Apparently, when it comes to Chicago's City Council, it is the norm for a departing Alderman to suggest a replacement if he or she leaves before the term is over and for the city's mayor to accept the recommendation.
But, in this case, concerns were almost immediately raised about departing Alderman Billy Ocasio's suggestion that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appoint Wilfredo De Jesús to his seat.
De Jesús, who preaches at a Pentecostal church in the 26th Ward, had gained notoriety for opposing funding for a school that would welcome LGBT students last year, and had been also quited in Christianity Today as saying that his priorities as a preacher were opposing homosexuality and abortion. And, when stating his opposition to the school, he implied that it was out of his interest to keep youth out of the hands of gay and lesbian sexual predators (He was quoted in the Pupovac Report blog as saying “What about that girl who is a virgin, who is being harassed by lesbians and guys to have sex, and yet you're going to build a gay school? It's not fair”).
When those reports emerged, he tried to present himself as being more tolerant by saying he would not oppose funding for an LGBT youth shelter and expressing support for domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians. But, by most accounts, a meeting he held with 30 LGBT leaders - some from Latino LGBT organizations in Chicago - was a disaster.
Eventually, it was Ocasio and De Jesús who announced that De Jesús would not seek the seat after all blaming city regulations that forbid anyone not living in a specific ward to represent that ward (De Jesús only ministered in the 26th Ward, he didn't actually live there, but this wasn't something he'd been hiding when he was initially recommended).
Ocasio then announced that he would be submitting a new name for consideration: That of his own wife, Veronica.
Some of De Jesús supporters, some of whom were lesbian and gay, defended him mostly based on his work in the neighborhood, his ties to several Puerto Rican community-based organizations in the 26th Ward and his knowledge of the area. I remember arguing that I was more than certain that a nominee could be found that matched those criteria without having the Reverend's troublesome past on LGBT issues.
On Monday, Mayor Daley did just that.
Side-stepping Ocasio's new recommendation, Mayor Daley named Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado as his choice for the seat. Yesterday the full city council voted on the nomination and sworn him in as the new Alderman for the 26th Ward.
Maldonado, who has worked as a county commissioner for fifteen years, also founded a mortgage brokerage firm and worked as a psychologist in Chicago's pubic schools. Born in Puerto Rico, the 57 year old moved to Chicago when he was 17, and actually lives in the 26th Ward.
It was the first time in 32 City Council appointments that a Chicago mayor decided to go against an departing Alderman's recommendation.
On Monday, after Daley made the announcement and introduced him to reporters, Maldonado spoke of his commitment to LGBT rights. From the Chicago Tribune:
"I have fought hard to bring fairness and equality to all the people of Cook County, regardless of race, sexual orientation, Immigration status or income."Bilingual Chicago newspaper eXtra, which serves Latino communities in the area and had editorially lauded De Jesús when Ocasio first announced his backing, interviewed local community members about Daley's choice, including Jorge Félix, a community curator:
"Some organizations and individuals tried to dismiss the opposition to Ocasio's nominations as just a LGBTQ controversy by some," he said, "It is an achievement that Daley heard and responded to the voice of the community that made recommendations and wrote letters of support to the various nominations. The community was calling for a change in Humboldt Park and I think Maldonado's professional record and his dedicated support towards human rights will make a valuable leader to our community."Other community organizations and leaders also spoke well of Maldonado's appointment to the City Council.
Thank you, Mayor Daley and congratulations to Alderman Maldonado as well as Chicago's 26th District.
Photo credit: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (on the right) introduces Roberto Maldonado at a press conference on Monday as his choice for the 26th Ward Alderman's seat. Mr Maldonado was sworn in by the full City Council on July 29th, 2009 (photo courtesy of the City of Chicago).
- Homophobic Pentecostal preacher no longer being considered for Chicago City Council (July 18, 2009)
- More reactions to Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús bid for a Chicago City Council Alderman's seat... (July 12, 2009)
- Grumble, grumble - and a mea culpa (July 10, 2009)
- Homophobic Latino preacher in line to join Chicago's City Council (July 9, 2009)