As a candidate for 19th Ward alderman against incumbent Matt O’Shea in the Feb. 26 municipal election, David Dewar said he is a blue-collar independent who has solutions for the pension crisis in Chicago and for supporting Chicago Police Department officers while holding them accountable.
Dewar, of Mt. Greenwood, is the owner of Tax Free Retirement Solutions, a business in Orland Park, and his career also includes employment as a boiler operator and in security.
He has served as a Republican election judge, but he said his campaign has no political party allegiances. He just wants what’s best for his constituents.
“My motto is ‘We the people’ ... instead of ‘We the politicians,’” Dewar said. “I’ve seen where we’re spiraling out of control financially.”
Dewar, of the 11300 block of South Millard Avenue, said he is a member of the Mt. Greenwood Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of directors of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce.
He said he has invited O’Shea to participate in an aldermanic forum to be held on Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m., at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park.
O’Shea had not responded to that invitation by press time on Jan. 28.
Dewar said he felt like “the unicorn in the room” as a Republican election judge in a ward that is predominantly Democrat, but he does not intend to promote either party’s platform if elected alderman.
Among Dewar’s priorities are fixing city employee pensions, improving police and community relations, and improving the expenditure of public dollars.
To address the pension crisis and generate billions of dollars, several elected officials have pushed recently for a publicly owned casino and for legalizing recreational marijuana.
Dewar said those solutions are “Band-Aids.”
Instead, he supports “systemic solutions,” including possibly asking Chicago Teachers Union members to contribute more to their pensions while accepting lower cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments.
He said something must change immediately.
“The money’s going to run out,” he said, “as the people in the state of Illinois are leaving.”
He said “sacrifices” might need to be made and that the retirement age could potentially be raised. He believes his experience in the financial industry while working at his business gives him a unique perspective and reflects the advice he gives clients when it comes to financial security and the pension crisis.
“It’s not how much you make,” he said, “but how much you keep.”
Dewar said change can happen.
“If certain rational, not extreme, changes can be made, then it’s going to help. It’s obviously going to help,” he said. “I haven’t heard those conversations, and I think they’re honest conversations. I have them with my clients.”
Dewar said he wants tax increment financing (TIF) funds and special service area (SSA) funds to be re-evaluated, as he said they are not being properly appropriated.
The city defines TIF as a system in which “funds are used to build and repair roads and infrastructure, clean polluted land and put vacant properties back to productive use, usually in conjunction with private development projects. Funds are generated by growth in the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of properties within a designated district over a period of 23 years.
“When an area is declared a TIF district, the amount of property tax the area generates is set as a base EAV amount. As property values increase, all property tax growth above that amount can be used to fund redevelopment projects within the district.”
The city’s SSA program is defined as “local tax districts that fund expanded services and programs through a localized property tax levy within contiguous areas.”
Dewar wants to establish a TIF committee to oversee the program and reduce the mayor’s influence over the use of TIF funds.
Dewar said local residents are concerned about where the money is going.
“I’m hearing that conversation a lot,” he said, “as I get out there and talk with people and talk with the public. … I’m a businessman. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. It’s always ‘OPM’—other people’s money. And unfortunately, the people who have the money—the politicians—they are not as thoughtful of other people’s money as they are of their own.”
In regard to issues concerning police, Dewar said he has a “rational” view in which police should be allowed to serve and protect, but “bad apples” should be held accountable. He said beat officers could be used to improve police relations with communities, but there is “no easy solution.”
Dewar commented on media reports released in late January about 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis wearing a wire to help the FBI in its case against 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, who has been charged with attempted extortion for trying to pressure a business in the 14th Ward to hire Burke’s law firm.
Many aldermen expressed outrage at the idea of one of their own cooperating with authorities in a case against a colleague. Among them was O’Shea.
“Where I come from,” O’Shea was quoted as saying, “if you wore a wire, someone’s gonna kick your ass.”
Dewar said an alderman must earn the public’s trust.
“I wouldn’t say something like that,” Dewar said, adding that while some citizens don’t trust police, “It’s the same thing with aldermen right now.”
After media reports about his comments, O’Shea, a lifelong Beverly resident, expressed regret about them in a letter to a Chicago Sun-Times.
At a recent comedy roast to raise funds for O’Shea’s re-election, a panel of comedians and local officials made jokes about the alderman. Dewar was also the butt of a joke, as local comedian Pat McGann, who was the emcee, showed a photo of Dewar dressed in the colorful, patriotic garb that he wears to promote his company. McGann quipped that O’Shea would easily defeat such an opponent.
In viewing video of the comedy roast, Dewar said, he took the jesting in stride.
“I thought it was hilarious,” Dewar said. “He’s actually a funny guy. The thing is, with our problems, you have to laugh or else you’ll cry.”
Dewar said he has considered the results of the past two aldermanic elections in the 19th Ward. He knows O’Shea won comfortably—earning 61 percent in 2011 against four opponents and 73 percent in 2015 against one opponent. However, Dewar said, President Donald Trump, in his surprise win in 2016, earned his highest level of support in Chicago from Mt. Greenwood. Dewar said he hopes to receive similar support from Republicans who are lying low until the polls open for the aldermanic election.
“I think this year, in this climate,” Dewar said, “I may have the best chance that somebody has had in quite a while.”
Dewar said he supports Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows children of illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S., but he does not support Chicago being a sanctuary city that does not cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.
Dewar said that, on the issue of abortion, he is pro-life.
Dewar said he enjoys talking with his clients about politics, and he often asks them about their opinion on the odds of electing an honest politician versus the odds of winning the lottery.
He said their responses are troubling.
“Their response—90 percent of the time—is, ‘I have a better chance of winning the lottery,’” Dewar said. “Isn’t that sad? ... I really want to change that.”
Although Dewar admitted he has an “outside chance” of being elected, he wants to be part of the solutions for Chicago’s longtime problems.
“We need to think outside the box,” Dewar said, “because we’ve got major problems.”