Ethiopian Diamond II Restaurant, 7537 N. Clark
November 19, 2018

My friends and neighbors, tonight I stand before you to humbly ask your support for another term as your alderman.

This morning I filed my nominating papers containing the signatures of 4,982 residents of the 49th Ward, more than 10 times the amount we needed to file. I want to thank those of who went door-to-door and stood at train stations, farmers markets and grocery stores collecting those signatures and the thousands of residents who signed my petition to put my name on the ballot.

I understand a petition signature is not a vote. I must earn that vote. So for the next three months, I will redouble my efforts to knock on doors, greet voters at coffee shops, grocery stores and train 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 share my record of accomplishments and vision for the future.

I am one lucky man. I have everything a person can ask for in life. I have a loving and supportive wife. My wife, Barbara, is with us tonight. I have two wonderful sons who make me so proud. My oldest, Nathan, is working in Washington, D.C., but my youngest son, Zachary, has honored me tonight with his presence. And I have a job I love. As they say, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

Rogers Park: Many people, one community

I love my job because I love the community I serve. Rogers Park. It is quite unlike any urban neighborhood anywhere in the country.

We come from every corner of the world. Over 40 languages are spoken in our schools and on our streets and people from nearly every ethnic group imaginable find a home in Rogers Park.

We are so diverse, we are even home to members of Alaskan Native tribes who happen to be Jewish. True story. While working the polls on Election Day a few years back, I ran into a man who identified himself as a “Jewish Alaskan Eskimo!”

We also are a neighborhood that celebrates different lifestyles and eccentricities. Yes, we don’t just tolerate our differences, we celebrate them. People who are ostracized or isolated in other neighborhoods find a welcoming home in Rogers Park.

Despite our different cultures and backgrounds, we share the same core value—the belief that all people are created equal and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

At a time when unabashed racism and anti-Semitism emanate from the most powerful office in our land and people are gunned down in supermarkets and houses of worship simply because of the color their skin or the god they worship, Rogers Park stands as a beacon of hope.

We are a small town in the big city where we know our neighbors by their name and look out for one another and love one another. If you want to be left alone to mind your own business, that’s OK, but know if you ever need anything, your neighbors will be there to help.

Rogers Park has been tested as never before

Seven weeks ago, this sense of community was tested as never before. At 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning, our neighbor, Douglas Watts, was walking his dogs when a masked gunman shot and killed him without provocation or apparent motive.

Thirty-six hours later, at 10:20 on a Monday night, Eliyahu Moscowitz, a young West Ridge residents who spent a lot of time in Rogers Park, was shot and killed, also without provocation or apparent motive.

The next day, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced to our stunned community that ballistics tests determined the same gun was used in both killings and likely by the same individual.

Though gun violence is not an everyday occurrence in our community, we are not immune to it. In fact, just a few weeks earlier an innocent Northwestern graduate student was shot to death in Rogers Park, caught in the crossfire of a gang dispute.

But these shootings were different. Two people were shot to death in cold blood, not because of a robbery or a gang dispute, but for no apparent reason whatsoever other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time

In the days immediately following the shooting, our neighbors stayed locked in their homes, afraid to venture out at any time of day unless they absolutely had to. In most communities, this fear would have become a permanent condition or, in the worst case, led to the formation of vigilante groups out to exact revenge against those thought responsible for the shooting.

Our community is resilient

But not Rogers Park. Our community is resilient. After the initial shock, people came together and did what people in Rogers Park do best. They reached out to their neighbors.

Fallon Sowers turned her fear into action by uniting her neighbors. I spoke to Fallon at the scene of Doug Watts’ murder as his body laid on the sidewalk. She was Doug’s neighbor. Fallon expressed concern how Doug’s murder could affect the mental health of her other neighbors, especially among those who had witnessed the murder.

She asked for my assistance in forming a block club. After receiving help from my office, she formed the Sherwin Block Club. The block club has met twice already and dozens of neighbors who were once strangers are now friends. They are now planning a slew of activities, including a holiday party next month.

In the wake of the tragedies, Jason Saini formed the Pratt/Farwell/Morse block club, which now boasts over 200 members. His block club also is forming social events and providing neighbors with a platform to air their concerns.

Other residents are using social media to connect neighbors. One neighbor formed a Facebook page, Rogers Park Safe Walk, where residents can connect with other neighbors to walk safely together to and from destinations such as train stations and grocery stores. Others formed dog walking groups, so no one had to walk their family pet alone.

And still others used their voices to call us to the better angels of our nature, reminding us that our men of color fear not only the killer, but also the ugly scourge of racial profiling. There are few neighborhoods where such an honest conversation can be had.

Out of this very dark and evil cloud, our neighborhood emerged stronger and more connected than ever.

Experienced leadership at a time of crisis  

This scary time demonstrated the importance of experienced leadership. As soon as the second killing occurred, I was on the phone with the Mayor, securing the police resources this emergency required, including an unprecedented number of detectives dedicated to finding the killer and bringing him to justice.

I can assure you the police are still investigating active leads. This is by no means a cold case.

As the investigation continues, I was able to move up the installation date for our new strategic deployment center, bringing to the 24th Police District the same kind of “smart policing strategy” that has resulted in significant reductions in crime in the police districts where it’s been implemented.

You see, anyone can make empty promises and speak in platitudes. But when a crisis arises, it takes a steady hand and experienced leadership to get the job done.

Experienced leadership that creates more affordable housing

We have another kind of crisis that poses an existential threat to our neighborhood’s diversity—the loss of affordable housing. Here, once again, my experienced leadership benefits Rogers Park greatly.

When the low income housing tax credits were about to expire on 304 units of affordable housing in the Northpoint Development, I went to bat for the residents of those buildings to keep their units affordable.

Long before the City required affordable housing set asides, I required housing developers who sought zoning changes in the 49th Ward to set aside at least ten percent of their new housing units as affordable housing. Later, I joined Aldermen Toni Preckwinkle and Ricardo Munoz in expanding this requirement citywide through our Affordable Housing Set Aside Ordinance, the precursor of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, which has provided hundreds of affordable housing units across our city.

As chairman of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate, I have worked to expand the Affordable Requirements Ordinance even further and at the same time used my position as chairman to bring more affordable housing to Rogers Park.

The Concord Development at Sheridan and Devon next year will include among its 111 residential units, 65 units of CHA housing. This represents more non-senior CHA housing than any development on Chicago’s north side. And best of all, the CHA will make money on the deal from the rent the Target and the private housing developer will pay the CHA for leasing its land, money that can be used to maintain the CHA’s existing affordable housing stock and create more housing.

Just last week, I was at the Carolyn Hedger Senior Citizen building celebrating the grand opening of their brand new 5,000-square-foot community room, which was built to replace their old community room, torn down to make way for the Concord development. This new community room for the seniors was built by the Concord developer at no cost to the taxpayers, as a condition for my support of the development.

I also used my position as chairman of the Housing Committee to prevail upon the Mayor and the City’s Department of Planning and Development to fund the development of 54 units of affordable housing at the corner of Clark and Estes, turning a vacant neighborhood eyesore into quality affordable housing for low income and working class families.

Finally, in one of my most gratifying accomplishments in my entire tenure as alderman, I was able to use my position as chair of the Housing Committee to save the homes of 56 senior citizens. When the Council for Jewish Elderly announced this summer they were selling to the Levy House, an affordable senior citizen building, and that a private, for-profit developer was one of the potential purchasers, I immediately went to work to save the seniors’ homes. With the Mayor’s assistance, I prevailed upon the CHA to purchase the Levy House, thus guaranteeing the building’s senior residents will continue to live in their homes at an affordable rent.

Experienced leadership that helps our schools thrive

Our schools also are the beneficiary of my experience and the relationships I have built over the years. Since I became alderman, I have overseen nearly $82 million in capital improvements to our neighborhood schools, including the construction of two new schools and two school additions.

Most recently, I helped Gale School raise the money they needed to construct a health and wellness clinic for their students and their families. As a result of my long working relationship with Loyola University, I was able to convince them to provide the Gale with a $25,000 grant to complete the project. This grant represented the largest one-time cash donation the University has ever provided to any organization or cause.

When Chicago Public Schools failed to commit to much-needed roof and façade repairs for Kilmer School, I enlisted the Mayor’s help in getting CPS to make a firm commitment to begin the work on a new roof this summer at a cost of $5 to $10 million.

This is what experience brings.

Experienced leadership that advances the progressive agenda

I agree that experience in and of itself is not enough. If you don’t use your experience to push a progressive agenda and advocate for your neighborhood, what good is it?

You will hear in this upcoming campaign a lot of talk about which candidate is a true “progressive.” I respectfully submit this is a false choice. The true choice in this campaign is which progressive candidate has the experience, connections and work ethic to actually advance the progressive agenda, both here in the neighborhood and citywide.

But Alderman Moore, some people ask, how can you be progressive when you voted with the current Mayor nearly all the time? It’s as if the sole criteria for determining one’s progressive bona fides is voting in opposition to whomever sits on the fifth floor of City Hall. By this measure, the more you vote against the mayor, the more “progressive” you must be.

Strong and consistent progressive leadership

This old way of thinking may have had relevance twenty years ago, but it ignores the realities of today’s world. Instead of focusing on who is mayor, let’s focus instead on the issues.

When Richard M. Daley was Mayor, I voted in opposition to his agenda more than any member of the City Council. I didn’t vote against Mayor Daley just to prove I was the most “progressive” or independent alderman on the City Council. I did so based on my differences with Mayor Daley on the issues.

In contrast, I’ve voted much more frequently with Mayor Emanuel on issues before the City Council because, quite frankly, his record has been considerably more progressive than Daley’s.

I sponsored a living wage ordinance for workers at big box stores. Mayor Daley opposed requiring living wages and vetoed my ordinance.

In contrast to Daley, Mayor Emanuel appointed me to a task force to implement the City’s first minimum wage for all workers in Chicago. And working with the Mayor, we also implemented paid sick leave and anti-wage theft ordinances and created an office of Labor Standards to enforce those ordinances.

For years, I called upon Mayor Daley and his administration to settle the multi-million dollar lawsuits brought by the victims of horrific torture overseen by Chicago Police Commander John Burge. To me, it was a matter of simple justice for the victims. Daley refused to do so.

Mayor Emanuel’s law department not only settled the Burge lawsuits, but supported an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Joe Moreno and me calling for reparations for the Burge victims and their families. Chicago became the first city in the nation to provide reparations for the victims of police abuse.

I sponsored an ordinance calling for the closure of the City’s two coal-fired power plants that were poisoning our air and harming the health of the residents near the plants. Mayor Daley opposed shutting them down.

Shutting down those coal-fired power plants was at the top of my agenda when I first met with the Mayor after his election. He promised me he would close them and within weeks of his taking office, he made good on his promise and shut them down.

I co-sponsored an ordinance requiring affordable housing set asides. Mayor Daley opposed set asides for most of his tenure, only grudgingly supporting them after the real estate market crashed and no one was building any housing.

Mayor Emanuel not only supported the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, he worked with the City Council to strengthen and expand the ordinance.

I opposed political patronage. Though Mayor Daley paid lip service to the Shakman decree, court monitoring of city hiring continued under Daley because the court didn’t trust his administration would hire people based solely on merit, not politics.

The court lifted the Shakman decree under the Emanuel Administration, convinced his Administration was serious about eliminating all vestiges of political patronage.

I opposed Mayor Daley’s last several budgets because they ignored the dark fiscal clouds looming on the horizon.

I supported Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budgets because they honestly confronted the fiscal challenges facing the City.

In each of these instances, my opposition to Mayor Daley in the City Council was based on the issues and my progressive values.

Similarly, my support for most of Mayor’s Emanuel’s agenda also was based on the issues and my progressive values. Because in the final analysis, it is the issues that matter, not the politics. It is about moving the progressive ball forward, not burnishing one’s independent credentials. 

I haven’t changed my values and principles. The person who occupied the Mayor’s office changed.

Providing more access to quality mental health care

But what about the closing of the mental health centers? How can I call myself a progressive some ask when I voted with Rahm Emanuel to close mental health centers?

No issue has been the subject of more misinformation than the issue of the mental health center closings. This is when I discovered demagoguery is not the sole province of the political Right.

Every member of the City Council, including every member of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, voted for the budget that consolidated Chicago’s mental health centers. They did so, not at the behest of some heartless budget director looking to save a few dollars, but on the recommendation of a task force of respected mental health professionals and providers from agencies such as Trilogy and Thresholds.

In 2011, the City’s mental health clinics were on a path to failure. The State of Illinois, which was the primary funder of the City’s mental health care, had cut its funding to the City clinics by 90%, from $8 million to less than $1 million. As a result, the clinics were operating at only 60% capacity, serving only 5,000 residents over 12 sites, wasting decreasing dollars, and compromising the care.

The task force recommended the City consolidate its clinics and concentrate on providing quality mental health care to the uninsured while allowing the insured receive their mental health services at one of the City-funded Federally Qualified Health Centers.

The bottom line is this. No one receiving mental health care at a City mental health clinic was thrown out onto the street when the clinics closed. To the contrary, over 6,200 people today receive mental health care from the City or one of the City-funded private providers, representing a 25% increase in people receiving care from seven years ago. And the mental health care patients receive today is far better than that delivered seven years ago, including access to psychiatric services.

The City of Chicago is far from the only provider of mental health services in Chicago. Today, more than 250 health care facilities provide mental health services, including five right here in Rogers Park.

Providing more people with access to more and better mental health care is a progressive value.

Making the police more accountable and better trained

But what about the police and fire training academy some have asked? How can I call myself a progressive and support a training academy for the police when that money could be better spent on education and mental health care?

Yes, more funding for education and mental health care is a progressive value—and I wholeheartedly support more funding for both–but so is making police officers more accountable and better trained. These cannot be either-or propositions.

The Obama Justice Department’s report on the Chicago Police Department called for more oversight and better training. You cannot have one without the other. This is why the Justice Department recommended Chicago build a new training facility to replace the old, outmoded existing facilities. And it is why I joined 48 of my 50 City Council colleagues in supporting the construction of the facility.

Yes we need funding for schools and mental health, but we also urgently need to professionalize our Police Department and put an end to the countless lawsuits, settlements and court verdicts which result from police misconduct. If a police training facility prevents just three or four major lawsuits arising from police misconduct that otherwise would occur, it will pay for itself.

My point is not to defend our current mayor. His tenure will soon end. Instead, I contend that a definition of political independence and progressivism based solely on one’s opposition to whomever is mayor is shortsighted and outmoded.

So how can my experience and progressive vision continue to benefit Rogers Park for the next four years?

Putting the community back into community policing

Regarding public safety and crime prevention, I will continue to press the Mayor and Superintendent Johnson to provide us with the police and detective resources we need to safeguard our community in this challenging time and bring the killer to justice.

I also will push for the implementation of the Strategic Deployment Center in the 24th District Police Station by the end of this January and the installation of the high definition cameras our neighborhood has been promised.

But though new equipment and policing strategies are important, we must continue to pursue a holistic approach to fighting crime. This includes putting the “community” back into Community Policing.

As the leading City Council advocate for community policing before it was introduced to Chicago, I am proud of the efforts of our 24th District community policing office and beat facilitators. But quite frankly, they don’t get the resources they need to conduct true outreach to segments of our diverse community who don’t attend beat meetings.

Mayor Emanuel last year promised a renewed commitment to Community Policing, but unfortunately, I fail to see the manifestations of that commitment. I pledge to work with the new mayor to return Chicago to the same level of commitment to Community Policing that it demonstrated 25 years ago when it was first introduced to our City.

Building community connections for a safer Rogers Park

An involved and connected community is a safe community. Community Policing is one avenue for community engagement, but block clubs and social media groups are another important element. The new block clubs, Facebook pages and other social connections formed in the wake of the terrible shootings are the one bright spot in an otherwise horrible time in our neighborhood.

I was happy to assist in the formation of one of the block clubs and will offer my office’s resources to assist others in forming and growing their neighborhood social connections.

Long before the events of the last two months, my Follow Me on Friday events served as another means of building community and forming connections. As you know, I invite the entire community to join me after work on Friday at a local business for a drink and some noshing. The business gets some needed exposure and the neighbors get to know one another in a fun and informal setting. I pledge to continue to work with neighborhood businesses to host these fun events.

Creating jobs for a safer Rogers Park

Creating employment opportunities is also a key to a safe neighborhood. I will make sure the new Target on Devon and Sheridan lives up to its commitment to hire residents from Rogers Park. The store is slated to open this spring and will soon start hiring. They pledge to pay a starting wage of $15 an hour by the end of 2020. I will make sure our residents have plenty of advanced notice of the job opportunities.

I will also continue to host my annual Job Fair, which pairs potential employers with residents in my community. Well over a hundred people have found employment through my job fairs, allowing them to support themselves and their families.

We also need to help those who face barriers to employment, namely our returning citizens.  I will continue to sponsor my Expungement Seminars that provide those with felony and misdemeanor records an opportunity to clear their records and start afresh.

And I will continue to work closely with and advocate funding for the Howard Area Employment Center. The Center under the leadership of its director, Charles Hardwick, works 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.

Creating more affordable housing for Rogers Park

Regarding affordable housing, I will continue to use my position as Chairman of the City Council Committee on Housing to advocate for the creation of more affordable housing in our community.

The challenge faced by Rogers Park and other communities throughout the City is the loss of so-called “de facto affordable housing.” That is, housing units in buildings with plenty of deferred maintenance. These apartments have no legal income and rent restrictions, but are affordable simply because that is the rent the market will allow landlords to charge in those types of buildings.

When a new owner buys the building and makes improvements, the only way he or she can pay for the improvements is by increasing the rents. Improving a run-down building is good for the neighborhood in the long term, but bad for the current tenants who cannot afford the higher rents.

The current Class 9 program, which provides tax incentives for developers who keep their apartments affordable no longer works in Rogers Park.  I will work with state and county officials to implement a new tax incentive program that will encourage landlords to rehab their buildings while keeping their rents affordable for current tenants.

Fighting to give our schools the tools they need

Regarding our schools, I will continue to be a fierce advocate for our Rogers Park schools. All our schools are ranked in one of the three highest quality ratings and over half our schools are rated Level 1 or greater. This is due in no small part to the hard work of our principals, teachers and local school councils.

In the next year, I will work with Kilmer School’s Principal Jean Papgianis and Sullivan High School Principal Chad Adams to bring a full-fledged International Bacularete Program to their schools.

Kilmer and Sullivan have seen their attendance and test scores improve markedly as a result of the health and wellness centers that have opened in their schools. I will work over the next four years to build on those success and expand the health and wellness centers to the five other Rogers Park schools.

Making participatory budgeting truly participatory

And finally, regarding our Participatory Budgeting process, which grows with every election cycle, the 49th Ward continues to be one of the most successful participatory budgeting processes anywhere in the nation with one the highest per capita voter participations. More than twice as many people vote in the 49th Ward’s Participatory Budgeting elections than in any of the other participatory budgeting wards in Chicago.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continually look at ways to expand participation in the process so that it is truly reflective of the diversity of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community.

I will also encourage our PB49 Leadership Committee to seriously consider adopting ranked-choice voting, which would allow the voters to rank the project proposals in order of choice, thus ensuring that as many voters as possible will choose projects they support.

This is my record of accomplishments and this is my vision for the next four years.

First-rate City services for Rogers Park

One accomplishment stands out among all others. I have assembled the best ward service office staff of any alderman in the City of Chicago. I am nothing without my team behind me. Together, they have an accumulated 58 years of experience serving our community. Anyone who is thinking of voting for someone else should understand if I go, they go.

I would like to recognize my chief-of-staff, Kevin O’Neil, who was a neighborhood leader in his own right long before he signed up to work for me. He is backed by an amazing supporting cast, including Mike Land, Wayne Fraizer, Cecilia Salinas, Bob Fuller, and Ann Hinterman.

A special word about Ann. One of her many responsibilities in the office is as market director for the Glenwood Sunday Market.  Her service essentially enables the market to remain financially solvent. Without Ann and my office’s support, the Market would have a very difficult time surviving.

My Ward Superintendent, Dan Murphy, also is a valued member of the 49th Ward team. Dan does whatever it takes to get the job done. No task is beneath him as long as it is in service of the 49th Ward. Dan is with us tonight. Thank you for your service to our community.

Also with us tonight is two of the newest members of my team. They are so new, in fact, that they haven’t even started working for me. They are my campaign manager, Ben Douglas, my deputy campaign manager and field director, Stacy Ziedman, and one of my field organizers, Arnold Julien. Those of you who volunteer for my campaign will be hearing from them very shortly.

The choice before us

Ladies and gentlemen, elections are about choices.

Some people say it’s time for a change in the Ward. I get it. We’ve been through a series of change elections on both the federal and state level over the last several years. The desire for change is palpable.

But change for change sake is not always good.

Four years ago, a majority of Illinois voters decided to vote for a change in Springfield and elected a man as Governor who had absolutely no experience in government. How did that work out?

Two years ago, a plurality of American voters decided to vote for a change in Washington and elected a reality TV personality who also had no experience in government. I think we can all agree that election resulted in an unmitigated disaster for our nation.

So I encourage you to ask my opponent, “What specifically do you propose to do differently?” “How specifically do you plan to implement your proposals?”

In all my years as alderman, I have been an agent for change. Long-time residents will attest that our neighborhood is in a far better place than it was when I first took office. Our streets are safer, our schools are better, and our business climate is improved. All the while we’ve maintained the economic, cultural and racial diversity that makes our neighborhood the crown jewel of Chicago.

It wasn’t easy. It took persistence and a team effort with hundreds of community-minded volunteers. No one person can do it all.

You see, platitudes and empty promises don’t get things done. Hard work, a collaborative spirit, and, yes, experience is the recipe for a successful and vibrant community.

If you honor me with another four years, I promise I will continue to be an agent for change. Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done.