The thing about the aldermanic election that has surprised me most is who disregarded my ears. So much of our electoral process these days is visual at the local level. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is part and parcel of Chicago politicians’ need to reach the 35,000 citizens of their ward within the short time frame Chicagoans will pay attention to each election cycle. That makes some sense to me. As a fan of both Derek Jarman and John Waters, I appreciate a little flair. But I only physically met two candidates. I really tried to meet them all. To be clear to Elizabeth Shydlowski and Tom Tunney, I would never think that my opinion could or should represent the variety of individuals we have in the 44th Ward — that is your job. I was only hoping to find some commonality with each of the candidates running for Alderman and share what I found with the voters who would want to read about it. There is more to accomplish within voting than scribbling arrows and I encourage everyone in our ward to consider theirs, but let me make my case that you should cast your vote for Austin Baidas.
My first experience working in local government was just before Des Plaines received the bid which eventually turned into Three Rivers Casino. This occurred well after Lisa Madigan raised questions about mob connections that had previously awarded the license to Rosemont: The suburb people get paid to live in. To say that we talked about corruption in Des Plaines during my time there is, almost obvious. In Des Plaines elected officials regularly stopped by my office, unsupervised, to ask me to work on projects for them. They couldn’t help but want to talk. The City of Des Plaines has term limits and they were elected officials with ideas who were open to talking about them with others. I suppose my experience with politicians as a bureaucrat will differ than my experience with them as a citizen, but this is why I am supporting Austin Baidas. His ears still work.
I could drone on about Baidas’s record, but you can just read about that in his profile. I was not a fan of Baidas to begin this race. I totally bought the Cubs-backing line laid by Tom Tunney to the media because I wanted a scapegoat. The media seems to be falling for it too. It is always a rich family after all, right? But then I went to interview Patrick Shine. Shine joined the race because he was concerned, “Tunney would go to some meetings. Mostly he did not go to the meetings. He would choose which meetings he went to. And I know he’s busy, but I was busy too, and I was able to go to every single community meeting.” He also related a story from a business owner in the Ward who had told Tunney, “Tom, you’re acting like you’re God of the 44th Ward.” Overall, Shine reminded me of John Bauters, a former Chicagoan who recently appeared on C-Span as mayor of Emeryville, California.
But then on to the first 44th Ward Forum where Baidas underperformed, reading a prepared opening statement. I had been in contact with Baidas directly from a few days before I posted my profile of Shine. When we had our interview he impressed me with his bigger picture summarization of political need in Chicago because of Springfield and vice versa. And then the second 44th Ward Forum happened. All the candidates were impressive and weak in parts because that is local politics. There’s only 35,000 of us to choose from in the 44th Ward. That is not a lot even when you consider that the 44th Ward is one of the rich families of Chicago.
Two odd things happened before the second forum in a conversation I had with a Shydlowski staffer. The first odd occurrence transpired when I asked the representative about getting in contact with Shydlowski for a profile. I had let her know I completed one on Shine, and Baidas’s was forthcoming. The staffer brushed me aside, seemingly for the second odd occurrence: Shine had dropped out of the race. Since I had left my facebook message string with Shydlowski dangling when she had determined I was not media, the staffer’s socially pleasant refusal cemented my understanding that the candidate did not want to speak with my wanting ears.
I would spend more time on Elizabeth Shydlowski, who seems to have worked for too many politicians to count, but she is not exactly active on Facebook or Instagram. I do feel the married mother’s blatant use of identity politics will likely see her campaign at the state level soon. She might actually be quite good there, she performed well at both forums, though she really needs to brush up on her technical knowledge surrounding the laws of public finance.
Tunney nor his campaign ever even responded to any of my digital inquiries. The best I got was his campaign sliding into my DMs after I published my profile of Baidas.
At that point in time, I didn’t know what to do. I guess I could go to more 44th Ward Forums, but I’ve been to one already and watched the first two online, multiple times. I was not going to chase the remaining candidates who had so far ignored my requests down like a reporter. I am a citizen and that would likely be annoying for both parties.
I will just vote instead.
The simple fact is that if you want more of the same old Chicago, by all means, vote for Alderman Tunney. I have been asked what my political end-game is in writing these articles. I have none. I have been consistent on this topic. Like so many people in this country today, I do not want to be a politician, I just want to be a citizen. One who lives in the heart of Boystown, for the reasons that Boystown is Boystown. Citizens share opinions; openly and without fear. While I’m certainly for the improvements made in and around my neighborhood, it is beginning to look like an acceptance playground with our most recent rainbow themed installation pictured at the beginning of this opinion piece. While I am in full support of acceptance, tolerance, or whatever is trending on Instagram, to me the concept is like affordable housing — putting it all in one place only exacerbates the problem. Chicago should know better considering Cabrini Green. At what point do these installations start looking more like a target and how is that related to any increased security requirements surrounding our annual Pride Parade? If Tunney was really fighting the good fight, why is this art piece not stationed outside the City of Chicago’s newest Police Station which just so happens to be located in the 44th Ward? If Tunney really wanted to fight against the foul-mouthed ‘Awful Ricketts’ how about putting the cursive monstrosity across from the Wrigley Field?
When Tunney was appointed in 2002 it was a major step out of the closet for the LGBT community in Chicago. Despite this, I do not see our community coming out of the closet as an excuse to build a cabin. For all the discussion of the changes to Wrigleyville, why does the visual future of Boystown resemble an unstable unicorn’s lost battle with a tequila shot? To me, landing a token-level acceptance installation next to the already perfect Legacy Walk is one affirmative step in that direction. This doesn’t even begin the discussion about how Tunney voted to prevent the inspector general from reviewing indicted alderman Ed Burke’s $100 million city worker’s compensation fund and the $5.6 million dollar tax break for pro-life healthcare. Tom Tunney also did not want to meet with a registered and active voter in his ward who originally contacted his campaign on December 15, 2018. What did he think was going to happen? Did he think about me at all?
While I have found some quibbles with Baidas’ stumbles into the political arena, he is the only running candidate that was happy to meet with me and speak frankly about his vision for the future of Chicago. He was able to seamlessly segue between his politics and the personal life that informs his politics. Baidas is an uncle who valued his own his own uncles so much he ended up as the highest-ranking, openly-gay bureaucrat in the State of Illinois when it passed gay marriage. His uncles got married here. Baidas then worked on the national level for a candidate whose primary goal was to change America. Given that Alderman Tunney refuses to even engage a politically curious and professionally informed LGBTQ citizen in his ward leaves me with one final question, “What type of uncle are you, Tom?”
Thank you, Tom Tunney, for all of your work making Boystown the community we live in today. Next, I encourage you to be a citizen today and vote for Austin Baidas, today.