Veterans day or heavyweight prize fight? Longevity vs. change in 5th, 30th, 40th ward races

Not two heavyweights, says challenger Vasquez, who

. . . sees his race against O’Connor as . . . a championship fight. In one corner, is “somebody who’s like fully trained, a multi-black belt, with all the amount of funding — and then there’s us.”

“Our campaign manager likes to call it the island of misfit toys,” Vasquez said. “It’s a reflection of Chicago. It’s kind of piecemeal put together but we made sure to have one common goal and work towards it.”

Not so his opponent, he said.

“Ald. O’Connor’s got these precinct captains that owe him favors for jobs he’s gotten them, they’re very disciplined. What they have is an operation, what we have is a movement.”

Well, O’Connor grew up in the ward, and his five children live in it, he explained in a forum.

Then the homophobic lyrics:

O’Connor says that Vasquez’s record [as a rapper] is fair game. Vasquez has apologized for the comments, old rap lyrics that O’Connor has highlighted on a web site. “I see this as an opportunity to have a conversation about what kind of society and environment creates that kind of behavior,” Vasquez said. “At the doors, I provide the context for who I was then and apologize for the language and that it hurt people and I think neighbors see the person I am.”

Out of the ‘hood he has come. Come a long way, he says.

Ah, but is the ward ready for his socialism?

Vasquez argument in 40th ward race vs. O’Connor: He’s an organizer . . .

. . . and he has our back, as he says in his flyers and was doing in December, 2017, as in this picture from his web site.

Andre the community organizer doing some organizing, 


The alderman of your dreams, right? Standing up at city council meetings, socking it to the miserable capitalists who are stealing shirts off backs.

Like in the 40th Ward, where not too many years back, Amundsen High was a mess, as a class of ’04 graduate recalled in conversation last week — gangs, drugs, metal detectors at the entrance. She and her husband with their child voted with their feet three years later, decamped in 2007 for Du Page County, their present home.

The school later got $28 million for fixing up (on its way to top-notch status), thanks to the incumbent and his contacts and know-how. The unbiased observer would call that having our back.

Or the resident of a block east of Winnemac Park who told me a year or so ago of her  and her neighbors’ regular morning routine in those bad old days of painting over gang graffiti on their garages. Now, she said, the big problem on the block for some is that the brand new street lights are too bright.

On the other hand, according to Vasquez’s publicist, the 40th Ward “is an area that could be the model for the corruption that exists in local government across the United States.”

Oh boy. Woe is us, living in a slough of corruption. No wonder we would want a new alderman who has quite recently devoted himself to bullhorn activism.

Just what the ward needs.

40th Ward Chicago Alderman O’Connor the Democrat vs. challenger Vasquez the Socialist, Amundsen High School, 3/18/19

The 40th Ward is “under attack” by people who “think differently” from the people of this ward, 36-year incumbent alderman Pat O’Connor said at the March 18 Amundsen High School League of Women Voters of Chicago forum  in preparation for the April 2 runoff election in which he is opposed by the Democratic Socialist candidate Andre Vasquez.

Some people “say things,” he added in his opening remarks, referring to Vasquez’s history as a “battle rapper” (ending “about eight years ago”) whose lyrics became an important focus of the O’Connor counter-message as the evening ran on. (It is presented in alarming detail on the “Truth about Andre” site.)

Vasquez, 39, apologized for the offensive lyrics and said he would continue to do so, noting his age at the time (from his days at Lane Tech in the mid-’90s — by his count “more than 1,000 battles,” only seven losses — to 2011 or so) as partial explanation but also taking offense and marveling at O’Connor’s using the words in a public forum. His audience in the packed auditorium burst into laughter at this.

Also in his opening remarks, O’Connor touched on the main portion of his theme arguments, his achievements as an alderman, by citing the $28 million he (“we”) had gotten for this high school in the heart of the ward.

Vasquez, on the other hand, first runner-up in the crowded Feb. 26 primary election, as the son of immigrants (from Guatemala), married father of two, now an AT&T field manager after a relatively short career as entrepreneur and other jobs leading to his present position.

He was to feature during the forum his background as immigrant son, born in the U.S., and his wife and children as motivation for running for office and serving “the community” — a term he was to use frequently in this forum as focus for his future efforts.

Early on, he announced his eagerness to promote “affordable housing,” even to the point of using rent control to achieve it. He was to embrace other phrases and policies of standard “progressive” usage and goals. His campaign is endorsed by Democrat Socialists, of which he is a member.

O’Connor on the other hand spoke repeatedly of working for the same goals systematically, using means at hand in a city and state where the leaning is palpably leftward and government stands ready — to a fault, some say — to meet citizen needs.

Vasquez called for frequent town hall meetings, wants TIF money to go to schools, not to a mayor’s “slush fund.” Applause at this from a supporter brought immediate reminder by the alert and businesslike League of Women Voters chair that applause was to be held to the end. She further noted that such applause reflected badly on the candidate applauded.

On zoning changes, for instance, as a community-outreach example, O’Connor said all changes are decided with “the advice and consent” of residents. Vasquez replied that “the community” should decide such matters, implying that such is not currently the case and (apparently) that there was need for a sort of regular plebiscite (popular vote) to decide even small issues. As it is, he said, the Chicago “political system” is “not fair.”

Vasquez declared himself opposed to giving money to the proposed new Police Academy — first responders training academy, O’Connor called it, for firefighters and paramedics in addition to police. He declared opposition also to the Lincoln Yards development, also not a 40th Ward matter, instead wanting such funds to be “invested in neighborhoods,” rather than used to support “administrative bloat.” He sprinkled his commentary with such blanket analyses and accusations, O’Connor in each case offering at least plausible rebuttal. This was the last mention of bloat, however, Vasquez perhaps realizing it smacked more of slogan than argument.

Vasquez furthermore was opposed to “aldermanic prerogative” — which oddly enough reduces power of the citywide body in favor of the local. (Oddly in that his predilection for “community” is more likely to signal preference for locally based governance than citywide, in effect giving more “power to the people,” to use a populist battle cry of the ’60s that once inspired activists throughout the nation.)

He argued that wards are not “fifedoms,” meaning fiefdoms, and added that as alderman he would “speak out” against other city council members who he thought abused their authority. (Ever in protest mode, coming across as a scrappy, if genial, fellow.)

Discussing water testing, O’Connor detailed the numbers of tests sent to building owners and the numbers returned with results, arguing that the city was paying for such testing, if not doing it for owners.

He further objected to Vasquez’s making blanket statements and citing figures without telling where he got the figures. It’s a basic requirement learned in any debate class, he said: you have to give your sources.

To which Vasquez replied that since his parents were repeatedly “priced out” of a neighborhood and having to move every two years, he had attended as many as four schools in eight years and had never been in a debate class. He said nothing about the need to source data.

On the importance of recycling, he again brought up his two children, saying it was in part for their future that he promoted recycling. As alderman he would offer “help to the community” in this and “would advocate with landlords,” presumably recalcitrant ones, sounding a warning of sorts from a community organizer, such as he was at one time, according to his campaign web site.

“We need to do this,” he said.

Asked about LGBTQ issues, Vasquez bemoaned their plight in search for “meaningful lives,” receiving some forbidden applause again. These are people, he said, who “feel sad to be left out” of the greater society.

Not so, said O’Connor. “I work with them all the time. They are not sad but happy and energetic, involved. Gays are not unhappy in this ward, including my three lesbian daughters. We celebrate that, as in the recent wedding of one to her wife. I celebrate diversity, I live it every day.”

About the racial divide and how make blacks feel at home, Vasquez offered a “little history lesson” about segregation and discrimination, then listed percentages of racial and ethnic groups in the ward, the least of which was 16 per cent black and concluding there was “room for improving that.”

As for availability to the community, O’Connor pointed to his being at his office every Monday night.

V: He should be out “in the community,” said Vasquez, and not expect people to come to him, should have regular meetings with groups “on the ground.”

On charter schools, O’Connor said he supports good schools, public or otherwise, called it “a canard” that TIF takes money from schools, as Vasquez had said earlier.

Vasquez said the recently opened Waldorf school — in a major public school building that had been empty for many months — was an improvement. But for whom? he asked. For those who could afford it, he said, adding that in general, resources are taken away from public schools.

He did not connect this with charter (public) schools or Waldorf, a private school that provided a much needed market for a major school property, in effect adding to resources for public schools.

He also called for “small farmers’ markets . . . have a committee established” to achieve that.

In final comments, Vasquez, saying, “I’d better stand up,” half way thru his closing three minutes, criticized O’Connor for his support 30-plus years ago for the Vrdolyak 29, a mostly white bloc of aldermen who opposed Mayor Harold Washington during Washington’s first term.

“He knows nothing about the timeframe,” O’Connor told the Sun-Times after this forum. “When Harold Washington was re-elected he put me into a leadership position . . . Mayor Washington had dinner at my house. [Vasquez] comes from a time where if you disagree you have to hate one another — I come from a time where you can disagree but you can be friends, you can still have a dialogue and what’s what we had back then.”

Andre Vasquez for 40th Ward Alderman – A New Progressive Chicago Alderman

Actually, regressive:

Andre “Our ward, our moment” Vasquez opposing incumbent Alderman O’Connor in runoff.

I picture Fidel coming down from the hills, waving his rifle, galloping down Western Avenue, his people yelling “Viva Andre” and “Nostra La Sala.”

Means business, apparently. Wants a beachhead in my ‘hood. Don’t want him to have it.

Among supporters, by the way:

Candidate Pritzker Sept. 7 in the 40th Ward — His plan for a progressive income tax

At North Side Prep on Kedzie last week (Thursday 9/7), governor-candidate J.B. Pritzker let an interesting cat out of the bag, his plan to circumvent the state’s constitutional ban on graduated/progressive income taxation.

He would not try to change the constitution at all, but would raise the presumably flat tax, then give “personal exemptions” to as many as it takes to do graduated/progressive taxation without calling it that.

“I’m running on this,” he said, apparently announcing a platform plank. He would do it without resorting to a constitutional convention, where “too many bad things can happen,” he told an audience of 40 or so citizens in a meeting hosted by 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor.

O’Connor had done the same for candidate Chris Kennedy some weeks earlier (7/7), endorsing neither, he said on both occasions.

Pritzker also said:

* He’s opposed to taxing stock buying and selling, a “La Salle Street tax,” because there’s no longer a pit where signals are given but electronic buying and selling, and it’s “easy” for them to move out of state.

He wants to keep traders here, because of lost “opportunities to tax their incomes.”

* He favors “a public option . . . single-payer” system ” for health care. “We can do it,” he said. “Allow people to buy into a state health plan. It would not cost the state.”

More later on candidate Pritzker in the 40th Ward . . .


Later explanation/clarification from Pritzker campaign: Candidate mentioned and characterized a constitutional convention (wholesale redoing of constitution) in response to a questioner who had raised that issue.

What’s at issue is a constitutional amendment (changing one element), which Pritzker favors but which takes a long time. The flat tax increase-with-“personal [tax] exemptions” — to be legislated so as to achieve the goal of  graduated rates  — was proposed by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) three and a half years ago.

So it’s his idea,  as Pritzker noted at the September 7 meeting — properly a “meet and greet,” as his spokesperson called it in her helpful explanation/clarification. Asked what these exemptions might entail, the spokesperson recommended asking Harmon.

“Gonna need a scorecard pretty soon with all these tax proposals,” said a commenter on the Capitol Fax site at the time Harmon announced his plan. Does get complicated.


Candidate Kennedy in the 40th Ward, 7/20/17

Appearing at the invite of my favorite alderman, Pat O’Connor, at North Side Prep on Kedzie Avenue on a warm Thursday night, Chris Kennedy kicked off with some personal history, including his being the 8th of the eleven offspring of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. No small point to make, of course. It’s a magic name, after all.

He also recalled working at the Board of Trade as a young man in the ’80s , having decided not to work with his older brother Joe — no fun to work with, he implied cheerfully — in his “non-profit oil company.” Have any of the Kennedys gone in for profit-making? Since their paternal grandfather, I mean.

At the Board he witnessed “raw capitalism” in broad daylight. The worst kind. And was there when the show came tumbling down, or stumbled, when a wire-wearing FBI poseur captured incriminating conversations and got some traders sent to jail.

Later, Chris K. and his wife formed a non-profit of their own that undersold grocery stores in a good cause, selling at cut rates to poor people, going regularly to 120 churches and community organizations, where people “left behind” were helped — while, he noted, retaining their dignity and willingness to look him in the eye when talking to him.

His major points included:

  • Ed funding:  He said 87% of  high school graduates are “not college ready,” using a number I could not find in the 2015 Chi Trib stat “Most Illinois high schools leave grads unprepared for college,” where the operable figure is 24.9 percent who scored high enough on ACT subjects to be considered college-ready. His point remains, of course, though he might want to change the number.
  • Schools, said CK, are “underfunded.” Which if there’s a more reliable Democrat meme, I’d like to know. In any case, he had a segue into how schools are funded, by local property tax and not “in Springfield.” Which led to the most interesting point of the hour-long session, namely . . .
  • Well-paid lawyers including state reps and senators who obtain tax breaks for wealthy owners, making money out of the property tax about which they have influence. It’s “dirty money,” he said. “There should be a ban on [such] outside income that conflicts” with legislative duties. Mike Madigan (and Ed Burke and Joe Berrios) come immediately to mind. “No elected official has spoken out” on this conflict issue, Kennedy continued. “No one is standing up to Madigan.”

He had already floated this keep-pols-out-of-tax-appeal-work position, in May, without naming anyone while calling the system rigged and likening it to ‘extortion.'” This time, before a smaller crowd (50 or so in the N. Side Prep auditorium, vs. 300 in May), he named The Name. We’ll see how that turns out.

  • Asked about electoral district “fair mapping,” he called it “a great objective,” since it’s a matter of: “voters choose representatives, representatives pick the voters.” As a result, elected officials “never lose the general and fear only the primaries,” in which left and right extremes challenge and move Democrats farther to the left and Republicans farther to the right, each fending off extremist challengers. He begged off, with notable candor: “I don’t know [enough] about it, will start reading up about it.”

Asked about the huge backlog of bills unpaid by the state: “All this is still manageable. We taxed goods, not services, when manufacturing dwarfed services. But services are now 70% of the economy. We should not raise the income tax but broaden it [expanding taxable parts of the economy]. It’s easy then” to solve money problems. Easy?

Tax on securities trades is “not a cure-all,” he said when another questioner raised that issue — of which Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park said a few years ago, it would drive the Options Exchange out of the state. Kennedy: “All have to feel a little pain. It’s unrealistic to expect no sacrifice.”

People leaving the state: “Out-migration happened because of Rauner’s weakening, destroying government.” Under Rauner “we are driving people away.” In any case, “young people no longer move to jobs, but jobs move to them.” Let us think about that.

As for some lesser points, Ronald Reagan started homelessness, he said. Reaganomics did it. Which is spelled out in this and other progressive outlets:

In his first year in office Reagan halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 to about $17.5 billion. And for the next few years he sought to eliminate federal housing assistance to the poor altogether.

However, neither Dems nor Republicans did anything about it, says a progressive writer, blaming the media.

Once the national and local media gave Reagan a pass for not addressing homelessness, a pattern was established of not holding federal politicians accountable. And when politicians are not held accountable for homelessness, they instead devote resources to the issues where the media is focusing.

If that seems too simple an explanation for three decades of homelessness, this is a problem that lacks a complex answer. Ending homelessness is not like finding a cure for cancer. From the 1949 National Affordable Housing Act to the early 1980’s the United States knew how to prevent homelessness. But when the federal government abandoned its responsibility, the predictable result occurred.

Complex problem calls for a complex answer, says this progressive writer.

The forgotten counties: Entire Illinois counties are “without a grocery store,” Kennedy said. People call 911 “and no one comes.” These people voted for Trump, who “spoke to them.” People whom Saturday Night Live made fun of.

As the TV detective asks the person of interest about a suspect, do these counties have names?

On Trump: “You can’t write a memo short enough so he will read it.” Good throwaway.

“He won’t listen to intelligence briefings.” A staple of Twitter commentary, mostly from pre-inauguration time.  Not so good a throwaway.

The state’s debt: Pension underfunding is the biggest problem. The state stopped paying into the funds under Rauner, having done so under Quinn. That started with Rauner too?

About Rauner: He’s not a Republican, but a libertarian, “using the GOP.” As such, he “does not believe in government.” Oh. Early in office, he “tried to privatize” government functions, in the process shrank government. It was “an attack on the poor,” who depend on those functions. But he learned he “can’t kill government, only wound it.” In this he succeeded, letting the bills pile up.

more more more later . . .

Later, from Oak Park Newspapers blog at Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest, where this item was also published, two comments:

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 25th, 2017 11:42 AM

Is Chris Kennedy opening up the Merchandise Mart as a homeless shelter at night or a warming or cooling shelter for the homeless? I am sure he is, we just havent heard he is. Does his non profit food service pay management (ie. friends of the family) for management services? If Reagan cut the federal program, budget and taxes, doesnt that mean that there was more money on the local taxing level to develop programs for the homeless at a local level? What did Robert Kennedy learn while working on the staff of Sen. Joe McCarthy for nine months? Maybe how to sanitize a suicide scene of an actress or how to quiet J. Edgar Hoover, who had files on just about everyone. I am sure he is a fine fellow. Especially now.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2017 10:29 PM

How much pain does a Kennedy ever feel? None. They are so rich they can give everyone pain while they sit in their Merchandise Mart or get handed ambassadorships. We do not need any more of that.

Letter sent to alderman about ride-share regulations

Alderman Patrick O’Connor, 40th Ward:

As a several-times user of Uber, I am very disturbed about the proposed regulations on ridesharing in Chicago. Uber has been very convenient to my wife and me, aged 72 and 84 respectively and recently of your ward, moving from Oak Park, and I know also for our daughters, who live in or near our (your) ward.

We don’t have smart phones but they do, and with their help Uber has been an important convenience both here and, I remember vividly, in Queens, NY, where we attended a family wedding a few years back.

In addition, we read and understand clearly enough how ridesharing has provided new opportunities for Chicagoans to earn extra money, work flexible hours, and control their own destiny. I have special feeling about this, having worked most of my life, after my newspaper (Chicago Daily News) folded, as a free-lancer. The experience has been life- and political opinion-changing for me, making of me an economic libertarian and dyed-in-the-wool adherent of a free market.

The problem with this misguided regulatory proposal is that it flies in the face of entrepreneurial initiative, which ultimately is the sole source of our prosperity. In sum, the proposal would harm rideshare entrepreneurs and passengers alike.

To require part-time drivers to obtain the same licensing required for full-time work is a sure way to eliminate competition. Chicago already has rules in place for ridesharing. The City Council should seek to enforce those rules, not add new requirements.

Please oppose this anti-consumer-choice, anti-innovation ordinance and reaffirm Chicago’s position as a leader in the global marketplace.

Thank you.

Jim Bowman