Follies Truth Squad: Silverstein Campaign Mailer, Part III

From the day she took office in 2011, Debra Silverstein has presented herself as our very own crime-fighting alderman. She is particularly concerned with property crime, and calls public safety meetings every time there’s an outbreak of graffiti or a rash of stolen bikes. She enjoys being viewed as the law and order alderman. But is this image accurate? 

Let’s examine Silverstein’s claims about her influence and activism on issues of public safety as she describes them in her recent newsletter/campaign mailer. Most of her claims are pure malarkey.

We all want to be safe on the streets and in our homes, but heaven help us if public safety is under the direction of a part-time alderman rather than full-time, experienced, highly trained professional police officers. I think we are better served if politicians leave police work to those trained to do it. Silverstein was a CPA and has no background in law enforcement, so her claims that she “organizes” police activities or (her old favorite resurrected on her campaign website) “multi-jurisdictional task forces” are ludicrous.   Of course, as alderman she has an interest in the ward’s safety, and I’m sure the police keep her informed of crime rates and trends, but she is not directly involved in determining police strategy and shouldn’t claim otherwise.

She states that she was “…instrumental in organizing the following activities to assist in fighting crime,” and then assumes credit for decisions such as adding more police officers and introducing smart policing technology. These are decisions and actions taken by the commanders of the Chicago Police Department and do not require input from Silverstein.

To begin with, neither more cops nor improved technology were added to the 50th Ward as she states. They were added to the 17th and 24th Police Districts. This is an important distinction because both districts cover more than one ward.  Silverstein’s wording suggests that these developments are specific to the 50th Ward and result from her work as alderman. This is not so.

More importantly, police officials direct resources where they are needed. Statistically, West Ridge is one of the safest areas in the City; it, too, covers more than one ward. But Rogers Park, where the 24th District Police are headquartered, experiences more crime than West Ridge. Its activist alderman, Joe Moore,  organized the public safety meeting held after the murders of Douglass Watts and Eliyahu Moscowitz in Rogers Park. Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and a host of other police officials discussed the crimes and reassured frightened neighborhood residents.

To respond to fears  in the Jewish community that Mr. Moscowitz was targeted because he was Jewish, police officials also held a community meeting in the 50th Ward. But Silverstein did not organize this meeting nor did she “bring” them here. This was a police response to a stunned and grieving community.

What Silverstein did do in the weeks that followed was milk this tragedy for political advantage, appearing at two prayer services, outdoor police roll calls, and, as always, having her picture taken. She attended the funeral for Mr. Moscowitz, and announced with great fanfare that a reward had been offered, addressing neighborhood residents via a series of emails.  When the press moved on to other matters, Silverstein lost interest, too. But she has several times used photos of herself taken at the prayer services  in her newsletters and on her campaign website. Tacky.

Silverstein’s response to the death of Mr. Moscowitz was very different from her response to two homicides that occurred within three days on Devon Avenue in 2016. The first was a young man shot by an estranged girlfriend. The second was a 19-year-old gang member executed as he sat in a car in a parking lot outside a liquor store less than two blocks from Silverstein’s office. There were no community meetings to discuss public safety, no police officials to reassure frightened people, no alderman to “organize” a response. Instead, Silverstein dismissed both events with a single line in her weekly newsletter, describing the two murders as “some shootings.”  Where was her compassion and concern for public safety then?

Silverstein believes that outdoor police roll calls help curb crime. I’ve been unable to find any documented research that this is true. The rationale is that these roll calls enhance police transparency and help build solidarity with the community. That appears to be more PR spin than fact. What it does in the 50th Ward is provide yet another opportunity for an aldermanic photo-op, like the silly shot of Silverstein exchanging a salute with police officers that she’s published in her newsletter.

Devising, improving, or supervising policing strategies are activities  outside the scope of Silverstein’s responsibilities as alderman. Her claims of being actively involved in police work and fighting crime are baseless but play well with an audience distracted by photos of her with cops.

Public safety. would be vastly improved if she just did her job and let the police do theirs.

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Medical Marijuana Informational Meeting

A few years ago Ald. Silverstein blocked the owner of Green Gate Chicago, a medical marijuana  dispensary, from opening his business  in the 50th Ward. Despite widespread community support, and the promise of jobs for neighborhood residents, Silverstein, who initially could not explain her opposition to the project, finally alleged the business would be too close to where children play in Warren Park. In fact, at the Zoning Board hearing, a child testified that he was afraid that medical marijuana users would force him to become a dope addict. That carefully rehearsed testimony–and Silverstein’s opposition–ended the opportunity to bring Green Gate and its jobs to the 50th Ward, and to replace a taxi parking lot  with the beautifully landscaped and fully-secured dispensary.

Green Gate subsequently opened in Rogers Park over the objections of neighbors who worried it would increase crime in the area and lower property values.

Green Gate is now a thriving business  whose clients have not attempted to force dope on children. The facility and its environs are as free of crime as they were before the dispensary opened. The jobs and taxes that might have benefited the 50th Ward now benefit the 49th.

As you know,  the United States is experiencing  an opioid abuse crisis. Illinois law has recently been amended to permit the use of medical marijuana to treat conditions formerly treated by opioids.

On Saturday, Dec. 8,  Green Gate is sponsoring an informational meeting on the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and the Opioid Alternative Cannabis Program.  The 90-minute session begins at 10:30 a.m. at Charmers Cafe, 1500 West Jarvis.

In his announcement of this important meeting, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore notes that the use of medical marijuana requires a prescription from a physician and registration with the  Illinois Department of Public Health . Among the  debilitating conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana are cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy,  Crohn’s disease,  and multiple sclerosis. Qualifying patients can be registered for the medical marijuana programs at the meeting.

Green Gate is located at 7305 North Rogers.

Sheridan Road Lane Closures

Ald. Joe Moore is advising travelers of lane closures on Sheridan Road effective Monday, August 27. His message reads:

“Please be advised that starting Monday, August 27th, and continuing through Wednesday, September 5th, traffic on Sheridan Road, just north of Devon, will be reduced to one lane in each direction between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The work will not take place during the Labor Day weekend (Saturday, September 1st through Monday, September 3rd) and traffic will be unaffected on those days.

The lane reduction is to allow for the installation of sewer and gas lines for the Concord on Sheridan development on Sheridan at Devon.

If you plan to travel on Sheridan Road during the lane closure period, please consider an alternate route or allow for additional travel time.

Free Screening of PBS Documentary on Participatory Budgeting

Alderman Joe Moore is hosting a free screening of a  PBS documentary that features the 49th Ward’s participatory budgeting process. The screening is  Sunday, October 30, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the New 400 Theater, 6746 North Sheridan Road. There will be a panel discussion about PB afterwards.

The film, “Count Me In,” was directed and produced by Ines Sommer; she will be one of the four panel participants, along with Cecelia Salinas, the 49th Ward’s PB liaison; Sarah Lisy, former Chair of the 49th Ward’s PB Leadership Team; and Chad Adams, principal of Sullivan High School, where the first student-led PB process took place.

To quote Ald. Moore, “Participatory budgeting is one answer to the question, how do you get citizens, who have become cynical about politics and frustrated with voting, involved in the decision-making process about what government does and how things get done?

The film traces the growth of Participatory Budgeting from its US. beginning in the 49th Ward and shows residents pitching ideas for a variety of projects, including street repairs, bike lanes and community gardens. Projects get researched, proposals crafted, and at the end, the entire community is invited to vote.

“Count Me In” explores the ups and downs of this new tool, offering an engaging, unvarnished look at what it will take to revitalize democracy from the ground up, not just in Chicago, but across the nation.”

Moore described PB as “a process that is changing how we talk about democracy.”

It’s a conversation that needs to continue in the 50th Ward.

Silverstein’s Blunder to Benefit Rogers Park

It appears that another ward will profit from the alderman’s wrongheaded refusal to permit a medical marijuana dispensary (MMD) to open in West Ridge, thus depriving the 50th ward of much-needed jobs and sales tax revenues, not to mention a lovely landscaped business gracing Western Avenue.

Remember the Greengate Compassion Center? The MMD had applied last year to build its facility at 6501 North Western Avenue in West Ridge. The alderman immediately announced her opposition, then clarified it twice before finally blocking it in the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). In fact, so sure was she that the MMD would not be approved that she proposed a zoning change ordinance for the site two months before the ZBA’s final decision was announced.

To preserve the illusion of a disinterested ZBA making an independent decision, that ordinance was tabled for a couple of months before the change from commercial to residential became law.

But all is not lost for Greengate. The more progressive 49th Ward may become the MMD’s new site. Ald. Joe Moore  is holding a community meeting on Sept. 28 so residents can hear from Bob Kingsley, the owner, about his proposal to locate the MMD at 1930 West Chase (a Rogers).  The site is different from what was proposed for Western, but every bit as attractive:

To quote from Ald. Moore’s announcement,

“Earlier this year, Mr. Kingsley identified a potential site at 1930 W. Chase, located at the northeast corner of Chase and Rogers. For many years, the site was home to Rogers Pantry, a convenience store that primarily sold packaged liquor. Rogers Pantry went out of business several years ago and the building has been standing empty ever since (see photo below).

Until recently, three licenses to operate home day care centers existed within 1,000 feet of the property. For various reasons, none of the license holders actually operated day care centers out of their homes, but because the licenses were on the State’s registry, Mr. Kingsley could not receive a license to operate a dispensary at the Rogers Pantry location until the licenses expired or were withdrawn.” That has now happened.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, at the Pottawattomie Park Field House, 7340 North Rogers.