Down With the Olympics! And, Like, Bicycles are Awesome. - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Down With the Olympics! And, Like, Bicycles are Awesome.



    Tom Tresser, the Green Party’s candidate for Cook County Board President, likes to boast that he’s the only guy in Chicago who’s stood up to Mayor Daley, and won.

    Before he got into politics, Tresser was the chief spokesperson for No Games Chicago, the anti-Olympic killjoys who ruined October 2009 for Daley. Tresser’s group flew all the way to Copenhagen to condemn Daley’s bid as a boondoggle and a vanity project. Apparently, the International Olympic Committee noticed. Members cited local opposition as a reason for voting out Chicago in the first round.

    Tresser, a DePaul University civics teacher, decided to use the Olympic fight as a warm-up for another tilt against the forces of Daleyism.

    “The county has never really been seen as an engine of excellence, as an engine of innovation and quality service, because it’s an adjunct of the Chicago Machine,” Tresser said. “The Chicago Machine has run the county for decades. It parks people there for patronage. Contracts are awarded to the highest bidder. Minority firms that aren’t really minority firms get hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    To weed out the time-servers and the hacks, Tresser wants a “desk audit” to examine every job in county government.

    And to show his independence from the Machine, Tresser wants to be a leader in “regional thinking.” Among his proposals: reviving the plan for a circle Metra line, so riders commuting between suburbs don’t need to transfer at Union Station.

    “Anything that will get people off the highways,” said Tresser, who also wants to build bicycle paths on abandoned railroad right of ways and train workers to install solar panels on county-owned buildings.

    Like his party’s most famous nominee, Ralph Nader, Tresser is argumentative, contemptuous of Republicans and Democrats, and single-minded. At a Violence Against Women forum at Loyola University, he wouldn’t get off the topics of cronyism and patronage.

    “Issues of violence against women and sexual assault are a big problem, but worthless spending and behind closed door meetings and corruption prevent the attention these programs need,” he told the audience.

    Not surprisingly, Tresser lost respect for Preckwinkle when she voted in favor of bringing the Olympics to Chicago. The athlete’s village would have been built in her ward.

    “Of course she wanted to court the mayor,” Tresser said. “That’s not independence. I wouldn’t want to be an alderman voting against the Olympics.”

    As the Green Party nominee, Tresser is encouraged by Rich Whitney’s showing in the 2006 race for governor. Running against Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka -- two candidates no one really wanted to vote for -- Whitney took 10 percent of the vote.

    If Tresser follows in the footsteps of Nader, collecting enough votes to cost Preckwinkle the election, that’s not going to bother him.

    “Then the Republican candidate will be helped,” he shrugs. “I hear he’s not a bad guy.”