Ald. James Cappleman to retire from the City Council

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is not at all surprised that City Council turnover would follow the two-year pandemic. “I think we’ll see some others who may also say ... ‘It’s time for me to move in a different direction.’”

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Ald. James Cappleman, shown speaking during a City Council meeting in May 2022.

Ald. James Cappleman, shown speaking during a City Council meeting in May, will leave the council after his current term ends in 2023.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The man Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the “conscience” of the Chicago City Council announced his political retirement on Tuesday, the latest in what could be a string of aldermanic departures. 

Uptown Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said he will not seek re-election. He will leave next spring after serving out his third, four-year term.

Cappleman joins indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), who gave up her council seat to make it easier for the council to redraw Chicago’s ward boundaries to accommodate the 2020 U.S. Census amid an 85,000-person decline in Chicago’s black population.

Alderperson Howard Brookins (21st) is awaiting an Ethics Board ruling on conflicts posed by his law practice before deciding whether to seek re-election after losing a judicial race. 

Alderpersons Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Ray Lopez (15th) are giving up their council seats to run for mayor. Ald. Sophia King (4th) may do the same. Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader, is leaving after winning a seat on the Cook County Board of Review.

A handful of veteran alderpersons may join the exodus, including indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th), dean of the council.

Lightfoot already has made two aldermanic appointments — after the conviction of Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) and then after the resignation of Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th).

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) speaks with a colleague during a committee meeting at City Hall on Monday, May 23, 2022.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) speaks with a colleague during a Chicago City Council committee meeting in May to discuss a proposed Bally’s casino in River West.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The mayor said she is not at all surprised at council turnover, coming after the coronavirus pandemic. Five members tried to leave by running for other offices, but lost their elections on June 28. 

“It’s not a surprise that this is ... coming after what we’ve been through. … I think we’ll see some others who may also say, ‘It’s time for me to move in a different direction,’” Lightfoot said.

The mayor had only praise for Cappleman, a City Council champion for affordable housing and homeless Chicagoans who served an uncomfortable stint as Zoning Committee chair after the resignation of FBI mole Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who had been chair.

“You are not gonna find a finer human being. I often call him the conscience of the City Council,” the mayor said.

“He’s been through a lot. ... He studied to be a Franciscan monk. A guy from Texas. He came out at an early age. He’s been a social worker. He’s been on the front lines really doing the Lord’s work for so long. We will miss him, of course. But I’m happy for him that he has found peace and is ready to move on”

Cappleman did not respond to a request to comment on his announcement.

In an emailed newsletter to his constituents, Cappleman said he ran for the City Council in 2011 to “interrupt the trajectory” of a crime-ridden ward on the decline and “surpassed many peoples’ dreams,” including his own.

“I feel fortunate to be doing work that I enjoy every day, but I also know it feels right for me to move on to another adventure with the assurance that our community is now in a good place to keep moving forward to accomplish more,” he wrote.

Cappleman noted that when he was first elected, the 46th Ward was so “plagued with gang conflicts,” 10 people were shot in just six weeks. 

“People were frustrated about the horrible condition of the Wilson CTA Station and there were discussions about the need to demolish the historic Gerber Building on the 4600 block of N. Broadway given the extensive costs to repair it. Through my work with others, the CTA station is one of the best in Chicago, and the historic Gerber building is now utilized as Chicago Market’s Community Co-op, a prime example of our reinvigorated business community and diversified commercial storefronts and entertainment district,” he wrote.

“While other wards have struggled to keep affordable housing, the 46th Ward gained, with two more 100% affordable residential buildings starting construction this year. Dilapidated buildings have become restored historic structures and vacant lots have new residential developments that offer a wide range of rents, including affordable housing. Our Entertainment District has blossomed in ways we never imagined.”

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