Perhaps it's because I just returned to Chicago several months ago, after 14 years of living and working in Washington, D.C., that some of the criticism of Tom Tunney by his opponents in the Reader article ["How Could He?" February 14] makes my skin crawl. Even the activists and some of the other candidates who have criticized Tom Tunney in the 44th Ward aldermanic race acknowledge having urged him for years to run. However, some of them are now attacking Tunney as not "pure" enough because the powers that be now also support Tunney. This all reminds me of some of the charges during our most recent presidential election that Al Gore was "no different from George Bush." That eat-your-own-but-give-your-enemy-a-pass tactic has proved self-defeating to our short- and long-term interests, and I believe it reflects a political immaturity and lack of preparedness to take a seat at the political table or to accept incremental progress on the way to achieving larger, longer-term goals.
For some, "protesting" itself now seems to have become the goal rather than the achievement of what we've been protesting for. (It reminds me of some other battles where some of my political soulmates refused to support gay rights antidiscrimination legislation unless and until it initially included additional groups.)
It seems to me that Tom Tunney represents what many of us hoped for--an independent, can-do alderman who listens to his constituents. For example, since Tom has been in office, down zoning of North Halsted has proceeded further than it ever had before. The Belmont rocks "revetment" project has been delayed pending further study and community input. Some, however, are still not satisfied with obtaining these long-sought gains because they are being obtained by Tunney through the conventional political process rather than through lots of yelling, protest, and bloody revolution.
Ingram and Kennedy and the other 44th Ward candidates all seem like nice and capable individuals, even if, unlike Tom Tunney, they have only in recent years been visibly active in many important Lakeview issues. Tom Tunney has been an active and crucial player in most issues affecting Lakeview seniors, gays, and lesbians and AIDS issues since the early 1980s, and he continues to be dedicated, tireless, and generous in working to improve Lakeview's quality of life for everyone. To paraphrase former Texas governor Ann Richards: "When you go to the party you should dance with the one who brung you" and not with the one who arrived, for whatever variety of reasons, after the music has stopped.
Tom Tunney's critics are correct that the race for alderman is not just a "life-time achievement award"; however, it should also not be an award for a lack of achievement over many years around issues important to life in Lakeview, nor a prize for the candidate who can yell the loudest at election time or claim the greatest "independent" outsider-victim pedigree.