CHICAGO — Longtime Ald. Tom Tunney is retiring after 19 years serving Lakeview, he announced Tuesday morning.
The 44th Ward alderman will retire at the end of his term in May 2023, according to a news release. He was elected in 2003 as Chicago’s first openly gay alderperson and has become a significant figure in the city, being elected to vice mayor in 2019.
Tunney’s ward includes the bustling Boystown and Wrigleyville areas.
“I have always strived to do my best for the residents and businesses in the Lakeview community and have been honored by the remarkable opportunity to serve the residents of the 44th Ward for almost 20 years,” Tunney said in a news release.
Tunney has been a prominent advocate for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community, serving as chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus for City Council and pushing through related initiatives, including the development of the Center on Halsted and the Town Hall LGBTQ senior housing projects and funding for AIDS and LGBTQ support services. He’s helped build up the Boystown area, supporting the city’s massive Pride Parade and related events and pushing for the creation of the AIDS Garden, which opened in June.
Tunney was also involved in securing a $20 million renovation of Lake View High School, expanding the number of affordable housing units in his ward to more than 800 units and securing a $7 million grant for the renovation of the Merlo Chicago Public Library branch.
“I am grateful for the trust [my constituents] put in me to help lead Lakeview forward in ways that benefited residents, businesses and visitors, alike,” Tunney said in the news release. “I will continue to work tirelessly for the ward through my last day on the City Council. As I look ahead, I see so many great ways in which I can continue to give back to the city I love.”
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The alderman has clashed at times with the wealthy Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs and Wrigley Field. The Ricketts have criticized Tunney as the official and the family have debated how to best develop Wrigleyville while preserving history at the ballpark and in the neighborhood.
Tunney, a Chicago native and Brother Rice alumnus, is also known for his entrepreneurial work: He took over the popular Ann Sather restaurant in the ’80s and has expanded it into a popular chain — though he did face criticism and was fined by the city when he served diners indoors during the pandemic.
It was through Ann Sather that Tunney rose to prominence: He became a leader of the Illinois Restaurant Association, founded the Lakeview Center Business Association and allowed local groups to use Ann Sather for meetings and forums.
Tunney was nominated by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to succeed former Ald. Bernie Hansen in the 44th Ward. He was unanimously confirmed and won an election bid to keep his seat in 2003. He has won subsequent elections — though he has, at times, considered running for mayor.
Tunney’s been floated as a potential candidate to challenge Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the 2023 election. If he does run, he’ll be joined by fellow aldermen Ray Lopez, Roderick Sawyer and Sophia King in the race.
Under Daley and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, Tunney chaired the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation, as well as the Committee on Economic Development, Capital and Technology, respectively.
Since Lightfoot’s election, Tunney has served as chair of the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, as well as chair of the Special Committee on the Chicago Casino.
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