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It's been 12 years since Alderman Tom Tunney faced an opponent in the 44th Ward, and there was a chance that streak would continue this election cycle—challenges were filed against all three of Tunney's potential opponents. But signatures were reviewed, arguments were made to election officials, and two longtime Lakeview residents are left standing to take on Tunney in February: Scott Davis and Mark Thomas. (The third candidate, Robin Cook, withdrew from the race.)
Davis, a project manager for a local technology start-up and an outspoken opponent of red light cameras, has ties to the Wrigelyville neighborhood that predate his birth. His great uncle Ken O'Day was a pitcher for the Cubs from 1935 to 1938 and hit a home run for the Cubs against the New York Yankees in the 1938 World Series.
"I feel a unique connection to the Cubs organization," Davis says. "I moved here because I like Wrigleyville. I thought it was the coolest place on earth." And he says he wants to keep it that way.
"I’m concerned about the way the alderman handled the Wrigley Field [renovation]," Davis says. "I think the Cubs are putting together a championship-caliber team. This renovation project will be great for the neighborhood and I want to support that. I think our current alderman has been antagonistic about the whole thing."
As for complaints that the neighborhood is too loud or rowdy, Davis instead sees a lively environment that's good business for neighborhood bars. "I want to live in Wrigleyville—I don't want to live in a quiet neighborhood," he says.
Both Davis and Thomas cite crime as a major concern, and both believe an increased police presence could be a solution. Thomas is going one step further, saying he'll personally be out in the neighborhoods 30 to 40 weekends a year with off-duty police officers keeping an eye on the streets.
Thomas, owner of counter-culture clothing store the Alley, has been active in the Lakeview community for the past 30 years as a business owner and member of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association, Local First Chicago, and the Kedzie Elston Business Industrial Council. "I'm not a politician, I'm going to be a public servant," Thomas says. "I'm going to do all the things I've done for the Alley for the community."
Transparency is particularly important to Thomas. He says that on his watch every community and town hall meeting would be recorded and made available online for all residents to see, and a daily list of visitors to his campaign office will be posted. He also envisions a web portal that would allow everyone in the 44th Ward to vote on major city issues. The opinions of different categories of constituent would carry different weight: registered voters would carry 40 percent of the decision, business owners 10 percent, nonregistered voters 10 percent, and his own opinion would count for 40 percent. He thinks every decision should be made democratically within the ward.
"That's what they taught us in eighth grade in the CPS system when we took our constitution test," Thomas says.
Whereas Davis has his sights set on Wrigley Field as the neighborhood's preeminent cultural destination, Thomas is turning his focus to Boystown and the surrounding area to make it worth the special trip to Lakeview. "The nature of that community has changed because LGBT [individuals] don't need to go out and socialize in Boystown, they feel comfortable going anywhere,” Thomas says.
Neither candidate experienced a calling to politics before becoming involved in this aldermanic race, rather they both disagreed with how things have been handled by Tunney. Davis, while not aligning himself to any particular mayoral candidate, does acknowledge that Tunney may be too closely aligned to the mayor. He also firmly believes that if the current alderman is reelected, he will raise property taxes, which Davis is vehemently against. But it was his involvement in the group Citizens to Oust Red Light Cameras that pushed him to run for office and address the issue as a member of City Council.
Thomas's relationship with Alderman Tunney is slightly more tumultuous. He was a supporter of Tunney back in 2003 and posted campaign signs all over Belmont. They've known each other for 25 years as involved members of the community, serving on neighborhood boards together in the past. Thomas changed his position on Tunney when the alderman left an "egregious" voicemail for Thomas following an incident in which a drunk assistant state's attorney bit one of Thomas's employees.
So, with the election just a little over a month away, here is a breakdown of the challenging candidates priorities:
• Reduction of crime, increased police presence
• Elimination of red light and speed cameras
• Defined contribution plan instead of a benefit plan for new employees
• Continued support of Wrigley Field renovations
• Opposed to TIFs
• Believes property taxes should be used to improve parks, schools, and city services
• Reduction of crime, increased police presence
• Participatory democracy in the ward
• Transparency for the community
• Rebuilding of business district, focus on local business
• Focus on hyperlocal community building and building development
Correction: This post was amended to reflect that arguments against the ballot challenges were not made in court.