By AARON GETTINGER
CITY HALL — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) raised new allegations about opponent Will Calloway’s finances today in a City Hall press conference while again defending her 20-year record on City Council against accusations of ineffectiveness and a close relationship to outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
According to data from the online from Reform for Illinois, a nonpartisan political transparency organization, the Friends of William Calloway received $5,500 on Jan. 24 from two donors. Hairston’s campaign, however, produced a Facebook post from March 11 in which Calloway thanked the Loevy & Loevy law firm for a hosting a campaign fundraiser.
Reached for comment, Bobby Burns, Calloway’s campaign manager, sent a screenshot of additional campaign contributions received this month — two worth $4,000 from “Loevey & Loevey” and another for $1,500 from Julia Carr — alongside those from the donors in January. Burns said that the campaign had disclosed all donations over $1,000.
Hairston again accused her opponent of owing $15,000 in back rent, saying he did not appear for his March 19 court date, and in fines for traffic and parking violations, calling his explanation that he could not run for office with outstanding fines “not true.”
According to the Chicago Board of Elections, no one can assume public office if they owe the city tax or public money.
Burns said that all the tickets were resolved and that Calloway told him that he does not have any outstanding debt. A review of information on the city’s online portal for paying fines indicates nine outstanding tickets, all from 2014, in Calloway’s name that resulted in a suspended license or booted vehicle.
Information from the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk indicates that Judge Ketki Shroff Steffen appointed a special deputy to serve Calloway with petitions and summons on March 19. Burns declined to comment. Calloway’s landlord’s attorney did not reply to requests for comment.
Hairston said that “the political environment is to accuse any candidate who has been in office a long time with being a do-nothing elected official or a machine hack,” but she asserted she is neither. She said she has spent two decades as “one of the most independent and outspoken aldermen in City Council,” bringing up her votes against the privatization of parking meters, Emanuel’s unsuccessful $5 million infrastructure trust nonprofit and red-light cameras.
She sought to insert daylight between herself and Emanuel, who is unpopular among many Black Chicagoans and with whom she has been accused of having a close relationship. She reminded attendees that she had endorsed now-Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-4th) when he ran against Emanuel four years ago. She said she attended every public meeting concerning Emanuel’s decision to close 50 CPS schools, protested outside his office when he wanted to cut library hours and fought to keep mental health clinics open.
Asked about Emanuel’s Nov. 2 $20,000 donation to her campaign, Hairston said she gave the money to community groups. Her campaign later produced a photo of Hairston holding a $20,000 novelty check from her political committee dated Dec. 21 to ABJ Community Services, Lawrence Hall, the CHAMPS Male Mentoring Program, the South Shore Drill Team and the Hyde Park Art Center
“At every turn, my goal is to represent my constituents in City Hall and to heed their voice,” Hairston said, blaming the mayor for the six-year wait for a new grocery store tenant in South Shore’s Jeffrey Plaza. She said her opponent was “basing his entire campaign” on the grocery store issue when, she said, she attracted four grocery stores to the ward.
“Most of the amenities I have been able to accomplish over the last 20 years have been in spite of City Hall, not because of the administration,” she said, naming a number of housing and educational projects in the southern parts of the 5th Ward as having been the result of her relationship with Gary Comer, now deceased, and his family.
On Twitter, Calloway suggested today that Hairston’s position against Emanuel’s police and fire training academy and her new support for a community benefits agreement (CBA) were political posturing. “The fact that she always starts out on the wrong side of these issues should tell the 5th Ward that she doesn’t represent our values,” he said.
Hairston said she always votes on the issues. “I’ve been here long enough I don’t have to play games,” she said. “I take my job very seriously.”
She again said that a CBA “has to come between the residents who are directly impacted by the Obama Presidential Center, not something that is pushed in front of them,” referring to the CBA referendum a coalition of South Side community and activist organizations passed in four wards last month. She reiterated her willingness to “facilitate” the drafting of a CBA with, she says, all parties and push for it in City Council.
The candidates will debate tomorrow at 11 a.m. in South Shore at 1818 E. 71st St.