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50th Ward Candidate Mueze Bawany Talks Anti-Israel Tweets, Public Safety At Community Forum

The sole challenger to incumbent Ald. Debra Silverstein in the race also used the forum to talk about how he'd lead the ward if elected later this month.

Mueze Bawany is running for 50th ward alderman.
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WEST RIDGE — A 50th Ward aldermanic candidate again apologized at a forum Thursday for resurfaced anti-Israel tweets that caused controversy last week.

But Mueze Bawany, the sole challenger to incumbent Ald. Debra Silverstein in the 50th Ward race, also used the forum to talk about how he’d lead the ward if elected later this month, saying he’d implement participatory budgeting, push for more mental health resources and more.

Silverstein did not attend. A spokesperson said she had a calendar conflict and felt it was “inappropriate” to sit down with Bawany after his past tweets became public last week.

Bawany’s tweets were first reported by the Tribune. They were from 2019 and came from a deleted account.

“F— Israel and f— all you Zionist scum,” Bawany, now 35, wrote in a Tweet from May 2019.

In other Tweets from the same year, he called a white woman a “Cracker” and wrote, “F— off honky.”

Bawany apologized in a statement and interview last week, saying they came during low times for him, including during conflict between Israel and Palestine and during Donald Trump’s presidency. He again apologized at Thursday’s forum.

“I want to say explicitly that there is no excuse for those words, and I’m never going to hesitate to apologize when I’ve created harm,” Bawany said.

Bawany said he has reached out and spoken with Jewish constituents who have contributed to his campaign, including JCUA Votes, which has previously endorsed him. During Thursday’s forum, he also disavowed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which is a Palestinian-led movement calling for actions against Israel.

Bawany said the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement unfairly isolates Israel “without taking into consideration the behavior of other bad-faith countries.”

Public Safety ‘Doesn’t Just Emphasize Policing’

Public safety was a priority during the forum.

Bawany said he isn’t opposed to a police presence in the ward, but he believes crime is related to ongoing disinvestment in the community and mismanagement of resources.

“You can’t disassociate the conversation about what’s going on in our neighborhood with the reality of years and years of disinvestment,” Bawany said. “The reality of closing mental health clinics, which was a severe mistake we made 12 years ago, leaving the most vulnerable people in our community helpless.”

Police should be used to solve carjackings, catalytic converter thefts, shootings and other violent crimes, Bawany said. But armed responses are not necessary for situations such as domestic violence incidents, mental health issues, young people arguing in a park and overdoses, he said.

“Public safety is called public safety because it doesn’t just emphasize policing,” Bawany said.

If elected alderman, Bawany said he would support the Treatment, Not Trauma ordinance, which would reopen mental health clinics and move 200 positions to the Chicago Department of Public Health. He also hopes to open an office for gun violence prevention.

“As stewards of the city, a public service like mental health needs to be implemented back in our budget,” he said.

Bawany also said he would support the Bring Chicago Home ordinance, which is aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness. Crafted by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the ordinance calls for hiking the city’s real transfer taxes on sales of properties worth $1 million or more to fund homelessness services in the city.

The issue became contentious last year after 25 aldermen did not show up to a meeting about the ordinance.

“I would show up for the meeting. I would vote for it. I would make sure that all of you get a door-knock from me talking to you about Bring Chicago Home. I’ll make sure we build a coalition,” he said. “I will center every single person in this neighborhood who is unhoused or doubled up, and we got 2,000 people.”

Ward Democracy

Although Bawany is running for the 50th Ward, his current home isn’t within the neighborhood’s new boundaries, which were decided last year and will go into effect after the election.

Although he is technically living in the 40th Ward, Bawany said “it’ll always be the 50th Ward, just like Warren Park will always be the 50th Ward.”

This is just one process that Bawany believes should be democratized, he said. He hopes to create democratic processes such as participatory budgeting and community-based zoning, he said.

“Once people hang onto democracy, once they see democracy and they see themselves in their community in a role, that’s a beautiful thing,” Bawany said.

Bawany said community-based zoning — where the alderman’s office has a process so residents and neighborhood groups can weigh in on local zoning decisions — supports small businesses. It can do things such as preventing a local cafe from being overshadowed by a “behemoth Starbucks like a block away,” he said.

“I think on day one, we need to install that process where neighbors get [zoning] notifications, we have community meetings,” he said. “And then we vote on it and vet it together and use the power of community. Right now, we don’t have that.”

Bawany said he wants to ensure developers would fill out the proper forms and go through this process with the community.

Currently, residents only sometimes receive a notice about property pieces and zoning decisions, Bawany said.

“But most often, you don’t in this ward,” he said. “So, we can do a lot better.”

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