A Week of Shootings

In the past 9 days there have been four shootings in the 50th Ward.

On February 7, at 5:30 p.m., a young man was shot in the leg at Devon and Oakley.

On February 14, at 1:30 p.m., a young man was shot in the leg at Devon and Leavitt

On February 15, at 11:30 p.m., two young men were shot in the 6500 block of North Albany. One of them, shot in the head, died. The other man, shot in the face, was hospitalized.

These shootings follow two other violent incidents:

On January 26, police were fired upon in an apartment on the 6400 block of North Kedzie. One officer’s bullet-proof vest was grazed by a bullet. The shooter, a man in his 30s, was described by his parents as mentally ill and was taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation by the police.

On February 5, police arrested a man who barricaded himself inside his home in the 6400 block of North Ridge. It was a domestic dispute; the woman involved alleged that the man had a weapon.

The alderman neither responded to nor even acknowledged any of these incidents until the double shooting on Friday. Those shootings led off her Newsletter, in which she declared that police patrols were increasing and that neither of the victims lived in that area.

Typical Silverstein response. During her campaign for re-election, she has repeatedly declared public safety her top priority. Are we supposed to feel safer because the two most recent victims don’t live “in that area”? Increased police patrols won’t prevent what has already happened.

During her re-election campaign, Silverstein has repeatedly referenced shootings in Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania as the reasons for her obsessive focus on police activity. Maybe she should pay attention to what’s occurring closer to home. Maybe she should work with the police and the community to identify potential problems in the ward. Maybe she can try to explain why shooters from outside the ward are coming here. Does West Ridge have a gang problem? A drug problem? A gun problem? Where is the police – community meeting?

All of these incidents happened on Devon or within a block or two of Devon. This is the heart of the 50th Ward’s immigrant community where families are struggling to survive in an environment they don’t understand. They are losing their children to gang activity because these young people have no jobs to go to and no safe place to hang out together.

What we are seeing here is the result of Silverstein’s refusal to engage in the hard work of economic and community development. There are no businesses hiring after-school help. There is no opportunity for kids to participate in after-school cultural activities, such as music and art programs. After 8 years in office, Silverstein has failed to build a single community center. There is little to no help available for at-risk youth in the 50th Ward.

Silverstein prefers directing the cleaning of sewers to the tough work of providing economic and cultural opportunities for the community’s children.

Remember that when you cast your vote for alderman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sun-Times Endorsement: What Sikh Temple?

The Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Debra Silverstein, citing the streetscape and her work on securing funding for the library as its first two reasons. Never mind the traffic jams and the air pollution. Never mind delaying the library’s opening date to benefit the alderman’s re-election campaign. From downtown, everything seems just fine.

But the Sun-Times goes completely off the rails when it cites the alderman’s work with the police after the attack at a Sikh temple in the 50th Ward. Come again?

There is no Sikh temple in the 50th Ward. There never has been a Sikh temple in the 50th Ward. No temple of any faith has been attacked in the 50th Ward. The alderman, who never misses an opportunity to tell residents how dangerous the neighborhood is and how tirelessly she works with the police to keep everyone safe, was referring to the attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. In August 2012. Nearly seven years ago. The Sun-Times didn’t bother to check the facts.

The fact is that Silverstein has cited this attack several times, including at both recent candidate forums. She’s also referred to the Pittsburgh synagogue attack. In the first forum, she did not specify where these attacks took place. After Follies called her out on this in its report on the first aldermanic forum, she was careful to name the locations when she again referenced the attacks at the second forum.

The Chicago Sun-Times should be ashamed of itself for not fact-checking the alderman’s statements. The residents of the 50th Ward deserve better from a paper that bills itself as “the hardest-working paper in America.”

And Silverstein should be ashamed of using this scare tactic to help win re-election.

 

The Second Aldermanic Forum

The second aldermanic candidate forum was held on Sunday, February 10, co-sponsored by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council, and the League of Women Voters. Turnout was low, no doubt due to the weather forecast, but approximately 30 people attended. The day was very cold, and it started snowing during the event, so the hot coffee offered by the hosts was much appreciated

Zehra Quadri did not participate, citing a scheduling conflict, but she did not notify the organizers until just minutes before the forum started. It was beyond rude. The organizers, however, allowed her campaign manager, Bob Babcock, to deliver a short statement on Quadri’s behalf as part of the opening statements.

Silverstein had to leave by 3:25 p. m. so the forum was shortened to accommodate her.

Opening statements

Debra Silverstein repeated  her statements from the first forum, talking about the Devon streetscape, school improvements, and public safety  She beamed at the audience and said how proud she was to be the alderman of such a diverse ward.

The image consultants who have clearly helped her redefine herself for this election have wiped out all traces of spontaneity  and authenticity, not that she started with much of either. 

Andrew Rowlas described himself as a proactive progressive who believes strongly in democracy and community input. He noted that he has held leadership positions in several organizations and believes strongly in community empowerment–citizens should have a voice in governance. He would also like to build for the ward’s future.

The ward’s future, something you never hear Silverstein talk about. She and Ira have done nothing to create a ward organization that will nurture future leaders. On the other hand, that’s probably a good thing, since more leaders like them we don’t need.

Bob Babcock for Zehra Quadri: The community knows Zehra from her community service work. She has done a great deal  for the community. There’s still lots to be done, like economic development, affordable housing, and an end to violence.

Yes, Zehra has done a fine job helping many residents. But she has thus far been unable to expand her appeal. People need to see and hear from candidates. That’s why Silverstein poses for so many pictures. .

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the ward?

Rowlas: Lack of community involvement. He would address this initially through the participatory budgeting process.

Silverstein: Public safety. She said that crime is an issue throughout the United States, and once again referenced the Sikh temple attack in Wisconsin and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. She also said that people are afraid to go outside because they might be arrested by ICE. Her voice rising, she proclaimed that she had organized roll calls and the entire community stood together in solidarity  against violence and against hate and for love and she was so proud to be representing this diverse community.

It was pure hokum. Silverstein reminded me of the lounge singer with the phony persona who turns in a mediocre performance but ends his act by singing “America the Beautiful” as the audience stands and cheers. The singer basks in glory, but the audience is not cheering him or even the song. They’re cheering for themselves. It’s rank emotional  manipulation but it works.

What is your plan to expand the variety of retailing options in the ward?

Silverstein: She cited “really good stores” that have opened in the ward, like TJ Maxx and Five Below, and claims that new stores and restaurants are opening. She cited Malabar Gold and Diamonds for choosing to open its first US jewelry store on Devon.  She  hopes the new library will attract business to Western Avenue but said Western is “challenging.” She also claims she has ” enlisted” the City to help her with economic development.

Eight years as alderman and she’s only now asking the City for help filling vacant storefronts and advising on economic development? Rowlas has repeatedly said he would first ask the community what kinds of stores it wants in the neighborhood, Silverstein never mentions resident input in her plans. She also did not mention the “spirited economic development plan” she promised in 2011; it has yet to materialize. Replacing one failed sari shop or  Indian restaurant with another is not economic progress. Yes, Malabar Diamonds opened, but Andrazz Jewelers closed–neither the retailing district nor the neighborhood gained anything. Silverstein also failed to address adding variety to neighborhood shopping districts. She remains clueless about what kind of shopping and entertainment opportunities residents want, and she has no intention of asking them.

Rowlas:  There are more than 100 vacant storefronts throughout the neighborhood. He would work with the Chamber of Commerce and other groups to identify businesses that residents want and attempt to attract them to the neighborhood. He views economic development as a continuous process, not a matter of celebrating the occasional store opening. 

Would you be willing to meet with community groups to discuss spending discretionary funding (menu money)? 

Rowlas: “Absolutely.”  He noted that 11 Wards in the city use participatory budgeting to allocate their ward’s discretionary funding, “and it works.” He sees participatory budgeting as a way to involve the community in decision-making.

Silverstein: She repeated her “concerns” that, even if 2, 000 people took part in the participatory budgeting process, they would not reflect the 55, 000 people living in the ward.  Instead, she encourages people to call her office with their suggestions for menu money spending. Her office compiles lists of these requests and conducts field surveys to determine which ones will be funded.

Silverstein’s response reflects her old-fashioned ward boss approach. It demonstrates that she does not understand the participatory budgeting process and that she prefers a labor-intensive focus on clerical work instead of spending her time leading the community. Why is having Silverstein and her staff choose the menu money projects more representative than having 2,000 residents choose them? The truth is that Silverstein opposes any progressive ideas that would lessen her grip on power. Her “concerns” are nonsense. 

Would you create a community planning / zoning council?

Silverstein: She claimed that she created several mini committees on economic development at the end of last summer, and has held several meetings with them. She further claimed that the committee members come from all over the ward, and that she has started to “implement” some of their recommendations. She put their work on hold until after the election so that it would not become “politicized.” 

Let’s review. Silverstein is concerned  that only 2,000 people voluntarily taking part in participatory budgeting would not “reflect” the entire Ward. Yet she has no problem with handpicking a few residents to serve on secret mini-committees that recommend projects for economic and community development. She proudly proclaims that no zoning or community development takes place without a public meeting  yet “implements” these secret recommendations with no public discussion. If these mini committees actually exist, it is highly unlikely the community will ever know the names of their members. We have been waiting two years to learn who served on her secret committee for the new library. 

Why must Silverstein keep her activities in behalf of residents secret? What criteria does she use to select the members of these secret committees? Who do you have to know to get appointed? Who “recommends” appointees to Silverstein? Remember the line, “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.”  Silverstein doesn’t want “nobody” either. 

This approach typifies Silverstein’s outmoded way of thinking. She prefers to address ward issues as individual problems to be solved rather than parts of a larger system has no longer works efficiently–or democratically. She prefers to keep the larger community at bay while she and a few handpicked supporters define and determine the ward’s priorities.

Silverstein then added that whenever a zoning change is requested, her “first response is, we have to have a community meeting, I have to hear from my constituents about this.” She claimed there were “four or five” meetings on the new library, at least four meetings on the streetscape and numerous community meetings  on zoning .

Even for a machine hack like Silverstein, these untruths are whoppers. See the timeline of public meetings  on the new library. Note that there was one two-hour meeting and two one-hour meetings on a building expected to endure for 30 years.The City held two meetings on the Devon streetscape, and it was clear that residents’ concerns were irrelevant. The City insisted it had traffic studies and plans for parking.

Gridlock on Devon on a Sunday afternoon. Note that vehicles block the intersection. This is Devon & Fairfield, looking west.

I live just north of the east-west alley behind Devon, and my neighbors and I tried to tell the alderman and the City that reducing the traffic lanes would drive cars and trucks into that alley. They wouldn’t listen. Dozens of cars ignore the “No Thruway” signs and enter that alley every day. It’s become a highway because drivers can’t stand the traffic jams on  Devon. Vehicles often blast through the alley from California to Rockwell, rarely signaling their presence at forks in the alleys.. Devon buses are delayed and workers arrive late, often missing connections to bus and rail lines. The street is now too narrow for buses and trucks to safely pass one another.

I have never been invited to a community zoning meeting. I have never even seen any announcement of a community zoning meeting. 

We still don’t know whether she would include the community in an economic development planning board or create a zoning committee. She chose not to answer the question. But based on her aversion to contact with or input from residents other than members of her secret committees, you know what the answer is. No, she won’t.

Rowlas: He is unaware of these mini committees or of any public meetings on economic development held by the alderman. He would definitely establish a community economic development planning board and also a zoning council. He believes that community input is necessary, adding as an example participatory budgeting, which started out small but grew as more people become used to participating in the process. Rowlas believes that leadership should come from the bottom up, not the top down, and thinks that too many things occur in the ward that people don’t know about.

I think Rowlas has offered a key insight: this community is not used to participating in civic life because the Silversteins have effectively co-opted or thwarted all attempts at community participation. It’s worth noting that the public had four hours of input into the new library, while the alderman’s secret committee had many times that. The meetings on the Devon – McCormick development were a sham, all decisions having been reached before the public was invited to give its meaningless opinions. If residents truly had meaningful input on community business, such participation would grow. It’s the last thing Silverstein wants.

How would you attract and retain businesses?

Rowlas:  He repeated that he would first work with the community to determine the kinds of businesses residents want and avoid having businesses that will not thrive in the neighborhood. He noted that a business like Trader Joe’s will do its own research to determine if this neighborhood is the right one for it.

Rowlas sees the lack of variety in retailing options as a problem, citing the more than 50 groceries and 30 beauty shops lining Devon Avenue. He said it could become an international shopping district but can be currently viewed that way only in a very narrow sense.

Where are the toy stores? Shoe stores?  Casual clothing shops? Candy stores? Art galleries? Italian and Greek restaurants? Clothing stores for kids?  Can you buy winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves? Where’s the florist? The café? Non-religious bookstore? Stationers? What if you want better-quality clothes than those available  at discounters? These things–and many more–are missing. Residents must shop outside the ward to get them.

Silverstein: She personally thinks Devon is an international shopping district. She said her office works hard to help business but that unfortunately sometimes businesses set up shop before learning that they will have zoning and licensing issues, and then her office has to help them get organized properly.

Silverstein just doesn’t get it. Buying cucumbers and cell phones from merchants from Iran, India, and Syria is not an international shopping experience. After eight years in office, she has failed to put in place any economic plan or process for new enterprises that wish to set up shop in the 50th Ward. Her hand-picked SSA has failed to work with commercial landlords to prevent them from making the same mistakes over and over and over. For example, there is one storefront on Devon that in less than 10 years has been home to four failed sari shops–one combined with a dental office–then housed a nonprofit grocery, and is  about to become a mattress and furniture store. In the last month, two other storefronts selling mattresses and furniture have opened on the next block. The alderman brags about inviting residents to special events and ribbon cuttings as business builders, but without retailing that appeals to the entire community, it’s just lipstick on a pig. “Special events” held in a parking lot?  Unique to the 50th Ward, where for some reason the parks the alderman touts are off-limits for special events. 

The differences in the candidates’ approaches could not be more clear. Rowlas wants to work with the community to create an economic development plan. Silverstein wants to fill storefronts with any business that wants to move in, and does not want any community input except for what comes from her secret committees.

How would you balance the city budget? What would you cut?

Silverstein: The big issue right now is pensions  but “pensions are a promise” that have to be kept. She thinks that new revenue could be found from expanding gambling and legalizing pot as long as proper safeguards are in place. She didn’t say what those might be. She also thinks that casinos would help the hospitality industry, filling hotels and restaurants thus generating tax revenue

Rowlas: A graduated city income tax has worked very well in New York. The state collects the money and transfers it to the city. He believes it is unfair to taxi drivers that Uber and Lyft services are not taxed, because taxi medallions are extremely expensive, yet Uber and Lyft drivers do not have to buy any equivalent. He also thinks a temporary commuter tax is a possibility. Rowlas noted that income from selling pot and from gambling is not reliable. He does not believe in taxing groceries, non- prescription medicine, low-cost clothing, or shoes.

Silverstein should read Crain’s Chicago Business on hotel building in Chicago.

How should we address the coming pension shortfall?

Rowlas: The Center for Taxation & Budget Accountability recommends issuing bonds and putting the proceeds into the pension funds.

Silverstein: Silverstein was annoyed at having to “repeat” herself and gave the same answer she gave to the previous question

Do you favor expanding TIFs to include large businesses relocating to Chicago?

Silverstein:  TIFs should be reformed, they’re supposed to be used for blighted areas only. We need more transparency and developers need to state their intentions clearly.

Rowlas:  TIFs should be reformed. He hopes Silverstein will vote against the Lincoln Yards development because that’s something the new mayor and the new council should deal with. Rowlas also thinks that a TIF earmarked for a specific project should end when the project is completed and not at the end of the standard 23-year time frame. He noted that one of the problems with TIFs is that they divert money from schools and parks and libraries.

Do you favor a City or public bank?

Rowlas: Yes. North Dakota has had a successful public bank for 100 years. It would be a tough sell in Chicago because so many banks are headquartered here.

Silverstein: Undecided. There’s only one public bank. She needs more information.

The alderman should read this explanation about the work of public banks and this article on public banks in the U.S. and internationally. 

What do you plan to do about the ward’s aging infrastructure? Lead pipes?

Silverstein:  The city needs to take action The city gives out test kits but people don’t always return them. Ordinances should be passed to ban lead and lead materials from new housing and use in major renovations. The city needs more revenue so perhaps there could be a cost-sharing program with property owners like there is with sidewalks.

Rowlas:  He was able to place a clean water referendum on the ballot last November in three precincts in the 50th ward. It received overwhelming support–more than 95%. He thinks the first step is to determine how extensive the problem is. He would then hold public hearings and develop a plan to address the issue.

What would you do to improve public transit?

Rowlas: We need to encourage the use of public transit to alleviate environmental damage and traffic congestion. Cost may be a factor. He’d like to see better ways of communicating with waiting passengers about where the buses are.

Rowlas is certainly right about the poor communication between CTA and its riders. Many of the notification systems within the bus shelters don’t work and CTA Bus Tracker is too often unreliable.

Silverstein:  She’s had many conversations with the CTA. Their process is to study ridership levels to determine where transit can be expanded. We don’t have rail transit which is unfortunate because she’d like to make it easier for people to get to Devon Avenue.

She can’t do anything to improve transit in the ward? She bragged recently that when she saw the state of Rogers school, she picked up the phone, called the mayor, and told him, “we can’t have this,” then obtained $47M million for the ward’s schools. But she can’t do that for public transit riders?  The truth is that when Silverstein doesn’t want to do anything she relies on the argument that it’s the bureaucracy that stops her. 

It was little noted at the time, but Silverstein was one of three aldermen who last year proposed expanding the #155 Devon bus to the west as far as the Metra station at Caldwell, giving more people access to the Little India shopping on Devon. But she can’t do anything about getting the #93 California or #96 Lunt to run on Sundays and holidays so workers and shoppers can get to Evanston and Lincolnwood?

Do you support the establishment of a police accountability board?

Silverstein: As a member of the city council, she just signed off on the Obama Justice Department’s consent decree. She thinks it was the best option.

Rowlas: He favors the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) largely because it’s democratically elected. He thinks that more civilian control over the police will improve police – community relations.

In August 2016, the city held various meetings on police reform in every sector of the city. Silverstein was the only alderman in our area not to attend. She scheduled a property tax appeal session with Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin for that night. She could have moved this session to another night but chose not to. She evaded her responsibility to the city and to the 50th Ward, many of whose residents attended the session. As  alderman, Silverstein is one of only 50 people who would vote on the final agreement. But rather than join her fellow aldermen at the only north side session, she chose to spend her time doing a job Larry Suffredin can do in his sleep.

Would you support ranked-choice voting  in Chicago run-off elections ?

Rowlas: Ranked-choice voting works in other cities.

Silverstein: She doesn’t have enough information to decide.

It works this way, alderman.

Do you favor reopening and expanding the mental health clinics?

Silverstein: Yes. At the time she voted to close the clinics, she was told that they were not at full capacity. She also noted that all 50 alderman voted to close the clinics.

That’s Silverstein ducking for cover from a decision she made that went bad. It wasn’t just me, everybody else did it, too. 

Rowlas: He served on the board of a mental health clinic when he lived in Indiana. Yes, reopen and expand. The matter should never have come before the City Council.

Many routine matters are handled by the aldermen. Would you support allowing City departments to make decisions on matters governed by ordinance?

Rowlas: City government needs to be reformed, not sure it’s efficient. We have too many aldermen compared to cities like New York, which has 15 council members who focus on legislative issues rather than administrative tasks..

Silverstein: No. The aldermen know their wards best.

Silverstein want to continue doing her part-time clerical job while earning $120,000 per year and collecting a fat pension if she is re-elected. 

Would you support permitting City Council committees to elect their own chairmen rather than consulting with / having them appointed by the mayor? 

Silverstein: She thinks it’s a good idea. A new mayor and new council will be more independent. She’d like to see more diversity and more women.

Rowlas: We  are supposed to have a strong council but we don’t. We have rubber stampers who do whatever the mayor wants. There isn’t a lot of deliberation. He thinks one reason for that is because the mayor has so much money in his political fund that he can help elect people who will support him.

Would you support restoring the city’s Department of the Environment?

Rowlas: Yes. Has two overall concerns, climate change and income inequality.  We need to restore this department and really look at ways carbon is emitted and how we can stop it. We need to look at ways to make Chicago green, provide clean water, get rid of lead pipes, pollution, and address health issues.

Silverstein: Yes. She also supports it for public health reasons and is proud that in our ward there are a lot of requests for solar panels.

Since the 50th Ward is so diverse, multilingual and multicultural, why is there no public art or cultural arts center to reflect that?

Silverstein: We’re about to get a “fantastic” new mural in the new library, and we have a sculpture in Stone Park, and we’re looking at getting another sculpture for Thillens Park. She’s looking forward to getting more public art in the 50th Ward.

Silverstein is so clueless about art that when the sculpture was selected for Stone Park, Silverstein mistakenly thought that the community had a choice of three sculptures and asked residents to let her know which of the three they preferred,  adding that she couldn’t decide which one she liked best. In fact, the three pieces joined together to form one sculpture.

As for adding to the sculptures at Thillens Park, Silverstein is apparently unaware that Thillens Park belongs to Lincolnwood. It is leased by the Chicago Park District. It’s the Park District and Lincolnwood that will decide what if any sculptures are added, not Silverstein.

Notice that she didn’t answer the question of a cultural arts center for the 50th Ward. Residents have been working  to secure the old  Northtown library for a Cultural Arts Center. There have been rumors for the past two years that Silverstein has already promised the building to the Jewish community for either a synagogue, a school, or a social service agency. The Indo-American Center would also like to acquire it.

There will be no cultural center in the ward as long as Silverstein is alderman. She has a vested interest in keeping the various ethnicities and religions in their silos. Getting together in a cultural endeavor could mean finding common ground politically, and this is a danger for her.

Rowlas: Art is an important aspect of the community. We don’t have anything like a cultural arts center here (in the 50th). It’s important to support our local artists and  a cultural arts center will support the community, our local artists, and put on productions that will attract others who will spend money in our retailing corridors.

Should the City support a Green New Deal similar to the one proposed at the federal level? 

Rowlas: Yes.

Silverstein: Yes.

Do you support term limits for aldermen?

Silverstein: “Elections are term limits.”

When Ira held a town hall meeting in 2016, I asked if he would support term limits for state office. He replied that term limits are elections, that people have an opportunity to vote for someone else. The Silversteins share this opinion with most machine politicians–throw us out, if you can. Well, Ira’s gone.

Rowlas: Yes, two terms for mayor and three terms for aldermen. He would also term-limit committee chairmanships. He believes in publicly financed elections to encourage more people to get involved because elections are too expensive for most people who would like to run.

What would you do about the increase in crime in the 50th Ward?

Rowlas: Relatively speaking, our community is one of the safest in the city. That doesn’t mean we don’t have crimes. Economic development would help deter crime by providing stability and jobs and an expanded tax base would help the schools.

Silverstein: There are all kinds of crimes–shootings and property crimes. She receives calls about crime throughout the city. Many crimes are preventable. She would educate people about calling the police. She intends to continue to work with the police. “I will make sure the police do their job.” There are 38 new cops this year alone. She’s advocating for more.

Yes, that’s what she said. Do you believe that 50th Ward residents are calling Silverstein about crime in other areas? Do you believe the police will slack off if Silverstein doesn’t crack the whip over them? She keeps stoking the fear that there are criminals on every block. This is nonsense. 

Do you support rent control?

Silverstein: She’s “open” to considering it but is concerned that the affordable housing stock would be diminished with rent control.

What “affordable housing stock”? Those 44 units above the library? As long as tenants don’t break the rules, they can live in those apartments until death. So what is Silverstein talking about?

Rowlas: Yes. There are ways to make housing affordable and help landlords, too, through grants and loans to maintain property..

Would you support shifting affordable housing decisions from the ward level to the city?

Rowlas: Yes. Central control would be more efficient. He thinks affordable housing should be extended to the middle class as well.

Silverstein:  She thinks there should be a “combined effort.” She doesn’t think “somebody downtown” should decide but sees community liaisons as helpful with community input.

What Silverstein means is that she’s kept affordable housing out so far, and she will continue to do so while paying lip service to affordability.

Several recently published studies highlight the role that racial and ethnic segregation play in Chicago, leading to disparities in education and job opportunities. What is the role of the City Council in addressing this issue? 

Silverstein:  The 50th Ward is flourishing. Our schools are filled to capacity and with only one exception are all rated +1. She meets with an advocates for 50th Ward school principals and there is $40M coming into the ward schools.  She’d like to see that throughout the city.  She wants all children to get the education they need to be successful.

See how she ducked the question while appealing to the audience’s pride in the 50th Ward?

Rowlas:  We need to look at how to promote more tolerance and acceptance of different groups among the citizenry. Some things are illegal, like segregation. This city is experiencing an exodus of people right now and part of this is the search for opportunity. This is a serious issue and needs a top-down approach.

Are there too many aldermen? Should we reduce the number to 15?

Rowlas: Yes. Some services performed by the aldermen would be more efficient if performed by the City. Some aldermanic functions need to be broadened to include the whole city in order to become efficient.  We need to look at our city government and try to make it ready for this century. There’s been talk in recent years of reducing the city council to 25 members but perhaps we could go lower. New York is much larger and has only 15 council members.

Silverstein: No. Being alderman is a very difficult 24/7 job and  it’s really important to constituents that they get their services and needs fulfilled. She really thinks that it should be based on numbers  so we should look at the census. She is concerned  that if we lowered the number of aldermen to15 it would take longer to get service requests in.

Yes, this is what she said. Silverstein cannot let go of the idea that service requests should go through her office. She does not accept that it’s more efficient to use the City 311 service directly. She is so bogged down by routine clerical work that she cannot imagine her office without it.  While other alderman have the time and interest to devote to cultural and economic affairs within their wards, Silverstein is focused on delivery of routine city services. This is partly a reflection of her vocational training. CPAs focus on details. Silverstein likes having power but is incapable of the broader vision required of a leader. 

Why do you want to be / continue to be alderman?

Silverstein: Loves her job, loves meeting  with the community, and loves how much has been accomplished in the last 8 years.

Rowlas: He wants to be alderman to work for the common good of all residents. He would like to break down the silos that separate us. He would hold more community meetings to discuss neighborhood issues, and would engage the community in governance. Rowlas believes we should celebrate our diversity. He also believes we should end the secretive way of operating and create jobs for the community. Rowlas believes elections should be about democracy.

How would you encourage young families to move into the ward?

Rowlas: We  have good schools. We are somewhat underdeveloped, and need to create economic and recreational opportunities. There are no places for families to socialize. There are no toy stores. He would establish those things.

Silverstein: Thinks the ward is flourishing. The schools are full and most are rated 1+. There’s just one school that fluctuates. She doesn’t want to see anybody leave the ward because of high housing costs.

Closing Statements

Silverstein: It’s an honor and a privilege to be alderman. A lot has been accomplished but there’s a lot still to do. She will continue to work with school principals, the police, and on economic development.

Rowlas: He believes in working for the common good, bridging the silos that keep residents separated. He would hold more community meetings and encourage civic engagement. He thinks we should celebrate our diversity. He would create jobs. He supports CPAC.

 

 

 

The First Aldermanic Forum

Andrew Rowlas impressed, Zehra Quadri was nervous, and Debra Silverstein tried on Rahm’s 2015 sweater at Thursday’s aldermanic forum. The format was time-efficient but did not permit the candidates to question or challenge one another’s statements. Audience members submitted written questions before and during the forum.

The West Ridge Community Organization sponsored the event and did an excellent job hosting about 50-60 residents on a cold, blustery night.

The candidates’  statements clearly reflected  their  worldview, life / work experiences, and  problem-solving approaches.

Quadri’s nerves got the better of her in the early part of the evening, but she made some important observations about the ward based on her nearly two decades of community service work through the organization she founded, Zam’s Hope. Quadri identifies problems, defines solutions, and seeks funding for programs to relieve suffering and improve people’s lives. She has worked extensively with small business owners and knows firsthand the difficulties involved in starting up and nurturing a new enterprise.

Rowlas, who has a PhD in education, emerged as a reflective and pragmatic thinker who takes a holistic approach to solving problems. He connect the dots and believes that systemic change is necessary if we are to return to more democratic ways of accomplishing our goals.

Silverstein bought a lot of professional help this time around and was accompanied by Ira, several staff members from both her office and her campaign, and a videography team. She debuted a new, gentler persona that reminded me of the 2015 election and Rahm’s campaign sweater. Immediately after the election the sweater was tossed and it was–and will be– business as usual. She had nothing new to say– streetscape, public safety, new library, blah blah blah.

Opening statements. Andrew Rowlas said that among the reasons he is running for alderman is his concern that “we have lost our deliberative democracy,” noting that while Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States, it no longer functions well. He believes we can and must do better. Zehra Quadri detailed nearly two decades of community service work. Debra Silverstein stated and restated her three key talking points–the Devon streetscape, the new library, and public safety.

The streetscape has created a traffic nightmare that leaves the area choking on vehicle emissions. The new library is no longer “state-of-the-art” but has been surpassed by the South Shore branch, which is larger, will contain a recording studio for teens and young adults, and will  have a teacher on staff after school.

Silverstein’s obsession with police work is beginning to worry me. West Ridge consistently ranks as one of the safest areas in the City, and not because of anything Silverstein has done. Middle class communities tend to have lower crime rates overall, and most of the crimes in this neighborhood are property crimes–stolen bikes, graffiti, garage break-ins. There is occasional violence, and sometimes residents are the victims of violent crime elsewhere, but it’s the officers of the 24th and 19th police districts who keep the neighborhood safe, not Silverstein. They don’t need her advice on how to do it, either. 

Aldermanic priorities. Quadri cited education, youth and senior services, economic opportunity, and availability to the community. Her legislative priorities would include funding community programs and participatory budgeting. Rowlas would focus on encouraging civic participation through initiatives such as participatory budgeting and community councils to guide zoning and economic and community development. Silverstein would continue to emphasize public safety, education–specifically her “work” with school principals, and said she hopes  to “continue” her work on economic development. Continue? When did she start? Judging by her own newsletter, her “work” with principals consists of the annual paper-plate pizza lunch.

Participatory budgeting. Rowlas and Quadri are for it, Silverstein against, saying she has “concerns” that, if only 2,000 residents take part in the process, it isn’t “reflective” of the ward’s 59,000 residents who didn’t participate. Yes, that’s what she said. She was re-elected in 2015 by roughly 20% of the ward’s registered voters, which is not “reflective” of all the ward’s residents, either. Not all eligible residents are registered voters, and in that election fewer than 30% of registered voters went to the polls. Her argument is nonsense. She doesn’t intend to give up one iota of power and doesn’t want the community involved in public business.

Zoning.  Rowlas and Quadri support residential input into zoning matters. Silverstein said she always meets with residents before every zoning change, sometimes with the community as a whole, sometimes only with those affected by the change. Yes, that’s what she said. I’ve never been invited to any zoning change meetings, have you? And how does Silverstein know who’s “affected”?

Corruption. Rowlas sees this as  a structural problem in City government, and noted that there’s a code of silence among aldermen, with most not challenging the corruption they encounter.  Silverstein said she voted for more oversight of the City Council in 2016, and stated that with a new mayor and changes in the City Council, there would be more independence for the aldermen, adding that she wants a more independent council. Yes, that’s what she said. Never mind that she was one of Rahm’s most reliable allies, voting with him 98% of the time in the last two years. Never mind that she rarely speaks at Council meetings and simply goes along with whatever the mayor wants.

New Revenue. Rowlas pointed out that all current revenue sources are negative–taxes, fees, and fines. Quadri would seek government grants and other funding. Silverstein thinks that a casino is a possible source of new revenue and that it would also help the hospitality industry–hotels and restaurants. According to recent reports, lack of interest by millennials and market saturation are seriously affecting the gambling industry, and gambling income in Illinois has been consistently shrinking.

Aldermanic Communication. Both Rowlas and Quadri would make better use of technology to communicate with residents. Rowlas would hold more frequent meetings with the community, use his newsletter to discuss business pending before the City Council, and get community input before making decisions. Silverstein touted her weekly two-hour ward night, her weekly newsletter, and her frequent contacts with the community through “her” flu shot clinic, annual movie night, and job fairs. She noted that residents frequently approach her in the “neighborhood” Jewel and Target. The events she cited are City-sponsored, paid for with tax dollars; that she takes credit for bringing to the ward . In fact,  every ward in the city  is included in these programs . The “neighborhood stores” she mentioned are both in Evanston. Even the alderman has to leave the ward to do her shopping.

Economic Development. Quadri would invite the community to participate in economic development and planning via community meetings. She would also develop special projects and work to ensure there is more variety and less duplicative retailing. Rowlas also noted that the neighborhood does not have a wide variety of stores and only one coffee shop. He would create a community development board to find out what kind of retailing residents want and work to bring those businesses in, noting that celebrating the occasional store opening is not an economic plan. Silverstein stated that “there is no zoning change that happens without a community meeting.” That’s what she said, but it’s a lie, as demonstrated by her stealth zoning change for the parcel that would have become the medical marijuana clinic. After the City’s zoning board granted Silverstein’s wishes and voted against the clinic, Silverstein changed the zoning to “residential” without any public notice.

Affordable Housing and Rent Control. Quadri noted that affordable housing brings funds into a community and there is a need for rental assistance programs. Such measures also bring jobs. Rowlas noted that “affordable” is defined as no more than 30% of one’s income, and stated that people are entitled to housing they can afford, and that it should be “decent and clean.” Silverstein bragged that in the past eight years she has brought 44 units of affordable housing to the community–44!–all of them located in the new library. She added that rent control would have to be “greenlighted” by Springfield, and was concerned that rent control could affect housing availability. She said she wants to keep the neighborhood affordable for families, but didn’t define “affordable.”  The alderman has never attempted to create affordable housing in the 50th Ward. The new housing development she authorized on Western Avenue consists of  condos and townhouses in the $400,000-$500,000 range, well out of reach for working-class families.

Public Safety.  Silverstein bragged about “organizing” police roll call meetings, voting for the municipal ID card and against ICE activities. She cited attacks on Sikhs and last October’s synagogue shooting as reasons for concern, and even referenced the 2012 mass shooting of Sikhs. These events happened, respectively, in Oregon, California, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. There is no credible threat in Chicago.

I think that Silverstein’s obsessive focus on public safety results from (1) the understandable fears of the Orthodox community that it might come under attack at any moment, and (2) the fear felt by  new immigrants, strangers  in a new land whose language and culture they often do not understand.

The recent shooting of Eliyahu Moscowitz in Rogers Park magnified Jewish fears, though he was one of two victims and there is no evidence he was targeted because he was a Jew. Anti-Semitism is a powerful force, and it crosses all racial, ethnic, religious, and class lines. The threat is  real. What I object to is the alderman’s constant stoking of that fear for political gain.

Many new immigrants often perceive common American behaviors as threatening because of their own life experiences in their countries of origin. This is especially true when their children begin to cast off traditional ways and enjoy the new freedoms they have found in America.

But I think Silverstein’s obsessive focus on crime does not reflect the community viewpoint and can instead instill the belief that one lives surrounded by criminals. That’s just not so. Silverstein’s obsession with police and police activities is beginning to be a bit creepy. 

Quadri, who serves on the CAPS Board, also believes the ward is not safe, saying that people are afraid to be out after dark. Rowlas pointed out that crime is reduced by economic development, good jobs, good schools, forming block clubs so neighbors get to know one another, and community empowerment. He  recommends building police-community trust by having beat cops that neighbors can get to know.

Police Reform.  Rowlas favors CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council). He believes there is too much power in the Mayor’s office and too much “yielding” in the City Council. Silverstein favors the consent decree negotiated between the Obama Justice Department and the Chicago Police. Quadri would give more power to the police and “let them do their job.”

Public Bank – Yes or No? Quadri – No. Rowlas – Yes. Silverstein – Undecided.  But if the new mayor’s for it, Silverstein will be too. 

Who are you endorsing for Mayor? Quadri – No one. Rowlas – Lori Lightfoot. Silverstein – Undecided. No surprises here. Quadri has no  money so she is of no interest to mayoral candidates. Lightfoot endorsed Rowlas. Silverstein will not risk offending the next boss but will find plenty of nice things to say once she knows who it is.

Climate Change. All three candidates favor renewable energy.

CTA (specifically, extending the route  of the 49B Western bus to Howard). Quadri would meet with the community. Rowlas would move the end of the route to Howard, and review needs on each transit line. Silverstein claimed “constant conversations with the CTA” but said transit  depends on ridership levels.

The “ridership levels” argument is typical of the old way of thinking about city services. Residents need to travel to work and shopping. Public transit–an essential service–must be available regardless of ridership level. 

Retaining Chicago Residents. Silverstein said the 50th Ward is “flourishing.” She noted  that the SSA promotes Devon Avenue and that people are flocking here from all over the City and beyond to shop in our unique stores.

This is the standard Silverstein line on Devon Avenue, in use since the 2015 election. It isn’t true. In fact, there’s been a huge drop in retailing revenue in the 50th Ward during Silverstein’s tenure as alderman. A “flourishing” Ward does not have blocks of vacant storefronts and empty commercial buildings. Why Silverstein thinks the streetscape will help retain residents is a mystery. But that’s what she said

Quadri believes that residents will remain in Chicago and new residents will be attracted to the city if they have options and feel comfortable here. Rowlas said that he saw community empowerment as key, citing the need to involve residents in community development, economic planning, and participatory budgeting. He would also improve communications between the alderman and the people.

Closing Statements. Rowlas talked about building a cultural and performing arts center that would serve local residents and bring tourists and residents from other communities to the 50th Ward. He noted that people would then spend money at restaurants and shops. Quadri discussed her community service work and the need to support families. Silverstein declared that she is honored to be the alderman, has brought major improvements to the ward, cited her work with the police and the schools, and continues to work on economic development.

Candidates remained available to any audience member with further questions.

The next 50th Ward candidate forum will take place on Sunday, February 10, at 2 p.m. at the Bernard Horwich Center. It will focus on economic development.

 

Meet Lori Lightfoot and Andrew Rowlas

Join mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot and 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas at a meet and greet in the 50th Ward.on Wednesday, February 20, from 6-8 p.m. at Urban Convene, 2711 West Peterson Avenue.

Lightfoot is one of the original challengers to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, getting into the race before Rahm dropped out. She has an impressive resume: Assistant United States Attorney, President of the Chicago Police Board, and Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force. She is a reform candidate for mayor, and endorsed Rowlas a few weeks ago. Lightfoot has been endorsed for mayor by the Chicago Sun-Times, which said of her:

“More than any of the other 13 mayoral candidates, she has the vision, values, qualifications and policies to be an effective leader for the whole city, from the hedge fund managers to the fast food workers. She is calm, focused, principled and independent.”  The paper noted that, while mayor would be her first elected office, “…she has been a powerfully influential public servant. She has been an outspoken critic of bad moves by City Hall, calling out her own bosses. She has also — and this is not widely understood — been a force for honesty and integrity behind the scenes.”

Rowlas is a former educator and current community activist. He served as president of the West Ridge Community Organization until stepping down to run for alderman. A strong believer in community empowerment, Rowlas single-handedly arranged to have a referendum on clean drinking water on last November’s ballot in some 50th Ward precincts, and is currently petitioning to have the old Northtown Library become a cultural arts center. He also served as a member of the LEARN Coalition, the group responsible for bringing the community the new Northtown Library.

Rowlas plans to empower 50th ward residents through initiatives like participatory budgeting, a ward zoning committee, and a ward economic and community development council–all measures opposed by current alderman Debra Silverstein.

City Hall and the 50th Ward both need reforming. Come and hear what these two outstanding candidates for political leadership have to say.

Questions for the Candidates

The first of only two forums for the 50th Ward aldermanic candidates will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at Devon Bank. I have some questions for them.

For Debra Silverstein:

1.  Other than the Devon streetscape and the new library, what do you see as your main achievement for the ward over the last four years?

2.  In one candidate questionnaire, you said that no zoning change is ever considered in the 50th Ward without community input. Can you recall a single community meeting that you organized that was devoted to a zoning change?

3.  What will be your process for determining the fate of the old Northtown Library building? Please be specific.

4.  You claim that public safety is the most pressing issue in the 50th Ward. Statistics show  that the 50th Ward is one of the safest in the City. Are you overreacting to isolated incidents?

5.  There have been two serious incidents in the neighborhood in the past two weeks involving mentally unstable residents. Do you now regret your vote to close the city’s mental health clinics?

6.  You are one of 35 aldermen on the Finance Committee. You have never publicly protested Alderman Burke’s way of handling taxpayer business or his recusals because of conflicts of interest with his private law practice. Why?

For Andrew Rowlas:

1.  What would be your first priority for the ward if you are elected alderman?

2.  Would you join the Progressive Caucus of the City Council or remain an independent voice?

3.  Alderman Silverstein has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from local businesses. Would you accept such donations and, if so, would you institute caps on the amount of money you would accept?

4.  The 50th Ward is neither politically conservative nor politically liberal but a mix of the two, with a healthy dose of political moderates. How would you effectively represent all the differing political viewpoints?

5.  What would be your first priority with regard to economic development?

6.  How would you as a former educator support our neighborhood schools?

For Zehra Quadri:

1.  You have not reported any donations or loans to your campaign. How is your campaign being funded?

2.  The services you offer at Zam’s Hope are available to all Ward residents regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. How has working with our diverse community informed your view of what this Ward could be?

3.  What would be your first priority as alderman?

4.  You have said that the ward needs a far broader retailing base. How would you persuade businesses to locate here?

5.  What kinds of innovative and creative businesses do you see moving to the 50th Ward if you are elected alderman?

6. Do you support turning the old Northtown Library into a Cultural Arts Center?

For all candidates:

1.  One of the dangers of an elected school board is that it could be co-opted by slates of candidates backed by special interests. What would you do to prevent this?

2.  The city will have to find $270M in additional funds to make required pension payments this year. Changing state law and/or the state Constitution will require too much time to be an effective solution. What do you think is the single best source of additional revenue? Please be very specific.

3. Would you support a binding referendum to cut the City Council from its current 50 aldermen to no more than 15? Please answer yes or no. Do not explain your answer.

4. Do you agree that an independent, non-partisan commission is the best way to redistrict the City of Chicago after next year’s census? Please answer yes or no. Do not explain your answer.

5.  The 50th Ward contains a diverse array of people who tend to exist in ethnic, racial, or religious silos, with little contact between them. What specifically would you do to promote coöperation and interaction between these groups?

6. We are one of the few Wards in the city without a movie theater, a bowling alley, and other forms of recreation. What would you do to bring such attractions to the neighborhood?

 

 

Having It Both Ways

Debra Silverstein says a lot of things about what a good job she’s done for the 50th Ward. Most of them are not true. In some cases, she tries to associate herself with–and thereby claim credit for–routine City services, like sewer cleaning and tree trimming. In other cases, she claims credit for the vision and work of others, as she does with the new Northtown Library / senior apartments. Silverstein still can’t bring herself to utter the words “LEARN Coalition,” but it was this group of neighborhood improvement activists who actually deserve the credit for bringing a new library to this neighborhood.

Silverstein’s latest exercise in artful political lying arrived in my mailbox yesterday. This one is about how she votes against “…any budget that included a property tax hike…” and will “…continue to hold the line against any new middle-class taxes.” Yes, she has voted against budgets with property tax increases. But she’s voted for the tax increases themselves. (See my earlier post for details.)

If she had any political courage or any real convictions, she’d vote against both the budget and the tax levies that fund it.

Silverstein wants to have it both ways. As usual.

Take the Laquan McDonald case.

Silverstein voted to pay the family of Laquan McDonald $5.5M so they wouldn’t sue the City for his death, effectively allowing Rahm to keep the video of the shooting from the public. Every alderman who voted for the settlement knew about the video and what it showed. There was no discussion in the City Council when the settlement in the matter “In re Estate of McDonald” was presented. As she has in settlement after settlement after settlement,  Silverstein asked no questions  and voted to pay the money. When a judge ordered the video released, Silverstein claimed in her weekly newsletter that she was shocked by what it revealed. Really? It begs the question:

If she didn’t know about the video, why did she vote for the hush money? If she did know about the video, where was her conscience?

Silverstein recently said that she is a strong supporter of working-class families and looks forward to negotiating with Chicago’s labor unions during her next term. But which side will she be representing? True, the taxpayers pay her $120,000 year for her part-time job. That’s roughly a half million dollars every term, or just under $1M for the past eight years.

But over the past 8 years, UNITE Here has donated $42, 464 to Silverstein, while its Local 1 has contributed another $28,268. SEIU Illinois PAC has given her $14,397. The Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC donated $12,293, and AFSME Local 31 has given Silverstein $12,000. The Chicago Teachers Union has given her $6,500.

That’s roughly a year’s salary in political donations right there. Add the money she’s received from Rahm over the past eight years–a staggering $90,000–and the money donated by Ira’s senatorial  campaign ($12,500) and the 50th Ward Democratic organization ($7,650). Silverstein has received almost two years salary from six unions, the mayor, her husband, and the 50th Ward Democratic organization he controls.

Do you really believe she’s representing the people of the 50th Ward? Or her donors?

These amounts do not include funds received from local merchants and other businesses.

Machine politicians find it easy to raise money from organizations and people they insist are NOT looking for favors, while finding it nearly impossible to locate funding for basic public services without raising taxes and/or fees. 

Responding to a question raised by the Burke scandal  about whether  staff member should have outside jobs , Silverstein recently told a Chicago newspaper in her endorsement questionnaire that she “…would not employ staff who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city.” Yet her campaign manager, Keith Sokolowski, is also a Community Relations Commissioner for the Village of Niles, and spent the last 18 months as an organizer for now-Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

This is why political reform is so hard to enact. Machine politicians like Silverstein get re-election help from professionals with ties to special interests and a strong interest in keeping things as they are. Special interests are where the money is. Silverstein has more than $212,000 in her campaign fund.

Her closest competitor is Andrew Rowlas, who has less than $3,000.

 

Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Alderman?

How much do you know about Debra Silverstein’s performance as alderman?  Take the Follies quiz!

1.  As she has demonstrated over the past eight years, Silverstein’s vision for the 50th Ward includes:

(a) an economic development plan that includes all major commercial corridors and brings residents a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment choices;

(b)  a community development plan that involves residents in ward governance and promotes civic engagement through her Zoning Advisory Board, her Resident-Business Economic Development Council, her Youth Advisory Council, and the 50th Ward Participatory Budgeting Committee;

(c) keeping residents advised on government issues through her weekly ward newsletter that focuses on City and Ward business, emphasizes major issues before the City Council, and reports on Silverstein’s votes in committees and the City Council during the previous week;

(d)  none of the above.

2. The Devon Avenue streetscape is a major accomplishment because:

(a) gridlock gives drivers and passengers more time to look at empty storefronts;

(b) the widened sidewalks and ample seating areas west of California are lovely to look at and not cluttered with shoppers;

(c) Silverstein says it is;

(d) grocery tourism is our ward’s primary growth industry.

3. Silverstein styles herself a law-and-order alderman and believes that community safety is best maintained and advanced by:

(a)  photo-ops of herself at outdoor police roll calls;

(b)  glorifying routine police business like serving warrants and checking on parolees by rebranding such activities “multijurisdictional task forces” or “police stings” and claiming she “organizes” them;

(c) hosting community meetings with police brass to address property crimes occurring north of Pratt while ignoring any and all crime south of Pratt, including murder;

(d) talking to and/or texting the 19th and 24th District police commanders on a daily basis;

(e) all of the above.

4.  Over the past 8 years, Silverstein has used her power as alderman to support which of the following charitable activities:

(a) giving away turkeys to the less fortunate  at Thanksgiving;

(b) organizing coat drives for adults and children facing winter without warm clothing;

(c) arranging for a neighborhood warming/cooling center for the homeless  and those without adequate heat or air conditioning;

(d) creating a neighborhood food pantry;

(e) none of the above.

5. Silverstein brags endlessly about the 50th Ward’s diversity, which is best exemplified by:

(a) buying fruits and vegetables from immigrant-owned stores;

(b) finding new ways to get to work when Devon is closed for parades and religious festivals;

(c) attending one or more of the many cultural festivals Silverstein organizes;

(d) marching in the ward’s annual Fourth of July parade alongside friends and neighbors from other lands;

(e) associating only with people who look just like you;

(f) all of the above.

Sorry–this was a trick question. Options (c) and (d) do not exist.

6.  Silverstein’s claim that “people from all over the city and beyond” are flocking to our “unique stores” are:

(a) true;

(b) false;

(c) boosterism;

(d) deusional.

7. Claiming personal credit for the delivery of routine city services is acceptable because:

(a) an alderman is entitled to claim credit for everything except the rising of the sun;

(b) these things would not happen if anybody else  were alderman;

(c) she was elected primarily to ensure that the City does not slack off on tree maintenance and sewer cleaning;

(d) Silverstein has nothing else to brag about.

8. Silverstein enhances the educational opportunities of 50th Ward students by:

(a) giving them a chance to take part in participatory budgeting so they can get a sense of how government works;

(b) helping them earn community service credits through year-round  projects such as her snow shoveling corps, ward beautification and cleanup projects, and connecting young people with senior citizens who need occasional help shopping, using computers, etc.;

(c)  hosting an annual pizza-on-paper-plates lunch  for 50th Ward school principals;

(d) insisting she personally “fights” for every dollar from any source spent on any ward school at any time.

9. Silverstein improves residents’ quality of life through such initiatives as:

(a) paying close attention to the environmental pollution generated by traffic gridlock, and seeking ways to alleviate the damage to public spaces, private yards, and residents’ lungs;

(b) waging a public information campaign to encourage residents not to  toss household garbage in street corner trash cans, thus improving the cleanliness of our streets and decreasing the amount of food available for rats;

(c) working with the CTA to ensure that bus routes are adequately staffed, reasonably timed, and available to residents 7 days per week;

(d) hosting multicultural events for residents, helping to break down ethnic and religious silos and fostering neighborliness;

(e) none of the above.

10. Which of the following is not true: Driving around the ward looking for potholes is:

(a) an important aldermanic function neglected for many, many years before Silverstein was elected;

(b) the ward superintendent’s job;

(c) a distraction from the more important work Silverstein should be doing;

(d) an overwhelming personal obsession.

11. Silverstein has not yet been endorsed by any mayoral candidate because:

(a)  she’s a machine hack, and the reformers won’t go near her;

(b) an endorsement from Daley, Mendoza, or Preckwinkle would remind voters that Silverstein is part of the Chicago Machine;

(c) Silverstein wants to be absolutely sure who the next Boss will be before kneeling in supplication;

(d) all of the above.

12. There have been no public meetings on the fate of the old Northtown Library building because:

(a) none are needed– Silverstein has already promised the structure and will announce her decision after the election;

(b) Silverstein’s been too busy counting the number of tree limbs removed in the past 4 years;

(c) Silverstein’s been focused on how City Council reforms might limit her power and force her to actully work;

(d) Silverstein can do only one thing at a time, and the building isn’t empty yet.

13. Which of the following is not true: Silverstein has not revealed her economic development plan over the past eight years because:

(a) she has absolutely zero interest in planned economic development;

(b) she’s busy supervising police activities;

(c) an occasional store opening is fun, while economic planning is work;

(d) the ward’s economy is fine just the way it is;

(e) she has no clue how to begin;

(f) she learned her lesson with the Devon Community Market;

(g) the plan is in development.

14. Silverstein deserves reelection because:

(a) Ira lost his job;

(b) she doesn’t want to be a CPA any more;

(c) she loves the unchecked power she has over others and uses it to benefit her friends and punish her enemies;

(d) she qualifies for a pension after one more term;

(e) all of the above;

(f)  none of the above.

15. Silverstein’s commitment to transparency in government is best demonstrated by:

(a) using a private email address rather than her City-furnished email address to conduct public business;

(b) ignoring community input when approving any and all zoning changes;

(c) using a private ward website that collects personal information from users not collected by the ward website provided by the City;

(d)  appointing a committee to advise her on final decisions for the new Northtown Library, then swearing its members to absolute secrecy about who they are and what they discuss;

(e) blocking the opening of a medical marijuana clinic and then secretly changing the zoning for that parcel of land from commercial to residential;

(f) what transparency?

Answers:
1 – d; 2 – c; 3- e; 4 – e; 5 – f; 6 – d; 7 – d; 8 – c; 9 – e; 10 – a; 11 – d; 12 – a; 13 – g; 14 – f; 15 – f

Give yourself one point for each correct answer. A score of 12-15 makes you an expert. If you scored 6-11, you’re ready to vote for someone else. Did you score 1-5? It’s okay, you’re beginning to catch on and glossy mailers won’t fool you.