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46th Ward candidate for alderman: James Cappleman

James Cappleman 46th ward alderman candidate 2019 mayoral election rich hein

46th Ward aldermanic candidate and incumbent James Cappleman at the Sun-Times Jan. 15. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 46th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. James Cappleman submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is James Cappleman?

His political/civic Background: I received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award from the University of Chicago Medical Center for my efforts to address racism; for work which started in high school when I helped organize a student club that highlighted the effects of racism on campus. As a former public school teacher, I volunteered to teach ESL (English As A Second Language) to many of the Spanish-speaking parents of my 5th grade students.

I am the past board president of the Uptown Chicago Commission, past board president of Dignity/Chicago (a Roman Catholic LGBT organization), and I also served on the executive board of directors for Annie’s Legacy, an organization that provided mentoring to women who had experienced domestic violence. In 1987, I co-founded Chicago’s only homeless shelter for people living with HIV/AIDS. As a former licensed clinical social worker, I chaired Illinois’ National Association of Social Workers’ HIV Task Force for three years and wrote a book entitled, Asking the Right Questions To Get the Health Care You Need to assist people living with chronic and terminal illnesses.

One of my proudest accomplishments as Alderman has been finding housing for 96 homeless residents who were living in inhumane conditions under the Lake Shore Drive viaducts. I also sponsored a resolution in 2017 that called for the city, county, and state to coordinate their efforts to reduce prison recidivism, especially among those experiencing mental illness. I currently serve on the Budget, Ethics, Health, Housing, Licensing & Consumer Protection, Pedestrian & Traffic committees and serve as vice-chair of Zoning.

His occupation: 46th Ward Alderman

His education:

  • B.S. in Education from the University of Houston
  • MSW from the UIC’s Jane Addams School of Social Work

Campaign website: citizensforcappleman.com

Twitter: @JamesCappleman

Facebook: facebook.com/CitizensForCappleman/

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

James Cappleman:

  • Economic development that will create additional employment opportunities for residents and keep people in the ward for shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences
  • Further reduce crime and eliminate gun violence by continuing to lead the effort among the Chicago Police Department, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, local businesses, social services, schools, and residents
  • Protect our current government affordable housing stock and add more.

Recent civic work

Please tell us what you have done in the last two years to serve the city, your neighborhood or a civic organization. Please be specific.

James Cappleman:

  • Pushed the City of Chicago to adopt a housing-first model of care for people living in encampments and successfully housed 96 people living under two Uptown viaducts
  • Secured $10 million for construction of a gym at McCutcheon Elementary, a Chicago Public School that is one of only a handful in the city’s public school system without its own gym, and where 25 percent of the students live in a shelter.
  • Brought the community together to support a needed zoning change for Sarah’s Circle to build a state-of-the-art shelter for women, along with 34 affordable, permanent supportive housing units.
  • Advocated for residents by persuading the owners of two high-rise HUD buildings to continue their contracts for affordable housing instead of turning them into market-rate buildings.
  • Supported $4.6 million in TIF funds to address the needs of the Clarendon Park Community Center.
  • Advocated tirelessly for the owner of the Uptown Theatre with state and local officials to save this historic, national treasure from ruin by restoring it to its former glory, a project that is slated to be finished in 2021.



Chicago is on the hook for $42 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which works out to $35,000 for every household. Those pensions, in the language of the IL Constitution, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Should the state Constitution be amended to allow a reduction in pension benefits for current city employees or retirees? How about reducing pension benefits for new employees? Please explain.

James Cappleman: I would never support the efforts of a state-elected official to change the Illinois Constitution to reduce pension benefits to current employees and retirees. We will need to eventually and slowly graduate to a method where new employees pay into FICA with incentives to contribute to a defined contribution plan.

In the meantime, we need to work with Governor-elect Pritzker and our state officials to change the law to allow us to slow down these large pension payments so that we can prevent a sizable property tax increase.


Of the following often proposed sources of new revenue for Chicago, which of the following do you favor, and why? A Chicago casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana, a LaSalle Street tax, a commuter tax, a property tax increase, a municipal sales tax increase, a real estate transfer tax increase, video gambling.

James Cappleman: I would strongly support new revenue from a Chicago casino because people in Chicago are already traveling to Indiana to visit casinos there. Our city and taxpayers might as well benefit.

I also favor the legalization of the sale of marijuana and would want to heavily tax it.

I remain cautiously open to a LaSalle Street tax. Dean Baker from the Center on Economic and Policy Research stands opposed to such a tax, so I believe there’s still much more to review before we pursue that option.

I support an increase in the real-estate transfer tax, especially for single family homes worth $1M or more. My guiding principle is that those with more should pay more, especially with the growing amount of income inequality in our country.

What other sources of revenue do you favor or oppose?
I strongly support my state legislators’ efforts to change the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated state income tax, which would assist with funding the Chicago Public Schools’ pension and provide additional dollars for more affordable housing.


Tax-Incremental Financing districts are a primary economic development tool for Chicago. In a TIF district, taxes from the growth of property values are set aside for 23 years to be used to support public projects and private development. What changes do you favor, if any, in Chicago’s TIF program?

James Cappleman: TIFs work well in areas of the city where there is potential for the community to become revitalized. I joined some of my colleagues to support the measure O2016-8118, otherwise known as the “Back to the Basics TIF Ordinance.” It would focus on spending tax dollars more responsibly and where they are most needed.

I favor strengthening our Neighborhood Opportunity Zone program that is specifically focused on strengthening economic opportunities in areas of the city with high poverty.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

James Cappleman: I have twice stated publicly that I do not believe in aldermanic prerogative.

I support the Metropolitan Planning Council’s recommendation, in the agency’s Cost of Segregation report, that when residential developments are proposed with at least 10 percent affordable units in wards with less than 10 percent affordable housing, the proposal cannot be rejected or delayed by the Alderman alone.

With the city’s new Housing Committee, I will work to create a process modeled on suggestions such as those from the Metropolitan Planning Council to make it more difficult for aldermen to refuse affordable housing projects in their wards.

Police reform

The City of Chicago has entered into a federally monitored consent decree to overhaul the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department. Civil libertarians say it is long overdue, but others say it is unnecessary and could make it tougher for the police to do their job. What’s your view?

James Cappleman: I fully support having the City of Chicago enter into a federally monitored consent decree to overhaul the training and practices of the CPD. Trust in the police is paramount for a civilized society, and currently many residents rightfully do not trust the police. I am a sponsor and strong supporter of the ordinance created by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability to strengthen oversight of the Chicago Police Department.


What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?

James Cappleman: CPD should continue its purchase of weapons from people who want to relinquish them. In addition, CPD should work with the State of Illinois to get states such as Indiana to strengthen gun laws. This issue will require cooperation and collaboration between states in order to resolve it.


What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the CPS system?

James Cappleman: I continue to oppose charter schools. In 2015, I worked with the Chicago Teachers Union to block a Noble charter school from moving into the 46th Ward. When scarce resources are given to charter schools, neighborhood schools lose. We need to work with principals, teachers and parents to strengthen our neighborhood schools instead of closing them to support new schools that do not serve the most vulnerable children in our community.

Should the Chicago Board of Education be solely appointed by the mayor, as is now the case? Or should Chicago switch to an elected school board or some hybrid?

James Cappleman: I strongly support efforts at the state level to pass a law mandating Chicago to switch to an entirely elected school board.

Affordable housing

Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.

James Cappleman: I am incredibly proud that the Uptown community area ranks #1 for the most HUD housing units in the city compared with all other community areas. The Uptown community area has 2,750 HUD units, which is seven times more than the average amount found in the other 76 community areas. The 46th Ward also ranks first for the most Low Income Housing Trust Fund (LIHTF) units that house people with an annual income of less than $16,000, surpassing the total number of LIHTF units found in 28 other wards. The ward also has numerous other affordable units through Chicago Housing Authority, Voice of the People, Heartland Alliance, and Mercy Housing. We have 50 units of housing for people diagnosed with a mental illness who are also alcohol/drug dependent. We still need more affordable housing and I’m hoping to add 100 units in 2019. I seek more, but I also tell my colleagues on the Northside that they need to step up and add more affordable housing units as well. Our housing crisis is a city-wide issue that requires a city-wide response.


Chicago, by ordinance, is an official “welcoming city.” This means the Chicago police are generally prohibited from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities. What’s your position on this policy? What more — or less — should be done with respect to undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago.

James Cappleman: My first job in social services focused on settling refugees from Cambodia and Ethiopia in the Uptown community, which was one of the reasons I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the ordinance to make Chicago a welcoming city. We need more funding to assist immigrants with becoming citizens.


Should the Inspector General have the power to audit and review City Council programs and committees? Why or why not?

James Cappleman: Absolutely yes. The job of the IG is to identify and address unethical behavior and to identify areas where our government can operate in a more efficient manner.

Would you employ or have you employed, staff in your office who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city? If so, please explain.

James Cappleman: The answer is no. It gives the perception of unethical conduct.

Role model

Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.

James Cappleman: I have always admired former Ald. Will Burns and try to model myself after him. He was always “big picture” focused; he negotiated well to get to win-win solutions; and he chose his battles wisely. My colleagues from all different political perspectives admired and respected him, even when there was disagreement.