Silverstein Using Private Email & Web Accounts for City Business

Ald. Debra Silverstein has been identified by the BGA and Project Six as one of nineteen alderman who conduct City business on private, unsecured email systems. She is also one of 45 aldermen using privately-owned ward Web sites that may be collecting and retaining residents’ private information when the sites are used to request 311 services.

The Project Six report notes that the use of these privately-owned Ward Web sites “…make it harder for the public to see how their elected officials are serving their respective offices and spending tax dollars. It also opens the possibility for constituents’ personal information being used for political reasons.” Using these private sites to request City services also slows response time, to the detriment of citizens who need City services.

The use of a private e-mail system is questionable for other reasons as well. Such systems are not subject to FOIA requests as government-owned systems are, and do not have the same degree of protection from hackers and cyberattacks that government systems do.

Rather than using the City-provided email address (Ward50@cityofchicago.org), the  alderman uses “info@50thwardchicago.com.”  As the report notes, “All government emails are subject to Freedom of Information requests and provide an easily trackable and searchable source of an elected official’s communications Using private email accounts can make it hard, if not impossible, for citizens or the media to obtain email correspondence and data concerning public city business.”

Silverstein has established a six-year record that demonstrates both a lack of transparency and a preference for keeping her constituents in the dark about her activities. She is well-known for her stealth zoning changes and her lack of candor when it comes to keeping constituents informed. Her photo-laden newsletters convey little substantive information. Now we find that she’s using private systems for public business. One has to wonder why.

Read the Project Six analysis here.

 

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2 thoughts on “Silverstein Using Private Email & Web Accounts for City Business

  1. You sound like a very bitter organization. You also sound like a an organization trying to oust Democratic elected officials. Alderman Silverstein is all over the 50th Ward map attending events, parties, funerals, business openings, business forums, CAPS meetings, etc.. She hosts countless information gatherings for her constituents, and is constantly doing her best to take care of peoples issues within the Ward. Her husband Senator Silverstein also attends most of events as well. From my experience, her office has helped me on multiple issues of which I’m thankful. Alderman Silverstein is an open book regarding her activities because she works tirelessly and is continuously out and about in the 50th Ward. I suggest you stop your baseless fear mongering. It’s tiresome, tedious and provides no value to the 50th Ward. Thank you for allowing my input.

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    • I’m glad you’ve had positive interactions with the alderman. I do think, though, that you rely too much on the weekly photos of her attending events throughout the ward as evidence that she’s doing a good job. I don’t fault you for that. I’ve always said she excels at the ceremonial aspects of being alderman. There’s nobody better at ribbon-cutting, posing with smiling children, or standing behind a lectern introducing guest speakers at seminars that attract only a handful of residents. It’s the more substantive work—leadership—that is clearly beyond her abilities or interest. It can’t be measured by photo-opps.

      The point of my post is that there is no reason for any alderman to have a private email account or Web site to transact the people’s business. The real issue is transparency: the City-provided systems are subject to FOIA requests, the private systems are not. You may not care how government works as long as you get what you need in city services when you need it. But it’s precisely because people don’t care about the mechanisms of government that our political system is so corrupt.

      When those mechanisms are fully accessible to the public, voters get the facts about how the system really works. We can see how elected officials arrive at the decisions that affect our daily lives, something we can’t do when officials use private emails and Web sites that may collect, track, and store our private information without our knowledge or consent.

      Overtaxed citizens are already paying for secure email and Web sites via the taxpayer-funded City system. It’s outrageous that we’re also paying through expense account reimbursements for private systems designed to keep the public’s business hidden.

      There’s no hope for political reform in Illinois if people remember the pictures but don’t care about the stories behind those photo-opps. Our political system counts on voters to do just that.

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