CITY HALL — Five aldermen declared themselves the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus after Wednesday's City Council meeting, then immediately had to address how the Pride Parade was at a "tipping point" after suffering "growing pains."
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the city's first openly gay alderman and the newly elected chairman of the LGBT Caucus, recalled the days when his council colleagues would say, "It's a gay issue, go talk to Tunney."
He's been joined over the years by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), and after this year's election they've added Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) — enough, they feel, to make it worthwhile to join forces.
"It's been an amazing journey for our city and our community over the last 12 years," Tunney added at a news conference after Wednesday's council meeting. "I'm proud to stand here with my colleagues in a city and state that treats us as full and equal citizens."
They said they'd work together to lobby for common concerns such as budget issues involving health care and homelessness, which they said disproportionately affect the LGBT community, as well as equality and fairness in education.
"LGBT issues touch all communities, whether it's bullying, access to health care, AIDS, homeless youth or transgender issues," Lopez said. "It's crucial that we have a forum to discuss these important issues and a mechanism to speak with a unified voice."
Yet they found themselves immediately addressing this weekend's Pride Fest and next weekend's Pride Parade, with Tunney acknowledging the parade is at a "tipping point."
"The parade is for every Chicagoan and seems to be a suburban and Midwest attraction," Tunney said. "We want to keep it safe."
Cappleman said the parade had grown "tenfold" since he began marching in it 28 years ago, and Tunney estimated that as alderman he'd seen attendance rise from 250,000 to 1 million.
"With that, there are growing pains," Cappleman said.
"Logistically, we can handle the parade," Tunney said. "It's really, I think, the 36 hours of the weekend" that threatens to overwhelm city services including the Police Department and the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
Some have suggested the parade could move Downtown, while others have drawn parallels with the South Side Irish Parade, which went on hiatus for a few years only to return in a much more constrained mode after excesses — especially public drinking — became severe.
"We don't want to have to hit the reset button," Lopez said.
"The biggest concern," Tunney admitted, "is the amount of alcohol not only being bought, but brought" into the Lakeview and Uptown communities for the parade and its ongoing afterglow.
"Bringing in large amounts of alcohol is only going to get everybody in trouble," he added. "In some of my residents' minds, people think this event is out of control. And it needs to get back into some sort of control mechanism."
Tunney insisted, "I want to keep it in our neighborhood, in our neighborhoods," but he urged parade participants and observers to "act responsibly."
"Police resources are stretched," Tunney said. "They're working 12-, 14-hour days. So that's not good for the police, and it's not good for the community. What we're trying to do is tighten it up and get our community back in some kind of order sooner rather than later."
While sympathetic to the need for a little restraint, Mell said she'd welcome the parade — and its spending income — to the 33rd Ward. "It's exciting," she said. "We see other countries just having their first parade, and we're discussing [how] there's too many people coming to ours."
"I think the most important thing about pride is respect," Tunney said, "and respect goes not only for how we treat each other, but how we treat communities."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: