My attitude toward my alderman, Vi Daley (no relation to the mayor), has been neutral to positive. Like many in the ward, I've had little contact with her. Once she turned down a request from my townhome association to resolve a problem with excessive parking tickets in our area. That was probably the right thing for her to do.
Another time I interviewed her about a local zoning conflict, and she seemed thoughtful, engaged, and not at all schmoozy. She was against the smoking ban, which I appreciated, and she supports public art in our neighborhood. She is not the kind of "Chicago politician" you read about in the papers.
My frustrations with her office have been mainly with their lack of communication. They're variable at best about returning phone calls and e-mails. You have to work hard too hard to unearth news about what's happening. Her website is helpful, but it's short on updates and details.
Therefore, I was a bit startled when I read that the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce was hosting a "State of the Ward" luncheon featuring Vi and the 42nd ward alderman Ted Matlak. A-ha! I had never been invited or offered an update on the state of my ward before so I ponied up the $35 and went. (See previous post here.)
After a round of stock speeches, Vi Daley got up to address the suits and skirts who do business in her ward. Her first item of business? The truckloads of donated goods our community shipped to victims of Katrina. She spoke with pride about our response and thanked Lincoln Park Market owner Bruce Longanecker for helping to make it happen.
Her next item of business? A firm vote of support for the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, which is undergoing a raucous fight with NIMBY's to expand its services to the poor. She expressed hope that a workable solution to protect the shelter's services could come of it.
Let me reiterate: at a chamber of commerce meeting she began with the priority that every community should hold and honor -- taking care of the less fortunate. Then she moved on to the business of growing our collective good fortune. Wow. I completely didn't expect it. What a happy surprise.
She didn't short-shrift businesses either. She identified an ordinance she got passed that will extend the city's summer sidewalk cafe season. This she did in a climate, to remind my readers from out of town, where many alderman prefer to ban foie gras and protect elephants.
As I suffer through the Bush administration, I'm understanding more deeply than I thought possible how much I value talented leadership. So far, it seems to me, that at least at the ward level, we've got the real thing. I'm thankful for it.
Coming soon: Alderman Matlak's comments on the 42nd.
Update: To be completely fair on the communications thing, someone in the alderman's office was kind enough to e-mail me a copy of the new call for entries in the Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative. I'll post soon. Thanks, alderman Daley's office.