It Pays to be a Friend of Rahm

Ald. Silverstein has received a $20,000 donation from Chicago for Rahm Emanuel, the mayor’s fundraising operation for his now-abandoned campaign for reelection. The mayor, who announced earlier that “..no friend gets left on the field,” rewarded his most loyal City Council supporters with the donations  at a luncheon last Wednesday.

Alderman Silverstein, always quick to tout her relationship with the Mayor, failed to mention the gift in her Friday newsletter but immediately deposited the funds and now has almost $171,000 in her reelection coffers.

Since her first race for alderman  in 2010, Silverstein has received nearly $90,000 from three committees tied to the mayor.–and they are three of her five largest donors.  The “New Chicago Committee” gave her $49,523 in 2011, while the  “For A Better Chicago PAC” donated $20,200. Now “Chicago for Rahm Emanuel” has given her $20,000.

[The other two major donors to Silverstein are “Unite Here TIP State & Local Fund”($42,464) and “Unite Here Local 1″($28,269), for a total of $70,733.]

The mayor was frank about rewarding the more than two dozen aldermen who consistently gave him their votes. Because this is Chicago, no list of awardees was issued. But why should such a proud accomplishment be shrouded in secrecy?

Debra has certainly benefited politically from her near-total support of the mayor over the last eight years. In exchange for her unquestioning devotion to the mayor, the 50th Ward has a new library, and the Mayor was here last week to pose for photos alongside Debra while breaking ground for improvements to Armstrong School and announcing an annex for Rogers School.

Silverstein supporters will argue that the 50th Ward has reaped real benefits from Silverstein’s abandonment of  her responsibility to her constituents. Silverstein’s opponents will counter that we did not elect Rahm alderman of the 50th Ward, and that in gifting her vote to him Silverstein betrayed the ward on other issues.  Where is the voice in the City Council representing the 50th Ward? Silverstein never speaks, never takes part in any debates on pending issues, and never raises any questions about or objections to any proposal coming from Emanuel. The sole exception was her vote against the recent property tax increase, but that was less an act of political courage and more an avoidance of political suicide.

Think about it. $171,000. That kind of money buys a lot of glossy mailers, the kind that substituted for participation in candidate debates in 2015, when the alderman grandly refused to appear on stage with write-in candidates. Instead, she flooded Ward mailboxes with photos of herself with children and the elderly, handing out school supplies or visiting senior seminars, or showing her support for schools by a photo of her lunching with principals. Watch for this week’s photos to reappear in campaign advertising.

Voters can’t ask questions of mailers.

Silverstein earns nearly $120,000 per year for her silence.

Plus donations.

 

 

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Jason Honig Ends Aldermanic Campaign

Jason Honig has ended his campaign to become alderman of the 50th Ward.

In a statement released to supporters, Honig stated that his decision was  “…due to health challenges and family issues that need our urgent and full attention.” Jason promises that once the situation is under control, he will “continue to implement and support many of the issues we care about.” That’s good. He is a young man who can make a difference in this Ward. We wish Jason and his family well.

There are still two main challengers to Ald. Silverstein, Andrew Rowlas and Ira Piltz. Silverstein is vulnerable on a host of issues, and she won’t be able to campaign by mail this time around.

More Challengers for Silverstein

Two new challengers have entered the race for 50th Ward alderman, Lawyer Ira Piltz and former candidate Ahmed Khan.

Ira is a graduate of DePaul University Law School and has a wide-ranging practice that includes real estate, corporate law, estate planning, and civil litigation. One particularly important court victory resulted in a change in Illinois law to allow religiously observant women to cover their hair in State ID photos.

Ira’s announcement notes that he is not running against an individual, but for the 50th Ward. He cites ” traffic, parking and zoning” as among his concerns, along with education. He notes that housing affordability and taxes are key issues in the City. As alderman, he would address the needs of the various communities within the ward and encourage contact between the various groups.

He intends to run “a campaign of ideas,” noting that “fresh ideas” are needed. As he said in his announcement, “We are all in this together and it is my goal to create a coalition that represents the entirety of our community.”

Ahmed Khan, who challenged Ald. Bernard Stone back in 2011, has also joined the race. One of four challengers in that election, Khan finished in fifth place with just under 6% of the vote. That race resulted in a runoff between Stone and the eventual winner, now alderman, Debra Silverstein. The other challengers were Michael Moses and Greg Brewer.

Khan recently received a Master’s degree in Communications from Northwestern University, where he is employed as assistant director of the alumni reunions program. He was a field organizer for both Bob Fioretti and Chuy Garcia in the 2015 mayoral election, and deputy executive director  for the Draft Biden campaign. Although he has considerable organizing experience, he has never worked on a winning campaign.

He is also a former chairman of the West Ridge Community Organization.

Piltz and Khan join Andrew Rowlas and Jason Honig as potential candidates for alderman.

Ald. Silverstein is seeking re-election to a third term.

 

Andrew Rowlas Releases Ethics Statement

Andrew Rowlas, candidate for 50th Ward alderman, has released the following ethics statement:

” I shall maintain in my campaign for alderman of the 50th Ward the highest ethical and legal standards as a candidate and as a public servant.

” I will work to keep people informed of important issues, restore trust in our government and fulfill governmental duties to the people for the common good. People want to know about issues that impact them; they are not interested in personal attacks, but prefer practical results that improve our community.

“I see myself as a man of integrity. I pledge to uphold high ethical standards and practices.”

Rowlas is the first of the three announced candidates for 50th Ward alderman to release a formal ethics statement.

Candidates, Petitions, and School Property

It’s a beautiful summer morning, bright and sunny, birds singing, the temperature cool and breezy. Your child is headed for the first day of school, perhaps for the first time. Both of you are excited and happy, waiting to greet the teacher,  the principal, your child’s friends and all the other parents. It’s one of those moments you’ll always treasure. Focused on  this special day,, you ignore the woman walking in the carpool lane. You help your child with his backpack as you walk to the front door.

And there she stands. The alderman. With her nominating petitions. On school property. At the front door. She– the woman in the carpool lane–smiles and asks for your signature on her nominating petitions, extending pen and clipboard. You’re trapped. And resentful.

Is nothing sacred?

Petition circulators–including aldermen –have no business on school property, whether the school is public or private. A circulator’s presence on the property of a religious school is especially troubling. When that circulator is also an elected official, it raises the question of the proper separation of church and state–is it legal and ethical for a religious Institution to permit such activity on its premises?

From a legal standpoint, permitting political activity that benefits any candidate or party could lead to the loss of IRS tax-exempt status for private and religious schools.  Political neutrality is required.

The alderman has a history of ethical violations and illegal activities during election campaigns. During early voting for the 2015 aldermanic election, she and her husband, Sen. Ira Silverstein, paid a visit to Warren Park, where they stood inside and greeted voters while talking to a park official. On Election Day, the alderman, the senator, and their daughter visited select polling places throughout the ward to inquire about voter turnout. Both Silversteins are seasoned politicians and well aware that candidates are not permitted in polling places unless they are casting ballots in their home precinct.

The 50th Ward should demand  more ethical behavior  from the alderman and candidates for her position. No candidate should circulate petitions on any school property, public or private.  I think we can all agree that schools and religious or community organizations should not be used for political campaign purposes.

Debra, Andrew, and Jason, can the 50th Ward count on you not to politicize our schools during your petition drives?

 

The Alderman Awakens

Yesterday was an interesting day. First, the alderman actually responded to a constituent. Then she asked for volunteers for her reelection campaign.

She seems to have suddenly realized that she represents the community.

In the first instance, she responded to a direct question from a constituent about the construction project on Kedzie between Touhy and Pratt. It turns out to be improvements to Thillens Park (officially Park 538) by the Chicago Park District. It speaks volumes about Debra’s approach to transparency that it never occurred to her to advise Ward residents about the project beforehand. Maybe she didn’t know.

But then she still has not advised the wider community about the luxury townhouse and condo development to be built a block from the new library. She did hold a meeting with about a dozen property owners in the immediate vicinity of the new development, but apparently doesn’t think it’s anyone else’s business.

And her request for volunteers to help her get her nominating petitions signed? Since petitions can be signed anytime on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe her political machine won’t be out at the crack of dawn– if not promptly at midnight– getting the necessary 473 signatures she needs to get on the ballot. Frankly, all she has to do is visit Winston Towers to get twice that number.

It looks like her appeal for volunteers is a self-serving response to years of complaints that she’s out of touch with her constituents. Such complaints have also been strongly voiced by both of her announced challengers.

But I have to give the alderman credit. After 8 years in office, she has begun to recognize that she needs the community.

It’s also been long enough for us to recognize that we don’t need her.

 

Participatory Budgeting Petition Available for Signature

If you support giving residents a voice in how the 50th Ward’s menu money is spent, please go to change.org and sign the petitionBring Participatory Budgeting to the 50th Ward.” 

All ward residents over the age of 14 as well as business owners are eligible to participate in the PB process and therefore may sign the petition.

A 2015 attempt to get a non-binding referendum on the ballot in support of PB in the 50th Ward failed because we did not have enough time to secure the required number of signatures; it didn’t help that the law was unclear about whether the percentage of signatures required applied to each  precinct or the entire Ward. The alderman’s forces challenged that petition, and the challenger was represented at the CBOE hearing by the alderman’s attorney. His participation at least clarified that the required percentage applied to the entire ward and not individual precincts, which would have made our task easier. The wording of the petition was also challenged, so determined were the Alderman’s forces  to defeat the idea of community input.

This time around, there won’t be any attempt to get the petition on the ballot. Instead, the petition will be presented to all candidates for 50th Ward alderman in the 2019 election. Candidates Andrew Rowlas and Jason Honig have already indicated their support for PB in the 50th, while Alderman Silverstein has steadfastly resisted any attempts at citizen input in Ward decision-making.

PB is open to all residents over age 14 and also business owners within the ward. Therefore, we invite all residents over age 14 and all business owners who support having a voice in the ward’s menu money spending to add their names to the petition.

50th Ward Follies will be arranging a screening of the documentary “Count Me In,” a history of participatory budgeting in Chicago, during the campaign season. The film has been broadcast on WTTW, and chronicles the PB experience in various wards in Chicago.

Among the projects funded through PB in other wards are community gardens, refurbished playgrounds, water fountains, and bus stop benches as well as tree plantings and other beautification initiatives.

For more information on PB, visit the Web site for the Greater Cities Institute at UIC.

https://greatcities.uic.edu/uic-neighborhoods-initiative/participatory-budgeting/

The history of the PB referendum in the 50th can be found in 2015 posts on this blog

 

 

Campaign News

Tuesday, August 28, is s the first day that candidates for alderman and other City offices can legally ask registered voters to sign nominating petitions.

Andrew Rowlas has released his first campaign newsletter. Contact his campaign to get on the mailing list (rowlasforward50@gmail.com).

Jason Honig is hosting a campaign kickoff at Warren Park on Saturday, August 25, from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  Contact his campaign for more information (honigfor50th.com).

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot has released her proposed ethics reform plan. It targets outside jobs for municipal workers and addresses mayoral term limits, among other sound ideas.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-met-lori-lightfoot-chicago-mayor-ethics-proposal-20180820-story.html

Jason Honig Running for Alderman

Jason Honig has announced his candidacy for 50th Ward alderman. Honig is a former teacher, counselor, and school principal who was once executive director of the Lawndale Learning Center. He currently works for an investment firm that specializes in ethical investment and money management.

 

Jason’s campaign slogan is “Alderman for the Common Good.” No discussion of the 50th Ward is complete without praise for diversity, no matter how ill-defined or undefined it may be. But Jason pledges to work across ethnic and religious divides to form a community of neighbors working together for the benefit of all residents. This is a concept that eludes the current alderman.

Like Andrew Rowlas, who already announced his candidacy, Jason believes that the alderman should be transparent about community business and active in the community. He supports participatory budgeting, a zoning committee to advise the alderman on zoning and land use, and empowering citizens to work with him on economic and residential development.

 

Honig would initiate ward days and celebrations of our diverse cultures. Personally, I’d like to see an end to ethnic-specific parades and celebrations. I think the best way to celebrate our community would be to hold an annual Fourth of July parade, celebrating the contributions made by each ethnic group to the American mosaic. I think we should celebrate the one thing that unites us– the fact that we are Americans or want to be.

 

Jason would provide translators at public meetings. The fact that he’s willing to meet with his constituents is a novelty in the 50th Ward. We’ve spent eight years with an  alderman who avoids her constituents and refuses to discuss public business lest we offer our own opinions, which she’s made clear she doesn’t want to hear. Whether it’s Rowlas or Honig who replaces her, it will be wonderful to have an alderman who  actually informs the community about public business and tells us how he voted on the issues of the day.

 

Jason would also promote “equity and diversity” in the ward office. He and Rowlas are in agreement on this issue as well. It never ceases to amaze me that the current alderman’s office is open only four and a half days per week. It closes promptly at 2 p.m. every Friday in observance of the Sabbath. But candle-lighting time, especially during the summer, is often not until 8 p.m. or later. Even if the alderman has to leave, isn’t there a Christian or Muslim or Hindu or atheist staff member who could keep the office open on Friday afternoon? Isn’t that one way for the alderman to practice the diversity she preaches? Would some creative juggling of staff schedules also permit the office to open at least a half-day on Saturday?

 

Honig supports term limits for the Mayor and the City Council and full funding for education. You can read his full platform on his Web site.

 

Nominating petitions for all the candidates will begin circulating on August 28. We won’t know who the final candidates are until December. The current alderman will try to eliminate as many of her potential opponents  as possible through petition challenges. If you really want to participate in the pre-election process, you might consider volunteering to review nominating petitions for irregularities. Maybe you’d like to host a meet-and-greet visit by one of the candidates in your home or at a public venue. There are lots of things you can do to support your candidate.

Contact the current challengers:

https://honigfor50th.com

https://rowlasforward50.com