New 17th Ward alderman’s forecast for city’s progressive movement

David Moore, the 17th Ward alderman whose recent election was backed by progressive coalitions, eschews political labels. “Don’t put me in any box. I’ll work with anybody.”

Photo by William Camargo

David Moore, the 17th Ward alderman whose recent election was backed by progressive coalitions, eschews political labels. “Don’t put me in any box. I’ll work with anybody.”

David Moore won election as 17th Ward alderman in February with the support of three citywide progressive coalitions.  But if you ask him about prospects for the city’s progressive movement, he talks about the problem of political labels.

“I’m just independent,” he says.  “Don’t put me in any box. I’ll work with anybody.”

In an interview with The Chicago Reporter on Tuesday, Moore talked about his election victory, the mayoral race and issues facing the city — including the budget.

Like many before him, he came up through the Democratic machine and subsequently broke with it.  Indeed, his election was a significant defeat for the once-mighty 17th Ward Democratic Organization.

Moore grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes until his family moved into his uncle’s basement apartment in Englewood when he was 11.  “I thought we had moved to the suburbs,” he says.

His uncle was an assistant precinct captain who had him leafleting the neighborhood in exchange for pocket money.  That changed when his uncle took him to see Harold Washington; Moore was 13, and Washington was running for Congress.  “The way Harold Washington spoke about young people being involved in their community — after that, the $5 [he got from his uncle] wasn’t important.” He says that from that point on, his commitment was to community service.

After going to school and becoming an accountant, he returned to the neighborhood and volunteered for the 17th Ward organization, eventually becoming field director and treasurer under committeeman and Ald. Terry Peterson, who went on to head the CHA and run Mayor Richard Daley’s 2007 campaign, and who now chairs the CTA board.

“Terry was one of the best aldermen the 17th Ward ever had,” Moore says.  But at a certain point he felt Peterson’s personal ambition was taking precedence over community issues.

In 2005, Residents’ Journal and the Better Government Association reported that CHA contractors had donated a quarter-million dollars to the 17th Ward organization, but Moore says that “Terry was not a quid-pro-quo person. … There were no shakedowns or anything like that.”  He says that as treasurer, he would sometimes hear complaints from donors who didn’t get favors.  “From what I saw, there was no corruption there.”

After working as an accounting manager in private industry, Moore served as finance officer for the city’s Aviation Department and on the staff of the director of operations for the CHA.  Since 2010 he’s been community outreach coordinator for the Cook County Board of Review.

In 2011 he ran against Peterson’s successor as alderman, Latasha Thomas; “because she didn’t have an independent voice to step out beyond Terry, she was ineffective,” he says.  With little money, he forced Thomas into a runoff and came within 321 votes of defeating her.

Two years later, Moore was prominent in opposing Mayor Emanuel’s school closings in the ward, while Thomas (who chairs the council’s education committee) was silent.  Last year she announced she wouldn’t be seeking re-election.  Thomas’ staff assistant, Glenda Franklin, ran with backing from Emanuel and his local supporters, including Rev.  Michael Pfleger.  Moore won with 53 percent of the vote; Franklin got 36 percent, with a third candidate taking the remainder.

The biggest factor, Moore believes, was his record of service in the ward — but “the issues helped,” he said.  “People are not happy about Rahm Emanuel’s policies, period. It was not just the school closings. That was not the leading factor when I was going door-to-door.  People were ticked off about the red light [and] speed cameras more than anything else.  People were just fed up with it.  They hate it.

“Red light cameras, school closings, Rahm’s policies and you have a rubber-stamp alderman who’s constantly standing behind the mayor on TV but not bringing any resources to the community.”

Moore has endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s mayoral candidacy.  He did so, he says, after sitting down with Garcia and getting commitments on opening up city contracts to African-Americans, removing red-light and speed cameras, and directing more resources to poor communities.

Another factor was “the integrity and character” Garcia showed when he insisted, against some Latino opposition, that African-American students from Lawndale would be able to attend the new Little Village High School, Moore says.

Garcia’s campaign needs to do more to reach out to black voters, he says, expressing some frustration that input from him and others on the question hasn’t been heeded. “I suggested that he had to be out in the African-American community at least two days a week with the elected officials who are supporting him, and let them drive the message,” he says. “That hasn’t happened.”

He adds: “If he was just being Chuy and not listening to his handlers — if Chuy were to step out these next two weeks and be the Chuy that everyone knows he can be, he can win the election.”

Distrust between blacks and Latinos is a significant factor, Moore says.  “There are people saying I’m not voting for Chuy because the Mexicans are taking over, they get all the jobs and he’s just going to give them more jobs.”  He points out that Mayor Daley set up the Hispanic Democratic Organization “to divide and conquer” out of fear that a successful black mayoral challenger would emerge.  “So they created this division between Hispanics and African-Americans”  — with lots of city jobs going to HDO members.

“But what people don’t realize is that was the same HDO that went after Chuy and took his [state Senate] seat from him.  So you’re confusing Chuy with the people that were against him.  And if Chuy’s people aren’t getting that out, they’re missing it.”

Whoever is elected mayor, Moore expects to deploy his accounting skills and experience dissecting budgets.  “I read budgets for fun,” he says.  He scoffs at the press conference by City Clerk Susana Mendoza and three aldermen earlier this month, when they delivered audits of the city budget to Garcia’s campaign. “I’ve done audits,” he says. “You’re just making sure everything adds up correctly.”

He’s just started looking, but he says the city budget “is a nightmare — even for an accountant.”  One thing he’s noticed is the water fund, a huge revenue source that he says is used to pay for salaries throughout city government.

TIF budgets are no more transparent, he says.

Another thing: “We need to look at the CHA.  Nothing is moving, and they have a ton of money to do housing, and they haven’t brought back any of that housing for residents who have a right to return.”  He notes that despite a plethora of vacant land in Bronzeville, CHA land is now being used for commercial development.

“Housing is not a priority for this administration,” Moore says. “And we’re in  desperate need of affordable housing.”