$150,000 Reward in Rogers Park Murders

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced today that the reward for information leading to the capture of the killer of Douglass Watts and Eliyahu Moscowitz has increased to $150,000. This is the largest reward ever offered in Chicago history. He said the reward  increased due to “…the generosity of an anonymous donor.”

The donation was made in behalf of Mr. Moscowitz, fatally shot as he walked in Loyola Park last month. The announcement was made near the spot where Mr. Moscowitz died.

The Superintendent noted that police have continued to search for the killer over the past 5 weeks. They are asking once again for the public’s  help. You can report your information anonymously, at which time you will be given a code that can be used to claim the reward should your information be verified and lead to the apprehension of the murderer.

A surveillance photo of the suspect appears below.

Please call 312/744-8261 or submit your tip to cookcountycrimestoppers.org.

 

 

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Tragedy and Grandstanding

There’s nothing like an alderman so crass that she exploits fear, grief, and mourning to help herself get re-elected.

The Jewish community is reeling from shock, grief, and fear over the murder of Eliyahu Moscowitz, one of two men murdered by an unknown killer in Rogers Park last month, and the synagogue killings in Pittsburgh. And Debra Silverstein both shares and exploits those emotions. She cannot do enough to comfort and protect the Jewish community:

  • Special bulletins were issued by her office providing updates on the hunt for Mr. Moscowitz’s killer.
  • The alderman attended his funeral.
  • A special “community safety meeting” was called on Oct. 4 so residents could hear top police brass discuss progress on the case and measures undertaken to ensure the safety of the Jewish community and its synagogues. [City officials stated that there were no overt threats. Nor is there any evidence that Mr. Moscowitz was targeted because he was Jewish.]
  • At the alderman’s request—or so she implies–police patrols were increased in the 50th Ward on the morning of the Pittsburgh shooting, with police visiting each synagogue and offering condolences and protection in addition to the police squads stationed outside the synagogues during the Sabbath.
  • The neighborhood was invited to an outdoor police roll call and prayer service for the eleven people killed at the Pittsburgh synagogue. (The roll call was canceled after the officers stood in formation for awhile because they had to get to work.)
  • The alderman’s newsletter featured four photos of the roll call/prayer service, two of which featured the alderman. .
  • The alderman has just announced another outdoor roll call, this one for Nov. 7 (today) on the 3600 block of Devon, and has invited residents to attend, adding that they will also have an opportunity to meet the new police commander of the 17th District.

Contrast all this with Silverstein’s actions in 2016, when two men were murdered in three days on Devon Avenue.

  • Silverstein dismissed the murders in her newsletter as “some shootings.” Both victims were men, one shot in a domestic dispute, the other executed gangland-style as he sat in a car outside a liquor store less than two blocks from Silverstein’s office
  • There were no bulletins on the hunt for the killers.
  • Silverstein did not attend the funerals.
  • There were no community safety meetings. No police brass were asked to address the community. No one—not the alderman, not the police—assured residents in the surrounding area that they were safe, or that extra measures were being taken to protect them. Yet we were scared, too.
  • The alderman did not call for or suggest increased police patrols in the area.
  • There were no outdoor police roll calls.
  • There were no photos of the alderman comforting frightened neighbors.

The lives of these two young men were no less valuable than that of Mr. Moscowitz or the Pittsburgh victims. Their life choices may have led them in very different directions, but they, too, were someone’s sons. They, too, had family and friends who mourn their loss. They, too, left a stunned and frightened community.

We all live in an increasingly unsafe world. While Jewish communities rightly and understandably have special concerns, having been targets for millennia, murder is a horror that terrifies every person and every community everywhere. One of the requirements for public servants is that they show compassion and understanding for every member of the community. It’s the art and the act of leadership. .

Silverstein is clearly exploiting the recent tragedies affecting the Jewish community for political gain. She has put her re-election first. Enough with the outdoor roll calls and photos of herself intruding on police business. This isn’t leadership.

Grandstanding is not the next best option. Taking photos at prayer services for later use in re-election materials is appalling.

Someone should tell Silverstein.

 

Movie Night on Devon — Another Silverstein/SSA Failure

Crowd attends Devon Movie Night. It ebbed and flowed during the event, but at no time were there more than two dozen people. Don’t they look comfortable?

Movie Night on Devon, another noisemaker in a parking lot sponsored by the alderman and the Special Services Area #43 (SSA #43), attracted a crowd of two dozen people on a windy and chilly October Thursday night. Most were kids, many unattended by adults, and most were far more interested in the free popcorn than the movie. Many left before the movie ended because it was so cold and the popcorn machine shut down.

Who can blame them? What kind of organization seeks to build goodwill and increase business by inviting people to sit on asphalt on a 57-degree October night to watch an old movie?

What insensitive louts would consider placing this screen and loudspeakers alongside other people’s homes? The Devon SSA #43 and the alderman, of course.

The SSA’s characteristic lack of attention to detail was evident throughout the evening. The event, scheduled on a school night, was barely underway when the screen-loudspeaker combination blew a fuse. Near the end of the movie, the popcorn machine overheated and blew another one. Kids who had gorged on thirst-inducing popcorn were disappointed to learn that the SSA had not provided any water. There were no trash cans for the empty popcorn bags or the plastic wrappers from the giveaway plastic sunglasses, so the lot soon resembled the rest of Devon–littered with bags and food garbage. A couple of SSA big shots showed up to check on attendance.

A sharper view of the proximity to housing. The alderman wouldn’t dream of doing this where she lives, nor would the SSA members. But the impact of these events on the quality of life for residents here before the parking lot was built has never concerned them.

To his credit, Robert Taylor of Republic Bank had the excessive volume turned down, but it had to be loud to be heard over Devon’s traffic. It was a courtesy to neighbors who were largely unaware of the event because the SSA chose not to notify them, as required by law, and placed its advertising only in select businesses east of California Avenue. Oh, the alderman did announce it in her newsletter the week before, but she apparently didn’t have time to tend to the legal details or common courtesy, either. She and the SSA never do. You’d hear them screaming if something like this were scheduled outside their own residences, though.

The Shree Ganesh Temple celebrated a Hindu holiday in the parking lot, complete with loudspeaers that blasted for five hours. It also shut down Devon so dancers could march from the temple to the parking lot.

Devon shut down on Sunday, September 23, to allow 150 Hindu celebrants to march to thr parking lot from the temple. The temple’s owners have admitted that the temple exists primarily to increase business for Devon’s Indian merchants. They have voiced no concerns over its impact on non-Hindu residents.

This was a bad idea right from the start. The SSA and the alderman are determined to turn the failed parking lot into a neighborhood entertainment center. In the past six weeks, it’s been home to an India Day celebration, a political protest, a Hindu holiday celebration, and now this movie night. The lot is zoned only for parking and lacks a license for religious or entertainment events, but the SSA and the alderman don’t care. The Silverstein-selected SSA members (technically appointed by the Mayor) ignore the laws because Silverstein  encourages it. It’s paid off for her. There’s no Asian candidate for alderman this time around. There were two in 2015, and they garnered one-third of the vote.

There is no evidence that any of these loudspeaker-fueled occasions have increased business, and Devon east of California is littered with vacant stores–just like Devon west of California. The lot between Campbell and Maplewood, site of a fire during Berny Stone’s last term, is still vacant nine years later, overrun with weeds, used as a garbage dump by passers-by, and cursed with a sagging fence. A good alderman would take the owner to court on a sell-or-build lawsuit, but not Silverstein. You’d think the SSA could ask the lot’s owner to open his lot for such events. It’s right in the heart of what the SSA publicizes as Little India, and would be perfect for movie events, since there’s no nearby housing. But if your intent is to drive longtime residents out of the area, you want to stage your parties in a parking lot alongside an alley in a display of arrogance and contempt that would not be tolerated north of Devon.

It’s so hard to protest without loudspeakers. Look at this monstrosity on wheels! Naturally, this group appeared during the dinner hour.

I’ve noted before that Silverstein’s annual ward movie night, held in the north part of the ward, takes place during the summer in Chippewa Park. Why not hold Devon Movie Night in Berny Stone Park? Or is that too far from the SSA members’ businesses?

Every parking-lot event produced by Silverstein and the SSA has failed. They make a lot of noise, but they don’t build good will or business. Remember the Devon Community Market? The Family Fun Fest? What were they thinking?

I’m not opposed to movie nights. But they belong in parks. In August.

 

 

JUF Offers Reward to Help Capture Kiiller

The Jewish United Fund (JUF) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the man responsible for two murders in Rogers Park earlier this week.

JUF’s president noted that members of Chicago’s LGBTQ and Jewish Orthodox communities are concerned that these shootings may have been targeted attacks against Douglas Wattts and Eliyahu Moscowitz because Mr. Watts was gay and Mr. Moscowitz was an Orthodox Jew.

No motive for the murders has been established by the police, although the same gun was used to kill both victims. Neither man was robbed, even though both carried cell phones, wallets, and credit cards.

A suspect was photographed by several surveillance cameras in the area of the first shooting, the 1400 block of West Sherwin Avenue, and these videos have been released to the public. A still photo of the suspect has also been released. Police are going door-to-door in the area of the second shooting, the bike path in Loyola Park at Lunt Avenue, in an effort to locate any surveillance videos which may show the same man in that area. 

 

 

 

Mr. Watts lived in Rogers Park. Mr. Moscowitz was a resident of the 50th Ward.

 

Community Meeting Tonight

Police officials will meet with 50th Ward residents tonight to update the community on the two murders in Rogers Park earlier this week.

The meeting will take place at the Bernard Horwich JCC, 3003 West Touhy Avenue, at 7:30 p.m.

Eliyahu Moscowitz, a 24-year-old 50th Ward resident, was one of two men shot by an unknown gunman. The other victim was 73-year-old Douglas Watts.

At a community meeting in Rogers Park on Wednesday night, police declined to speculate on a motive for the murders. Mr. Moscowitz was an Orthodox Jew, and Mr. Watts was gay. Members of the Orthodox and the gay communities have expressed concern that the men may have been targeted for whho they were. Police have established that the same gun was used in both murders.

Police believe the murderer lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood. They distributed flyers at last night’s meeting that more clearly show the heavily-disguised individual believed to have committed the crimes. The gunman hid his face with a cap, sunglasses, and a scarf.

Although the police have increased patrols throughout the community, and have added plainclothes officers and detectives, many residents said that they no longer walk alone and have unplugged from cell phones while out on the street.

Tonight’s meeting will be hosted by Alderman Silverstein.

Another Jackass Idea

The jackasses who run SSA #43 have come up with yet another crackpot idea to build business in Little India. They have invited shoppers on Devon to bring blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy an evening on the asphalt watching a movie at the Republic Bank parking lot. Yes, you heard that right.

The idea is so stupid it defies logical analysis. On a Thursday night, a school night, from 8 to 10 p.m., the SSA will be showing an animated film in the parking lot. Who would want to sit on a blanket on wet asphalt to watch a movie? What kind of parents think this is a good opportunity to entertain children who have to go to school in the morning? Who wants to carry enough chairs for an entire family?

The SSA, as usual, has not bothered to inform or involve neighbors living 10 feet away from what the SSA–with Ald. Silverstein’s full cooperation–has made its private entertainment venue. I learned about this event only because I saw the poster taped to one of the store windows on Devon. I’m sure the alderman will promote it in her newsletter today, mainly because she doesn’t care what an imposition it is on residents living directly next door. As long as it doesn’t disturb her, she’s fine with it.

It’s worth noting that when there’s a movie on the north end of the ward, where the alderman lives, it’s held in a park, not a parking lot. But that end of the ward votes for her. Our precinct never has.

If there are any plans for parking, crowd control, noise abatement, or clean up, the SSA has not shared them with the people living alongside this parking lot. Given the way other events have been handled, spilled popcorn, soda, candy, and other food debris will simply be left overnight. Residents will just have to cope with the scores of rats attracted by all the goodies.

Who will handle the drunks? Will there be yet another taxpayer-funded police detail assigned to cover this private event?

Has the SSA applied for a special events permit? If so, it has failed to comply with any of the requirements imposed on it by the city. Nearby residents are supposed to get a 30-day notice that such an event is scheduled so they can object if they choose to. The SSA is also supposed to furnish detailed plans for parking, crowd and noise control, and clean up. It never does, because it does not communicate with residents.

It’s the time of year when the 2019 contract for the SSA is being negotiated. I think keeping this independent taxing body in operation should be an issue in the aldermanic campaign. This SSA has demonstrated time and time again that it has no respect for community residents or for the laws governing community events.

The SSA lacks any sense of courtesy or responsibility toward residents. Its members are arrogant, selfish, and downright mean when it comes to what they want, and they have consistently ignored the rights of nearby residents on both sides of Devon.

Ald. Silverstein attends the SSA meetings; in fact, they are held in her office. She and the Rogers Park Business Alliance, the SSA administrator, are fully aware of and complicit in this arrogant behavior. But it is she who sets the tone, she who fails to ensure that the laws she is sworn to uphold are followed.

It’s another reason to vote her out of office.

We need an alderman who understands that building a business district doesn’t start with a jackass idea.

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?

 

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.

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.