People with Passion: Bryan Lynch



Interview conducted on January 28, 2011


I've been in Wicker Park in the 32nd Ward for probably over thirteen years. First moved in when I was single. I owned a building with my brother and my father. I lived in it. The neighborhood was pretty rough. Got shot at. Got caught up in crossfire. Gangs. There was a drug house on the 2100 block of Potomac. Shootings were relatively common. A couple kids got killed - they were more or less assassinated. They sat in their cars in front of my apartment on Memorial Day weekend back in like 2000 or something like that. So it was a little bit crazy. The neighborhood's changed a ton.

The house that I live in, I used to walk by it all the time. It had a yard, and I wanted to stay in the city, wanted to raise my kids in the city. My girlfriend - now my wife - had a dog. I thought, "This is the type of place I would want." It went for sale right around the time we got engaged. We bought it. Fixed it up. Took us a long time to do it. Now we're living there with our three kids. I've got my own firm. I've got three little boys. Life is good. I'm happy with what I've got in terms of my family. Creating my own firm has been very rewarding, and I enjoy the work that I do.

But going forward with the way the city is operating, it doesn't seem that anybody really is cognizant of all these issues that are looming out there. It's like they're looking right in front of them, and not looking down the road to say, "This is where we're headed. Do you see what's going on?" It seems like we're talking about issues that maybe aren't as relevant to the health and longevity and prosperity of Chicago. I think there's bigger issues, like the pension liability.

I don't want to move. I want to stay where I'm at. I love living in the city. My mother started teaching a block away in the 60s at what was then called Wicker Park School. Had an aunt that didn't have any children. She was from an immigrant family. She taught, and was an assistant principal for thirty years at Andersen. Not saying there's a terribly vested history in the 32nd Ward or Wicker Park, but it has some affinity, and I've been there for a while, and it's home. It's where my wife has lived longer than anywhere else as well. It's where we want to stay.

But I'm not happy with the way things are. I've got more stuff going on in our area in terms of services, graffiti on my garage several times, my neighbor's garage has been broken into. Three people got mugged outside of our house within seventy-two hours about sixteen weeks ago. A grandmother walking her grandson out in front of Pritzker School about two years ago was mugged. I don't blame the alderman for these. It's not fair and wouldn't be right to blame any elected official for these. "This happened, and you should have stopped it!" How can you stop it? You can't. But I think you've got to let people know about these things. And our alderman was totally unaware of either of those events.

The one with the grandmother, that was something that the 1st Ward took an active involvement in. I think I even brought this up at that forum in Wicker Park, and at the end of it, the guy who worked for the 1st Ward was in the back, and he's like, "Hey Bryan, I heard what you said. I was just on the job a week." I'm like, "You handled that like a pro." He did. He took my number down. My email. He followed up. He said, "We've got a meeting. This is what we're doing." And he was from the 1st Ward's office.

That's what I thought should have been done. So just seeing the way things have been progressing in terms of service, or lack thereof, the attentiveness, being told to call 311. The place I used to live in on Potomac, a drain broke this past summer on the city side. For three weeks we had to wait for the city to come and fix the drain, because a clay tile broke and left the drain open. Water was going into an apartment. We had to pump it for three weeks. My dad was there routinely with this pump, and he said, "This is ridiculous. I'm going to call the alderman's office. We're not getting anything done here." I said, "Fine, call." Sure enough, he was told "Call 311." It was almost prophetic the way that came about.

So just looking at it maybe from a selfish standpoint, a quality of life issue and wanting it to be better than it was, I don't see that that's happening. Then on the macro level, I don't think that you're gonna accomplish things in city council or in your office or in your block by being strident or by being abrasive. I think you have to find likeminded people on certain issues that you may not agree with across the board, and figure out how to get something done. If getting something done alienates some people, so be it. But I have to think that there's an ability with enough people to be able to do certain things, to make change. I think that going forward, with the mayor stepping down, and with the huge change in city council, I do think there's a huge opportunity.

In terms of how best to get involved, there's really not a mechanism. I'd been involved in what used to be called the Old Wicker Park Committee. I had been involved with the Ukrainian Village Preservation Society. I'd been involved in the Illinois State Bar Association. I'd been elected to represent Cook County in the general assembly. So I'd been involved in different organizations and different community groups. Other people in the neighborhood had said, "Bryan, you used to work in the city. You've got a background. You're a lawyer. You kind of understand some of these things. Why don't you run?"

Since I was in high school, I was always involved in different groups, whether it was student council, or being president of an organization. Same thing with my mother and people in my family. They always got involved. My mother's side was incredibly involved in the Italian community in Chicago. Incredibly. The aunt that was the principal, she didn't have a family, she never got married. Her whole life was education and the Italian community. That's it. You got involved and you did things. You got involved in your community. You had a civic obligation. It's part of my indoctrination growing up.

[I read Bryan the Roosevelt quote and asked for his response.]

I've said that in almost every one of my forums - there should be term limits for alderman, there should be term limits for mayor, there should be term limits for every elected office. Running for office, and I almost kind of feel a little hokey saying it, you should be looking at it as an opportunity to serve. To take time away from what you're doing, and say, "This is my window to try to make my little niche, my little environment, better for everybody," and then go back to whatever it is that you did. Obviously everybody back at the founding of this country had an occupation other than politics, but at some point in time things graduated away from that to "I'm in this office, and this is who I am. I am a political individual political creature, and I have to make decisions in order to maintain my employment," which is office.

I'm the only guy running in the 32nd Ward that has a career or occupation other than politics or government. I'm the only one. I don't need this as a job. I have a job. I worked very hard to start it up, and did everything for the first year. I did every envelope, I did every fax, and it was grueling. It took long days. But I wanted it, so I did it. I'm not afraid to go in there for the next four years and make the difficult decisions and speak on the issues the way I think they need to be addressed. If at the end of the day that doesn't allow me to sit in a position four years from now to be re-elected because forces, you know, that have money that donate to candidates align against me, that will be fine with me. I can go back to practicing law. I don't need this as a stepping stone to go someplace else. All I want to do is try to get in there, try to get things on track, try to make sure we're doing the right things.

I'd like to be there probably two terms. That'd be great. I think you'd have the ability to affect change over that period of time - and then step out. I think that's a very accurate quote. You do: you lose sight of what you're doing. You're there to change the issues, and once you're there for a while, I think that you can become complacent or cloudy in your vision about what you should be doing. There should be term limits, absolutely, for mayor and for city council members.

So assuming that you get elected, but assuming that term limits aren't passed in the time that you are in office, how would you know that, "Okay, my job here is done"? What would you feel like, "I've come in, I've done this, and now I can hand this off"?

(Pause.) Knowing going in that I don't want to make this my career, I think I'd be looking at this from a standpoint of a finite period. Going in, two terms, maybe three terms - I think that's going to be somewhat of the barometer. I don't know that there would be any kind of seminal moment where I'd look at it and say, "I think I got there, I think I can take a deep breath and shut the light off and close the door and say I've done everything."

I don't know that there's any major thing, like health care legislation - let's say Ted Kennedy was still alive, and he looked at it and said, "I've been fighting for decades to get this done, and now that it's done I can step down and feel that the major piece of legislation I've been championing has come to pass." I don't think that would happen on the city level. Maybe if the city got to a point where the fiscal house was in order, where we actually had true reform with regard to our pensions, with regard to how we've got our budgeting set up, with regard to transparency on those issues, and those things were in place, then I think that that would be a pretty telltale sign for me to think some things have been done.

Education is a huge problem - 45% of our high school students not graduating, dropping out. It doesn't speak well for the future of our city to be a global player, to have a small economic base, to have people make good life decisions, good health decisions, good decisions for their family. Those are the issues, and I think to the extent that those are, that there's progress made on those, I think that those are the bench mark things that would be a good guidepost to say, "I think we've made some progress, and I can feel good about the direction that the city's headed in."

So, it's February 23rd. You've just been elected alderman. What are you most excited to do?

Seeing as how I won't be sworn into the city council until May, I would probably, at that point in time, be happy to have a breakfast with my kids and my wife. Truth be told, that would probably be the thing that I would look forward to at that particular moment, knowing that there's going to be several months ahead to prepare for being sworn in. That would be the thing I would look to do, reconnect with my wife and kids.

And upon May hitting?

And upon May hitting, I think it would be trying to collaborate with the likeminded individuals - and I think there will be a whole host of them - about sitting down and figuring out how we tackle the monetary issues that the city is facing. Where do we look at in terms of reforming the pension? The pension has got to be right at the top of the list.

We've got an obligation to the people that we've made a commitment to to fulfill that obligation. To change that is, I think, a wrong thing. It's one of those things that you talked about before: saying one thing and doing another. A commitment, as painful as it is, you have to see it through.

Other 32nd Ward Aldermanic candidates profiled in this series: Scott Waguespack ; Bryan Gorman ; David Pavlik

More information: First look


Lynch is lying

"I'm the only guy running in the 32nd Ward that has a career or occupation other than politics or government" Really?? What would you call your position in the Dept. of Buildings then? I call that dept. a MAJOR part of our city government.

where's the ward

Bryan, Are you aware that Pritzker is not in the 32nd ward? Maybe that's why the alderman wasn't aware of it and wasn't notified by the police or the person who got mugged. So maybe you could stop "not" blaming the 32nd ward alderman for it.

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