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As Napolitano Runs For Second Term, Unions That Powered His 2015 Run Fall Silent

Anthony Napolitano — the only member of City Council who is not a Democrat — faces Tim Heneghan, a retired Elmwood Park firefighter and 41st Ward Democratic committeeperson.

Tim Heneghan and Ald. Anthony Napolitano are running for 41st Ward alderman.
The Daily Line
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CHICAGO — If Chicago Police officer turned firefighter Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) wins a second term representing the Far Northwest Side on the Chicago City Council later this month, he will have to do it without two of his biggest backers in 2015 — the Service Employees International Union and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Napolitano defeated former Ald. Mary O’Connor in a run-off after SEIU paid for approximately $80,000 worth of negative ads blasting O’Connor — an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — as bad for working families.

But neither union has endorsed Napolitano this time around — a move Napolitano called “disheartening” and “frustrating.”

“I supported the unions 150 percent like I promised them,” Napolitano said.

Representatives of SEIU declined to discuss Napolitano and the 41st Ward race, while CTU leaders did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Line.

Napolitano — the only member of the Chicago City Council who is not a Democrat — faces Tim Heneghan, a retired Elmwood Park firefighter who is also the Democratic committeeperson for the 41st Ward.

Both SEIU and CTU, which are backing mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle, declined to endorse Napolitano again after he “took a massive lurch to the right” once he was elected, according to a union source who did not want to be identified.

“That’s comical,” Napolitano said. “I just care about my ward.”

In 2016, President Donald Trump won 43 percent of the vote in the 41st Ward, which includes O’Hare, Edison Park and parts of Norwood Park — more than any of the city’s other 49 wards. In Edison Park, Trump won four of its 10 precincts, a higher proportion than any other neighborhood beside Mount Greenwood on the Far Southwest Side.

In March, Napolitano stood with conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate and former State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) to condemn the city’s municipal identification card, which can be used by citizens as one of the forms of identification they need to register to vote.

The Chicago Board of Elections is required by State law to accept the identification, known as the CityKey as documentary proof of an individual’s identity and residency, according to City Clerk Anna Valencia.

At the news conference, Ives — who would narrowly lose the Republican primary for governor to now-former Gov. Bruce Rauner by three points — said the cards are “literally suborning voter fraud.”

Napolitano said the cards are designed “to entice or encourage people to go register to vote who are illegal immigrants.”

Napolitano later appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to debate Ald. Ameya Pawar(47th) about the cards.

Napolitano was one of four aldermen who voted against creating the municipal identification card, which is offered by the clerk’s office to undocumented immigrants as well as homeless Chicagoans and those just released from prison.

Napolitano, 42, also voted against a proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to use $1.3 million in city funds to defend undocumented Chicagoans from legal threats posed by the Trump administration.

“There are rules, and those rules and laws should be followed,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano, who got help in 2015 from the Chicago Republican Party, said he is truly an independent who has no use for partisan politics.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about parties,” said Napolitano, adding that he voted in March’s statewide Democratic primary.

Napolitano does have the endorsement of AFSCME Council 31, the state’s largest public employee union, as well as the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and the Firefighters Union Local 2.

“We’re supporting Ald. Napolitano for re-election because during the previous term he had a 100 percent voting record on our issues,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall.

Napolitano earned the Chicago Federation of Labor’s endorsement because of his support of “collective bargaining and Chicago’s union families,” the group said in a statement.

Heneghan has been endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, Plumbers Local 130, Operating Engineers Local 399 and the Chicago Regional Council Carpenters.

In June, Napolitano blocked a seven-story, 297-unit luxury apartment complex near the Cumberland CTA Blue Line station that would have included 30 units set aside for low- and-moderate income Chicagoans.

After the City Council’s Zoning Committee narrowly to reject the project at Napolitano’s request, a debate erupted that continues today over whether the city should do more to build housing for working-class and middle-class Chicagoans as part of an effort to reduce the racial and economic segregation that plagues the city.

Jerry Morrison, special assistant to the president of SEIU Local 1, urged aldermen to disregard Napolitano’s opposition and approve the development he said could house workers at O’Hare Airport.

Napolitano said he does not regret his decision to block the complex. The project’s developer, GlenStar, initially sued the city alleging that the housing complex was improperly rejected. But the firm later dropped that lawsuit and announced they would instead build office space.

Heneghan said he would have approved the project, which he said was in the perfect location for a dense residential development.

“Napolitano played to his base, who don’t want people of color to move into the ward,” Heneghan said, accusing Napolitano of “fear mongering.”

Heneghan said the 41st Ward needs more affordable housing, noting that his three college-age children can’t afford a home in the neighborhood they grew up in, Edison Park.

However, Napolitano said there are plenty of affordable apartments for rent in his ward.

“Affordable housing is just the cool thing to talk about,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano said he was proud to have resurfaced 250 streets, worked with the Chicago Blackhawks to bring a skating rink to Brooks Park and helped approve two annexes at Ebinger and Dirksen elementary schools, which were among the most crowded in the city.

“If people want me to stay, I’m happy to stay,” Napolitano said. “I’ll respect the will of the people.”

Napolitano campaigned in 2015 with then Cook County Clerk David Orr — considered by many to be the dean of Chicago’s progressive movement — and touted the endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Now retired, Orr praised Napolitano’s independence as an aldermen, but declined to endorse him for re-election.

Napolitano was one of only 14 aldermen to vote against Emanuel’s 2016 budget, which included a $589 million property tax increase — the largest in Chicago history — touted by Emanuel as the only way to fill the city’s massive deficit and shore up pensions for police officers and firefighters.

At the time, Napolitano said Emanuel’s plan “put too much of the burden” of paying off the city’s debt “on the taxpayers and small businesses” of the 41st Ward.

Heneghan, 56, said he would have voted for the budget, and the tax increase, to ensure that pensions for police and firefighters were not threatened.

After O’Connor lost to Napolitano in 2015, she stepped down as committeeperson and appointed Heneghan to fill out her term. Heneghan won a full term in 2016, after defeating Andrew DeVito, who was endorsed by Napolitano.

Heneghan said he was proud of his work as committeeperson, as well as his record of volunteerism. If elected, he said he would increase the office’s communication with residents and operate more transparently.

Napolitano has about $54,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks of the election, according to the Illinois Sunshine database, while Heneghan has about $22,000 in cash on hand in two committees he controls, according to Illinois Sunshine.