You still hear the word, and it remains a kind of ideal, a word meant to win approval for arguments, policies, proposals. “This has bipartisan support.” “These figures come from the bipartisan office of….” But the way Washington acts, the way Springfield acts, we often wonder if bipartisanship is just a word for a lost art, a word for something dead or rapidly dying. That’s what makes the recent endorsements of Rick Guzman and his run for Aurora mayor so heartening.
That’s Mayor Tom Weisner, Democrat, on the left (Rick Guzman’s right). Guzman served Weisner as assistant chief of staff before Weisner stepped down late last year for health reasons. He’s been Guzman’s mentor and encouraged him to run, so you would expect that endorsement, but the man on the right is Chris Lauzen, Kane County Board Chairman, and a Republican. The two senior statesmen of their respective parties. Guzman has built the most impressive bipartisan support for his campaign, support founded on dozens and dozens of projects, boards, events, and proposals where he’s been able to bring diverse perspectives into a room to work together. The office of mayor is particularly suited to this kind of work. In “If Mayors Ruled the World,” I quoted Fiorello LaGuardia’s famous comment that “There’s no Democrat or Republican way to fix a sewer.”
“This is a time for politics to give way to progress,” Lauzen said in his endorsement. He also noted Guzman’s gentle, inclusive style, contrasting someone who reaches out to you rather than shouts at you. “If someone shouts at you, my first inclination is to shout back. Rick doesn’t do that.” Reporter Denise Crosby has characterized Guzman’s mayoral opponent, Richard Irvin, as more “focused and intense,” as opposed to Guzman’s more laid back style. In endorsing Guzman, the Daily Herald noted that Guzman represented a decidedly different style among the four major candidates who were then running in the primary election. “But we like it,” the paper said. So this race for mayor is also about style, a subject I will consider more fully in “On Political Style” (a link goes live soon).
In his remarks, Tom Weisner said recruiting Rick Guzman to work for him “was one of the best decisions I ever made.” And he also noted that one of the first projects he gave him was to work with the Aurora Housing Authority on its controversial plan to “rehab” Jericho Circle. Guzman has been most noted recently for his work on rebuilding Aurora’s downtown with projects like the new Aurora Arts Center, where he leveraged $500,000 of city funds into $35,000,000 of development commitments, a 70 to 1 return on investment. Opponents have suggested that Guzman is more interested in Aurora’s downtown than in its neighborhoods, but the St. Charles Hospital project he shepherded makes great strides in stabilizing one of Aurora’s poorer neighborhoods, and his work to block the AHA’s Jericho Circle project resulted in a scattered-site housing plan that benefited both the AHA and the families—especially the children—that had been living in a neighborhood that had failed them for decades. I will report on this more fully in “Balancing Downtowns and Neighborhoods” (a link goes live soon).
At the end of the news conference where Weisner and Lauzen endorsed him, Rick Guzman noted that it was International Women’s Day, and also thanked Marilyn Weisner, Sarah Lauzen, and Desiree Guzman. “I’ve gone to Marilyn when I needed advice different from yours,” he said with a sly nod to the mayor, “and none of us would be up here today without the wisdom, advice and support of these strong women.”