The City Council at its Thursday meeting voted to license food carts. The sponsor of the ordinance, 26th Ward Alderman Robert Maldonado, estimated that the move would create around 6,400 jobs and bring in several million dollars in sales tax revenue annually. The requirements are stiff: vendors must pay a $350 license fee every two years, have their carts professionally cleaned and serviced, ensure that carts have heating and refrigeration systems, and prepare their food in commercial kitchens. The user fee for the commercial kitchen tacks on another $300+.
The 50th Ward has a commercial kitchen, paid for with a grant from the City of Chicago. But the kitchen isn’t operational. It’s part of ZAM’s Hope, the community resource center run by former aldermanic candidate Zehra Quadri. The plan was to offer kitchen space and marketing advice to residents who wanted to turn family recipes into successful food businesses. A strong supporter of Ald. Bernie Stone, Quadri has had many funding problems since the Silversteins began running the 50th Ward. While Ira cut funding for many of her programs, Debra outdid herself in pettiness and vindictiveness after her February re-election.
Quadri needs a zoning change to allow her kitchen to operate. Silverstein refuses to provide Quadri with a letter that would allow Quadri to obtain that zoning change. As a result, a taxpayer-funded commercial kitchen sits unused. It could have offered much-needed help for food cart vendors and other food entrepreneurs in the 50th Ward, but the alderman won’t allow it. No political rival will be permitted to support entrepreneurs or contribute to economic development if Silverstein has anything to say about it. And, unfortunately, she does.
Silverstein’s economic development record since her re-election is nothing short of appalling. A proposed art center lost out to a storage facility. A medical marijuana dispensary that would have invested nearly $500,000 in property improvements AND hired neighborhood residents was not approved. A commercial kitchen that could have helped 50th Ward residents create successful, sustainable businesses was not allowed to open.
Silverstein 3, economic development 0.
And we’re only five months into her second term.