Tom Tunney was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. He left to pursue his education, obtaining his undergraduate degree in restaurant management from the University of Illinois and a Master’s degree in hotel management from Cornell.
He returned to Chicago in 1980, settling in the Lakeview neighborhood, which has been his home since. Having taken over the Ann Sather restaurant in 1980, a pivotal moment in the history of gay rights and the developing HIV/AIDS crisis soon followed and Tom was determined to make a difference. One of the first volunteers for the newly founded Open Hand Chicago (a program to provide home delivery of hot meals to patients with AIDS), Tom opened up his restaurant to help with the preparation and distribution of meals. Since that time, he has continued to provide meeting rooms at the restaurant, welcoming a number of different community groups.
In February 2003 Tom became Chicago’s first openly gay Alderman. Since then he has worked in a very hands-on manner to put into effect his belief that working in the best and balanced interests of both residents and businesses makes a vibrant and successful community. His commitment to this ethic has won accolades:
- In 2013, CNN Money Magazine named Lakeview as the third best big city neighborhood in the USA.
- Out Traveler Magazine voted the local Boystown area as, “Best Gay Neighborhood in the world”.
Maintaining and improving quality of life in big-city neighborhoods raises many challenges. Among those that Alderman Tunney has invested most effort in are:
Public Safety: Shortly after the opening of the new Police Station on Addison, the 19th and 23rd Districts were merged. Since the merger, Tom has fought to maintain and increase the number of officers assigned to this area. Statistically, Lakeview ranks among the neighborhoods with the lowest violent crime rates in Chicago. Increased security at CTA train stations and the addition of Chamber of Commerce business district security patrols have had a major impact, as has upgrading residential street lighting and the installation of security cameras.
Infrastructure Maintenance and Upgrades: Since taking office in 2003, Alderman Tunney has been committed to maintaining, upgrading and ensuring proper restoration of all public infrastructure throughout our neighborhood.
One of Alderman Tunney’s top priorities has been upgrading our street lighting. Since 2003, he has invested over 7 million dollars accounting for nearly half of the ward’s annual infrastructure funding. Lighting upgrades have included brand new underground connections, aluminum poles, piggy back or over sidewalk lighting. All new lighting upgrades establish lighting on both sides of the street and over the sidewalk.
In addition to upgrading our neighborhood’s street lighting, Alderman Tunney has also invested in upgrading outdated traffic and pedestrian signals, installing new traffic signals and pedestrian signage, improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure. These improvements include new traffic signals at Roscoe and Clark, Waveland and Clark, pedestrian countdown upgrades at the Halsted, Barry and Clark intersection and the 44th Wards Greenway bike path that runs from Ashland to Inner Lake Shore Drive.
Alderman Tunney has also worked with the Department of Transportation to establish full street asphalt restoration of streets after large scale water, sewer, gas and communications upgrades. Historically city departments and private utilities were only required to resurface half of the street that they worked on.
Alderman Tunney has a passion for schools in his Ward. He attends school functions throughout the ward ranging from LSC meetings, 1st Day of School meet and greets, poetry assemblies, Lit fests, movie nights and many more. Since becoming Alderman, he has worked hard to push for improvements inside and outside of our schools. Some of the improvements that have happened and are on the calendar for the next year include (but are not limited to):
Hawthorne Playlot (Phase 1)
Agassiz’s new turf field
Agassiz’s capital improvements to its roof and masonry
Blaine Elementary replacement turf field
Lake View High School – ongoing $20 mil. renovation to its building , including a brand new turf field and play lot (Lake View is in the 47th Ward but is the high school feeder for many schools in our Ward). Alderman Tunney holds a monthly update meeting , keeping track of all updates. Estimated end date – August, 2019.
Detailed information about current projects can be found in the School section on our website.
Development: With the guidance of the 44th Ward Community Directed Development Council, the 44th Ward Master Plan was compiled in 2005. The plan guides our community through development decisions with input from neighbors. Tom has worked to bring in new food outlets, such as Mariano’s, Whole Foods and Target, as well as Transport Oriented Developments that reduce vehicular congestion. Senior and affordable housing have both increased during Mr. Tunney’s tenure, with new developments such as the Town Hall Apartments and major upgrades to the Britton Budd Apartments.
Balancing the redevelopment of Wrigley field and the needs of adjacent residential areas is another priority. The Cubs have made unprecedented investments in our community but the residential character of the surrounding streets needs to be preserved. Working with the Cubs and the community, we updated the night game ordinance, welcomed the Hotel Zachary and Gallagher Way and celebrated the first World Series Championship in 108 years!
Making certain that the quality of life for 44th Ward residents is the best it can be is a top priority for Ald. Tunney. Expanded green spaces, and some of the best schools in the city, some of the best restaurants and entertainment venues all make Lakeview a wonderful community in which to live and do business. Welcome!
In November of 2013, CNN Money Magazine named Lakeview the third best big-city neighborhood in the country. While Lakeview will always be number one to me, it is a wonderful recognition and showcases many of the things that make our neighborhood so great. Whether it be our close proximity to Lake Michigan, our endless entertainment options including first class theaters, concert venues, restaurants and Wrigley Field or the accessibility to public transportation and many local parks, Lakeview has so much to offer residents and visitors alike.
The 44th Ward is also home to the “Best Gay Neighborhood in the World!”
Boystown has been voted the world’s most “incomparable” gay neighborhood by readers of Out Traveler Magazine.
“Chicago’s sizable and friendly LGBT neighborhood, referred to as “Boystown,” was voted best gay neighborhood in the world, beating areas in other cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and Madrid. Chicago’s Boystown, centered around Halsted Street, was the nation’s first officially-recognized gay village in the U.S. and is the home to a large Pride celebration, as well as Market Days, an unrivaled August street party. The neighborhood has everything you could want: bars, clubs, restaurants, architecture, walk ability, its own El stop, and now marriage equality (Illinois legalized same-sex unions in 2013). It also seems more welcoming than some other gayborhoods that shall remain nameless.”
This huge distinction truly showcases all of the things that make our neighborhood great and all we have to offer to both residents and visitors alike.