LAKEVIEW — Let's go, Lakeview.
That's the message Ald. Tom Tunney wants to deliver as he looks forward to his fourth term representing the 44th ward after easily winning re-election last month.
"I think at the end of the day, people appreciate my commitment to the city," Tunney told DNAinfo Chicago. "And they might disagree with me on a particular issue, but they get that I really care, and I want to see every block impacted by my stewardship as their alderman."
While the city's first openly gay alderman faced his first opposition since 2003 in the election, candidates Mark Thomas and Scott Davis failed to gain enough traction to defeat him. The alderman received 67 percent of the 9,135 votes cast — well above the majority he needed to avoid a runoff election.
Tunney said he looked forward to working with re-elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the April 7 election.
"I don't always agree with the mayor — and I would never consider myself a rubber stamp of any particular mayor — but I think he's tried to do the right thing and tried to bring our financial house in order," said Tunney, who has voted with the mayor on the vast majority of legislation that has come before the council since 2011.
While Tunney applauded Rahm's ability to attract development on a national level, he said the runoff election should serve as a wake-up call for the mayor.
"I hope the mayor hears the message that seems to be out there that he probably needs to spend a little more time in Chicago, in the neighborhoods," Tunney said.
With his sights set on the next four years, Tunney said he's excited to see several key projects come to fruition after the recession and funding issues stymied development for years.
"We've done a lot of work on paper, and some of these things were approved, but not built. It's a little frustrating; the government has not been in the way, so let's go," said Tunney, who is also the City Council's chairman of economic development.
For Wrigleyville, "it's really been kind of a balancing act of actually trying to make the area around Wrigley Field more of a 365-days-a-year activity center and not all based on if the Cubs win or lose — more than alcohol and alcohol-consuming fans around the ballpark," Tunny said.
Other projects include a new Mariano's grocery and a health club at 3030 N. Broadway St., Whole Foods' move across Ashland Avenue and development on the Southport Corridor and at the Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland intersection in South Lakeview.
"There's a lot of interest in Southport. Southport years ago was pretty sleepy. The first [development] was Anthropologie, and then came a whole litany," said Tunney, a graduate of Brother Rice High School on the far Southwest Side.
The alderman rejected complaints that the area was losing some of its local flavor.
"To hear the complaint there's too many corporate chains — most neighborhoods would really love to have the opportunities Lakeview has. To be criticized that Southport is losing its uniqueness, I think is wrong," Tunney said.
On a more personal note, Tunney said he is continuously impressed with the "unbelievable" advancements in the LGBTQ community and he said he will never stray from his work to better their citywide services.
"I certainly want our community to be the welcoming community it is, but sometimes there's a conflict between the visitors and all the neighbors" of the Center on Halsted, which provides services for the LGBTQ community, he said. "Whether it's our ideas about improving the curriculum or [preventing] bullying, there's always room for improvement and greater acceptance."
One issue Tunney will have to weigh in on sooner than later is whether the Boystown-based Pride Parade — known for its booze-fueled revelry — should be moved Downtown.
"I don't think the parade is going to get any smaller, and I don't think the police force is going to get any larger. The question is, has it outgrown the neighborhood?" Tunney said.
The alderman said he and other city officials will meet with the event organizers in the coming weeks to decide where the fest — set for the last weekend in June — will take place in 2015.
While Tunney would love to see more police officers in the 19th district — which covers Lakeview and portions of Uptown, Lincoln Square, North Center and Lincoln Park — he said it's not always viable. Instead, he plans to focus on making sure the district is staffed at critical times, specifically nights and weekends.
"What I've always believed is there are enough police officers, they're just not always there at the time of day you think you need them. But that's a management issue, and I don't walk in their shoes," Tunney said.
As for education, Tunney says Lakeview's elementary schools — particularly Blaine, Agassiz and Hawthorne — have come a long way.
"It's really a fact of the Local School Councils and families' investments in saying, 'We are going to make our public schools work,' and that's really remarkable," Tunney said. "When I started 12 years ago, outside of Hawthorne, there was not a local option. Now our challenge is really the high schools."
As the 44th ward moves forward, Tunney said he always appreciates input from its residents, although, "just being negative isn't helping without what you would do or how you would address it."
And he has some advice of his own to give.
"Get more involved — and not just on the computer — whether it be churches, schools, pantries, public libraries," he said. "And I'm open to all sorts of constructive criticism. I need your help and your input. I'm still a sponge."
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