Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Friday accused the billionaire Ricketts family that owns the Chicago Cubs of targeting him — and trying to elect a puppet alderman in his place — to pave the way for a “Disneyland” agenda that will make life miserable for Wrigleyville residents.
Tunney fired back one day after Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts took to sports radio to make the case for defeating the 17-year veteran alderman.
The Ricketts family has yet to choose a horse in the 44th Ward race. But the Cubs owners have targeted Tunney after doing battle against him since they bought the team from the Tribune Co. in 2008 over virtually all matters pertaining to Wrigley Field.
Tunney thinks he knows why.
The Cubs want to “control the local aldermanic seat” so they can change the rules, change the zoning, “do whatever they want” and “get government out of our way.”
“No restrictions on night activities whatsoever. We get to do whatever we want on our private property. Beer garden 365 days a year. Concerts every weekend. … Forget the remote parking. … Shut the streets down. … We might as well close from Belmont to Irving for them,” Tunney told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“They want to change the zoning in the rooftop district. Close off Waveland and Sheffield and do [a Fenway Park-style] Yawkey Way. Now that the rooftops are obsolete based on the sign package we granted them, [they’ll say], `If we build higher and if we change it all from residential to commercial use, just make it party time over there, for them.”
Tunney said the Ricketts family agenda is “all about driving their bottom line.”
That conflicts with the alderman’s bottom line, which is to keep area residents happy and “small businesses in business, too.”
“We’re not building Disneyland here,” Tunney said.
Last week, Cubs board member Laura Ricketts, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, wrote an op-ed piece in Crain’s eviscerating Tunney’s record in a way that rebutted the alderman’s argument he’s being targeted to push family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ “right-wing agenda.”
On the eve of the Cubs convention, Tom Ricketts joined in the anti-Tunney tag team during an interview on WSCR-AM 670, the station that broadcasts Cubs games.
He argued that Tunney has been a roadblock “from the very first sign in left field to fighting us on the rooftops, to fighting us on stadium renovations and doing the scoreboards, to fighting us on creating the Gallagher Way plaza outside, to fighting us on allowing us to have the same rules that other bars in the neighborhood have.”
Ricketts also accused Tunney of making “vulgar insults” to his family.
That’s a reference to the crude remark Tunney made on the City Council floor in July 2013 on the day the Cubs got the go-ahead to rebuild Wrigley Field and develop the land around it after years of political strikeouts.
On that day, Tunney warned the Cubs to honor their commitments to local residents — or else.
“What is the adage? You have to be a good neighbor. Otherwise, I will be up your butt every day,” Tunney said on that day.
The alderman has subsequently apologized for the remark.
On Friday, Tunney categorically denied he was beholden to rooftop owners who filled his campaign coffers before the signs were installed and the Cubs started buying up the buildings and that he’s still beholden to bar owners now.
“They had spent millions to re-invest and to keep their business alive. And then, we screwed the rooftops by the sign package. My goal was, ‘I’ll give you the signs. But you have a private deal with these rooftop guys that lasts another 10 years.’ It’s like a lease,” Tunney said.
As for the campaign contributions from rooftops and bar owners, Tunney said it’s no surprise. He’s the owner of Ann Sather Restaurants.
“I’m a small-business guy. The idea of business people supporting Tom Tunney is totally consistent with one of the reasons why I ran: To have that voice on City Council. Somebody needs to be the business leader,” Tunney said.
“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed by any of the campaign contributions I received because I am the advocate for business on the council.”
The double-whammy of rising property taxes and skyrocketing assessment increase are the issues being used to hammer him along with rising crime.
Tunney acknowledged he is now paying the price for his 2015 vote for the largest property tax increase in Chicago history for police and fire pensions and school construction.
“What are you gonna do? Just have the bond rating fall further to the worst in the country? Threaten bankruptcy?,” he said. “That’s called leadership. We have to take tough votes.”