January Campaign Updates

January has been a busy month for the four candidates for 50th Ward alderman: Majid Mustafa, Zehra Quadri, Andrew Rowlas, and Debra Silverstein.

Candidate Forums

The West Ridge Community Organization is sponsoring the first candidate forum on Thursday, January 31, at Devon Bank beginning at 7 p.m.  All candidates have been invited to participate. The group’s announcement on its Facebook page states the forum ends at 10:00 p.m., but other sources say it will end at 8:30 p.m. No information on the forum is available on the WRCO Website. 

A second forum jointly sponsored by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council will be held in February. Details have not yet been finalized.

Candidate Questionnaires

The Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, and WBEZ Public Radio invited candidates to submit responses to questionnaires about their candidacies and positions on local issues. Click on the links above for their responses. (The Sun-Times site is not working, although the questionnaires were accessible earlier; it appears to be under construction.)

Mustafa, Rowlas, and Silverstein filled out questionnaires for the newspapers. Rowlas is the only 50th Ward candidate who provided answers to WBEZ.  Quadri did not respond to either the newspapers or the radio station.

Challenges to Nominating Petitions

Mustafa and Quadri have both overcome the challenges filed by Silverstein surrogate Mark Tannbebaum.

On Friday, January 25, the Chicago Board of Elections will rule on  the challenge to Quadri’s petitions by Mustafa petition circulator Abdul Shaikh Rahman as well as the objections to Mustafa’s petitions by Quadri supporter Armando Ramos.

Endorsements

Rowlas has been endorsed by Northside Action for Democracy.

Quadri has been endorsed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. A video of the endorsement is posted on her Facebook page.

Fundraising (all figures from the Illinois Sunshine database) 

Mustafa has loaned his campaign $85,603.04. He has not reported any donations, but has a cash-on-hand balance of $171,206.08. It appears that his loan has exactly doubled in size, which could be a reporting error.

Quadri has not reported any donations and has not yet registered her campaign committee with the state of Illinois. The only active committee supporting her is the committee established for her run for state senate last year. It shows a balance of $40.01.

Rowlas reports total receipts of $2,891.29.

Silverstein has received $192,625.67 in donations, much of it from labor and business PACs.  She also received $20,000 from Rahm Emanuel, who gave that sum to all of his most loyal City Council supporters, and a total of $1,000 from two separate donations (August 2018 and July 2017) from the S4 PAC, the political action committee of The S4 Group, the lobbying firm formerly headed by our newly-appointed state rep, Yehiel Mark Kalish.

Reclaim Fair Elections.org has created a database that maps donations to incumbent aldermen by ward. Click here to see where Silverstein gets her money.

The Illinois Sunshine database is easily searchable by candidate and by donor. Be sure to click on “All Donations” or “All Expenditures” to see the most recent transactions in both categories. If you want to know who else a donor gave to, click on the donor’s name on the far left side of the page.

Websites

Majid Mustafa -none found
Zehra Quadri – none found
Andrew Rowlas – https://www.rowlasforward50.com/blog
Debra Silverstein – http://www.debrasilversteinforalderman.com/index.html

 

 

Advertisements

Crony Politics

Lou Lang announced on Sunday that he and Ira Silverstein had chosen Lang’s replacement for the Illinois House. Lang claimed that after interviewing 20 applicants on Sunday–what Lang termed “interview day”–he and Ira decided on Yehiel Mark Kalish, a rabbi and political lobbyist. The people Kalish will represent had no voice in the matter. Kalish was sworn in Sunday, hours after his appointment was announced.

Kalish has already had to deny a report that he traded lobbying clients to Lang to get the position (Lang resigned his seat to become a lobbyist). The news of the Kalish appointment was greeted less than ten minutes after Lang’s emailed announcement with a lengthy press release from Agudath Israel of Illinois congratulating Kalish, whose Wikipedia page was already in place. The Website of his lobbying firm, S4 Group, was “under construction” on Sunday evening and remains so today, but I did see it on Sunday afternoon, and Kalish has a long history of political lobbying. He’s an insider, not a reformer, known for representing the same interests that have donated tens of thousands of dollars to our incompetent alderman.

I find it troubling that three men chose our state rep, bypassing the voters, and that one of those men was so disinterested in what was clearly a rigged process that he gave his proxy to the other two. I find it especially troubling that our new state rep was selected by two men who had to resign their leadership positions in the legislature because of charges of sexual harassment. Both resigned as deputy majority leaders, Silverstein from the Senate and Lang from the House. Both were investigated after female lobbyists complained that they had been harassed. In Silverstein’s case, it was found that his conduct was inappropriate but did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. In Lang’s case, the charges were declared unsubstantiated because the complainant chose not to speak with the investigator. Silverstein subsequently lost his bid for re-election.

I find it unacceptable that the voters were not part of this process. We don’t know who applied for the position, or when, or what questions were asked of them, or what their answers were, or how they were vetted, or who lobbied for them. Why the rush to get Kalish sworn in? There’s no transparency in the process, but the long-range planning is obvious.

This is crony politics. The residents of the 16th District should be outraged at this kind of chicanery. It’s pretty obvious that the fix was in, and that 19 candidates didn’t have a chance at appointment. Lang’s decision to resign before being sworn in after being re-elected was an insult to the people who supported him. That Kalish had already been chosen by local power brokers is clear. The praise for his integrity is undercut by the way he gained office.

Kalish is now under obligation to Ira Silverstein. It makes me wonder what Kalish is going to do to help Debra Silverstein win reelection. Don’t kid yourself that favors he can grant to the Silversteins were irrelevant to his selection.

We have a state senator elected because he exploited identity politics and shamelessly inflated Ira’s scandal. We have a state representative selected because of his religion. We may well see the re-election of the laziest, most incompetent alderman in the City because the Orthodox–at least fifty percent of the voters in the 50th Ward–insist on a Jewish alderman rather than one with a vision and a plan to revitalize this ward.

It isn’t racist or anti-Semitic to call out such behavior. Backroom deals narrowly focused  on power and influence for one or two groups over all others undermine democracy. The two groups scheming for political control of the 50th Ward, Asian Indians and Orthodox Jews, disregard the political and economic interests of all other residents in the ward. Neither is anywhere close to a majority; Asian Indians being only 10-15% of residents, depending on who’s counting, and not all are citizens. The Orthodox are roughly 30-35% of the population.

Both are playing a losing game. The majority they have politically marginalized is beginning to recognize the strength that comes with voting and organizing to gain the political power their numbers warrant. Latinos, for example, are 20% of the Ward and growing. Many Muslim residents will become citizens in the next couple of years, and they will vote. The push for fairly-drawn political maps is growing stronger, and a ward drawn to maximize Jewish or Indian voting strength while minimizing the votes of others won’t go unchallenged. Our current legislative districts will also be remapped after next year’s census. There are constitutional issues at play and a strong push for reform locally and nationally.

The entire process by which Rabbi Kalish was chosen reeks. It won’t bother those who designed it, but it should.

 

 

 

“The New Chicago Way”

I’ve been reading an important new book that should be required reading for every Chicago voter. “The New Chicago Way” describes the problems awaiting the next mayor and City Council, and suggests steps to take now and in the near future to resolve the City’s chronic problems–like the ongoing pension crisis and our culture of political corruption.The authors are Edwin Bachrach and Austin Berg. 

The book tackles issues such as how the structure of city government impacts and limits its problem-solving ability and how we can begin to resolve the pension crisis that threatens to bankrupt Chicago.

Did you know that nearly a quarter of the city budget is used to pay interest on the city’s borrowing debt?  Did you know that some of our largest pension funds are less than 50% funded? Can you believe that the frightening funding shortages  reported are not actual dollar figures but only estimates based on actuarial assumptions? Are you aware that other cities–some bigger than Chicago–have more efficient city governance structures that cost less and accomplish more?

Among the reforms Bachrach and Berg suggest is a smaller City Council that would focus on City business operations rather than on providing relatively minor services to constituents. They note that most of what aldermen do is administrative in nature, and that aldermanic privilege–the absolute control of zoning  and licensing at the ward level–is a source of corruption. Other cities elect at-large council members who focus on city contracts and operations, leaving administrative and clerical work to managers and clerks.

The book outlines the history of the pension crisis and suggests ways to resolve it, none of them painless. However, the authors note that until we  address the problems presented by high interest payments and overdue pension contributions, there will be less money available for City operations; we are reaching the point where these obligations will wipe out the funds collected by ever-increasing taxes and fees, leaving Chicago with no choice but bankruptcy.

I am just beginning the chapter on pensions. So far, I have only a couple of minor quibbles with the authors. The chapter on the City Council makes clear the system’s built-in inefficiencies and its potential for corruption. It also makes the case that treating each ward like a fiefdom contributes to the strong mayor-weak council system that allows the mayor to politicize decision-making and the City Council to ignore its responsibility for overseeing City business.

The New Chicago Way will be discussed at a forum on Wednesday, January 30, sponsored by Truth in Accounting, a Chicago non-profit founded on the belief that the public has a right to honest and accurate financial statements from government.The event will take place at the Union League Club, 65 West Jackson, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Cost is $35. (See registration information at the end of this post.)

The book is available from Amazon in both hardcover and e-book editions. It is not available from the Chicago Public Library, but I have submitted a purchase request. This book belongs in the library’s collection.

The coming election may be Chicago’s last chance at meaningful reform. It is time to elect a mayor and aldermen who understand their responsibilities and act accordingly.

Our Ward, in particular, needs an alderman with more important accomplishments than 4,000 sawed-off tree limbs. 

FYI: The Union League Club does not permit guests to wear denim  or athletic wear  To register for this event:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authors-group-and-the-public-affairs-state-and-local-government-subcommittee-presents-the-new-tickets-55002345496

 

 

 

 

Snowstorm Updates

Ald. Joe Moore of the 49th Ward today released the following updates on this weekend’s snow.

“The National Weather Service reports a Lakefront Flood Advisory, remains in effect until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.  Strong onshore winds are expected to produce waves of seven to ten feet, which will drive up already-above-average lake levels.

You can track the Streets & San snow plows as they move through the city in real time by clicking here.

City ordinance requires homeowners and business owners to shovel the sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after a snowfall ends.  Not only is it the neighborly thing to do, but failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $500. For more information on the City’s snow removal requirements for sidewalks, click here.”

I’m disappointed but not surprised that nobody from Silverstein’s office was assigned to monitor the storm or provide updated information to residents.

City snowplows are concerned only with plowing the streets and end up blocking intersections and bus stops with piles of snow, making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to safely cross streets or access buses. Seniors and those with disabilities are often unable to shovel their sidewalks.

During her eight years in office, Ald.  Silverstein has never organized a volunteer snow removal corps for the 50th ward. The SSA collects taxes  to pay for snow removal on Devon’s sidewalks and sidewalks on Western from Arthur to Granville;  it did not do an adequate job with the previous snowfall, and never shovels intersections  or bus stops.

Any help that you can give to shovel a sidewalk or unblock a bus stop or intersection would be greatly appreciated by your neighbors. I’ll be out tomorrow shoveling intersections, bus stops, and alley crossings, too. There’s more snow due on Tuesday.

Personally, I prefer Hollywood snow. It falls gently, looks great, and disappears on its own.

 

 

 

 

50th Ward Candidates Forum

The West Ridge Community Organization (WRCO) is sponsoring the 50th Ward Aldermanic Candidates Forum on Thursday, January 31, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Devon Bank.

At this writing, Andrew Rowlas and Debra Silverstein are the only candidates on the ballot. Both Majid Mustafa and Zehra Quadri are awaiting decisions from the Chicago Board of Elections on challenges to their nominating petitions. Both were challenged by Silverstein surrogate  Mark Tannbebaum; the Board is scheduled to make a final decision on those challenges  on Saturday, January 19.

The challenges to Mr. Mustafa’s petitions by Armando Ramos and Ms. Quadri’s petitions by Abdul Shaikh Rahman have not been settled.

I understand there will be a second candidates forum sometime in February, sponsored jointly by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council (formerly the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park).

 

Senior Citizen Film Series

Thanks to aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas, I’ve learned that there’s a senior citizen film series sponsored by the 24th District Police. The films are shown at the district station (6464 North Clark Street) on the fourth Wednesday of each month.  Reservations are required; there’s a 35-person limit. The shows start at 2:00 PM.
January 23        “Chicago”
February 27       Soul Food
March 27           Midnight Run
April 24              Call Northside 777
June 26              Backdraft
July 24               The Company
To register, email  shawn.sisk@chicagopolice.org

Lighting the Base

The alderman announced via email that new lighting will be installed on Touhy Avenue between Kedzie and Rockwell just in time for the election. I’ll say one thing for her, she certainly knows how to deliver for her base.

The area in question borders Precincts 1, 5, 6, 9, 16, and 33–all Silverstein strongholds which supported  her in the last election, giving her, respectively, 68%, 74‰, 73%, 63%, 75%, and 70% of their votes. These six precincts gave her more than 17% of her total votes.

Naturally, she took credit for the city’s decision to install the lighting. It’s part of a city-wide lighting upgrade program but Silverstein makes the dubious claim that she arranged to have the money released early so the lights can be installed now rather than in “several years.” Naturally, this was the only part of the ward that desperately needed lighting before the election.

Dazzled by their new ability to more clearly see vacant storefronts at night, residents are not expected to notice how easily Silverstein thinks their votes can be bought.

Old-style machine politician that she is, Silverstein knows how to dole out rewards in an election year.  Ira’s little scandal and her own ineptitude have done some damage to the Silverstein brand, so she has to avoid as much vote slippage as possible. Turning taxpayer-funded programs into gifts from Herself  is one way to do it.

Lights for Votes! Could it be any clearer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“D” for Diversity

The alderman released a campaign video last week with high production values and nothing to say, except that the 50th Ward is the most diverse ward in the City, she is proud to represent our diverse community, diversity, diversity, diversity.

Last week The Center for Racial and Gender Equity released its report ranking  the City Council and each alderman on support for diversity as demonstrated by their support for political and economic equity for Black Chicagoans. Overall, the council received an “F.”

Silverstein earned a “D.”

Individual aldermen were ranked by their sponsorship on key issues identified by the Center, which points out that “…the vast majority of aldermen rarely act independently, but rather vote with the mayor and council leadership over 90% of the time.” (Silverstein voted with Rahm 96% of the time according to a recent UIC report.) One point was awarded for each time an alderman introduced or co-sponsored an ordinance aimed at improving black communities. Silverstein co-sponsored 10 of 35 bills tracked by the Center, and did not receive any points for introducing any bills. 

As usual, Silverstein was careful not to be a prominent co-sponsor of any of  those ten bills.  She’s always hiding  in the middle of the pack, careful not to offend the mayor and incapable  of  taking a stand  on any issue. She plays as much of a leadership role in the council as she does in the ward. 

Silverstein constantly babbles about diversity because she has no accomplishments to talk about. The streetscape is old news and the library was brought to the ward by the LEARN Coalition and the Mayor, although Silverstein would have residents believe it was all her doing. On her watch, the sole cultural asset in the less affluent, more racially mixxed. south end of the ward was relocated to the mostly white north end. Affordable housing has been built for seniors–but not families–on the north end, and a new luxury housing development is being constructed just a stone’s throw from the new library.

On the south end, whose residents are primarily Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Black, with a heavy population  of immigrant families, there is no new cultural institution or affordable housing being built– or even discussed. The alderman has remained silent  amid persistent rumors  that the fate of the old library building has already been decided, and that it will not become a community center or cultural center as mamy residents had hoped. Silverstein has never held a single public meeting to get input from the community on this issue.

Silverstein doesn’t seem to understand that her attendance at an Iftar dinner does absolutely nothing to help struggling non-white families or promote intercultural or interracial harmony. But then, she stays away from her white constituents, too–except at election time. She has never organized  a single event that promotes and celebrates all the ethnicities and races within our Ward. Yet she attempts to use that same diversity to get herself reelected.

Do we really want an alderman with a sorry record like Silverstein’s representing the values of the 50th Ward to the City? Diversity is yet another issue on which Silverstein talks a good game, but doesn’t deliver.

A “D” for support of racial equity should rate an “F” for reelection.

 

 

Corrected Devon Bus Reroute Info

The Alderman’s office has provided erroneous information about the rerouting of the #155 (Devon) bus while sewers are being replaced at Mozart.  We are three days into this construction and none of the parties in charge have bothered to keep one another informed. There is no signage advising of the bus reroute at any of the CTA stops west of either Western or California. There are no signs advising motorists not to park or stand in what are now the new, temporary bus lanes. And it doesn’t appear as though all CTA drivers got the new route message, either.

I called the CTA for the correct information.   Westbound buses will NOT turn south at Western Avenue but will continue westbound to California Avenue, where they will turn south to Peterson, then continue West to Lincoln, from Lincoln to Kedzie, and then from Kedzie back to Devon.

This morning while I was waiting for a northbound California bus I saw two  #155 buses turn  north on California, leaving passengers stranded on Devon  just to the west. Worse, there was a car standing in what should have been the bus lane,  forcing the bus to board and deboard its passengers at a 90—degree angle to the street, delaying traffic turning north onto California, and blocking westbound traffic on Devon.

The road closure sign on Devon doesn’t appear until Talman, so how are drivers supposed to know that they should turn south or north at Western? There is a second road closure sign at California  but drivers westbound this morning seemed confused by it, with several drivers being unable to stop in time to turn north or south onto California. If there’s a truck or an oversized van ahead of you, you won’t see the sign until you’re on top of it.

Honestly, how hard can it be to coordinate a project like this? Isn’t this what the alderman’s office is supposed to do? Didn’t the alderman get together with the City and the CTA to ensure that this project could proceed smoothly? Didn’t she realize that pedestrians, drivers, and bus riders would need to be notified, that temporary parking restriction signs would have to be put in plae  so that bus passengers  could get on and off buses safely, that visible signage is required? Isn’t it her job to see to it that everybody involved does what they are supposed to do?

Maybe Silverstein should get out of her office and out of her car and start paying attention to the details involved in projects like this. Maybe if she’d take a walk to see how things are being done, she’d find out that they aren’t.

Sewer Work to Make a Mess of Devon

You may have heard the alderman’s late announcement that westbound traffic on Devon will be disrupted for the next 6 weeks because of sewer replacements at Richmond. It was nice of her to tell us the night before the work starts, although I had learned about this earlier Monday when traffic was slowed to a crawl at Talman by an angled, oversized street sign advising of the construction, which begins today.

Apparently Silverstein’s office was unaware of this project until the last minute. Or perhaps they were too focused on her re-election campaign to pay attention.

Westbound traffic will be rerouted at Western south to Peterson, then to Lincoln, then Kedzie, and eventually back to Devon. Eastbound traffic will not be affected.

What this really means for those of us who live in the area is that the East-West alleys on both sides of Devon will be even busier than usual with vehicles whose drivers ignore “No Thruway” signs.

Don’t look for an increased police presence to monitor traffic. They won’t be able to get through either.

This doesn’t say much for Silverstein’s working relationship with City departments. On the other hand, maybe it speaks volumes.