It’s official! I’m a candidate for re-election as Alderman of the 49th Ward.
I filed nominating petitions Monday morning containing the signatures of 7,180 residents and Monday night I made it official by announcing my candidacy in front of 120 friends, supporters and neighbors at the Heartland Cafe.
Below is a written text of my speech remarks. Please feel free to share your comments with me. I look forward to a spirited and thoughtful campaign.
STATEMENT OF ALDERMAN JOE MOORE
ANNOUNCING HIS INTENTION TO RUN FOR
RE-ELECTION AS 49TH WARD ALDERMAN
Heartland Café, 7000 N. Glenwood
November 17th, 2010
My friends and neighbors, tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for re-election as Alderman of the 49th Ward.
The official start of the Chicago municipal election season began early this morning when candidates for Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer and Alderman lined up at the Chicago Board of Elections to file their nominating papers.
I filed my nominating papers containing the signatures of 7,180 residents (see photo below). This was by far the most petition signatures I have ever gathered in any of my aldermanic bids and reflects the broad support I have earned the last four years.
I understand, however, that a petition signature is not a vote. It just gets my foot in the door. So for the next three months, I will redouble my efforts to knock on doors, greet voters at coffee shops, grocery stores and “L” stations and engage in direct conversations on the social media. In short, I will continue to reach out to every corner of our diverse community to talk about my record of accomplishments and, most importantly, to listen.
A good listener. This is one of the most important traits an elected official should possess. No one person has all the answers. No one person has a corner on all wisdom.
That’s what I learned back in 2007, when I ended up in the fight of my political life, enduring a tough re-election campaign followed by an even tougher run-off campaign.
I survived, but barely. That political near-death experience made me sit up and take notice. It told me I needed to talk less and listen more.
And so I revamped my ward service office, communicated more with the people of my ward and became a more visible presence in the day-to-day activities of our community.
As a result of my renewed energy and vigor, and with the help and support of so many in this room, I went from barely winning a tough run-off election in 2007 to receiving 72% of the vote in the 2011 election, the largest vote percentage I’ve ever received. We proved that we are stronger when we work together.
Did I rest on my laurels after that last resounding victory? Did I let down my guard and become complacent once again? Absolutely not. If anything, I’ve stepped up my game even more. The last four years have been filled with more progress than ever before in a neighborhood that is more united than ever before.
A PROFESSIONAL WARD SERVICE OFFICE
The success of any Chicago alderman begins and ends with the ward service office. Under the able leadership of my chief-of-staff, Betsy Vandercook, my ward service office responds to over 10,000 individual requests for service each and every year. This number continues to increase as more and more 49th Ward residents come to experience a prompt and courteous response to their requests.
As Wayne Frazier on my staff is fond of saying, the “City that Works” sometimes works slowly. We cannot always promise that your service request will be fulfilled right away. But you deserve to have your phone calls returned and your e-mails answered promptly so that you know we are doing our best to address your concern.
We are not perfect, but we continue to strive for perfection.
I want to recognize my chief-of-staff, Betsy Vandercook (right), who has been at the helm for the last seven years, Betsy is the Ward Office’s fire fighter and crisis manager, putting out fires and solving crises in the office each and every day. She leads by example, regularly working fifty to sixty hours a week, getting the job done for the people of the 49th Ward.
I would also like to recognize the other members of the 49th Ward Service Office team–Mike Land, Wayne Frazier, Ann Hinterman,Cecilia Salinas and Bob Fuller. Working for me is not a 9-5 job. Each member of my team understands the importance of being a visible presence in the neighborhood, not only during regular office hours, but also evening and weekends.
My Ward Superintendent Dan Murphy (left) is a valued partner on the Ward Service Office team. Dan’s been on the job for almost a year, replacing Greg Wagner who was promoted to a high-level position in the Bureau of Forestry. Greg’s shoes were hard to fill, but Dan has really stepped up to the plate and shares Greg’s incredible work ethic, doing whatever it takes to keep the ward clean.
Dan is with us tonight. Thank you, Dan, for your service to our community.
The Service Office is also blessed with a team of wonderful volunteers and student interns who serve on the front lines, otherwise known as the Ward Service Office front desk. Their presence as the first line of defense allows my staff to be more effective in their daily work. Betsy deserves a lot of credit for recruiting these amazing volunteers and interns, whose invaluable assistance allows the rest of my team to be more effective in their daily work.
Thank you to all my volunteers and interns for volunteering your time to our community.
COMMUNICATING WITH MY CONSTITUENTS
I continue to communicate directly with you through my daily email blasts. Some might say that I took the previous complaints about my failure to communicate a little too close to heart, as folks find their email in-boxes filled with daily news from my office. But I believe that communicating too much is better than communicating too little and I try to make sure the subject matter of each email is clearly marked so you can decide which emails you choose to open and which you choose to ignore.
In the last four years I have recognized that true communication requires a true dialogue. As a result, I have become a constant presence on the neighborhood social media sites.
I post all my electronic newsletters on my official Facebook page, as well as other social media sites, such as EveryBlock and Rogers Park Neighborhood News, allowing people to provide me with immediate feedback. I engage in an open and frank dialogue with anyone and everyone on those sites, listening and responding to comments, criticisms and concerns in a way that few, if any, elected officials do on the social media.
As a result of my engagement on these forums, I have learned that “trolls” are not just found under bridges and “sock puppets” are not just made from footwear. Yes, the dialogue on the social media may at times be course and even vulgar and defamatory, and for that reason some political advisers have urged me to avoid it for fear of diminishing my stature.
But engaging on social media can also be enlightening both for the politician, as well as his public. At a time when politicians speak in platitudes and sound bites, afraid to engage with the public should their words be used against them, the social media heralds a return to democracy. As an elected official who values public dialogue and transparency, I welcome the opportunity to dialogue with friend and foe alike in the marketplace of ideas. We learn from each other and it makes me a better public servant.
BUILDING OUR COMMUNITY
Improved service delivery and greater communication are certainly important, but tonight I want to spend a few minutes talking about building our community. Building a community is about much more than bricks and mortar. It’s about creating a climate of shared values and mutual respect.
In the eight years since the last very bitter and divisive aldermanic campaign, we as a community have lowered our voices and raised our sights. At a time when our nation seems more polarized than ever, with vitriol spewing from the mouths of so many and gridlock becoming the norm, we in the 49th Ward have become stronger working together.
We have made considerable progress over the years in combating crime and disorder. Thanks to strong community involvement and good police work, crime in Rogers Park less than half of what it was when I first took office 23 years ago.
And yet the progress we have made threatened to unravel this summer as our neighborhood was victim to a series of high-profile shootings, most arising out of senseless personal disputes between rival factions of the same street gang.
Any shooting death is a tragedy. But it is even more tragic when the shooting victim is an innocent bystander just going about his business.
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF WIL LEWIS
I happened to be on Devon Avenue on that sunny July afternoon when young Wil Lewis (left) was shot by a boy who was firing his weapon at a rival gang member. I looked toward the sound of gunfire and saw Wil’s lifeless body on the sidewalk and the boy continuing to fire the weapon at his intended victim. It was a scene that will be forever etched in my memory.
Later that evening on our way to a neighborhood block party, Barbara and I drove past the scene of the shooting and noticed that Wil’s blood remained on the sidewalk. We went to a nearby store to purchase some water, bleach and a brush to clean the sidewalk. By the time we returned, Milton, a resident of the building adjacent to the sidewalk, had already undertaken the grim task. We helped him finish the job.
The shooting was a tragedy. Not because it was witnessed by the alderman, but because yet another life was extinguished in a seemingly never-ending cycle of senseless violence. The loss of an innocent life makes it even more tragic, and compounding the tragedy even more is that the murder allegedly was at the hands of a boy who was younger than my high school-aged son.
ENDING THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
How do we end this cycle?
sensible nationwide gun laws, we would go a long way to ending the gun violence that plagues far too many City neighborhoods. If our federal government made a real commitment to ending poverty in our nation, the richest nation on earth, that too would go a long way to reducing the hopelessness and despair that serve as breeding grounds for violence.
Unfortunately, it may be years or even decades before our government acts.
What can we do in our neighborhood in the meantime to stem the violence?
Our 24th District police officers and their district commander, Tom Waldera, have employed bold and creative strategies that have worked to stem the violence. Without their intervention, the violence would have been even worse.
Building a strong and cohesive community is the ultimate answer. What does a strong and cohesive community consist of? Residents who get involved, strong and vibrant locally-owned businesses, living wage jobs, safe and affordable housing, and good schools.
GETTING OUR NEIGHBORS INVOLVED
The strongest communities are those where the residents get involved. Our neighborhood’s rich tradition of community involvement was on full display in the hours and days following the tragic shooting of Wil Lewis.
In the minutes following the shooting, dozens of community residents stepped forward to provide police photographs, video tapes and physical descriptions of the perpetrators of the crime. This information proved invaluable and led to the immediate apprehension of one of the suspects and the arrests of two others within weeks of the crime.
An even more dramatic display of community involvement came just a few days later when in a remarkable display of solidarity, over 600 Rogers Park and Edgewater residents marched in solidarity against the violence and for peace in our community.
These are just two of the more dramatic examples of the unheralded work that community residents engage in everyday of the year to make our neighborhood safe. They are people like Toni Duncan, Bernard Garbo,Tony Iniquez, Pat Kenny and John Warner, who work tirelessly as our beat representatives, organizing positive loitering campaigns and other innovative initiatives.
In the next four years, I will continue to advocate for more City investments in community policing, as the one tried and true policing method that reduces crime.
Working with the police is just one form of community involvement that makes our neighborhood safer.
Rebecca Jansen-Weinberg (left with son, Fred) is a Rogers Park mom and a one-person dynamo. When the Chicago Park District and Friends of the Parksannounced an application process to determine which playgrounds would be replaced under its Chicago Playsinitiative, she went to work immediately. Rebecca not only made sure that her favorite park–the Goldberg Playlot–was on the list, she organized the other moms in the neighborhood to apply for new playgrounds in their parks, as well. She then made sure that everyone went online to advocate for all the parks in our neighborhood.
10 of the 12 tired old playgrounds in Rogers Park will have been replaced with brand new state-of-the-art playground equipment. I have no doubt Rebecca would have gotten the other two old playgrounds replaced as well, but Leone and LoyolaParks’ playground replacement is on hold pending the outcome of our Leone Park redevelopment process.
Rebecca is at a family birthday party this evening and is unable to join us, but I want to thank her nonetheless for her efforts on behalf of the children of Rogers Park.
PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING: PUTTING REAL POWER IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE
I can think of no greater example of building a community than our grand experiment in democracy known as Participatory Budgeting. Who would have thought that an election could actually unite a community? But this is the ultimate accomplishment of participatory budgeting. It brings us together.
Sheree Moratto (right) for her kind words of introduction. But more importantly, I want to recognize Sheree for her leadership as co-chair of the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Leadership Committee.
Under her leadership, participatory budgeting has become truly participatory. In the last four years, voter turnout in our PB elections has increased by 76.3%. Last year’s PB election saw an all-time high of 1,763 ward residents casting ballots to decide how to spend our ward’s infrastructure money.
Equally if not more important, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study,those who voted in our PB election last year reflected more closely than ever before the diversity of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community.
As a result, the wining proposals reflect more than ever before the true desires of our community. Through PB, we continue to take care of the basics-street resurfacing, new streetlights and sidewalk repairs. But PB also gives power to those who recognize that the quality of life in our urban community is more than simply streets, streetlights and sidewalks. Amenities such as trees, libraries, community gardens, murals and improvements to our parks must also be part of the equation.
Robin McPherson (right), who epitomizes the old adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” For three years in a row, Robin, a PB49 community representative, pushed to have included on the PB ballot a water spray pool for the kids at Pottawattomie Park. And in the first two years, the water feature proposal fell a few votes short.
And then last spring, Robin’s project finally got the votes it needed and the kids of our neighborhood will soon be able to splash and play and otherwise cool off during our hot summers. Thank you, Robin, for your tenacity and your commitment to building our community.
We were the first community in the U.S. to implement Participatory Budgeting. Now cities across the U.S. are following our lead. From New York City to Vallejo, California, and fromBoston, Massachusetts, to Greensboro, North Carolina, cities have adopted the 49th Ward’s model of participatory budgeting, restoring people’s faith in democracy and building communities.
As the model for participatory budgeting in the nation, we must serve as an example of how it can work for everyone, especially those who are disenfranchised or feeling left out or alienated from our society. In the next four years, I will work hard not only to increase the number of people who participate and vote in our PB process, but also work to make sure those who do participate truly reflect our neighborhood’s economic and racial diversity.
BUILDING VIBRANT BUSINESSES
. We are blessed with growing number of locally owned businesses that have chosen the 49th Ward as their home. Morse and Jarvis Avenue, once struggling business districts, are now thriving, and Howard and Clark Streets are seeing new life.
Longstanding businesses such as the Heartland Café, J.B. Alberto’s Pizza and Morse Fresh Market have been joined in recent years by an explosion of new businesses, such as Act One Pub, Armilla, Audio Archaeology, Badou Senegalese Cuisine, Bop ‘N’ Grill, Bullhead Cantina, Den Den Restaurant, El Pulpo Loco, Giving Tree Toys, The Growling Rabbit, Hard Water Bar and Grill, Hops and Grapes, La Cazuela, Mayne Stage, The New 400 Theaters, Philly’s Best, R Public House, Rogers Park Fine Wine and Spirits, Rogers Park Social, Sol Cafe, Taste Food and Wine, Towbar, Twisted Tappas, and VZN Eye Care.
I will continue to work closely with the Rogers Park Business Alliance, which supports our local small businesses and consistently ranks as one of the strongest business development agencies and chambers of commerce in the City. I was proud to play a hand in its formation over 20 years ago and have been proud to advocate for its funding ever since.
“Follow Me on Friday”events, which are a low-cost way of promoting local businesses, by inviting our residents to join me after work on Friday at a local business for a drink and some noshing. It began as a one-time event, and soon blossomed into a neighborhood institution with a growing following. Not only, does it promote our local businesses, it builds community As one Follow Me on Friday attendee told me last week, fun activities such as Follow Me on Friday make her feel good about our neighborhood.
And I will continue to support the Glenwood Sunday Market, which not only provides Rogers Park residents of all incomes fresh, locally grown and produced vegetables, fruits and meats, but also brings hundreds of paying customers to the Morse-Glenwood business district every weekend. My wife Barbara worked with a small core group of neighborhood residents, including the indomitable Sheree Moratto, to launch the market back in 2010.
Small businesses are the backbone or our community, but national chains are welcome to our community, as well.
Dominick’s announced it was closing its Chicago area stores, including its Rogers Park store at Gateway Plaza. Realizing the devastating effect of that closure on our community, I immediately sprang into action and asked Mayor Emanuel to appoint me to hisGrocery Store Task Force, where I could make sure Rogers Park would be front and center on the Task Force’s radar screen. I worked closely with the chairman of the Task Force, Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, and together we took advantage of the Mayor’s known penchant for gentle persuasion to convince Jewel-Osco to include Gateway in its list of new stores.
The Jewel has been open since June and its officials tell me it is turning a profit and sales are exceeding expectations.
PROVIDNG ACCESS TO JOBS
The strongest communities are those where the residents have jobs. Jobs provide hope. Jobs provide an opportunity. Jobs provide an alternative to life on the streets.
Howard Area Employment Center. The Center under the leadership of its directorCharles Hardwick works closely to provide hard-to-employ people with the training, skills and resources they need to secure gainful employment. Charles specializes in people with felony backgrounds who are attempting to turn their life around.
This is why we asked Jewel and the new Burger King to hire from the neighborhood. When you walk into Jewel and Burger King next time say hi to the folks working behind the counter or stocking shelves. They are your neighbors.
Matching job seekers with jobs is why I sponsor my twice-a-year Job Fair to pair potential employers with residents in my community. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people have found employment through my job fairs, jobs where they can support themselves and their families. One of those people is with us tonight. Richard Zing is here with his family (left). Thanks to my Job Fair, he was able to find a union job with benefits at the Gateway Jewel. Congratulations, Richard. I wish you and your family continued success.
CREATING AND PRESERVING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
. Over the years, I have supported and overseen the creation and preservation of hundreds of units of affordable housing. I was a co-sponsor of the Affordable Housing Set-Aside Ordinance, and even before the ordinance was passed, I made set-asides a requirement for any housing development in the 49th Wardthat needed my zoning approval.
I was also proud to sponsor the Single Room Occupancy Ordinance, which passed the City Council last week. The SRO Ordinance promises to preserve hundreds of units of housing for the most vulnerable in our City. And just recently in the 49th Ward, I successfully encouraged the new owners of the Astor House, a 13 story, building filled with 123 units of studio apartments, to keep the rents affordable.
When the low income housing tax credits came due on 304 units of housing in the Northpoint Development, I went to bat for the residents of those building to keep those units affordable. And now that the residents are expressing concerns about the deteriorating conditions of those units, I’m going to bat for them again. I want to recognize and thank Brenda Dunkins (left), one of the leaders of the Northpoint Tenants’ Association, for advocating for her neighbors.
PROVIDING NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS WITH THE RESOURCES THEY NEED
The strongest communities are those with good neighborhood schools. When Gale School appeared on the Chicago Public School list of potential school closures, I advocated with the Chicago Public Schools to keep the school open.
Our schools need the resources necessary for our teachers to teach and our children to succeed. That is why I am proud to have joined Principal Cassandra Washington and the Gale Local School Council to advocate for Gale to receive direct support from the CPS Office of Strategic School Support Services.
Unlike a “school turnaround,” in which the entire school staff is replaced, the OS4 program keeps the principal and staff in place. The program provides hands-on support for principals and teachers, offering intense and comprehensive professional development tailored to the specific needs of the school. In short, OS4 is a reasonable and balanced approach that addresses a school’s serious academic challenges, but falls short of firing the entire staff.
We have made significant progress at our other neighborhood schools, including Sullivan High School under its dynamic new principal, Chad Adams (pictured on left with Gates Millennium Scholars, Kaitlyn Ceaser and Muna Bhandari). Ten years ago, only 55 to 60 percent of incoming freshman at Sullivan ultimately graduated from high school. Under Principal Adams leadership, that number has surged to an 85 percent graduation rate.
Suspensions have been reduced by 73 percent and arrests in the school have dropped by 85 percent, due to a highly successful restorative justice program, which Principal Adams instituted at the school last year.
THE PILLARS ON WHICH I STAND
A strong culture of civic engagement, a growing and vibrant business community, jobs for neighborhood residents, safe and affordable housing and good schools. These are the ingredients for a safer neighborhood. These are the hallmarks of a strong and cohesive community. These are the pillars on which I stand for re-election.
A few in our ward prefer to fight old battles and settle ancient scores, oblivious to the fact that the rest of the community has moved on.
Does that mean we should no longer disagree? Of course not. We are a diverse community with a multiplicity of perspectives and points of view. But we should always express our disagreements in an honest, open and respectful fashion where personal attacks and questioning motives are no longer part of the dialogue.
We have faced many challenges over the years, but with each new challenge we not only survive but grow and thrive. Indeed, nothing stands in our way if we all work together.
Friends and neighbors, four years ago you gave me another chance to prove that I still had it in me. I thank you for that opportunity, and I hope I have earned your confidence. I’m at the top of my game, and if you honor me with another four years, I promise you the best is yet to come.
Thank you very much.