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Alderman, 46th Ward: James Cappleman

James Cappleman

James Cappleman

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Updated: January 20, 2011 4:28PM

Birth date: 10-26-1952

Political affiliation: Democrat

Neighborhood: Uptown

Occupation/Firm name: Clinical Social Worker/Access Community Health Network

Marital status: engaged to my same-sex partner

Campaign HQ address: 4133 N. Broadway Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613

Campaign website:

What is your campaign budget?


What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?

The City's Budget Crisis, which affects Economic Development

1. Will join other colleagues to pass an ordinance that calls for more restrictions and accountability for the selling or leasing of the City's assets.

2. Will seek a forensic audit of the City's budget to look for areas of duplication & waste.

3. Will seek an actuarial analysis of the current City pensions in order to obtain a better grasp of the magnitude of the crisis, and then proceed with a plan to become more fiscally responsible from this time forward.

4. Will seek a comparison with other cities to obtain their per capita rate of taxation and make this information public. This could serve as a baseline to help motivate City Council to keep the use of our tax dollars in check.

5. Will seek the establishment of an independent city budget office to give further guidance to members of City Council. This would also help to restore some semblance of public trust again.

Reform & Transparency in City Council

1. Will seek to expand the role of City Inspector General to investigate members of City Council and their staff for fraud, waste, and corruption.

2. Will push for limits on campaign contributions from any individual or business doing business with the City.

3. To discourage rubberstamping of City Council's passage of TIF districts, will push for the posting of the following before a vote occurs: a) a listing of subsidies going to large corporations that are directly benefiting from the TIF; b) the amount of campaign contributions from the past 24 months going to the perspective alderman from any entity directly benefiting from the TIF; and c) a listing of the rate of poverty within the proposed TIF district to encourage their placement in areas of high poverty.

4. Will seek the establishment of a mechanism to report those times when the Open Meetings Act is not followed in the wards and City Council. This information should be made available to the public on the web.


1. Will place a greater emphasis on supporting neighborhood schools in order to encourage more direct parent involvement.

2. Will seek to develop and sustain more teacher mentoring programs to assist them with utilizing evidence-based, best practices in the teaching of children

3. Will promote after-school programs to help cut down on gang enrollment, bullying, and violence, and provide training for students with early signs of anger-management issues to participate in programs that will lead them down a path for a brighter future.


1. Will require any proposal for new affordable housing to follow the use of evidence-based, best practices with a) its location, b) its design, c), its building materials, d) the appropriate mix of residents to promote economic diversity for its location, e) its plan for management, and e), its plan for maintenance. A mechanism should be in place that promotes transparency and accountability for these measures so that when not followed, it can risk the developer's chances of receiving future funding for more development projects.

2. Will seek to provide tax incentives to build more affordable housing in areas with low rates of poverty, per HUD's guidelines.

3. Will propose tax incentives to build more 100% market-rate housing in areas with high rates of poverty to promote more economic diversity

Public Safety

1. Will help restore adequate levels of police protection across the City.

2. Will have the number of 911 calls made within each police beat available to the public, with classifications related to the type of incident in order to help the public prioritize their efforts at their local CAPS beat meeting.

3. Will coordinate a more evidence-based, best practice response to reports of domestic violence

What are your top priorities for your ward?

Economic Development.

Will create a ward master plan and overlay it with a retail market survey. Chambers and realtors would use this information to attract businesses into the ward. Will focus on use of ward menu funds to help with streetscaping in the retail corridors of the ward to promote a stronger business environment. Will seek state, TIF, and menu funds to improve the Wilson L Station and make it ADA compliant.

Public Safety.

Will track buildings with high rates of 911 calls and address their underlying issues with the building owner, CAPS, and police commander. Will work with businesses to assist them with responding to public drinking, drug sales, and aggressive panhandling in the area. Will work with principals of schools to make better use of the Police Explorer Program, a program focused on improving the relationship of students with the police. Will work with schools to encourage more communication with parents about crime in and around school property for purposes of involving parents more in the safety of their children.

Community Involvement in Decisions.

Will involve residents in providing more input into decisions that affect them.

1. Zoning & Development Committee made up of representatives from various neighborhood organizations will make decisions on zoning, development, and menu funds. The meetings will have a prepared agenda and minutes afterwards will provide recorded votes of committee members.

2. Monthly public forums will allow interested residents to provide feedback about upcoming controversial votes before City Council and concerns they have about the 46th Ward and Chicago.

The city is in serious financial trouble and can't afford the level of service it currently provides. For 2011, Mayor Daley, with City Council backing, balanced the budget without raising taxes or fees, relying instead on some cost-saving measures and one-time fixes, including using proceeds from leasing the city's parking meters. Do you support this approach? What should be done differently going forward?

Please be specific about your plans to reshape government: what services and departments would you scale back or cut? Can you identify new revenue sources? How can the City reduce personnel costs? What kind of concessions should the City seek from the unions?

The current approach to address the City's financial crisis simply kicked the can down the road and placed the responsibility on another generation to deal with the problem. Addressing the City's financial crisis was listed as one of my top priorities within the first question on this survey.

1. We need a forensic audit to see where there is duplication and waste within City government.

2. We need to provide better support for the City Inspector General's office to investigate waste.

3. A comparative analysis with other similar cities of the per capita amount spent for city services will help give direction about our own taxing rate.

4. An independent city budget office will help City Council obtain a more thoughtful critique of its revenue and expenditures.

The above 4 items will help gain the public's trust that's required as we explore options for budget cuts and revenue increases. As it stands now, our budget has tripled in the last 15 years and the public likely has a hard time believing that it's all related to adjustments in the cost of living.

The city's four employee pension funds have been called a "ticking time bomb," with Mayor Daley's pension commission predicting that the four funds will run out of money in 20 years. "There is no low- or no-cost solution to this problem," the commission wrote in a report earlier this year. "Deferring action is not a viable option." What is your plan for bringing the pension funds to solvency?

As stated earlier in the first question, addressing this extreme crisis is a priority. First, we need an actuarial analysis of the pensions made public to gain a truer sense of the current state of the pension funds in order to start earning the public's trust about the hard decisions that have to be made. We may need to consider raising the retirement age and reviewing an ethical way of having employees contribute more to their pensions in a way that's responsible for all concerned.

Does Chicago need 50 aldermen? If not, what's a better number? What City Council committees could be combined? What other ways can the City Council save money?

Many ward constituents bypass 311 and instead, call their local alderman for needed repairs within the ward. The major complaint of 311 is a lack of communication and response to their issues. Now, many aldermen encourage their constituents to call their offices after they have also called 311.

I certainly believe in responding quickly and efficiently to such requests, but I want to go one step further and fix 311 so that it's more responsive. There's software already being utilized in other major cities known as SeeClickFix that allows anyone to send in a request and photo online or by a smart phone. Phone calls can still be made. An email then goes out to the appropriate city department, the local alderman and anyone else who requests knowledge of 311 calls made on that street, neighborhood, or ward. When the appropriate city department completes the request, an email or text is sent to all the interested parties. No tracking number would be needed anymore. This new process allows for more transparency, efficiency, accountability, and easier tracking for completion of work. I want to go one step further and allow the caller to then rate the level of service they received and track that information to hold city departments more accountable to residents.

Once 311 become more responsive and accountable to the public, voters will become more receptive to reducing the number of aldermen by half. The problem, though, is that City Council has no incentive to make the 311 system work better because they want to make themselves indispensable to the residents who give them campaign contributions. Should there be resistance by City Council to adopt SeeClickFix, the cost of implementing this program city-wide is $25,000 and I would be willing to use menu funds in order to test it out in the 46th Ward.

With SeeClickFix in place, we could also move to a grid system for picking up garbage. Picking up garbage on a grid system would address the gerrymandering of ward boundaries that occur with each ward superintendent assigned to an alderman. This proposed process allows for more efficiency and accountability to the public because complaints can be publicly tracked with SeeClickFix.

Chicago was designed as a weak mayor, strong council form of government yet Mayor Daley wields considerable power over the City Council. What measures would you recommend to strengthen the council? On which issues should the mayor lead? On which should the council lead?

I would propose a number of solutions:

1. Remove the Mayor's powers to appoint an alderman when there is a vacancy. This would stop much of the backroom deals that go on presently.

2. Remove the Mayor's powers to appoint all 15 members of the CDC. They routinely vote unanimously for TIF proposals that are presented to them.

3. Remove the Mayor's powers to appoint the head of CPS.

4. Explore the use of term limits for the Mayor and City Council as well.

5. Members of City Council also wield too much power with making zoning changes within their perspective ward. Before a zoning change goes before City Council for a vote, the amount of campaign contributions to the perspective alderman going back 24 months should be noted.

The city's tax-increment financing program has been criticized on several fronts, including the proliferation of districts, how money is diverted from schools and other basic city services, how TIF funding decisions are made and for an overall lack of transparency. How would you improve the TIF program? Does the TIF law need to be changed in any way?

1. I would first work with the Illinois General Assembly to advocate for TIF reform. It's clear the City is unable to police itself.

2. Reform happens on a city level when transparency becomes more evident. Before a vote ever goes before City Council for a TIF, the following information needs to be made public and to City Council as well before the vote occurs: a) the amount of subsidies to large corporations that are directly benefiting from the TIF. b) the amount of campaign contributions from the past 24 months to the alderman of that ward from any entity that directly benefits from the establishment of this TIF district, and c) the rate of poverty within the census tract where the TIF is being proposed in order to encourage more TIFs in areas with higher rates of poverty.

Mayor Daley has focused on privatizing city assets. Are there any other assets the City Council should consider privatizing? If so, would you make any changes to the way privatization deals are negotiated and passed through the City Council?

I strongly support the passage of Ald. Waguespack's ordinance, which states:

1. 30 days before the council even agrees to go out to bid on consulting work (for the any asset worth $1 million, or more) the council would have to hold a public hearing

2. Assets worth more than $100 million, or with a lease that exceeds 10 years, would be subject to another hearing, up to two months before a council vote;

3. Then, the proposed lease, the documents demonstrating how the city settled on a price tag, and a full accounting of all anticipated proceeds would have to be posted online 30 days before council vote.

The Chicago Police Department is understaffed, with no lasting budget solution in sight. Given the current staffing levels, what changes would you recommend to use resources more efficiently? Do you support realigning beats in a way that moves police from lower crime areas to higher crime neighborhoods? What should happen to the diminished CAPS program?

We need to look at evidence-based, best practices about what constitutes adequate staffing levels for police. It's my understanding that we are currently grossly understaffed and it's not acceptable to place any area in danger with not having adequate staffing levels.

Therefore, I would not support moving police from lower crime areas to higher crime areas. I would support having adequate police levels and allowing the Commander to determine how to best use these adequate levels in his/her district.

CAPS is being diminished because of the financial crisis our City is facing. However, there would be a greater incentive to restore funding for CAPS if steps were taken to make them more effective:

1. Each beat should use CAPS' 5-point plan for addressing crime. a) Identify a chronic problem area; b) Provide details about the problem area; c) Create an action plan to reduce crime; d) Implement the plan; and finally, e) Assess how well the plan is working and revise as indicated. The plan should go beyond calling 911.

2. Publish each beat's 5-point plan to serve as an incentive to restore everyone's belief that CAPS is indeed effective.

The next mayor will choose a new CEO for the Chicago Public Schools. Do you think the CEO needs to have education experience? Should the new mayor continue the Renaissance 2010 program of shutting down failing schools and creating new ones? Should the new mayor continue Ron Huberman's "culture of calm" effort, which aims to improve the culture of the toughest schools and provides mentors and extra support for kids at greatest risk of being shot? What should CPS do to improve neighborhood schools that are struggling to educate the large numbers of students left behind, the students that don't make it into test-based, charters or other specialized schools?

No, I don't believe our next mayor should be choosing our new CEO for CPS. It ends up making CPS another department where staff can be interchanged and there's less incentive to rely on CPS leadership with an educational background.

I want to see a greater emphasis on true neighborhood schools because I believe that's the way to really get the involvement of parents. It also stops some of the gangs from going into other neighborhood gang territory.

Students having difficulty with handling their anger are at greater risk for joining gangs. I'd like to see more programs that help students resolve their differences in a responsible manner and more programs that connect students with adult business leaders as mentors.

Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where would you like to see casinos located?

I do not support casinos for Chicago. City revenue needs to come in an equitable manner, and casinos can often attract people already experiencing severe financial difficulties. UIC professor in economics, Earl Grinals, who wrote Gambling in America, believes that when we evaluate the direct impact of gambling on public costs related to crime, bankruptcy, suicide, social services, and regulatory oversight, we spend $3.90 for every $1 earned.

However, I would be open to having a referendum to hear from the voters. In my ward, before any controversial vote occurs in City Council, I will run the issue first at a community-wide public forum in order to give me some guidance about how I should vote.

Aldermen have considerable influence over TIF, zoning and other decisions, both large and small, related to development and services in their ward. Do aldermen have too much influence?

Absolutely YES, and this leads to political corruption. This problem is exacerbated when the City Inspector General Department has its hands tied because this department is not allowed to investigate members of City Council and their staff for waste, fraud, and corruption.

It's for that reason, I will have a 46th Ward Zoning & Development Committee made up of representatives from various community organizations and block clubs. This committee will make decisions about zoning changes, development proposals, use of menu funds, and approval of TIFs. Votes will be recorded so that members from these organizations can hold their representative accountable for the way he or she votes. I will not accept funds from any current or proposed TIF developer.

If elected alderman, do you plan to maintain an outside job? Would you pledge not to hold any job that represents a conflict of interest, including those that involve spending public dollars?

No, I will not hold down an outside job, so there will be no conflict of interest.

Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from your employees? Would you pledge not to hire relatives on your staff?

I will not accept campaign contributions or gifts from my employees. It's unethical. I will not use any city funds to pay for the salaries of relatives, again because it's unethical and a conflict of interest.

Does the City need to change the way it hands out contracts? Should aldermen reclaim oversight of City contracts? If so, contracts above what dollar amount?

I agree that aldermen should reclaim oversight of City contracts. I would suggest contracts for $1 million or more, but remain very open to reducing that amount. The goal is to find an amount that's doable to oversee while also ensuring that there is an appropriate oversight to address the need to be more fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Chicago.

Do you support an inspector general just for the City Council? Would you support giving the city's existing inspector general power to investigate aldermen and their staffs, including subpoena power?

I want one inspector general for the entire city, including for City Council. I fully support giving the city's existing inspector general the power to investigate aldermen and their staff, including subpoena power. Over a year ago, I started a Face Book page (Accountability for Chicago City Council) that seeks just that.

Should there be new limits on who can lobby City Hall officials, including aldermen? Should former City Hall employees be prohibited from doing business with the city after their departure? If so, for how long?

No past former employer going back 5 years, no family owned business, no firm directly benefiting from a current TIF or a proposed TIF, and no campaign contributor to an alderman for over $2,500 should be allowed to lobby City Hall officials, including alderman. City Hall employees should be prohibited from doing business with the city after their departure for 10 years.

What's the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?

Devil in the White City because it helps us understand the culture of corruption that has been tolerated for so long in Chicago. The blame for corruption is tied to our expectations for special favors that have been fostered for many generations, which has unfortunately raised our tolerance for unethical practices. Sadly, one sometimes has to be from outside the state to see it more clearly.

Please list your educational background

B.S. in Education from the University of Houston in 1975

M.S.W. from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1991

Have had 3 years of post baccalaureate education in ethics and theology from Mercy College in Detroit, St. Bonaventure University in Bonaventure, NY, and Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong

1. Past board president of Dignity Chicago, a not-for-profit Catholic LGBT organization (2 terms)

2. Past board president of Uptown Chicago Commission, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to improve the quality of life for all Uptown residents (2 terms)

3. Current board member of Annie's Legacy, a not-for-profit organization focused on improving the lives of women with a history of victimization and abuse.

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?


Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government

My brother Bill Cappleman is a retired auditor with the I.R.S.

My twin brother John Cappleman is a retired teacher with the Texas State Correctional System.

Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed

Frances Thale: $5,000

Ed Scholtz: $2,000

Michele DelSignore: $1,000

Catherine Denny: $1,000

Mark Zipperer: $1,000

Please paste a brief biography here

James Cappleman is a life-long Democrat who has lived in Chicago since 1986 and has been a resident of the Ward since 1999. His partner of 19 years, Richard Thale, is also a community activist.

For over a decade, James has served on the board of directors for the Uptown Chicago Commission (UCC), a not-for-profit neighborhood organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for all Uptown residents. He just finished serving his second term as the board president. James has helped form block clubs, organized service projects, and created open access to necessary information for residents throughout the 46th Ward.

While working to address unmonitored sex-offenders in the 46th Ward as president of UCC, James identified a weakness in the enforcement of the law that limits sex-offenders from living near a school, play lot, or daycare facility in Illinois. His work with the staff from Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office on this issue led to stronger enforcement of the law and an increase in safety for children in the 46th Ward and in the state overall.

James has worked with State Sen. Heather Steans, State Rep. Greg Harris and surrounding aldermen on many task forces to address issues related to public safety. He served on the Buena Park Neighbors taskforce to address the public drinking problem on the 4000 block of North Broadway. He is an active board member of Annie's Legacy, a Southside not-for-profit organization that seeks to empower women who have experienced abuse and poverty.

Currently working as a licensed social worker, James is involved in quality improvement research at ACCESS Community Health Network and has published a book entitled Asking the Right Questions to Get the Health Care You Need for individuals living with chronic illness.

In the August 18th edition of Chicago Journal, Dick Simpson noted that James was the leading candidate in this race. James has a broad base of community support, as evident by the fact that more ward residents contributed to his campaign from January 1 to June 30 of this year than all the other candidates combined. Northside Democracy for America endorsed James because of his stance on reform, fiscal responsibility, and community involvement with decisions that directly affect them.

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