ROGERS PARK — Socialist John Beacham, of Rogers Park, ripped incumbent Ald. Joe Moore, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the "Democratic Party machine" that he says he'd work to dismantle if elected in the 2015 aldermanic elections.
Beacham, 46, joins Don Gordon, who lost to Moore in a 2007 runoff, as the only candidates so far to challenge the 23-year City Council veteran next year.
"What the people of Rogers Park need, what the people of Chicago need, what the people of Illinois need — We need a program for action that can effectively fix some of the problems that working people and poor people are having," Beacham said in an interview Friday.
The Los Angeles native, who has spent the past eight years living in Rogers Park, said he has tirelessly organized protests and grassroots campaigns to fight against war and social injustice.
He said he's worked to stop CTA fare hikes, to support the Chicago teachers' strike and more recently to join in solidarity with teachers who have refused to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, slated to begin this week at the city's public schools.
Beacham, an adjunct instructor at Harper College in suburban Palatine, also advocates for a $15 minimum wage.
Although City Council elections are nonpartisan, Beacham aligns with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Beacham criticized Moore for supporting Emanuel's "dictatorship" over the City Council, which he said has led to the privatization of city parking meters (actually orchestrated by former Mayor Richard M. Daley) and a recent $1.9 billion borrowing package, among other bad legislation.
"If the mayor wants something to happen, it normally happens," he said. "The mayor dictates what the City Council votes on. The City Council doesn't necessarily need to see legislation that the mayor puts forward."
Moore declined to comment on his opponent's claims, saying via email, "I'll take a pass, but I wish Mr. Beacham well."
Beacham said if elected he'll work to establish a movement that would put the city back into the hands of its people.
"If I win the office, which I intend to try very hard to do ... it'll be like the people winning a spot on the City Council," he said.
He said he would eventually like to see the city's Board of Education cleansed of corporate executives and instead made up of parents, teachers and students. He said he's also a proponent of putting the city's budget to a citywide vote while putting an end to corporate tax subsidies.
On a local level, Beacham said he'd promote affordable housing and access to services.
"I like Rogers Park because it's diverse, it's affordable," he said. "As an activist, I want to live in a diverse neighborhood. I want to live in a neighborhood that's reflective of reality of people in Chicago."
He said Col. Jennifer Pritzker's acquisition of neighborhood property threatens to uproot the poor and working-class residents of Rogers Park.
Like Gordon, Beacham criticized Moore for his support of Pritzker's plan to build a 250-car parking structure on Sheridan Road.
"I'm not for the Pritzkers owning Rogers Park, I'm for Rogers Park being developed for all," he said. "The Pritzkers want a parking garage because they want to own and gentrify Morse Avenue. That's what they want to do. I'm for Morse Avenue belonging to the people."
But Beacham said his political stance differs from Gordon's.
"He's definitely on the pro-business side," Beacham said.
Gordon said he agreed with Beacham's assessment, "if by 'pro-business' he means bringing in more businesses to the community to fill the empty storefronts and in the process create jobs."
This would not the first time Beacham has run for office.
In 2008, he ran against now-Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) for the 14th District state representative seat.
Beacham lost decidedly with 4,745 votes to Osterman's 27,971, according to state election results.
Becoming the first Socialist to win a City Council seat in Chicago might be a tough feat to accomplish, but Beacham said there's a growing movement across the country to support candidates like himself.
Socialist Kshama Sawant was elected to the city council in Seattle last year. One of the first things she did was move to only accept $40,000 after taxes of the $117,000 salary she was entitled to, leaving the remaining money in a fund to support her causes.
Beacham said he'd do the same, taking a shot at the annual salaries of Chicago aldermen.
"They live a different life," he said. "If you're an alderman, if you're a public servant, you should be making no more than what it takes to live in Chicago."
Beacham, who lives on East Lake Terrace with his wife, Stefani, and their 1-year-old son, said he would be a different kind of politician than what Chicago's used to.
In fact, he denied the label entirely.
"I'm not a politician," he said. "That's real."