Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley is one of the many candidates running for Rahm Emmanuel’s seat in Congress. He recently spoke to Windy City Times about his views on gay marriage, hate crimes legislation, the environment (one of his pet issues) and his thoughts about a school for LGBTQ youth.
Windy City Times: What’s your opinion on same-sex marriage?
Mike Quigley: I’m in favor of it because I don’t think a government should be able to tell people who they can love and how to express it. From a purely equality point of view, there are thousands of rights that derive from marriage and I think it’s abhorrent to deny people their rights. I was the author and sponsor of the domestic partnership registry, which is as close as a state law as we could get in Cook County.
WCT: What is your stand on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
MQ: I don’t understand why we’re so fascinated with this. I don’t understand why someone’s orientation affects their ability to serve their country. Obviously, there are thousands of [LGBT] members who are serving in the military and I think it’s abusive that we somehow discriminate against someone who is willing to serve their country. I think Barry Goldwater’s the one who said, “Just because you aren’t straight doesn’t mean you can’t shoot straight.” The Israeli army doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, and they’re a pretty crack outfit.
WCT: What is your stand on adding sexual orientation to hate crimes legislation?
MQ: I helped draft various forms of hate crimes legislation in the past and I think, overall, it needs to be strengthened at the federal level. I just think there are just too many homophobes out there in Congress that probably think it’s okay for someone to be beaten or hurt and have that exacerbated because it’s a hate crime.
WCT: Progressive organizations like the Audre Lorde Project and the American Friends Service Committee are critical of hate crimes legislation, especially with regard to penalty enhancement. They feel that these laws only increase the rates of incarceration, especially among the poor and minorities. What’s your view about that?
MQ: I guess I don’t understand it. A hate crime is a hate crime. I think prisons are too filled with people who are drug users. If you want to reduce the prison population, you should start with people who have addictions and they should be diverted to treatment rather than incarceration. We criminalize the mentally ill. But I think that if someone commits a hate crime, they’re dangerous and I have no problems increasing their penalties.
WCT: What do you think of the idea that hate-crimes legislation punishes thought and not actions?
MQ: I guess I still don’t get it. If your statement about what they say is their point, that we’re overcrowding prisons, I think we’re overcrowding prisons through different actions, through drugs and mental illness. I don’t have a problem increasing penalties for hate crimes.
WCT: What do you think about the idea of an LGBTQ school?
MQ: I understand that there’s some difference of opinion within the GBLT community. My attitude is: I’m in favor of this high school if the community thinks it’s a helpful, good idea. I understand the incidents and issues as it relates to the teenage kids who are discriminated against. In the end, however they want to sort this out—in favor of or against—I’d support it. My inclination is to be in favor of the school if it helps.
WCT: What about increasing anti-bullying measures?
MQ: I favor that as it relates to all issues, [LGBT] students. Bullying is a real serious problem across the board. I favor doing what we need to do in order to reduce and eliminate that problem in our schools. I know very few people who weren’t bullied at one point or another; it has a long-lasting impact on many people.
WCT: What would you do about the perception of Illinois as mired in corruption?
MQ: First you act like a responsible elected official. You act as an example. Second, and a lot of this is what I’ve done: Increase transparency and accountability. We put all the property tax appeals and their results, and the attorneys of record online. We moved to make the TIF (tax-increment funding) process more open and accountable. We also passed the Cook County Inspector General Ordinance, giving the Inspector General more power, more autonomy, and more resources. That sort of thing has to happen at the local, state, and federal levels. The interesint thing is: The President is talking about the very same thing. He talked about the first bailout package, that it lacked transparency. A wise man once said, “Illumination is the best disinfectant of government.” So my short answer is: Illumination, open, transparent government.”
WCT: Could you talk about your issues with Sara Feigenholtz?
MQ: In the end, I think it’s pretty obvious Sara did a negative poll accusing people of real negative stuff. And I’m not sure if Fritchey did it or didn’t do it. I think in the end what the public wants is for someone to acknowledge it. If you did it, and you think it was okay—say so. If you did something that, upon reflection, you thought was a mistake, you say so. I think we all move on. Comparisons are one thing. You can say, “Look, I voted against taxes, he voted for taxes”: That’s fair game. But the sort of hidden, behind-the-scenes last-minute negative attacks—I hope we refrain from doing that and let this be a clean campaign at a time when the public is desperate for a cleaner game of politics.
WCT: What differentiates you from Rahm Emanuel?
MQ: I’d be more focused on transit, on local politics. I think Rahm is really partisan. He’s very involved in national politics to elect core Democrats; he can destroy Republicans. I would seek more bipartisan efforts to get us to the problems we face.
WCT: Is there a particular issue that you’re keen to work on?
MQ: I got into this business because of the environment. The environment does touch all the other issues as well. For example, energy. If we’re able to reduce our energy consumption and become more sustainable, look at everything else it touches. It reduces health care costs by reducing air pollution and global warming. It reduces dependence on foreign oil, it helps with national security issues and it drives down the cost of our energy which saves money and helps the economy. I’ve probably passed a dozen major ordinances dealing with the environment, from smoke-free Chicago to green buildings to green fleets of cars, to mandatory recycling, green practices. The issue affects not just us but our kids and our grandkids and every other aspect of our lives.
WCT: Anything you want to add for our readers?
MQ: Being close to the [LGBT] community has been a way of life for me, and not just a campaign I just started. I helped start the Halsted street festival. My first job was working with the Broadway merchants. I passed four major ordinances [for] the community. I did the first annual AIDS ride, from the Twin Cities to Chicago, before I ever ran as a candidate for anything. I played hockey in the Gay Games. I haven’t missed a parade since 1982, when I was just a citizen. For me it’s a way of life, not a campaign practice. I think that’s someone you could trust to be with you no matter what.