It’s not easy being a politician! Most Chicagoans believe that a lot of elected officials in Illinois are in for the personal gain, the power trip, the status, and in petty cases the free meals and drinks at expensive restaurants, clubs and hotels. Just remember our two former governors.
But what is worse than a corrupt politician? It would be a citizen or taxpayer who doesn’t know who represents him or her in Springfield, those who go about their daily lives not knowing or ignoring how a public servant gets elected.
In the newly created 21st District of the Illinois State House of Representatives, we are about to vote for either Silvana Tabares or Rudy Lozano Jr. One of them will be proposing and voting on laws that affect residents of the neighborhoods of Brighton Park, Garfield Ridge, Little Village and the suburbs of Summit, Lyons, Stickney and Cicero. The new representative’s job would be to improve the lives of residents of these communities, use their taxes in a wise and productive manner, and provide public safety. But sadly sometimes the newly elected becomes a lobbyist, representing the interests of corporations and the powerful people who supported their campaigns. I hope this won’t be the case with whomever gets elected.
Tabares is inexperienced, particularly in politics. She was tapped to replace Susana Mendoza former representative for the 1st district. But because Tabares didn’t meet the residency requirements she couldn’t be Mendoza’s replacement. Mendoza, the new Chicago City Clerk, didn’t want her either; when she told me last year that Tabares didn’t have the qualifications needed for the job. Lozano Jr. and other politicians think that Alderman Ed Burke, the big cheese of the Democratic Party, is manipulating Tabares. Juan Rangel, CEO of United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), is the person who approached her to replace Mendoza. And he is also skillfully influencing her. Rangel works now behind the scenes on Tabares’ campaign for state rep. Take also into consideration that Rangel is a close ally of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I wanted to talk to Burke and Rangel. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t because Tabares refused to grant me an interview. She did not return several phone calls made to her personal cell phone. She did not reply an email and neither a FaceBook message. And since the number at her campaign office was disconnected, I showed up there unannounced. I found her doing what politicians do, when they want your vote. She was carrying somebody’s baby, but as soon as I entered with my videographer she disappeared. Her campaign manager assured me she wasn’t there. I must’ve seen her ghost! The baby was there but she was gone. A colleague of mine said, “Tabares should’ve done what seasoned politicians do, talked to the media”.
In her campaign webpage, Tabares writes “Together we can bring real change and an independent voice to Springfield”. How independent can she be when the person who gave the green light to her campaign has been a Chicago alderman since 1969? I have a serious problem with people who hold on to a political post for more than a term. Let alone a lifetime in the same public office. So I wonder, if she were to be elected who would call the shots in Springfield, Tabares or Burke? Burke didn’t even know Tabares a year ago. Rangel introduced Tabares to Burke; even though she has no political experience and has not done any community service whatsoever. This makes me question Rangel’s motives as well. I believe that the only reason Tabares was asked to be a replacement in state congress and now a candidate is the fact that she took a leadership workshop with UNO. But that doesn’t make a state representative, not even a member of a local school council. At the same time, she has the right to pursue the post; just as we have the right to ask questions about her campaign. Because she worked for a local weekly publication, she should know that. But then again she is a political neophyte.
If she were to become my state representative --I happen to live in the 21st district-- I will remind her of her written promise to “protect our neighborhoods and keep gangs off the streets, drugs off the corners, and graffiti off our homes”.
Rudy Lozano Jr.
Lozano Jr. says that he’s been doing community work for the last 15 years; and that he has worked as a teacher, a community organizer and director of after school programs. It is true. But does he have what it takes to represent the thousands of people who live in the district? Some say no. Others say that he is capable and experienced to become a legislator. Those who don’t believe in him say that if he were to win the elections, it would be because of “name recognition”.
His father Rudy Lozano Sr. was a union organizer who was murdered in 1983. A Chicago Tribune article published in 1985 reads: “No clear motive for Lozano’s murder was established although there was speculation that it was the result of an argument over a debt involving a drug deal or participation of gang members in Lozano’s aldermanic campaign”. One gang member was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the killing. Another one was freed for not having sufficient evidence against him. Supporters of Lozano Sr. accused the current state prosecutor, Richard M. Daley, of mishandling the case. Many believe that it was a larger conspiracy with political roots or ramifications, and that those truly responsible for his death have not been identified. The activist and union leader has become a role model for Latinos in Chicago. Today we have a Library in Pilsen and a High School in Little Village named after him. Lozano Jr. says that he was inspired by his father’s commitment to community work, but he is his own man.
Lozano Jr. says that like his father he will “defend the rights of workers”, but will also defend the rights of “immigrants, women and youth”. He was one of the organizers of the movement and hunger strike behind the construction of the relatively new Little Village Lawndale High School and has “helped kids get off street corners”. Lozano Jr. says he helps them “graduate from high school and go to college, something that improves their lives tremendously”.
I do believe him, but I also believe that if Lozano Jr. wants to beat Tabares and her political allies, he needs a lot of help. And he knows it. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for state congress in the 23rd district against the incumbent Dan Burke, Ed Burke’s brother. “It was a great experience,” he says. “We didn’t win, but it was a victory for ourselves because we were able to challenge the Burkes and the Madigans and the (political) machine, the entire machine of the Southwest side. They were supposed to beat me by a landslide and they didn’t”. We shall see if he pulls it off in 2012.
In the mean time, I extend an invitation to both candidates to have debate using Punto EGF as the platform.
Enrique García Fuentes
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