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  WINDY CITY TIMES

ELECTIONS '11: 46TH WARD James Cappleman
by Joseph Erbentraut
2011-02-02

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Windy City Times interviews three gay candidates for 46th Ward alderman

Windy City Times interviews three gay candidates for 46th Ward alderman

By practically all measures, 2010 was a pretty good year for James Cappleman. In addition to emerging as one of the leading candidates to succeed Helen Shiller as the 46th Ward's new alderman—a feat he almost accomplished when he first ran against the incumbent in 2007—the 58-year-old social worker also is newly engaged to his longtime partner, Richard Thale. Thale proposed the night of Nov. 30, when the Illinois House approved a civil-unions bill.

But the bulk of the wedding planning will have to wait until after Feb. 22 for Cappleman, who is contending with 10 other challengers—including two other openly gay or lesbian candidates—in what is arguably the city's most watched aldermanic race. Windy City Times recently spoke with Cappleman about his campaign.

Windy City Times: What motivated you to give this race a second try?

James Cappleman: For the same reason why I ran the first time. I've been a community activist for over a decade and I've worked on numerous projects related to public safety and encouraging more economic development in the ward. It's been through my work with the community—with Heather Steans, Greg Harris and the police commanders in the 20th and 23rd districts—that I've learned what works and what doesn't work in helping move this ward forward. I'm running again to be an advocate for the community, but I want to do it on a full-time basis now.

WCT: How does this campaign compare to 2007, when you challenged Helen Shiller?

James Cappleman: It's much harder now because I know what I need to do to win. I ran a really good campaign last time and was outspent by hundreds of thousands of dollars, but running a good campaign means you have to focus on using your time well, getting those volunteers and getting money. More people living in the ward have contributed money to my campaign in 2010 than all the other candidates combined. People in the community know me a lot better now and they're throwing their support behind me. We're feeling really good about how this is going, but I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm working like I'm way behind, but I know that is not the case.

WCT: What are some of the biggest concerns you've heard from LGBT people living in the ward and how will you address them?

James Cappleman: The biggest concern I've heard over and over again is focused on public safety. We've had a lot of violence in the ward this past year—the last couple of years—and I think there's a reality there and then there's a perception. I think both have to be addressed because we act on what we believe and people are going to avoid shopping in the area because they have the perception that there's a lot of crime.

We're finding that there's a lot of people in gangs that are using retaliation against people in other gangs and that's what really needs to be focused on. We can use more police to address that. I believe that will and has helped tremendously, but we need to look at what led some of these people to join gangs. Using evidence-based best practices, we know those who are more likely to join gangs have intense anger management issues and we know teachers can identify their students with those issues early on. What helps kids, especially older kids, deal with their anger is the use of peer relationships. ... I would like to see them working with some of the neighborhood businesses and service providers, not only helping them out but giving them an opportunity to have an adult mentor who's going to give them some hope they can get job training and better their lives as well.

WCT: There are many social service programs based in the ward, including HIV/AIDS agencies, who are being particularly threatened by the current economic conditions. How will you work to protect them?

James Cappleman: I work for ACCESS Community Health Network, which offers clinics in low-income areas, and we are hurting because the state is so far being in reimbursement, too. It's becoming a crisis and the sad point of the matter is that if we don't address these peoples' needs with HIV, we'll pay in the long run. I'm a huge advocate for healthcare, which is why I've been involved in the non-profit sector for the past 21 years.

WCT: Currently Chicago's only other openly gay alderman is Tom Tunney. Has he offered you any advice?

James Cappleman: He has offered me advice, including advice I took back in 2007. The advice given to me was that the 46th Ward is an exceptionally diverse ward, including some groups who are in conflict with each other ... For example, some people are saying we need more affordable housing and others are saying "absolutely no" to more affordable housing in the 46th Ward ... My stance is that we can have affordable housing, but we need to make sure we do it right, locating it in a neighborhood with low poverty and making sure it's designed well. My job is to work with all of these different groups and bring them all together. I've had the experience of doing that.

WCT: What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race and why are you the best choice?

James Cappleman: What sets me apart is that I am the only candidate who has been a community activist in the ward for over a decade, doing it all as a volunteer and doing it while also having a long history of collaborating with so many people in the neighborhood.

I've been somebody who is a doer rather than a talker. You'll see some of these candidates making these wild suggestions about what they can do to make this ward better and, honestly, when you start really looking closely at how that's going to work, it falls apart. It falls apart because they don't have the experience of working with the community and with its elected officials to find out what really does and doesn't work. I have that experience.

Visit www.jamesforchange.com for more information on Cappleman's campaign and platform.


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