The election is only one week away. The campaign ads are clogging the mail. The candidates’ claims usually bear no relation to reality. It’s called spin. The fewer accomplishments a candidate has, the greater the need to distort the truth, to make nothing into something, to use clever marketing to persuade voters to support candidates with hidden agendas that all too often are underwritten by special interests.
The truth is that candidates owe their political and financial backers. Every endorsement comes from the confluence of power and money, and the influential know how to collect what’s due. This is why it is almost impossible to change our corrupt political system. It’s also why the same people run for office and get elected over and over again. Political office is bought and sold just like any other commodity.
Which brings us to the aldermanic race in the 50th Ward. Neither of the write-in candidates (Fuji Shioura, Peter Sifnotis) has much money. What they have came from their own pockets. Fundraising begins at least two years before one runs for office. Political contacts must be cultivated via money and favors. It takes time and money, and Peter and Fuji were at a distinct disadvantage. Candidates with money to begin with were already knocking on doors. [Check each candidate’s fundraising reports on the State of Illinois Board of Elections Web site here. Use the search bar at the very top, above the Search by Committee box.]
Debra Silverstein has raised over $500,000 since 2010, first for her run against Bernie Stone and then in her own behalf. Her donors include labor unions, political PACs, corporations with business interests in the City of Chicago, and business owners with commercial interests within the 50th Ward. Not surprisingly, she has a laundry list of endorsements, every one of which can be tied in some way to donations or political influence.
Shajan Kuriakose has fewer endorsements, but the ones he has follow the money and influence path. For example, he has the endorsement of the Indo-American Democratic Organization, a PAC set up to support the interests of Indian-Americans. Its president is a past chairman of the West Rogers Park Community Organization, which is sponsoring tomorrow’s aldermanic forum. The group’s current chairman has endorsed Kuriakose, although he insists he is acting as a private citizen and not as the group’s chairman. That he chose to make his endorsement in a letter released on social media just days before the candidate forum is questionable at best.
Kuriakose is the candidate of the Asian business owners on Devon Avenue. It was representatives of this group that Kuriakose admits invited him to run for alderman and found for him the apartment he claims in his official residence. [See earlier posts for the history of his disputed residency.] It is not surprising that his announced priorities as alderman support their business interests over those of the community.
Neither Silverstein nor Kuriakose, for all their money and all their endorsements and all their influential political backers, can truthfully claim to have created a single business or a single job in the 50th Ward.
Zehra Quadri has no endorsements and very little money. She has only her record of service to the community and her stated intention of transforming the 50th Ward into a place that truly reflects the many cultures represented among its residents. She truly believes that politics can and must be combined with service to the community.
Zam’s Hope, the community resource organization she founded, has created jobs and business opportunities for ward residents. She has established two successful businesses. Two more are nearly ready to open. Her commercial kitchen will provide local foodies with the opportunity to develop family recipes and test them in her new small restaurant/carry-out business. She’s created a business incubator with the potential to develop the next big food entrepreneur—right here in the 50th Ward.
Neither Debra Silverstein nor Shajan Kuriakose can say they have done the same.
If Zehra Quadri can accomplish all this from a small office on a side street off Devon Avenue, think what she could accomplish as alderman!
Zehra envisions a ward whose businesses are not limited to retailing. She sees small factories, import/export businesses, and boutique shopping experiences. She looks at our dismal commercial districts and sees streets that with the right mix of businesses could come alive again, providing jobs and producing tax revenues.
Zehra Quadri has big dreams, and a proven record of turning those dreams into a reality that benefits others. Her reward comes from seeing them succeed..
Zehra Quadri has no endorsements and no political backers. This is good. It means she will come into office with no debts to anyone except the community that elected her.
Remember that when you read your political mail.