Chicago’s Jim Gardiner is No Friend of Palestine

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Jim Gardiner has a terrible reputation in Chicago politics. Gardiner, the alderman for the 45th ward on Chicago’s Northwest side, stood before the City Council two years ago and apologized, according to Block Club Chicago, for “leaked text messages showing the alderman calling women ‘c-nts’ and ‘dumb b-tches.’”

“I stand before this body to offer my sincerest apologies for the pain and insult that anyone has endured as a result. I take full responsibility for my offensive words in those messages,” Gardiner said. “I want to make it clear that I have never acted on those rants, however they should not have been expressed and it certainly was not my intention to demean anyone.”

Several  of Gardiner’s fellow council members weren’t buying his apology at the time, including  Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, alderwoman for the 33rd ward and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Rosanna and other aldermen called on Gardiner to resign, but he survived and went on to win reelection in 2023, despite being forced into a runoff. He also benefitted from a  ward map redistricting that gave him more conservative voters.

So, two years later it surprised many observers of city politics that during the recent City Council debate on a pro-Israel resolution sponsored by 50th ward Alderwoman Debbie Silverstein, Gardiner spoke against it. Gardiner told the council:

“Palestinian people in our community are some of the nicest, kindest, warmest I’ve ever met as well as Jewish people. But I cannot again … if Palestinian members of our community are not in support, I cannot be in support.”

But, it’s hard to swallow that Gardiner has had some miraculous change of heart during the past two years. It’s also not clear whether he actually voted against the resolution. It passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote, after Mayor Brandon Johnson cleared the hall of pro-Palestine demonstrators. Only Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez asked to be formally recorded as a no vote.

Within days of the city council vote, the real Jim Gardiner, once again, made an appearance. He was slapped with a $20,000 fine by Chicago Board of Ethics for “retaliating against a frequent critic and political foe by directing a city employee to issue ‘unfounded citations’ that could have forced the Jefferson Park man to pay more than $600 in fines.”

Gardner is the “first-ever finding of probable cause in an inspector general ethics investigation of a sitting member of City Council,” according to the Inspector General’s office. But, it doesn’t end there. Gardiner has a long history of thuggery and is under investigation by the FBI for corruption. Meanwhile, Charles Sikanich, Gardiner’s streets and sanitation ward superintendent is awaiting trial for illegally selling a machine gun while on city time.

Gardiner, the son of Irish immigrants and an EMT on-leave from the Chicago Fire Department (CFD), was first elected alderman in 2019 when he successfully defeated incumbent Alderman John Arena. He rode the wave of neighborhood opposition to a low-income project supported by Arena. “The reaction to this proposal showed me a side of Jefferson Park [45th ward] I wasn’t proud of and a bit shocking to me,” Arena said.

In 2021, Gardiner was one of eight aldermen who voted against strengthening Chicago sanctuary city ordinance. Along with Matt O’Shea and Nick Sposato, Jim Gardiner are a coterie of aldermen that represent some of the worst backlash politics in Chicago. As I wrote previously in Tempest:

Large concentrations of cops, firefighters, and other mostly white city workers reside in their wards on the far Northwest and Southwest sides of the city. O’Shea gained media attention a few years ago, when it was revealed that disgraced alderman Danny Solis was wearing a wire for the Feds. O’Shea declared, “Where I come from, if you wore a wire, someone’s gonna kick your ass.” Sposato described himself as a “rightie” and openly supports Trump while being a fanatical red-baiter.

Jim Gardiner is no friend of Palestine.

JOE ALLEN is the author of The Package King: A Rank and File History of United Parcel Service.