Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Candidate Questionnaire: Rickey Hendon, 55

Candidate Questionnaire: Rickey Hendon, 55

State Senator (D), 5th District Lives on West Side


1. How do you define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago? And what do you see as the city’s role in funding the arts and fostering growth in the cultural economy?
I think it’s extremely important. It’s essential to the viability of the city-—it’s the spice of life. Without it, life would be boring and a little drab. It brings tourists into the city and it makes it a more pleasant city in which to live. I think the city could do a much better job of funding the arts. I believe if we do more, like we will when I become mayor, we can use resources to help the economy because when you draw people into the theater, producers can get compensated, the actors can get paid…the theater district can be vital to the restaurants and other businesses in that area.

2. Where do you stand on the proposed promoters’ ordinance, which aims to increase the regulatory and insurance requirements on local event promoters?
I’m against it. It’s a drawback from people doing performances here and promoting events here and that’s just not good.

3. Where do you stand on legalizing cook-on-site food trucks, as many other cities have done?
I’m not as familiar with cook-on-site food trucks, but I wouldn’t necessarily be against them as long as they are licensed.

4. Where do you stand on the merging of the Department of Cultural Affairs with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events?
I think that would be horrific. They have separate identities and responsibilities and I believe they have missions that don’t conform to each other. They should remain separate. I mean, if you look at what the current mayor is trying to do with SE now, if you privatize a lot of the special events, what do you do with the great work that that department is doing right now? It’ll lose its flavor, it’ll lose its independence on the creative side because the private events are geared more toward profit than culture or a good exhibit.

5. What was the last live local performance you attended? When? And what did you think of it?
Ray Silkman, the jazz man, at the Hilton. About six months ago. He was outstanding. In fact, I booked him later for [Illinois Senate] president [John] Cullerton’s inauguration in Springfield.

6. What was the last local cultural institution you visited? Are you a member of any cultural institutions?
Here in my district, the [node:33013 link=Garfield Park Conservatory;]. I just love it. No, not a member. What I’ve found as a legislator, if you want to support them, get them grants and things like that. You don’t need to be on the board.

7. What is your favorite local band? How about your favorite theater company? Restaurant? Artist? Comedian or other performer?
That’s a tough one. I don’t really have a favorite local band. I have a favorite singer—Slick, a rhythm and blues singer. Female would be my buddy Jennifer Hudson. We all bummed around together before they made it big. I write [songs] and produce. Favorite theater company: Anointed Harvesters. They’re a Christian-based group, but they don’t hit you over the head with the Bible. Restaurant: MacArthur’s is my favorite now that Edna’s has closed. Comedian: Damon Williams. He’s hilarious. Artist: none.

8. What will you do to bring the arts to underserved communities, as well as to children, around the city?
I would make sure that local theater companies to, first of all, build from the ground. I’m very good at getting revenue to build things. I was the sponsor of the capital bill for years in Springfield under president Jones. And for rehabbing existing facilities so they can get going. One thing that has hurt the area that I’m in, on the west end of it, is not having a thriving theater community. I represent Bucktown as well, so I don’t have that problem on the north end. But you have to put money into theater companies and cultural groups in order for them to survive, especially these days when donations, charitable giving is down. So I would most certainly do that through an aggressive grant program.

I used to teach theater and comedy to children. I had the Chicago Comedy Company and the Chicago Children’s Comedy Company, I was the instructor. You can put programs in the schools, put them in the Boys and Girls Clubs. I’ve done a lot of that.

9. Do you see Lollapalooza as a boost for the local music scene or a challenge to local venues?
I think Lollapalooza is good. We have to find ways of inserting local venues to fix that. But I think it’s wonderful.

10. Do you favor privatizing city festivals?
No, absolutely not. Often privatization is a way for those in power to pay off their buddies and we don’t save any money. The city doesn’t save any money. It’s just, who gets the money? So the city can lay off some people and break even…that doesn’t make sense to me. And private companies do things for a profit. I remember in Springfield they wanted to privatize the prisons. And I’m like, okay, we’re in the prison business to keep people safe by locking the bad guys up, but a private company might say, “Hey a $10 lock versus a $100 lock,” and they buy the $10 lock. So privatization is a crock.

11. Where do you stand on allowing a casino within the city limits?
I’ve already proposed putting two riverboats in Chicago. I’m against land-based [casinos] because it displaces people and they can do harm to local businesses surrounding the casino. Riverboats, when strategically placed and with an economic development program for the surrounding community, it can be a win-win in terms of jobs, in terms of businesses. If you have a big land-based [casino] like Daley was proposing with a Great America attached to it, you’re going to displace people. And it’s going to be so full of restaurants that no restaurants around the casino can survive. In my version, we won’t have that. I have to work with the City Council to come up with exact locations. I’m chairman of the subcommittee on gaming in Springfield so I know what I’m talking about. But I would like them to be downtown. That’s the most economically beneficial area to have it. One would be minority- and female-owned and the other would have local ownership components. We have to have minority participation and opportunities for women to own these casinos. That’s in my legislation.

12. Would you support the sale of naming rights to Soldier Field or Wrigley Field? How about more advertising signage at Wrigley?
No, I think they’re too historic to do that. I think they’re too important to the culture of the city. But I wouldn’t be against more advertising signage at Wrigley if that’s what they choose to do. You know, give the new owners an opportunity to build a winner! And I want to go to the World Series. I play softball, and this season I had a winning record that I’m very proud of: It was 41 wins and only 13 losses as a pitcher. So I root for the Sox, the Cubs, the Hawks, the Fire, the Bliss, the Wolves, you name it.

13. Do you have a personal connection to the arts community (i.e., are you an artist yourself, or do you have friends/family in the arts community)? If so, what is it?
I’m a writer. I have two books out right now. One is Black Enough/White Enough: The Obama Dilemma. That was my first book, on Third World Press. I have a new publisher now for a book that just came out called Backstabbers, also about politics, and it’s on Chicago Academy Publishers. So I write and produce, I’ve written songs. Earl Powell, probably one of the most talented producers in Chicago. Jennifer [Hudson], Slick and I used to be in his studio before she went to Florida and California and all that, before Slick got his CDs out. Earl is Jennifer’s Chicago producer and a very good friend of mine. My nickname is Hollywood. Some people think it bothers me, but it doesn’t. My theater friends call me Hollywood all the time. I didn’t write anything for Jennifer, Earl Powell did. He had two songs on her award-winning album. I’d love to get her some lyrics. Whenever I leave politics, I’ll be concentrating back on entertainment. I’ve had a TV show, short-lived, but I’ve had two TV shows, and I’ve produced a movie. And that’s led me to you know, I’m the sponsor of the bill to bring the movie business back to Chicago. Now we have movies being shot here, people working. There’s economic development. But when I was coming up I was an extra in 20 films [in Chicago].

14. Should the number of available liquor licenses for bars and clubs be increased, reduced or stay about the same?
I feel that a few more wouldn’t hurt the city as long as they’re in the right location. But to decrease them doesn’t make any sense to me. I wouldn’t be against an uptick, a small increase.

15. Mayor Daley cites the Theater District as perhaps his most cherished cultural accomplishment. What cultural achievement would you hope to see as your most important legacy?
I’m going to continue to bring the movies business back to Chicago and it is my intention, especially as mayor, to make Chicago the movie-making capital of the world. That would be my great accomplishment. It would be great for the people of Chicago. What happens is, our stars leave and go elsewhere because they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the support system. And when we get that support system back here, Guess what? They will stay here. They will move here. And property values will be enhanced. We can do it.

Editor's note: Hendon answered the questionnaire before dropping out of the race November 5th.

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