LGBT community? You've already mentioned the Bucktown housing project.
RG: On the Pennycuff-Castillo property, the reason I did that was that I have many members of my family who are gay. We made this very clear to them: It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is; you're our family and we love you. One of the things we do here in the city is that we make that into a taboo. A lot of people are afraid too express what they really feel because they fear people will make fun of them or that they will be alienated. I want to change that. I want to bring a comfort level.
My family is very important to me, and we all have that same mindset. We have to have an educational program for the city and state to make this the norm, not the exception. If there ever a time where the statement "it is what is" is appropriate, it's in this case, we should not make [being LGBT] an issue. It's one of the reasons I concentrated on LGBT community housing. I had a hard time selling that to HUD and I had a hard time selling it to the city. It took two and half years to do this. … But it's going to get to a point in Chicago, I'm hoping, where we're just not going to question it. It will be a normality.
WCT: What other issues are pertinent for the district?
RG: Jobs, jobs, jobs are important for the district. It is home to some of the poorest people in the entire United States when it comes to median income. It is such a large district with many people who are Hispanic. They are some of the most hard-working people. They are innovators. They want to come here and they want to work. We have to figure out a way that they have no fear of deportation. We can do something as simple as ensuring that here in Illinois there is a pilot program where you have a temporary visa that allows you to work.
We talk a lot about citizenship and the path towards citizenship, but I have talked to a lot of people and their main concern is, "Can I come to the United States and can I stay in the United States, and be a productive member of society without fear of being deported?" I think with initiating a temporary visa, Illinois could become a real sanctuary state with laws, rules and opportunities for people here to be productive and work. But the main thing is to be able to eliminate that fear of deportation.
See richardforcongress.com .