• APR 30, 2015

    New Council Member Profile: 2nd Ward’s Brian Hopkins

    Brian Hopkins emerged from a crowded field in the newly gerrymandered 2nd Ward on April 7th, topping his runoff opponent, attorney Alyx Pattison, with 56% of the vote. More than $1M flowed into candidates’ campaigns during the race. “The New 2” now encompasses some of the wealthiest and up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city, which Hopkins says he’s well equipped to address. “Vetting and development is a process that’s community led,” Hopkins told Aldertrack, “I’ve been doing that with [the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents] for 16 years.”

    Hopkins might not have an office or staff yet, but he’s already been fielding service requests from 2nd Ward residents. The transition from Ald. Bob Fioretti’s tenure to the new ward has been hectic, he says. “A lot of things fell through the cracks… it’s a little bit like trying to build a new house while you’re living in it.” Hopkins is already checking out possible sites for offices in the west side of his ward, searching for staff, and looking ahead to committee assignments.

    Top legislative priorities citywide: Hopkins says addressing the budget, the deficit, the long term debt, and the pension crisis is an “urgent need.” Hopkins formerly served as Chief of Staff of the Cook County Finance Committee. On his campaign website, he says he worked closely with Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle on the county’s budget deficit, refuses to raise property taxes, and is, “committed reducing city bureaucracy and pushing government to operate within its means.” He says he’s already spoken with Special Events Committee Chairman Joe Moore (49) about joining, and is also interested in joining the zoning committee.

    Top local issues in the 2nd Ward: Hopkins says he’s working hard to establish relationships with community organizations in the 2nd Ward. Addressing upcoming big developments in the ward, including the redevelopment around Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier, the addition of 60 acres of green space around the lakefront, and straightening the S-curve near Oak Street Beach are all on his list. “I’m going to be spending a lot of time with a community process on decisions that’ll affect development in the neighborhoods. That’s going to be time consuming.”

    Potential Caucus Alignment: Hopkins says he’s been approached by the Progressive Caucus, but won’t be joining. “Not at this time. I do think that I’ll be supporting a number of their issues. I’m not necessarily against their agenda.”

    Ward Office/Logistics: Hopkins says as someone who’s more familiar with Streeterville on the east side of the ward, he’s working to establish relationships with the west. He hasn’t landed on a campaign office yet, but is looking in Bucktown/Wicker Park, which he says is a bit pricey: “As a potential tenant it does present a challenge because you can’t really afford everything you’d like.” He has not hired any office staff yet.

    Some highlights from our interview:

    Who are you going to be working with?

    Obviously I’ve had a good relationship with Ald. [Brendan] Reilly (42). I’m relying on his advice and council. Also met recently with Ald. Joe Moore, whom I’ve known for many years. I’m interested in joining his committee, Special Events. The 2nd Ward is home to numerous street festivals. I’ve talked to Moore about that and said he would support me in seeking to get on his committee. Haven’t talked much to new colleagues, the incoming freshman class is scrambling to establish an office and hire staff, so we haven’t had too much of a chance to get together as a group.

    I haven’t heard from [outgoing 2nd Ward Ald. Bob] Fioretti. I ran into him at a White Sox game and had a brief pleasant conversation, but didn’t get into any substance.

    What do you expect to be your biggest challenges?

    The same things we discussed for many months on campaign trail: Getting a handle on the city budget, addressing spending deficit, pension crisis, long term debt. These are looming fiscal issues that City Council has to deal with, that’s a pressing, urgent need. In addition to that, the development questions in the 2nd Ward. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with a community process on decisions that’ll affect development in the neighborhoods. That’s going to be time consuming.

    I’ll be hosting an On The Table event with Chicago Community Trust, we’ll be discussing proposed redevelopment of the area around Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier and North Ave. The addition of 60 acres of green space around the lake front, straightening out the S curve at Oak Street Beach.

    Do you think of your ward as Republican?

    No, but it’s closer to a Republican majority than many areas of the city, although it’s not. The 2nd Ward did vote for [Former Gov. Pat] Quinn over [GOP challenger Bruce] Rauner in November 2014, although by a much more narrow margin than most of the city of Chicago, so that is something to keep in mind. It’s a ward full of professional working people. Increasingly it’s a ward full of families with young children, that’s very encouraging to the future of the city. It’s the ward characterized by people who are recent college graduates about to start a family or hoping to start a family, too. They’re making the choice to raise their family in the city instead of fleeing to the suburbs. For young couples, the 2nd Ward seems to be a top choice.

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