32nd Ward Runoff Election
The 32nd ward has undergone many changes due to gentrification in recent years. The changing face of the ward is central to the debate in the aldermanic race. In our ongoing series of aldermanic forums in advance of the April 17th run-off election, we'll talk to incumbent alderman Ted Matlak and challenger Scott Waguespack.
Phil Ponce: And now to Elizabeth Brackett and the candidates running for alderman in the 32nd Ward. Elizabeth..
Elizabeth Brackett: Well, Phil, the changing face of the 32nd Ward neighborhoods is a central issue in this race. While new development has sprung up in many areas, the homeowners wonder if they'll be able to keep up with increasing property taxes. The 32nd Ward covers the North Side neighborhoods of Bucktown, Wicker Park, Ukranian Village, Roscoe Village, and parts of Lakeview. And now joining us in the order they will appear on the ballot are Scott Waguespack, who is an administrative coordinator for the City of Berwyn, and Alderman Ted Matlak, who is completing his second term as alderman. Welcome both of you to Chicago Tonight.
Guests: Thank you
Elizabeth Brackett: Well, Alderman Matlak, working in the 32nd Ward Organization, first for the past alderman, former Alderman Terry Gabinski, and then as alderman yourself, is the only job you've ever had. So tell me why voters should keep you in that position.
Ted Matlak: Well, thank you. I'm a better alderman than I am a politician. I've been working in the ward office most of my life. I've seen the neighborhood go from crime...I used to spend my summers shutting off hydrants and going to court against gangbangers and troubled drug buildings, and now we've succeeded and we're starting to see the fruits of our labor. We have a wonderful neighborhood that everybody wants to live in, and I want to continue to help create this neighborhood where we've built five acres of parks in the last eight years, we've redone the playgrounds, we're building bridges, schools, libraries, and I'd like to continue what we keep doing because I get great satisfaction seeing our neighborhood come to the point it has.
Elizabeth Brackett: OK. Well, Scott Waguespack, you were a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya...
Scott Waguespack: Right.
Elizabeth Brackett: ...you helped implement Global Chicago, then became the Villaga Administrator in Berwyn, so tell me what that resume...how does that qualify you to become alderman of the 32nd Ward.
Scott Waguespack: Well, throughout that period of public service I've spent a lot of time working on many of the issues that affect our neighborhoods right now in Bucktown, Wicker Park, Roscoe Village, especially runaway development, runaway taxes, and the waste and political corruption that really eminates from there. But, Elizabeth, I want to touch on something first before we start out here [reaching into is suit breast pocket] and that's going straight to the type of campaign that the alderman is running and the lies that he's been spreading about my campaign, including putting pieces out that has me in handcuffs [close up on a color flier/picture of a pair of handcuffed hands. The flier reads 'If you impersonate a lawer, it is a crime. When Scott Waguespack tries to get you to believe he's a lawyer, he calls it running for Alderman.']. And I think the issue here is that the alderman has lied about the issues that I've wanted to talk about. He's lied about the things that I've tried to do. And Ted and I have been going together at church for the last twelve years...
Elizabeth Bracket: You're going to the same church.
Scott Waguespack: ...the same church, St. Hedwig's on Webster, and I think it's just deplorable, the type of campaign he's launched in the last couple of weeks here, going door-to-door with people, having campaign workers out there, talking on the phone and spreading these types of lies about where I live, the type of job I do.
Elizabeth Brackett: Well, what is the accusation in this flier?
Scott Waguespack: Well, the accusation in this flier is that they're trying to get everyone to believe that I'm not a lawyer. And I'm not. I've never portrayed myself as one. I've never gone into court and litigated. I am not a lawyer. In 2000 I received my Juris Doctorate. I took the bar exam. I was unsuccssesful, just like Mayor Daley. I've gone on to do other things--public service--and I'm proud of that record. But what we have here is a personal attack that I think is just despicable, and it tries to divert attention away from the issues at hand. Again, runaway development, runaway taxes, and waste and political corruption that eminates from this office.
Elizabeth Brackett: Alderman Matlak, why did you put this flier out and do you stand by the accusations in it?
Ted Matlak: The first campaign my opponent did six pieces, negative pieces, on myself, with distortions and misrepresentations. His name appeared never once in my campaign. And that was a mistake on my part, because his false wording that he put out about myself and about him was not responded to. We are responding to that. He says he's never been a lawyer, if you look through all the media that has covered this he's always referred to as a lawyer and he's never corrected that.
Scott Waguespack: That's absolutely not true.
Ted Matlak: You can look up the media coverage.
Elizabeth Brackett: So but the bottom line is [turning to Scott Waguespack] you're not a lawyer, you don't say your a lawyer..
Scott Waguespack: Absolutely correct
Elizabeth Brackett: [turning to Ted Matlak] and you say he's been presenting himself falsely?
Ted Matlak: He's been presenting himself falsely, but what he said during this campaign, aside from attacking me, this campaign should be about my accomplishments, my qualifications, and his qualifications. He hasn't spoken about them, and we're going to speak to them in this coming race. He says that he runs Berwyn, that he's the administrator there. Well...and you introduced him as that tonight...
Elizabeth Brackett: That's correct.
Ted Matlak: ...But he says he wants to do for the 32nd Ward what he's done for Berwyn. So we're going to talk about what he's done for Berwyn. Eleven percent raise in crime the last two years, fifty percent increase in their budget in the last two years...
Scott Waguespack: [nodding his head for no]
Ted Matlak: ...These are all under his administration. So, if we want to talk about the facts, I've talked about my qualifications, my accomplishments. Now we're going to talk about his, because he hasn't.
Elizabeth Brackett: Well, ok, let's talk briefly about the Village Administrator position which you do hold in Berwyn, is that correct?
Scott Waguespack: Yes, I do. I'm actually on unpaid leave since early January. An unpaid leave of absence so that I can run this campaign without any ties to my job in Berwyn. My job in Berwyn is as a coordinator for the different departments: Police, Fire, Public Works, Senior Advocate. One of the other things I do is act as the spokesperson for the City of Berwyn and I also act as the point person for the FBI when they come in and they continue with these ongoing investigations from the former administration. And that's just part of what I do.
Elizabeth Brackett: And so does that qualify you...How does that qualify you to work as an alderman in the 32nd Ward?
Scott Waguespack: Well, it allows me to learn the different aspects of government. How Public Works and the workers there need to get things done, what are the types of tools they need to get the job done, whether it's in snow season or in summer. It also helps me...
Elizabeth Brackett: You have experience working in an urban environment...
Scott Waguespack: Exactly
Elizabeth Brackett: ...you're saying they transfer.
Scott Waguespack: Exactly. With Police and Fire as well.
Elizabeth Brackett: All right, let's get on to some of the other issues. Now, you've both talked about corruption, also. Now you [turning to Scott Waguespack] apparently have charged that there has been corruption in previous 32nd Ward administrations in the way they run their campaigns connected to the Hired Truck scandal. But that was then. What are you talking about in this particular race if you're talking about corruption?
Scott Waguespack: Well, actually what we were talking about before was Donald Tomczak sending workers into the 32nd Ward in 2003. And I actually didn't bring that out first. That was the third place finisher who brought that out saying that the Alderman conspired with Donald Tomczak. Now, she is now endorsing the Alderman, right after the election. I have talked about, again, the issues of waste and corruption...
Elizabeth Brackett: But, to be clear, what are those issues of waste and corruption that you're now talking about?
Scott Waguespack: Well, I think these same issues of thirty-eight million dollars in the city in frivolous workman's comp claims, the Hired Truck scandal which was never addressed by this alderman. Never was he a vocal critic of what was happening there. And that is why I'm addressing this now, that we need leadership in the city council in the 32nd Ward that says 'I've had enough of this,' as a voter. I've seen enough corruption in city government that we need a change and we need somebody in there.
Elizabeth Brackett: But are you accusing this candidate now of corrupt practices in this campaign?
Scott Waguespack: Not...I have not. I've said follow through with the Donald Tomczak accusations, that that needed to be looked into a long time ago. And it never was.
Elizabeth Brackett: So what do you make of what he's saying?
Ted Matlak: These are more distortions and trying to get off his qualifications and his issues. Let's talk about under investigation and corruption. Earlier this week Berwyn City Council voted to investigate his administration for illegal hiring practices.
Scott Waguespack: [nodding his head for no]
Ted Matlak: The same city council unanimously voted Thursday to eliminate his position. Now, you don't have to believe me. You can to the Berwyn City Council. You can talk to the aldermen there. They have press releases out. These were people in his own party. But what I want to talk about is what the future for our ward is. We're facing tremendous challenges as we move into the 21st Century.
Elizabeth Brackett: And one of those is development which has also been a contentious issue in your ward. What is your position now on new development. As an example, there was the question of tearing down the old bar...the Artful Dodger. And putting up a...to make way for new development, which was opposed by many in the community. It's an example, they say, of your not being in touch with the community on development. How do you respond to that?
Ted Matlak: First of all, in preserving historic buildings, we've landmarked 634 buildings in Ukranian Village with overwhelming support of the neighbors down there. The Artful Dodger was a tavern on a side street, a building that was for sale for years. It was in dilapidated condition. It wasn't an historic landmark. No one cam forward to purchase the building. It's now being built as a single family house. And many of the neighbors who live right there are ecstatic that the tavern is gone.
Elizabeth Brackett: So you're saying it doesn't indicate in any way that you're out of touch with the ward in terms of development. What do you say to that?
Scott Waguespack: Well, first let me address that other issue. I am not under investigation. That's another one of these lies and distortions. And I'd like to get off of that and get voters back on the issues. The issue was that he didn't communicate with the community on the Artful Dodger. He didn't communicate with the community on the Pleasure Chest. And that's the difference between us. I want to come out there and say to community groups and to the residents, when there is going to be zoning changes, when there is going to be development, it's in your backyard. And you deserve to know what's happening in your backyard. So it's including the residents and it's including the community in the decision-making process, or at least the process that should take place beforehand. Not one that's convolted and residents don't know what's happening until the last minute.
Elizabeth Brackett: Quickly, do you think that you need to make any changes in the way you've handled development, in the process?
Ted Matlak: First of all, there was a mistatement here. The Pleasure Chest was a business that relocated that some people didn't want in the neighborhood.
Scott Waguespack: That's not a mistatement.
Ted Matlak: There was no zoning change. They were there as of right. They had a legal right to be there. I couldn't stop it. No one else could.
Scott Waguespack: There was no process
Elizabeth Brackett: We've also only got a minute left. Tell me if you think you need to make any changes in terms of the way you've handled development in the ward.
Ted Matlak: I stand behind every zoning change we have done. I talk to the community groups. I talk to the neighbors. I am proud of the way this ward is developing. We have a model LEED certified solar building which is being built in this ward that needed a zoning change. That building is going to become a model for green development within the City of Chicago. As I've said, I stand by every zoning change in the 32nd Ward that I've done.
Elizabeth Brackett: And, finally, as you've said, the former third person in the race has now endorsed Alderman Matlak. He's also raised about ten times as much money as you have.
Scott Waguespack: That's right
Elizabeth Brackett: So, quickly, how do you expect to win?
Scott Waguespack: I expect to win by doing a grass roots campaign, and the community, I think, showed that they were behind it being a time for change, and I think the community will get behind a person who will lead this community through the future.
Elizabeth Brackett: In ten seconds can you top that?
Ted Matlak: We expect to win this campaign. I did receive the most votes. I was just short of the fifty percent. If I was running for governor I'd be governor, but we're going to continue to send our message about what we've done, what we're doing now, and what we want to do in the future. And people want to live in our neighborhood, and that's success.
Elizabeth Brackett: OK. My thanks to Scott Waguespack and Ted Matlak.