Politics isn’t business as usual at the first ward of Chicago – we talk to Alderman Flores about his environmental initiatives and Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics!
F: You’ve been in office for 6 years now, how has the 1st Ward evolved since you took over as Alderman?
The 1st Ward has experienced incredible growth in residential and commercial development during my time in office. I find that more families are settling in our community, and that many of our neighbors have become more active and engaged in important neighborhood matters such as development, education, and community safety.
F: What are some of the things you’ve learned as an Alderman?
I have become a better listener and possess a better appreciation of how laws and policies affect everyday people. I also learned that we can never dream too big – we must continue to push boundaries and experiment with innovative strategies to make our city even better.
F: Chicago has a pretty bad political reputation. Are you doing anything to help change that image?
One cornerstone of my political beliefs is that government only works when citizens are informed and engaged. Two examples of legislation that I have passed to ensure transparency in Chicago politics are the TIF Sunshine Ordinance and the City Asset Lease Disclosure Ordinance. Both laws require the city to post financial agreements on the City of Chicago website for public view. In order to make Chicago a leader in transparency, taxpayers deserve to know where their money is spent.
Additionally, I host community meetings to solicit feedback on important Ward issues in the areas of community development and safety. I also hold open office hours and heavily rely on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to inform and engage my constituents.
F: One of the topics you are very passionate about is environmental responsibility and sustainability. How are you keeping the movement alive given the current economic challenges and perceived high costs?
I see environmental sustainability as a crucial factor in getting our economy back on track. As a result, I have focused on sustainability as we work to stimulate our local economy. While some might argue that living sustainably might have some upfront costs, those actions ultimately result in lower electricity bills, lower gas payments, cleaner air, and a more livable community. As Alderman of the 1st Ward, I continue to promote the development of “green” buildings, holding workshops for development professionals to explain the true costs associated with green construction, and to expand public incentives for businesses and developments that are environmentally responsible.
F: How can we support the green movement in Chicago?
I believe that one important way to support the green movement in Chicago is through expanding the green marketplace. We should all support local businesses that buy and build locally and are good neighbors to their communities.
It is also key that residents help build a local economy that supports these types of businesses. That is why I launched GreenEconomyChicago.com, an interactive website which serves as an online platform for citizen-driven policy making. Participants can log-in and submit their ideas, build on others’ ideas, or share links to information related to building a green economy in Chicago.
F: If Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics, you will…
I will continue to advocate for the proper management of the 2016 Olympic Games and make certain that there is transparency and accountability. I will also work to ensure that all communities benefit from the Games. The Olympic Games can be an incredible benefit to the city if they are properly managed, and I am very hopeful that we are selected.
F: As a resident of Wicker Park, can you share with us some of the things you do there outside of politics?
I like to spend time with my son Teddy and wife Georgina visiting the local parks and eating at our great local restaurants.
F: Families usually move out to the suburbs, you are obviously still in the city. What are some of your favorite activities in the city with your family?
I enjoy the lake, the parks, restaurants, museums, and all of the unique neighborhoods.
F: Chicago’s best kept secret is…
Chicago’s best kept secret is Margie’s Candies in the Logan Square neighborhood. Margie’s has been around for a long time and is not much of a secret, but deserves mention because of its great ice cream.