Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) says he is forming a new City Council Veteran Caucus withAld. Ed Burke (14), Ald. George Cardenas (12), Ald. Danny Solis (25), Ald. Milly Santiago (31), and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29). And they’re set to meet officially for the first time this morning.
“The Mayor has a new director of Veterans Affairs,” Villegas told Aldertrack. “We want to make sure he has the resources he needs to be successful, and to introduce legislation to benefit veterans.” The current Acting Chair of the Mayor’s 21-memberAdvisory Council on Veterans Affairs is Victor Lagroon, first appointed to the board in 2012.
Veterans’ issues have popped up in City Council twice in as many weeks. Former 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer stopped by the Council Monday during the discussion of the Mayor’s proposed tobacco tax and hike in the smoking age. Balcer told aldermen vets and active military personnel should be exempt from the age restrictions. He argued that if vets are old enough to fight for their country and vote, they’re old enough to smoke.
And last week, the Committee on Human Relations advanced an ordinance that would make it harder for landlords to discriminate against veteran and active duty military personnel looking for housing.
Ald. Taliaferro, a Marine Corps veteran, confirmed he’d be joining the caucus, but said he couldn’t speak on a new veterans affairs head.
As a caucus member, he said he’d look for opportunities for veterans when they return from military service, including increasing access to existing help. “Many of the veterans that I’ve spoken with are not aware of the benefits that they have available through VA.”