Community Still Being Misled on Library Housing

Alderman Silverstein proudly announced yesterday that 50th Ward residents could add their names to the waitlist for the new 30-unit CHA housing above the new Northtown Library.

It’s what she didn’t say that’s important.

Both the alderman and the CHA have consistently misled West Ridge residents about their opportunities to move into the new housing ever since the project was announced in October of 2016. In truth, unless a 50th Ward resident is already on the CHA waitlist, there is virtually no possibility that an apartment in the new building will be available. Even then, the chances are slim. Both the alderman and the CHA director were reluctant to admit that, by law, the apartments would be assigned first to those couples and individuals who had spent the longest time on CHA wait lists for senior housing.

[In fact, anyone who had been a CHA resident in October 1999 and qualified under the CHA’s “right of return” policy would be given priority as a resident of the Northtown Apartments.  See the following Follies posts: July 10, 2017; June 7, 2017.  Note that referenced CHA documents are no longer available online.] 

I raised the question of tenancy at the very first public meeting with the alderman and  CHA Executive Director Eugene Jones. The response from Jones was instructive. He bowed his head, rubbed his chin, and said that he assumed residents would want the housing for seniors already living in the 50th Ward. The audience agreed. Silverstein stood silently. But it  wasn’t clearly stated until the final community meeting, held at the Budlong Woods Library, that CHA could not reserve the housing for 50th Ward residents. Only two 50th Ward residents attended this final meeting: John Kane, then-president of the West Ridge Community Organization, and me. The transcript of that meeting is no longer available on the CHA Web site.

Fourteen apartments were added to the original plans. They are under the control of the developer, not CHA. Jones stated at one community meeting that tenants for those apartments would be selected by the alderman and the community. I wondered at the time why the aldermen should have any input, and questioned whether political influence should have any role in tenant selection.

The alderman’s statement in her December 7 newsletter  does not  refer to an application process  for those fourteen apartments.  This raises the question of whether or not those apartments have already been leased and, if so, by whom and how.

I have not seen any announcements of an open application process for these fourteen apartments, and it’s less than two months before the building is to open. But this is in keeping with Silverstein’s policy of not discussing public business with ward residents. For example, we still don’t know the names of the members of the secret committee that advised her on the library building, nor have any minutes of their meetings or notes from their deliberations been made public. It might make you think no records were kept.

The existing library is now scheduled to close December 17. The community will be without a library for six to ten weeks. We are told this is because of weather-related delays in constructing the new building. You’d think a city that’s constantly under construction would have been better prepared. My guess is that the delay is really caused by the alderman’s need to gain as much political advantage as possible from the building’s opening. Think of all the pictures! The alderman cutting the ribbon, greeting the new senior tenants, welcoming children, touring the facility, posing with happy residents. Imagine how many extra votes that could mean.

FYI: Average wait times for CHA buildings for seniors run from six months to ten years, depending on the building. This estimate comes from a listing of wait times for CHA senior buildings from January 2018 that I was able to access but whose link could not be copied. There is no information on wait lists for senior buildings on CHA’s Web site.

View my video of the press conference announcing the new library / CHA building and my Oct. 22 post, “Whose Library Is It Anyway?”

Read my post of November 15, 201 6, “People Power and the New Library,” for more background.


Fundraiser for Andrew Rowlas

The first fundraiser for 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas is set for Sunday, December 9. Friends and supporters will gather at Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville to help raise money for the Rowlas campaign.

Hamburger Mary’s is well-known for its eclectic entertainment offerings. This Sunday will be no different. The main attraction– apart from the food– is drag queen bingo, one of Mary’s most popular games. Play ten rounds of bingo for $15. West Ridge merchants have donated gift certificates as bingo prizes.

Rowlas had to schedule his first fundraiser outside the ward because the 50th currently offers few entertainment choices. As alderman, Rowlas would seek to bring various types of recreational opportunities to the ward.

Join Andrew Rowlas, his friends and supporters at Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 North Clark Street, on Sunday, December 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. Come early and treat yourself to one of Mary’s many delicious burgers, salads, or wraps. Expect to spend an additional $10 to $15 for dinner.

Debra Silverstein has reported a total of  nearly $200,000 in her campaign fund. Like the other candidates running against her, Andrew has a small fraction of that available.

Can a candidate with an inclusive  vision but a small budget overcome an incumbent with no vision but lots of money?

Join Andrew on Sunday evening, have some fun, and support a good cause.

Ballot Order for 50th Ward

The lottery for first and last ballot positions conducted by the Chicago Board of Elections determined that candidates for 50th Ward alderman will be listed on the ballot in the following order:

Debra Silverstein

Andrew Rowlas.

Majid Mustafa

Zehra Quadri

Mustafa and Quadri first must overcome signature challenges to remain on the ballot.

The election is February 26, 2019.

Majid Mustafa

Divide and conquer is an old political strategy. It’s worked for everyone from Genghis Khan to Debra Silverstein. It backfires occasionally–Ram Villivalam vs. Ira Silverstein is a recent example. The way I heard it, Ram was recruited by Ira to split the Indian vote should Ira not be able to successfully challenge Zehra Quadri’s senatorial nominating petition signatures. While that process was in motion, Ram realized he could win by appealing to the South Asian voters in the suburbs and shamelessly using the current Me, Too moment to smear Ira mercilessly for a flirtation that was more laughable than menacing. As a result, Ira lost his election.

Now comes Majid Mustafa, the latest 50th Ward candidate backed by Indian business and political interests—and possibly the Silversteins—whose sole reason for running is to keep Debra Silverstein in office. Such an outcome works for Indian business and political interests—not to mention the Silversteins. And once again, the target is Zehra Quadri. Get her off the ballot, or split the Asian vote. And guess who wins re-election..

But back to Mustafa. He’s an interesting character, to say the least. A former precinct captain for Berny Stone, he was practicing political dirty tricks while still a dishwasher at his uncle’s kebab restaurant. Berny appointed him a commissioner to our local Special Services Area (SSA) #43 (Devon Avenue), a secretive, unelected taxing body accountable solely to the alderman, who chooses its members..

Our dishwasher-commissioner, in his capacity as a Stone precinct captain and political operative, became embroiled in the 2007 post-election scandal that contributed to Stone’s defeat in 2011. Disgruntled candidate Salman Aftab complained to the Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE) that Stone campaign workers were filling out absentee ballots for immigrant voters. An investigation led to the arrests of two men, Stone’s Ward Superintendent, Anesh Eapen, and campaign volunteer Armando Ramos.

Full disclosure: Armando Ramos is my nephew.

In Spring 2008, Mustafa was hired by the City as Stone’s legislative aide at a salary of $3,499 per month. It was understood that Mustafa now could not be questioned about allegations of vote fraud in the 2007 campaign, City Council employees not being subject to investigation by the Inspector General. Unfortunately for Mustafa, it turned out he was subject to the State’s Attorney’s vote fraud investigation.

At the Eapen-Ramos trial, the Cook County State’s Investigator who interviewed Mustafa testified that Mustafa had initially denied filling out absentee ballots but changed his testimony when shown ballots with his handwriting on them. He then admitted that he also completed “missing information” on ballots he took to his own home, and stamped and mailed absentee ballots in violation of state election law. Mustafa changed his testimony between his investigator interview and his court appearance. He denied knowing his activities were illegal, and blamed poor election training for his behavior.

He could and should have been charged with perjury, but prosecutors did not follow up on these inconsistencies.

Eapen and Ramos were subsequently convicted. Their charges were reduced to misdemeanors and, while they were on trial, the law under which they were tried was invalidated by the City Council. Each served a few months in Cook County Jail.

Mustafa left his City job and became assistant manager of his uncle’s kebab restaurant.

In early 2013, Mustafa decided to become a Chicago police officer. During his probationary period, he injured his thumb while undergoing firearms training. In all, Mustafa failed three times to pass the test requiring him to fire a gun with both hands and was terminated from his probationary police officer position.

In August of 2013, Mustafa sued the City, then-Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy, and his instructor in federal court, alleging breach of contract and violation of his civil rights. Mustafa’s suit claimed that he had an “implied contract” with the City during his probationary period, and that his thumb was not only dislocated but further injured during subsequent training he was ordered to undergo after he had been medically certified to return to work.

Mustfa claimed civil rights violations in that the City violated his due-process rights (requiring him to continue training while he maintained his thumb needed more time to heal) and that his civil rights were violated because of “…insulting and disparaging name-calling, including being referred to as ‘little Paki bomber’ and “the alderman’s kid.’” He also sued for compensation and reinstatement to his job as a probationary police officer.

His suit was dismissed in December 2013 except for the claim that the City was required to protect his “bodily integrity”—i.e., not further injure his thumb—but he did not refile his claim within the allotted timeframe. Case closed.

One month after filing his lawsuit, in September 2013, Mustafa reported a bizarre incident in which a burglar broke into his uncle’s restaurant through the locked back door after slipping through the burglar gate and stole 384 pounds of meat marinating in a basement cooler. Nothing else of value was stolen despite the more than two hours the thief spent on the premises, including time out for a bicycle ride and the loss of part of his prize, dropped in the alley as he tried to load it onto his bicycle. The thief eventually loaded what was left of the meat into a shopping cart and made his getaway. The restaurant’s estimated loss was more than $800. The thief was not caught. View the video here.

So, potential aldermanic candidate Majid Mustafa has admitted to committing vote fraud, escaped being held accountable for perjury, reported an exceedingly strange robbery, and sued the City (i.e., the taxpayers) because his thumb was injured during preliminary on-the-job training and people allegedly called him names.

Majid Mustafa advanced from dishwasher to SSA Commissioner to precinct captain to aldermanic legislative aide to probationary police officer to restaurant manager—every step achieved by relying on political connections and chicanery or family ties.

Would you vote for this man?


Quadri, Mustafa File for Alderman

Zehra Quadri and Majid Mustafa filed petitions yesterday to become Alderman of the 50th Ward. They join Andrew Rowlas and Debra Silverstein as potential candidates for alderman.

To secure a place on the ballot, all four must survive challenges to their nominating petitions. Such challenges can be  filed by the candidates themselves or private citizens acting on their own or, as is common, acting as surrogates for candidates who prefer not to be seen as blocking opponents before they can appeal to the voters.

Ira Piltz did not file any nominating petitions although he had announced that he would run. I have heard that there was concern that his running would split the Orthodox vote and result in a non-jewish alderman for the ward. Such an event has not occurred more than 70 years. Although the Jewish community is only about 30% of the ward, it accounts for approximately half the ward’s voters.

Objections to nominating petitions are due on Monday, December 3.  If no challenges are filed to a candidate’s petitions, and the petitions are found to satisfy all legal requirements, that candidate’s name will be placed on the ballot for the February election.

Defending against petition challenges is time-consuming and expensive, requiring the challenged candidate to pay attorneys fees for representation before the Chicago Board of Elections. Although challenged candidates can defend themselves, it’s not a good idea, since they are up against skillful, well-paid attorneys who are generally in the employ of experienced,  well-funded campaigns. This tactic depletes the already scant funds of those who challenge incumbents, and is yet another reason why the same people keep getting reelected, no matter how poor the job they do.

I’ll have more to say about each candidate as we move through this week.

Two Candidates File for Alderman

Andrew Rowlas and Debra Silverstein filed nominating petitions for 50th Ward alderman on Monday. I am aware of two other people who are  still circulating petitions.

Filings will continue through Monday, November 26.





Andrew Rowlas Challenging Silverstein for Alderman

Andrew Rowlas, a community activist and former educator, has announced his candidacy for alderman of the 50th Ward, challenging two-term incumbent Debra Silverstein.

Rowlas is campaigning on a progressive platform of economic development centered around small businesses, improved educational opportunities for neighborhood students, and civic engagement by neighborhood residents.

His goals are in sharp contrast to Silverstein’s eight years of inertia. The ward still waits for the economic development plan she promised in 2011. Her lack of transparency and refusal to engage with her constituents are near legendary, even for Chicago. She is one of the Mayor’s most dependable stooges, a reliable member of the rubber-stamp brigade in the City Council.

Rowlas has served as president of the West Ridge Community Organization, is a leading member of LEARN–the coalition of community members and organizations that led the charge for a new library– and has worked extensively to foster communication and cooperation between and with all ethnic and religious communities across the ward. He was instrumental in the formation of the Warren Park Advisory Council, which gives local residents a voice in Park activities.

It’s worth noting that, after nearly 8 years in office, Silverstein had never shown any interest in connecting the north side’s largest park with its nearby residents. Rowlas saw the need to do so and rallied other activists to make it happen. Just imagine the great things that could happen in the 50th with a proactive alderman!

Rowlas spent 38 years as a teacher, counselor, and principal. He would be a strong voice for increased quality educational opportunities both in the ward and across Chicago.

Support the Rowlas campaign by volunteering or donating via the campaign Web site,

Silverstein will not be able to run a Rose Garden campaign this year. I look forward to the coming debates. And so should you.


Aldermanic Election Deadlines

If you’re thinking about running for alderman, it’s time to get organized. The election will be held on February 26, 2019.

You’ll need a total of 473 valid signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot. You can begin acquiring those signatures on August 28, 2018.

Notarized nominating petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections the week of November 19-26, 2018.

You’ll want to get copies of nominating petitions filed by the other candidates so you can begin to file objections to their petitions. It’s an interesting process, though more complicated than it needs to be, and you’ll need a team of sharp-eyed campaign workers to help you spot things like multiple signatures written in the same hand, or signatures and addresses written in different hands, or signatures using addresses of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. You can object to illegible signatures and also petitions without circulator signatures or with invalid notarizations.

The last day to file objections to petitions is December 3, 2018.

You’ll need a lawyer to help you defend yourself should your petitions be challenged. That lawyer will attend  a session at CBOE  with you  where CBOE employees will rule  on the validity of  the signatures  in question. Should challenges remain after this session,  you  will be required to obtain a signed and notarized affidavit from each person whose signature is challenged; the sworn affidavit affirms that the signature is valid. There isn’t a lot of time to get this accomplished because the candidate lists must be finalized and ballots printed in January 2019. You will need to organize and train teams of volunteers to get those affidavits.

Don’t be surprised or intimidated if another candidate files a thousand or more signatures. This is a tactic used by experienced politicians to frighten neophytes. Make your challenges anyway.

In the meantime, you’ll need to be raising lots of money. Former Alderman Dick Simpson notes in his campaign handbook that a candidate for alderman should have at least $250,000 in the bank. This is important if you are seeking endorsements, since established politicians will not support a candidate without enough money already banked to win the election. The press, too, is not inclined to cover candidates who lack money for publicity.

Ald. Silverstein has already raised more than $93,000 for the race.

At this writing there are no declared candidates in the 50th Ward. But if you’re thinking about running for alderman, now is the time to start recruiting and training petition circulators, volunteers, and paid campaign staff.

Go to the CBOE website for a helpful guide that goes into great detail about what to do and how to do it.