This is part of a series of interviews Windy City Times is running on LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal elections taking place Feb. 28.
When it comes to politics, Lamont Robinson has, for several years, been associated with the Illinois General Assembly. As a state rep, he has broken barriers, becoming the first Black LGBTQ+ individual in that governmental body.
However, in 2023, he is eyeing to make history in a different waybecoming the first Black LGBTQ+ man on the Chicago City Council as he is part of a race for 4th Ward alderman. He recently talked with Windy City Times about the political change, mental health and LGBTQ+ Chicagoans.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Windy City Times: Why run for alderperson now?
Lamont Robinson: I have been humbled by the work I have been doing in the Illinois General Assemblysaving Mercy Hospital, securing funding for an LGBTQ center on the South Side and funding for a senior center, passing legislation to help replace lead pipes across the state and making sure [people] get PrEP. As a state rep, I can appropriate monies, make and amend lawsbut as it relates to the ills (crime, economic parity) that affect our city, particularly in the 4th Ward, my reach is short. And I see a void, with Ald. [Sophia] King running for mayor, in the community that I run my [insurance] business in.
WCT: So if Ald. King hadn't decided to run for mayor, you wouldn't be running for alderperson?
LR: No. I've worked alongside Ald. King and I would not have run. Her running for mayor means there's a void and I want to fill that void in my community.
WCT: Tell me something you really like about your ward and something you really dislike about your ward.
LR: Number one, there is the diversity. The ward has high net worth, middle-class and low-income individuals along a great asset in the city of Chicago: the lakefront. What I don't like about the ward is that there's no parity [concerning] economic development. We have a great retail corridor in 53rd Street and we have great retail in the Loop [so] the bookends are great; however, with the middle, there's much to be desired. That's where the low-income and middle-class [people] live and they deserve to have the same services and amenities as our folks on the north and south ends of the ward.
WCT: Should you win, do you anticipate being an alder to be more or less difficult than being a state rep?
LR: [Laughs] I don't necessarily see it as being difficult. I see it being a different jobnot difficult. I'll be the first line of defense regarding the ills that I mentioned to you. The alderman is the first person the constituents call when issues arise.
WCT: As state rep, you voted for the assault-weapons ban [that's currently on hold]. How do you respond to critics who wonder why it took the Highland Park mass shooting to get the bill into motion when Black and Brown people in Chicago have been victimized for years?
LR: I think that being critical is certainly understandable in these times, but now we're seeing that gun violence is affecting everyone across the state. We now can lean on everyone because it's on their front doorstep. No matter what your economic or educational level is, we're all part of this large issue.
WCT: So it took this horrible event for people not in the city to realize [gun violence] is a pervasive problem?
LR: Wellthe truth is that [that conclusion] is a part of it, right? The South and West sides [of Chicago] have been dealing with this for years and now this trauma is now on the doorstep of a very wealthy community. Now, with that said, we all had to work together to stem what we're seeing. One of my colleagues was Bob Morgan [the state House member who represents Highland Park] and I've had conversations about what I've had to face on the South SideI've had shootings outside my home.
We need everyone to get involved with the issue of public safety. Unfortunately, what you're saying is true but now everyone can effect change.
WCT: You mentioned the word "trauma," which sparked Treatment Not Trauma [an initiative that involves the creation of a 24-hour crisis response hotline for mental health-related emergencies and the reopening of Chicago's shuttered mental-health clinics]. I want to get your thoughts on that.
LR: I think that with the ills we're seeing [concerning] mental health, we can't just "lock up" our way out of that. I look at it as a holistic approach: We need mental health, we need economic development, we need parity in our schools and those are the reasons why I want to run for alderman. We need people who are going to think outside the box when it comes to stemming the issues that our city faces.
WCT: What do you think is the biggest problem for LGBTQ+ Chicagoans and what solutions would you propose?
LR: I think the biggest issue that we are facing is still HIV and the fact that many of our youth are homeless. I can't be successful if folks in my ward are homeless, having to couch-surf and do things they don't want to do to survive. And so many people are challenged by the opioid crisis; so many people, particularly Black gay men, are being wiped out by opioids and other narcotics they don't know they're taking.
I think understanding the issues, being a champion for [those who are suffering], moving resources and leaning on organizations that do the work. That is why I secured $50 million for the African-American Response Actto make sure we stem HIV, utilizing Black-led organizations that are already doing the work. We have to support those organizations. I was a champion on the state side and I look forward to being a champion on the city side.
WCT: If you could ask the current mayor one question that she had to answer, what would that be?
LR: [Pauses and laughs] Andrew, you stumped me there! [Pauses again] I would ask the mayor if she is committed to listening to and taking suggestions from newcomers as they come to the City Council. I believe that this new City Council can be very helpful to the mayor and Chicago.
WCT: What's your biggest advantage and disadvantage in this race?
LR: My biggest advantage is being the current state rep in the area and having the support of many colleagues at the federal, state and city levels. My biggest disadvantage is, believe it or not, being an incumbent; some want to me to stay a state rep. But my answer to that is that our city is at a crossroads and we need new leadership in the [City] Council.
WCT: I want to conclude with a general question: Los Angeles is larger than Chicago and only has 15 members on its council. How do you respond to critics who say there are too many people on the Chicago City Council, which has 50?
LR: I think that it's something we should take a look atparticularly knowing that the city is strapped [for] resources. It's something that should be studied.
WCT: What did you want to say, in conclusion?
LR: I appreciate the opportunity and support I've had from Windy City Times. I look forward to being able to come back to talk more about my plan for the ward after I'm elected.
Lamont Robinson's campaign website is votelamontrobinson.com .