Our Lazy Alderman

A new report from WBEZ-The Daily Line proves once again that Debra Silverstein is one of the laziest aldermen in the City. Silverstein attended only 56% of meetings of various committees and the City Council between May 2015 and December 2018. Silverstein managed to attend 200 of 360 meetings to earn her $10,000 per month salary. The average attendance rate for aldermen was 65%..

At both recent forums and in her campaign literature, she claims to be a hardworking alderman, “fighting” for money for the 50th Ward. At the Feb. 10 forum, she claimed that being alderman is “a 24/7 job,” and at the earlier forum said that people stop her while she’s shopping in Evanston to discuss ward problems.

Time to review.

Silverstein holds open office hours once per week for two hours. Should that time be cancelled due to holidays, it is not rescheduled. But you can call her office, maybe speak with her or arrange an appointment. Or wait til next week.

Silverstein rarely holds community meetings, preferring to communicate via her weekly Newsletter, where more space is devoted to pictures of herself than to discussions of Ward or City business.

Silverstein attended only 31% of 2016 budget committee hearings, according to a report from Illinois Policy. Continue reading, and you’ll learn that between May 2015 and May 2017, the City Council spent more time and effort on honorary resolutions (8%) than on “substantive” legislation (1.5%)–you know, matters of public policy.

Silverstein was the only alderman who failed to attend the only North Side hearing on police reform. Instead, she scheduled a property tax seminar with Larry Suffredin for that night. She could have rescheduled the seminar, or let Suffredin handle it on his own, but chose, as always, the less important task on which to spend her time.

Silverstein says in her most recent campaign piece that she “directed” sewer cleaning, pothole patching, tree trimming, and rat extermination in our Ward. We have entire City departments devoted to those tasks under the management of well-paid department heads. But Silverstein is one of only 50 people who can initiate or vote on City legislation.

A 56% attendance rate at committee and Council meetings is not acceptable. Since Silverstein’s too lazy to do the job to which she was elected, maybe we should allow her to retire. Now.

 

 

 

 

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Meet Lori Lightfoot and Andrew Rowlas

Join mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot and 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas at a meet and greet in the 50th Ward.on Wednesday, February 20, from 6-8 p.m. at Urban Convene, 2711 West Peterson Avenue.

Lightfoot is one of the original challengers to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, getting into the race before Rahm dropped out. She has an impressive resume: Assistant United States Attorney, President of the Chicago Police Board, and Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force. She is a reform candidate for mayor, and endorsed Rowlas a few weeks ago. Lightfoot has been endorsed for mayor by the Chicago Sun-Times, which said of her:

“More than any of the other 13 mayoral candidates, she has the vision, values, qualifications and policies to be an effective leader for the whole city, from the hedge fund managers to the fast food workers. She is calm, focused, principled and independent.”  The paper noted that, while mayor would be her first elected office, “…she has been a powerfully influential public servant. She has been an outspoken critic of bad moves by City Hall, calling out her own bosses. She has also — and this is not widely understood — been a force for honesty and integrity behind the scenes.”

Rowlas is a former educator and current community activist. He served as president of the West Ridge Community Organization until stepping down to run for alderman. A strong believer in community empowerment, Rowlas single-handedly arranged to have a referendum on clean drinking water on last November’s ballot in some 50th Ward precincts, and is currently petitioning to have the old Northtown Library become a cultural arts center. He also served as a member of the LEARN Coalition, the group responsible for bringing the community the new Northtown Library.

Rowlas plans to empower 50th ward residents through initiatives like participatory budgeting, a ward zoning committee, and a ward economic and community development council–all measures opposed by current alderman Debra Silverstein.

City Hall and the 50th Ward both need reforming. Come and hear what these two outstanding candidates for political leadership have to say.

Questions for the Candidates

The first of only two forums for the 50th Ward aldermanic candidates will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at Devon Bank. I have some questions for them.

For Debra Silverstein:

1.  Other than the Devon streetscape and the new library, what do you see as your main achievement for the ward over the last four years?

2.  In one candidate questionnaire, you said that no zoning change is ever considered in the 50th Ward without community input. Can you recall a single community meeting that you organized that was devoted to a zoning change?

3.  What will be your process for determining the fate of the old Northtown Library building? Please be specific.

4.  You claim that public safety is the most pressing issue in the 50th Ward. Statistics show  that the 50th Ward is one of the safest in the City. Are you overreacting to isolated incidents?

5.  There have been two serious incidents in the neighborhood in the past two weeks involving mentally unstable residents. Do you now regret your vote to close the city’s mental health clinics?

6.  You are one of 35 aldermen on the Finance Committee. You have never publicly protested Alderman Burke’s way of handling taxpayer business or his recusals because of conflicts of interest with his private law practice. Why?

For Andrew Rowlas:

1.  What would be your first priority for the ward if you are elected alderman?

2.  Would you join the Progressive Caucus of the City Council or remain an independent voice?

3.  Alderman Silverstein has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from local businesses. Would you accept such donations and, if so, would you institute caps on the amount of money you would accept?

4.  The 50th Ward is neither politically conservative nor politically liberal but a mix of the two, with a healthy dose of political moderates. How would you effectively represent all the differing political viewpoints?

5.  What would be your first priority with regard to economic development?

6.  How would you as a former educator support our neighborhood schools?

For Zehra Quadri:

1.  You have not reported any donations or loans to your campaign. How is your campaign being funded?

2.  The services you offer at Zam’s Hope are available to all Ward residents regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. How has working with our diverse community informed your view of what this Ward could be?

3.  What would be your first priority as alderman?

4.  You have said that the ward needs a far broader retailing base. How would you persuade businesses to locate here?

5.  What kinds of innovative and creative businesses do you see moving to the 50th Ward if you are elected alderman?

6. Do you support turning the old Northtown Library into a Cultural Arts Center?

For all candidates:

1.  One of the dangers of an elected school board is that it could be co-opted by slates of candidates backed by special interests. What would you do to prevent this?

2.  The city will have to find $270M in additional funds to make required pension payments this year. Changing state law and/or the state Constitution will require too much time to be an effective solution. What do you think is the single best source of additional revenue? Please be very specific.

3. Would you support a binding referendum to cut the City Council from its current 50 aldermen to no more than 15? Please answer yes or no. Do not explain your answer.

4. Do you agree that an independent, non-partisan commission is the best way to redistrict the City of Chicago after next year’s census? Please answer yes or no. Do not explain your answer.

5.  The 50th Ward contains a diverse array of people who tend to exist in ethnic, racial, or religious silos, with little contact between them. What specifically would you do to promote coöperation and interaction between these groups?

6. We are one of the few Wards in the city without a movie theater, a bowling alley, and other forms of recreation. What would you do to bring such attractions to the neighborhood?

 

 

Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Alderman?

How much do you know about Debra Silverstein’s performance as alderman?  Take the Follies quiz!

1.  As she has demonstrated over the past eight years, Silverstein’s vision for the 50th Ward includes:

(a) an economic development plan that includes all major commercial corridors and brings residents a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment choices;

(b)  a community development plan that involves residents in ward governance and promotes civic engagement through her Zoning Advisory Board, her Resident-Business Economic Development Council, her Youth Advisory Council, and the 50th Ward Participatory Budgeting Committee;

(c) keeping residents advised on government issues through her weekly ward newsletter that focuses on City and Ward business, emphasizes major issues before the City Council, and reports on Silverstein’s votes in committees and the City Council during the previous week;

(d)  none of the above.

2. The Devon Avenue streetscape is a major accomplishment because:

(a) gridlock gives drivers and passengers more time to look at empty storefronts;

(b) the widened sidewalks and ample seating areas west of California are lovely to look at and not cluttered with shoppers;

(c) Silverstein says it is;

(d) grocery tourism is our ward’s primary growth industry.

3. Silverstein styles herself a law-and-order alderman and believes that community safety is best maintained and advanced by:

(a)  photo-ops of herself at outdoor police roll calls;

(b)  glorifying routine police business like serving warrants and checking on parolees by rebranding such activities “multijurisdictional task forces” or “police stings” and claiming she “organizes” them;

(c) hosting community meetings with police brass to address property crimes occurring north of Pratt while ignoring any and all crime south of Pratt, including murder;

(d) talking to and/or texting the 19th and 24th District police commanders on a daily basis;

(e) all of the above.

4.  Over the past 8 years, Silverstein has used her power as alderman to support which of the following charitable activities:

(a) giving away turkeys to the less fortunate  at Thanksgiving;

(b) organizing coat drives for adults and children facing winter without warm clothing;

(c) arranging for a neighborhood warming/cooling center for the homeless  and those without adequate heat or air conditioning;

(d) creating a neighborhood food pantry;

(e) none of the above.

5. Silverstein brags endlessly about the 50th Ward’s diversity, which is best exemplified by:

(a) buying fruits and vegetables from immigrant-owned stores;

(b) finding new ways to get to work when Devon is closed for parades and religious festivals;

(c) attending one or more of the many cultural festivals Silverstein organizes;

(d) marching in the ward’s annual Fourth of July parade alongside friends and neighbors from other lands;

(e) associating only with people who look just like you;

(f) all of the above.

Sorry–this was a trick question. Options (c) and (d) do not exist.

6.  Silverstein’s claim that “people from all over the city and beyond” are flocking to our “unique stores” are:

(a) true;

(b) false;

(c) boosterism;

(d) deusional.

7. Claiming personal credit for the delivery of routine city services is acceptable because:

(a) an alderman is entitled to claim credit for everything except the rising of the sun;

(b) these things would not happen if anybody else  were alderman;

(c) she was elected primarily to ensure that the City does not slack off on tree maintenance and sewer cleaning;

(d) Silverstein has nothing else to brag about.

8. Silverstein enhances the educational opportunities of 50th Ward students by:

(a) giving them a chance to take part in participatory budgeting so they can get a sense of how government works;

(b) helping them earn community service credits through year-round  projects such as her snow shoveling corps, ward beautification and cleanup projects, and connecting young people with senior citizens who need occasional help shopping, using computers, etc.;

(c)  hosting an annual pizza-on-paper-plates lunch  for 50th Ward school principals;

(d) insisting she personally “fights” for every dollar from any source spent on any ward school at any time.

9. Silverstein improves residents’ quality of life through such initiatives as:

(a) paying close attention to the environmental pollution generated by traffic gridlock, and seeking ways to alleviate the damage to public spaces, private yards, and residents’ lungs;

(b) waging a public information campaign to encourage residents not to  toss household garbage in street corner trash cans, thus improving the cleanliness of our streets and decreasing the amount of food available for rats;

(c) working with the CTA to ensure that bus routes are adequately staffed, reasonably timed, and available to residents 7 days per week;

(d) hosting multicultural events for residents, helping to break down ethnic and religious silos and fostering neighborliness;

(e) none of the above.

10. Which of the following is not true: Driving around the ward looking for potholes is:

(a) an important aldermanic function neglected for many, many years before Silverstein was elected;

(b) the ward superintendent’s job;

(c) a distraction from the more important work Silverstein should be doing;

(d) an overwhelming personal obsession.

11. Silverstein has not yet been endorsed by any mayoral candidate because:

(a)  she’s a machine hack, and the reformers won’t go near her;

(b) an endorsement from Daley, Mendoza, or Preckwinkle would remind voters that Silverstein is part of the Chicago Machine;

(c) Silverstein wants to be absolutely sure who the next Boss will be before kneeling in supplication;

(d) all of the above.

12. There have been no public meetings on the fate of the old Northtown Library building because:

(a) none are needed– Silverstein has already promised the structure and will announce her decision after the election;

(b) Silverstein’s been too busy counting the number of tree limbs removed in the past 4 years;

(c) Silverstein’s been focused on how City Council reforms might limit her power and force her to actully work;

(d) Silverstein can do only one thing at a time, and the building isn’t empty yet.

13. Which of the following is not true: Silverstein has not revealed her economic development plan over the past eight years because:

(a) she has absolutely zero interest in planned economic development;

(b) she’s busy supervising police activities;

(c) an occasional store opening is fun, while economic planning is work;

(d) the ward’s economy is fine just the way it is;

(e) she has no clue how to begin;

(f) she learned her lesson with the Devon Community Market;

(g) the plan is in development.

14. Silverstein deserves reelection because:

(a) Ira lost his job;

(b) she doesn’t want to be a CPA any more;

(c) she loves the unchecked power she has over others and uses it to benefit her friends and punish her enemies;

(d) she qualifies for a pension after one more term;

(e) all of the above;

(f)  none of the above.

15. Silverstein’s commitment to transparency in government is best demonstrated by:

(a) using a private email address rather than her City-furnished email address to conduct public business;

(b) ignoring community input when approving any and all zoning changes;

(c) using a private ward website that collects personal information from users not collected by the ward website provided by the City;

(d)  appointing a committee to advise her on final decisions for the new Northtown Library, then swearing its members to absolute secrecy about who they are and what they discuss;

(e) blocking the opening of a medical marijuana clinic and then secretly changing the zoning for that parcel of land from commercial to residential;

(f) what transparency?

Answers:
1 – d; 2 – c; 3- e; 4 – e; 5 – f; 6 – d; 7 – d; 8 – c; 9 – e; 10 – a; 11 – d; 12 – a; 13 – g; 14 – f; 15 – f

Give yourself one point for each correct answer. A score of 12-15 makes you an expert. If you scored 6-11, you’re ready to vote for someone else. Did you score 1-5? It’s okay, you’re beginning to catch on and glossy mailers won’t fool you.

 

 

WRCO Candidate Forum Rescheduled

Because of this week’s freezing weather, the West Ridge Community Organization has rescheduled its aldermanic candidate forum from Thursday, January 31, to Thursday, February 7.  All three candidates are expected to be present. The Forum will be moderated by Mick Dumke of ProPublica Illinois.

The forum will be held at Devon Bank, 6445 North Western Avenue, beginning at 7 p.m.

Mustafa Withdraws, Quadri on Ballot

It’s a three-way race now.

Majid Mustafa withdrew today from the race for 50th Ward alderman. At a hearing before the Chicago Board of Elections, Zehra Quadri overcame the objections  to her nominating petitions  by Mustafa petition circulator Abdul Shaikh  and officially became a candidate.

So the ballot is official for the 50th Ward: Debra Silverstein, Andrew Rowlas, and Zehra Quadri (in ballot order).

The three candidates will meet the voters at the aldermanic forum sponsored by the West Ridge Community Organization next Thursday, January 31, at 7 p.m. at Devon Bank. There is no talk of weather cancellation at present.

Early voting begins on Tuesday, January 29, at the downtown Voting Super Center only (175 West Washington). All other early voting sites will open on February 11.

 

 

 

 

 

Candidate Forum Scheduled

The second forum for 50th Ward aldermanic candidates is scheduled for Sunday, February 10, at 2 p.m. at the Bernard Horwich Center, 3003 West Touhy Avenue.

The forum is jointly sponsored by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council, and the League of Women Voters.

The Library and The Silverstein Way

The new Independence and Little Italy (formerly Roosevelt) branch libraries opened earlier this week. They are two of the three new libraries in the City that are combined with affordable / CHA senior housing.

The third library is our own Northtown, which has the distinction of being the only one of the three which required a secret committee to advise the alderman on its construction. The  members of that committee, sworn to secrecy immediately upon appointment, are still unknown and likely to remain so.. It’s  the Silverstein way

The senior housing component of the Independence Library is not yet finished, being about three weeks behind schedule, but the library is open and fully functioning. This is because Ald. Laurino is not running for reelection.

There is no official opening date for the Northtown but you can bet it will be as close to the election as possible so that Silverstein can do what she does best–place herself front and center, claim credit, and have her picture taken. Taking credit is easier than actually doing the work. It’s the Silverstein way.

The real heroes in the battle for a new library–The LEARN Coalition– will no doubt not be mentioned. Silverstein still cannot bring herself to mention the name “LEARN Coalition” or to give them the credit they deserve. As usual, she did it all herself.

There are similarities between the Independence branch and the Northtown. Both libraries are 16,000 square feet in size and include 44 housing units. But there are striking differences. The Independence branch is two stories, and places the adult area on the second floor. The Northtown library is one floor, with an open floor plan. At least that’s what the community was told before the secret committee and the alderman made the final design decisions, none of which were shared with residents. 

The new library is one of two major accomplishments Silverstein cites as reason to re-elect her, the other being the Devon streetscape. Watch for lots of news coverage, photos with the mayor, and pictures of a grinning Silverstein with happy neighborhood residents, especially kids, flooding into the new building.

Delaying the building’s opening means  solo news coverage and a boost for re-election.

It’s the Silverstein way.

 

 

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

 

 

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.