UPTOWN — In a recently distributed campaign mailer, challenger Amy Crawford's camp accuses Ald. James Cappleman (46th) of making pigeons his top priority when other issues, like violent crime, should take precedence in the 46th ward.
"I think the fact that he is known in the media as having a focus on pigeons is just an example that he is lacking the big picture vision needed to deal with the far more serious issues our ward," Crawford told DNAinfo Chicago.
The mailer shows Cappleman looking off into the distance. Next to him is a picture of a pigeon.
The 46th ward alderman's stance on pigeons made citywide headlines in 2012 and 2013.
He blamed the urban birds and their droppings for less retail, less tax revenue and fewer jobs in Uptown.
He has said crowds of pigeons lead to fewer "eyes on the street," and called the intersection near the L the "epicenter" of area crime. He also proposed an ordinance that would stiffen fines for feeding pigeons to $1,000 and would include jail sentences of up to 30 days.
The pigeon issue came to a head when a 59-year-old woman allegedly shoved Cappleman after he tried to brush bird feed off the sidewalk near his office.
Crawford said Cappleman has made the pesky birds a focus, which illustrates an absence of judgment.
Her mailer reads: "While shootings and homicides in the 46th ward are on the rise, James Cappleman made pigeons his top priority. The Sun-Times labeled Cappleman "The Pigeon Guy" and noted 'He's planted his flag on planet strange.' Meanwhile, police patrols in the 46th ward are on decline. Enough is enough. We deserve a leader who will put our safety first."
In response to the mailer, Cappleman said via email: "If Ms. Crawford wants to focus on pigeons, she is more than welcome to."
He added: "My focus is on reducing crime and increasing economic development. Since I took office, crime has gone down by over 25 percent throughout the ward (an almost 40 percent reduction in violent crime in Uptown and over 80 percent in specific hot spots) by working with residents, businesses, the police and the Cook County State's Attorney's community justice center. Additionally the 46th ward has had an average of one new business per month since I was elected."
Cappleman is running against Crawford, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis law firm, and Denice Davis, who served as former Uptown Ald. Helen Schiller's longtime chief of staff. The election is Feb. 24.
Both Davis and Crawford will participate in a debate Sunday from 2:30-4 p.m. at Alternatives Inc., 4730 N. Sheridan Rd. Cappleman has not confirmed his attendance.
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