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Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Joseph Erbentraut

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Investment officer and former engineer Andy Lam may not have much of a political resume when compared to other aldermanic candidates in the 46th Ward, but his campaign is not short on ideas. Lam spoke with the Windy City Times.

Windy City Times: What motivated you to enter this race?

Andy Lam: As a Chinese-American, when you're in high school, we are taught to vote, vote and vote as your right and duty, but sometimes it's just frustrating when you vote so many times and nothing really changes. I feel like I have enough ideas to make the ward better.

WCT: This is a very diverse ward, including the city's largest concentration of LGBT-fronted households and a number of gay-owned businesses. How will you address the specific needs of the ward's LGBT residents?

AL: The LGBT community in the Uptown-Lakeview area is, I think, doing much better in some ways because we're a diverse and open-minded population, however I feel it is not open-minded enough and I think a large portion of the population still have negative opinions about LGBT issues. I would advocate to educate the public more about the LGBT communities and provide workshops. The aldermen need to also provide some sort of assistance where small business owners can more easily get through the City Hall hurdles when opening up a shop.

WCT: The 46th Ward is also home to the Howard Brown Health Center and a number of other social services including for people living with HIV/AIDS. What would you do to ensure the funding for these services will be protected?

AL: I think the original founders of the Howard Brown clinic did a great job helping the most vulnerable people in the community that had nowhere else to turn. Over the years, the administration of the Howard Brown have been mismanaging their funding. The Sun-Times reported that some of the administrators were earning six-figure salaries while, in the mean time, their clinics were struggling. The end users, their clients, are the victims.

I think we need to conduct forensic audits on how every penny is being channeled into their facility. I 100-percent support more funding for people who need HIV treatment and counseling but I also want to make sure all the dollars are spent for the right purpose and not for stuffing administrators' pockets. The more I look into Chicago politics, so many elected officials and administrators of many nonprofits are actually earning very high salaries to my surprise. I thought running a non-profit was supposed to be like a charitable, semi-volunteer mission.

WCT: You've proposed to mandate police officers walk through the ward for at least a half hour during every shift. Considering complaints—particularly from trans Chicagoans—of police harassment directed towards LGBT people, how would you ensure that police presence in the ward is friendly to all?

AL: I heard about those allegations of unnecessary harassment of LGBT people. As alderman, I would make sure all of our officers go through a continuing education program annually or semi-annually to make them aware of how to interact appropriately with LGBT people and respect them.

WCT: What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?

AL: First, I was trained professionally as a structural engineer. I know infrastructure. I designed bridges, highways and military hangars, so when it comes down to a $15 million rehab job at Wilson station, I know it's overpriced.

I think the ward, and the whole city, is really short of money. I think most of the other candidates said the would fight for more officers on the street, but how? ... With my investment business [experience] since 1992, I would be very active to ensure capitals—U.S.-based and international—come to the 46th Ward. One of my big focuses is to get money from private corporations. In terms of education, I have five children and they all attend CPS. I'm in touch with their teachers, principal, other parents and even some of the students on a daily basis. I know what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I'm also not a career politician and I'm not a lawyer. I think if you look at City Council, almost all of the aldermen either have a background as a lawyer or a career City Hall employee. I think when you have a City Hall with people with this kind of background, the ideal of checks and balances is lost. A true City Council should be representative of citizens of all walks of life -- small business owners, members from the LGBT community, members from the teaching profession, maybe from the labor workforce.

WCT: And why are you the best choice for LGBT voters in the ward?

AL: I think I'm a very unique candidate. I'm the first Chinese-American running and I do have many friends and neighbors who are members of the LGBT community. If you ask any of my neighbors, they all know Andy as very genuine. I won't say I support the LGBT community and then when the Catholic Church comes to me, I'll say something else. Whoever comes to me, I always provide the same answers. On low-income housing or on cops or public safety, my answers are always the same for whatever group. I have a Chinese accent and I am not as articulate as some of the other candidates, but I'm looking for results.

WCT: Would you have run if Alderman Shiller had run for re-election?

AL: Honestly, I would not have because, honestly, I am a businessperson and I evaluate the chances of winning this race. Even as several candidates have popped up in the last minute, I still believe I have a very good chance to win the race. It's just a business decision.

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