Up in the 45th Ward, alderman Patrick Levar finds himself in a surprisingly tight reelection race against three challengers. You’d figure he’d be trying his hardest to show his mastery of ward issues every chance he got.

But he’ll be skipping Monday’s aldermanic forum sponsored by the Portage Park Neighborhood Association even though his opponents–Terry Boyke, Robert Bank, and Anna Klocek–will be there. Levar says he has to call bingo at a local senior citizen center that night.

“We contacted Levar months ago–I think it was in November,” says John Arena, the association’s vice president. “He said he’d have to check his schedule. We just heard back that he had another commitment.”

Arena called Levar’s campaign office and wound up talking to the alderman’s father. “His father said, ‘Oh, he’s calling bingo,'” says Arena. “I laughed and he got kind of mad at me. He said it’s an important commitment.”

Of course, since Levar’s throwing the bingo party he could schedule it anytime he wants. Or he could dash over to the bingo game after giving his spiel–each candidate’s only given a half hour at the forum. “But no, Levar’s people said he was going to have to spend four hours at the bingo game,” says Arena. “That’s a lot of bingo.”

According to Levar’s spokesman, Manuel Galvan, the alderman isn’t trying to dodge anything. “He has a party for the seniors and he picks up the tab,” says Galvan. “The Portage Park Association sent him a questionnaire which he sent back, so he’s not ducking the issues.”

Actually, from a campaign standpoint, choosing bingo over the forum makes sense. At the forum folks figure to grill Levar about some of his more controversial planning decisions. Over at the bingo game he can distribute absentee ballot applications, volunteer to drive seniors to the polls, and avoid anything resembling a tough question.  

The forum, at 4839 W. Irving Park Road, starts at 7:30 PM Monday, February 12.