Some Des Plaines candidates say more outreach to LGBTQ community needed

While all eight Des Plaines aldermanic candidates support displaying a rainbow Pride flag at city hall each June, some say outreach to the LGBTQ community should expand.

Residents in four wards will choose representatives for the next four years in the April 4 election.

The candidates discussed the city's efforts to connect with LGBTQ residents and other issues in online interviews with the Daily Herald.

Shortly after Mayor Andrew Goczkowski took office in May 2021, the city council voted to fly the rainbow flag at city hall during LGBTQ Pride Month.

That 5-2 vote reversed a controversial 2016 decision forbidding such a display without prior council approval. The original decision was made after the flag was flown at the city-owned library.

In August 2021, the council repealed a decades-old ban on wearing clothes designed for the opposite sex.

And this past January, several - but not all - elected officials said they shared community concerns about an event scheduled for the city-owned Des Plaines Theatre that was to be hosted by a group that has made queerphobic comments and sparked protests of suburban drag events. The event subsequently was canceled by the company that runs the theater.

2nd Ward

Incumbent Martin J. "Colt" Moylan is being challenged by Earl Wilson in the 2nd Ward, which covers part of Des Plaines' east side.

Moylan said he supports inclusiveness and diversity in the community. The son of former mayor and current Democratic state Rep. Marty Moylan, he said the flag-raising measure righted a wrong enacted by a previous council.

Wilson said the city has made "great progress" when it comes to LGBTQ rights.

"Everybody deserves the right to be heard. Everybody deserves the right to be respected," said Wilson, who lost the 2019 aldermanic race to Moylan.

4th Ward

Incumbent Artur Zadrozny is being challenged by former Alderman Dick Sayad in the 4th Ward, which covers part of Des Plaines' west side.

Zadrozny, who was elected in 2019, called the decision to fly the rainbow flag in June "progress."

Sayad was among the aldermen who voted to exclude the rainbow flag from display over city property in 2016. In the recent interview, however, he praised Goczkowski and the council for reversing that decision.

"It's something that we maybe overlooked," Sayad said.

Sayad said the council should reach out to other groups about flying their flags.

6th Ward

Former Alderman Mark Walsten and former Des Plaines School District 62 board member Brian Inzerello are facing off in the 6th Ward, which is on the southeast side.

Walsten said the LGBTQ community should be welcomed in Des Plaines, "along with other law-abiding groups."

Inzerello praised city officials for taking "great strides" to accept all people. The city should continue those efforts, he said.

8th Ward

Incumbent Shamoon Ebrahimi faces former Alderman Michael Charewicz in the 8th Ward, which is on Des Plaines' southwest side.

Ebrahimi, who was appointed in 2021, called the council's actions on LGBTQ rights a start. "But we have a lot more work to do in this area," he said.

Ebrahimi suggested the city further honor the LGBTQ community with public events. The city should pursue LGBTQ-owned businesses, too, he said, as well as those owned by immigrants and people of color.

Charewicz said the city "definitely is moving in the right direction" regarding outreach to the LGBTQ community. He voted against the flag policy in 2016, calling it "micromanaging."

Charewicz told the Daily Herald the city should extend the flag honor to other groups, such as military veterans and senior citizens. Additionally, Charewicz suggested city officials work with the Illinois General Assembly to honor the LGBTQ community with statewide events or flag displays.

"That would get us a lot more traction," he said.

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After the rainbow flag flew outside the Des Plaines Public Library in 2016, the city council limited what types of flags could fly over city property and excluded it. That decision was reversed in 2021. Courtesy of Des Plaines Public Library, 2016
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