The petition for an advisory referendum to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward did not get the required number of signatures to appear on November’s ballot. The Chicago Board of Elections officially ruled the petition off the ballot yesterday.
We will therefore launch a new petition drive in Spring 2017 to ensure that we make the ballot for the 2019 municipal elections.
The alderman’s claims of neutrality on this issue proved false. A ward resident who was clearly acting as aldermanic surrogate challenged the petition; he was represented by the same lawyer who represented the objectors to Silverstein’s opponents’ signatures in last year’s aldermanic elections. She doesn’t fool anybody with these shenanigans, but at least it will cost her some money.
We obtained 466 signatures, about 52% of the total we needed (893). The Electoral Board itself would have disqualified the petition for that reason. But the alderman wanted to be sure the petition would die, so two objections were raised: (1) We did not obtain enough signatures; and (2) “in the alternative,” the petition’s question could not be understood because it was ungrammatical and too long. The “alternative” objection–in case the Board was inclined to break its own rules and allow us on the ballot–was just insurance and easily dismissed. But this is what some politicians pay lawyers to do to keep the citizenry from having an ongoing voice in government.
So much that is positive emerged from this petition drive that I hardly know where to begin the good news:
- A committed core of volunteers coalesced around this issue and is ready to resume work on next year’s campaign
- The CBOE, by accepting Silverstein’s lawyer’s argument, has made our task easier–it’s clear now that we need 8% of voters in the ward, not in each precinct
- In just four short weeks, volunteer petition circulators did a tremendous job, pulling in almost 125 signatures per week–working part-time during a hot and humid Chicago summer for a cause in which they believe
- We now know firsthand how the process works–as well as how it can be stopped
- PB is an issue that won’t go away, and neither will the activist citizens who are working on this and many other issues throughout the 50th Ward
- If the alderman continues to refuse to introduce PB to the ward, it will be a major campaign issue in the 2019 aldermanic race
The PB Steering Committee thanks everyone who supported the drive to bring participatory budgeting to our ward. Special appreciation goes to our organizers and petition circulators. And to those who signed–fully understanding the issue and the question as stated on the petition–thank you!
The alderman apparently thinks her constituents are too stupid to understand what they’re doing in asking for a say in spending the menu money. Rumors were spread in the immigrant community, for example, that the petition was an attack on the alderman. If you’ve lived under a repressive government, you don’t want to do anything to call attention to yourself, so this kind of whispering campaign works–once. Among another group of residents, a refusal to sign was often accompanied by the statement that we shouldn’t take “her” money away, but pressure her to spend it differently. Her money?
Residents of the 50th Ward are mobilizing around a host of issues that they understand and care about. PB is just one of them.
Silverstein can get on board, or be left behind. But she can’t stop the train.