She Votes Illinois — 44th Ward, Chicago

Elizabeth Shydlowski

Candidate for Alderman

It was a great privilege to have worked for the first female senator from Texas, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. (May 1993, Lubbock, Texas)

44th Ward

My name is Elizabeth Shydlowski. I’m a mom of three children, and I’ve lived and worked in Chicago for 23 years.

In the four years that we’ve lived in Lakeview, our property taxes nearly tripled and crime has escalated.

I’m concerned that families like mine will no longer continue to be able to afford to live here. When I learned that our current Alderman took a neutral position in the Tax Assessor’s race; instead of endorsing reformer Fritz Kaegi over machine politician, Joe Berrios, I began to realize that he wasn’t fighting for us, rather he was playing partisan politics. And, when I found out that he voted to lease off the city’s parking meters; one of Chicago’s greatest assets — that was the last straw.

I always tell my kids that instead of complaining about a problem, they should stand up and do something about it; so I decided to run against a 16-year Chicago incumbent. Corruption and machine politics in Chicago have been a longstanding joke. But, it’s not funny.

I have spent my entire career working to improve communities through my work in non-profits, policy and public administration for both parties. Now, I’ll use that experience to give the 44th Ward a fresh start as its first-female, full-time alderman. Public service was never intended to be a money-maker for politicians; that’s where corruption breeds. I’ve pledged to be a full-time Alderman, without any outside employment.

2. Tell us about the women in your life

MY MOM

My passion to serve started long ago. My father died when I was 12, and I watched as my mom (Josie) struggled to obtain survivors’ benefits from the VA and Social Security offices.

I remember one meeting in particular, when my mom was fumbling through a ton of paperwork in front of her. And, across the desk — a condescending and rude woman; I had never seen my mom look so defeated. I was raised in a patriotic home, and I recall thinking, “Doesn’t this woman work for us?” As I grew older, I realized this wasn’t naive thinking, government DOES work for us. So, I’ve spent my entire career working to improve government.

It was hard on my mom, figuring out how to be a single mother — with no life insurance — but she did it. I owe my tenacity and perseverance to her.

JOYCE

When my father was dying and in hospice care, a woman named Joyce was a frequent volunteer in our home. I didn’t realize the depth of care she was providing for our family. All I knew was that she would take me out of the house from time to time, which was a nice respite from the chaos in my home.

The adults in my life were very sad back then, and Joyce was the only one asking me about me. She asked about my dreams, my interests and in general asked how my day was. Things no one had ever asked.

My mother died about 7 years ago. As I was packing up my childhood room, I found a stack of postcards from Joyce — all written years after my dad had passed. Her postcards were from her travels all over the world. She was a philanthropist and a local school board member. I had never met anyone like her before. She clearly had an impact on me, and I knew I needed to find her and thank her.

So, in the fall of 2017, that’s what I did. We spent four wonderful hours together. She said it was one of the most beautiful moments of her life, and I know it was one of the most beautiful in mine. I told her of my aspirations to someday run for public office.

KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON

The female political rockstar in my life is Kay Bailey Hutchison, the first female U.S. senator from Texas. I worked on her first campaign in 1993. It was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Lloyd Bentsen, and she was the only woman in a field of more than 20 men. I watched her fight a very contentious election and was in awe of her tenacity, style and resolve.

Working on her campaign, and then on her legislative staff, was one of the greatest privileges of my life. She was graceful and powerful all at once. She had the highest expectations of her staff, and I’m all the better for it. When you worked for Kay, you were constantly reminded that constituent services were king — I loved that about her.

3. Tell us about your Ward

In the 44th Ward, we are every color under the rainbow. We are millennials, retirees, families with children and home to one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the country.

Boystown is rich and vibrant with unique shops and a very cool nightlife scene. We are anchored on the East by the scenic Belmont Harbor with beautiful trees and bike paths galore.

On the West, you’ll stumble onto some incredible shopping and dining along the Southport Corridor. And, in-between, we have some of Chicago’s best restaurants, top-rated schools and World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs in Wrigleyville.

We are neighbors with big hearts and support our non-profits, including Lakeview Pantry, Night Ministry and the Center on Halsted. And everywhere you look, women are setting up shop and making their mark. One of my personal favorites is Southport Grocer, founded by Lisa Santos. In fact, all along Southport are women owned businesses: M2 Boutique, Two Penny Blue, and Candyality, just to name a few.

When I think of innovation, handwork and grit, I think of our community. Our boutiques, corner taverns and restaurants embody the spirit of individuality and authenticity we carry in Lakeview. But I worry about complicated regulations, fines and pay-to-play politics that often hinder the success of these businesses. Our current Alderman has engaged in a public feud with one of our largest business owners, and it shouldn’t be that way. As Alderman, you can’t play favorites. While not everyone will always get their way, a diplomatic approach, compromise and respect are my preferred paths to conflict resolution. Simply put: There’s no denying that women think differently and our approach is to find sensible solutions in an efficient and effective way, but through a broad lens so that we always remain forward thinking.

4. Platform Questions

A. Schools: Chicago’s school population is declining. This means there are fewer students to educate, but the population shifts are not equally distributed. How will you ensure that students in all parts of the city have access to quality and safe education while taking into consideration changing population and the impact of that?

The lack of trust between the community and CPS feels unsurmountable. Only with accountability and transparency can we begin to build bridges and have constructive dialogue about the problems we face, including that of declining school population.

Tax Increment Financing was intended to help underserved communities, but it has failed. I support a moratorium on the allocation of TIF funding for two years. Instead, we should use that money for infrastructure upgrades and toward funding earmarked projects directly aimed at underserved schools. However, there must be a detailed budget attached for each project, along with a required outcome report to follow. Every child in Chicago deserves a safe and strong school to attend, and I will be an active advocate on City Council to ensure our underserved communities receive the support they need.

B. Environment: Chicago faces a crisis of water infrastructure and service. Chicago has more lead lines than any other city in the United States and city testing of Chicago homes with water meters has found nearly 1 in 5 have lead in their tap water. In 2015, City Hall considered privatizing the water system after an unsolicited pitch from investment firm Goldman Sachs. Research has shown that privatization of water utilities often see rate increases, workforce reductions, and a backlog of maintenance issues. In Illinois, a typical household with Lake Michigan water pays more than twice for water service using a privatized utility service than from using a public municipality. Additionally, in 2016, 6,351 households had their water shut off, with the shutoffs affecting over 16,000 individuals. What is your plan to address the challenges that Chicago’s water infrastructure system faces? How will you work towards providing safe, accessible, and affordable water service to Chicago residents?

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Alderman Tunney has disregarded the undeniable public safety issue of lead in our water. He chased away concerned citizens from his office, and when asked by a mother who was worried about her son possibly drinking contaminated water at school, he responded, “there are other people in the Ward besides your son”.

This issue has been swept aside for many years; and while there are many people to point fingers at, that would be unproductive. We need to move forward.

We should leverage federal and state grants along with local city dollars to fix this problem. It won’t be cheap, but the cost to our citizen’s health will be greater. I will advocate to ensure that our poorest communities receive assistance in tackling this issue, as everyone deserves safe, clean drinking water, and that every possible measure is taken to offset direct costs to homeowners. Any new developments should have to replace the lines for that development. We should also consider using some of the revenue from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund for this.

C. Women-Owned Businesses: As showcased by the numerous reports by the City’s Inspector General over the years, there is a perception by many contractors that the lists of women and minority owned businesses are inaccurate and include many businesses that aren’t truly women and/or minority owned. This reputation discourages voluntary use of the list and also may mean that true women and minority owned businesses are not receiving the benefits of the list. What are your thoughts on continuing the use of the list and, if you believe it should continue to be used, should there be changes to how the list is kept and are there ways the City of Chicago can increase confidence in the accuracy of the list?

The culture of corruption and pay-to-play in Chicago is so prevalent that I intend to question everything; especially when it comes to issue of fairness and the underserved, women and minorities. I’m a believer in public-private partnerships and transparency. I would recommend a full audit of the list, and would suggest future partnerships with an entity or entities such as: the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, Better Government Association or a local university to ensure the authenticity of such a list as I do believe, if accurate, they can be helpful.

D. Community Safety: Community safety is critical for residents and visitors in any ward in the City of Chicago. Recently, the city entered into a consent decree to address policies, training, practices and accountability of the Chicago Police Department in an attempt to ensure police reform. While our homicide rate is not the highest in the US and gun violence in Chicago has been declining in recent years, it continues to garner national attention and some neighborhoods have actually seen an increase in murders over the past year. Youth are among the highest at risk for violence and women often bear the burden of keeping children in their families and community safe. Recognizing that the issues surrounding safety are complex and multi-pronged, what is your highest priority with relating to safety of your ward’s residents and who are you receiving advice from to address that priority? (Feel free to include any necessary context for your answer — context may, but does not need to, include citywide considerations, feasibility of implementation, political challenges, concerns regarding overzealous implementation of safety protocol, or anything else necessary to understand your answer.)

Carjackings and thefts have escalated in the 44th Ward over the past year and continue to be a problem well into 2019. Alderman Tunney has only recently acknowledged that we have a problem and that residents have serious concerns. His past approach was to not face the issues and to tell us that everything is fine. But, it’s not.

My plan includes real solutions to address this problem, including:

  • Ensuring the 19th Police District has every resource available to do their job, including our full allotment of officers, so that taxpayers can avoid overtime and overworked staff
  • Inventory all available assets and resources made available to the 19th District and ensure we have received and taken advantage of them
  • Use data-driven analysis with the help of the University of Chicago Crime Lab to identify trends and root causes in crime
  • Work with community leaders and experts in juvenile offerers and gang activity to identify root cause and create immediate and long-term solutions
  • Use texting and social media to push out community action alerts

5. Closing comments

(Suggestions include: Tell us why you should be alderman, the impact you want to have on the community, your goals for the ward and the city of Chicago. Final thoughts.)

It’s time for a fresh start in Lakeview and throughout Chicago. We have a rare opportunity to stop corruption by electing a brand-new City Council and Mayor. For the first time in decades, the 44th Ward will have a real choice in electing its Alderman. I am the only candidate who has pledged to serve full-time and to not accept outside employment.

As a woman and a parent trying to raise a family in Lakeview amid skyrocketing tax increases, escalating crime and political corruption, I will provide the mindset and demeanor necessary to move our community forward. As a member of our socio-economically and racially diverse city council, I am best suited to relate, understand and move the needle on important issues facing our city.

No one on the ballot in my race comes close to matching my qualifications and I look forward to waking up every morning to provide unconditional service to every adult, child, school, non-profit and business in the 44th Ward.

For 25 years, I’ve dedicated my career working with both parties to build stronger communities and to create opportunities for those who need it most through: policy, public administration, and non-profit leadership.

Some of my experience includes:

  • The Jack Kemp Foundation — Introducing underserved communities to Opportunity Zones and potential investors.
  • Catholic Charities USA in partnership with the University of Notre Dame as the national anti-poverty fundraiser for the creation of the Lab for Economic Opportunity and Social Entrepreneurial program at the Mendoza College of Business.
  • Junior League of Chicago — Chair of the Teen Exodus project; mentoring teen girls from the Cabrini Green neighborhood.
  • Frances Xavier Warde School and the Children at the Crossroads Foundation — Maggie Daley, Founder — raised money for families in need of scholarships.
  • Improving taxpayer services with Chief Judge Timothy Evans, Chief Judge Don O’Connell and through the Governor’s process improvement initiative, Rapid Results, where my objective was to engage with front line staff to seek their ideas for cost saving measures and improved customer service (hybrid of Lean Management and Six Sigma designed for government.)
  • Legislative Correspondent for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison — Education and Government Affairs; and Constituent Services