News from Working Aldermen

The problem with the Alderman’s weekly newsletter is that it never contains any news. It’s a rehash of events taking place everywhere in the city except here. No events take place here without her approval, and she doesn’t approve of anything unless she controls it.

Debra never tells us what’s going on in the City Council, even the committees on which she sits. After 10 years as alderman, she doesn’t consider City business to be any of our business.

So I’ve decided to publish an alternative Ward newsletter that will actually contain news that Ward residents can use. First, let me give you some examples of what I hope to accomplish.

The following is the kind of information that I think a good alderman provides his or her constituents. These are the opening paragraphs of 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden’s current newsletter:</p

“This week our city and our ward were again rocked by gun violence and loss. My condolences go out to all of the loved ones of those lost this week. Since May, I’ve had dozens of conversations with individuals, groups of residents, community organizations, the 24th District, and other neighborhood partners about how we can address the violence and build a safer and more connected community. Solving systemic issues isn’t easy work in the best of times; during this pandemic, it is daunting. I know that many of you are scared, angry, sad and frustrated by the situation we’re all in. You’re not alone in this. Some of you demand more police for security, some of you demand we defund police and redirect resources to other services. I don’t know what the exact solutions are, but what’s clear to me is that what we’ve done in the past hasn’t been working. I also know that everyone wants to feel safer in their homes, walking down their street and being out in our ward. I want that for us too. And in working on solutions, I am trying to find a balance.

“In service to those goals, my office has convened an Anti-Violence Table for our ward to work on reducing violence and increasing community safety. The Table currently consists of several community organizations and we’re in the process of bringing in residents, businesses, schools and parks. We are currently focusing on gun violence reduction in the Howard St border area with Evanston, as that is where many of our most recent shootings have taken place, but the work will not be exclusive to this part of the ward. Solutions that are going to stick and show results must be rooted in community and designed and implemented with the inclusion on [of] the people most impacted by the issue. This is why we’re taking a hyper-local approach as we begin. Thank you to the people who have taken time to speak with me over the last several weeks on this issue. We will share updates from the group on a monthly basis.

“This week I met with a number of our neighborhood community organizations to work on anti-violence planning, worked through a 7-hour Zoning Committee meeting, met with small businesses  to talk about the impact of reopening rollbacks, spoke with real estate professionals about ordinances that impact them that passed Council this week, spoke up for accountability and transparency against the Green Settlement…, saw my first piece of legislation pass City Council with the passage of the Senior Housing Ordinance, am hosting another free COVID-19 testing event, and spoke on Chicago Tonight about the CPS reopening plan. We also have a new 24th District Commander, Joseph Brennan. My office will be requesting he join us for a 49th Ward Town Hall for you all to be able to meet virtually meet him and engage.”

This is the kind of clear, concise report we should receive on a weekly basis from Silverstein. Instead, she pads her newsletter with the kind of photos more suitable for a family album in an attempt to con us into thinking that she’s working. Notice that Maria not only told her constituents about the new police Commander but she also immediately sought to organize a virtual town hall meeting so the commander and the residents could “engage” with one another. Silverstein mentioned in her last report that there was a new commander and gave his name, but there’s no payoff for her in arranging a virtual Town Hall–there’s no opportunity for photo ops that she can use in her political mailings.  We all know that if you want her attention it’s best to wave a camera in her direction. I wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for a virtual Town Hall with the new Commander– or on any other subject. 

Crime

Again, a thoughtful crime report from Maria (I was unable to reproduce the charts or their link. To see the charts, type CPD reports in your browser. Go to Area 3. Remember that the 24th district results include data from the various wards or parts of wards that make up the 24th district. ) :

“I’ve heard a lot of folks comparing what we’re experiencing now to a year or two years ago, sharing that things feel more dangerous and wondering about the cause for the change. The complaints and concerns we get in the office and those I see on social media often look for simple explanations in an effort to make sense of the chaos. I want to address some of the concerns and start with sharing where our District is on on crime statistics according to the CPD reports.

“You can see from the report for July 13-20 that, year to date, we are seeing a moderate increase in some violent crime (murder and aggravated battery), an increase in shooting incidents (from 15 to 26), and an overall decrease in total crime. The second chart shows you historical comparison of the stats for years 2016-2020 to give you better context of year to year changes for the same time period.

“Here’s the same data for the same time period for the City of Chicago overall.

“Another question that has come up in recent weeks is whether or not we have fewer police resources this year than in previous years. The answer is, it’s complicated. You can compare month to month changes using the charts here, but the average number of officers assigned to the 24th District for 2018 was 294, for 2019 it was 298, and to date this year it is 293. District assignments are constantly in flux and, based on available data, there isn’t a clear pattern of what to expect any given month. One thing is known, and that is that these numbers show official assignments, but police are frequently shifted to other temporary duties based on needs determined by the Superintendent. The tables below show the District assignments for all months/years available from the Inspector General’s Public Safety Dashboard. You can find other valuable data here like Complaints, Tactical Response Reports, Arrest Data, and more.

8/2019 – 7/2020 (last 12 months)
2020 – 7 Month Average – 293

2019 – Average 298 Officers
2018 – Average 294 Officers
2017 – Partial, Average 267 Officers

So What’s Really Happening?

“What we are seeing is unquestionably a result of the fact that we’re all living through a global pandemic. None of us has been through this before and the way it’s affecting us as individuals is only eclipsed by the way it is impacting our society. The loss of lives and livelihoods has been tremendous. Our local and national economies are forever changed and the immediate impact is directly seen in our neighborhoods. Now, more than ever, we need creative problem solving, block-level organizing and compassion. We have an opportunity to identify and lift up values as we build solutions to problems, old and new. We have an opportunity to make all of this loss mean something. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve our ward and our city during this trying time.”

Imagine having these in the 50th Ward:

“… creative problem solving and block-level organizing. “

Ald. Waguespack  published a list of armed street robberies  with addresses and times of the crime  in his latest newsletter.  This is a real public service. Silverstein is too lazy to compile such information. If she did, it would shatter the carefully nurtured illusion that West Ridge is a peaceful kosher Mayberry rather than an urban neighborhood.

What about involving the community in a response to Covid-19? While Silverstein chose to go it alone, shutting residents out, look what the 49th Ward did:

“The Rogers Park Community Response Team is an action-oriented group created in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. RPCRT was created by 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden in coordination with local service providers and community organizations. Partners include IL State Representative Kelly Cassidy, Protect RP, Northside Community Resources, Loyola Community Nursing Center, and hundreds of deeply committed community volunteers.

“We are working together to support each other. We will do so, to the best of our combined ability care for all of our RP family, with fierce love and compassion. We want every Rogers Park resident to know that you are cared for and not alone.

“Contact us at rpcrt49@gmail.com or call our Support Hotline at 773-831-7668. Volunteers are available to answer your questions and direct you to resources now.

“Please also take a moment to look at the Rogers Park Community Response Team’s robust website, rpcrt.org. This website acts as a centralized location where a variety of resources can live to help residents in the wake of COVID-19.”

City Council

For City Council news  I always read the newsletters from Maria’s 49th Wand and those of the 47th Ward and  the 32nd Wards (Ald. Matt Martin and Ald. Scott Waguespack, respectively). Their combined newsletters  give up-to-date information  on  proposed ordinances as well as those that have passed the City Council . Each provides a different perspective.

All are smart aldermen committed to the improvement of their wards for the benefit of their constituents. They are not afraid to report to their constituents on what is happening in the committees on which they serve.

Debra tells us nothing, unless she can praise herself in some way. Regular readers will remember that she attended barely half of City Council and committee meetings during her last term.

The following is from Matt Martin’s current newsletter:

“City Council met this past Wednesday and passed several ordinances which will benefit our community both now and in the future. One such ordinance, championed by the Jane Addams Senior Caucus and co-sponsored by me, will help improve the safety conditions in our larger senior housing facilities by mandating more frequent health check-ups as well as assistance with grocery shopping and obtaining medication. City Council also passed an ordinance that extends the time frame within which a renter must be notified of a rent increase or a lease non-renewal, as well as an ordinance that reduces the fine and types of alleged offenses for which the city can impound a vehicle.”

 These ordinances are important for City residents to know about. So why won’t Silverstein tell us about them?</em>

I could go on and on but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I will be synthesizing information from these and other sources to keep West Ridge residents informed of taxpayer business and other matters the alderman declines to inform us about.

The aldermen I’ve cited also provide opportunities for residents to serve the community, another Silverstein failure. She is too afraid that sharing her power would lead to its loss. As long as she keeps her core constituency happy, she has nothing to fear.  She can remain in power indefinitely, pulling down her $10,000 per month salary and retiring on her generous $80,000 per year pension. In the last election she had a serious challenger from within the Jewish community.  He dropped out before the race began. I said at the time that it was my belief that Jewish Community leaders were dissatisfied with her performance but that she cut a deal with them for another term so she could get her pension.

Meanwhile, the laziest alderman in the city will be riding off into the sunset, well compensated for having accomplished nothing in 12 years of “service.” She’ll be paid in retirement exactly as much as those aldermen who worked hard for their constituents. It’s a shame. Taxpayers should demand that the pension rules for aldermen be reviewed and reformed on the basis of Silverstein’s windfall alone.

The alternative 50th Ward newsletter will make its debut in August 2020.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Alderman Speaks

We all know  that Ald. Debra Silverstein does not like to speak to her constituents. Curious about what she has to say to her fellow Council members about the issues facing the City, I decided to look at the record.

All quotes below are taken directly from the “Journal of the Proceedings of the Chicago City Council.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debra Silverstein is paid $120,000 per year, a total of nearly one million dollars during her two terms as alderman. One million dollars to represent the 50th Ward.

Without saying a word.

SSA #43 Tax Levy — and a Two-Minute Meeting

SSA #43, the Special Services Area taxing district that adds an extra 1.5% property tax levy to real estate on Devon from Kedzie to Damen and on Western from Granville to Arthur, received City Council approval for its 2017 levy on November 15, 2016.

By law, there was to be a public meeting about the increase before the budget was approved, but I was unable to uncover any evidence of either the notice or the meeting so I e-mailed the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce for the meeting date and the name of the paper(s) where the notice was published. I have yet to receive a response, the Chamber no doubt busy planning its next business-building children’s event.

However, on Monday, November 28, Chamber personnel posted the “Minutes” of a purported “Community Meeting Regarding the Budget Levy Increase” allegedly held on October 27.  According to these “Minutes,” “Meeting was called to order at 6:10 p.m. No community members attended and no questions were presented. Meeting was adjourned at 6:12 p.m.”  The alderman is listed as present.

Interestingly, the Minutes of the SSA’s October 27 regular meeting were also posted on November 28. That meeting was also “called to order at 6:10 p.m.” but not adjourned until 6:56 p.m. So it appear that the two meetings were held simultaneously. I’m sure this will be corrected. The devil is always in the details.

Still no word on where the legally-required notices for the legally-required meeting  were published. This sure seems like  yet another example of the contempt the powers-that-be have for neighborhood residents and the concept of transparency in government.

The meeting was also attended by Mike Parella, who was otherwise unidentified and whose presence was unexplained.There is a Project Coordinator with the City’s Department of Planning & Development by the same name. Maybe he was there to witness the neighborhood’s indifference to the alderman’s way of doing business. Maybe the lack of community presence was taken as confidence in her vision.  Or maybe the dismal state of the neighborhood’s main shopping district has been noticed by City honchos who are finally helping the alderman with her six-years-in-the-making-and-yet-to-be-released “spirited economic development plan.” Let’s hope so. Residents have been unable to connect with her on the issue.

The SSA’s budget is stated in the ordinance (SO2016-7364), which can be found by searching the City Clerk’s Web site. It’s a lengthy document, and contains two separate applications and budgets, one for the Chamber and the other for the new “sole service provider,” the Rogers Park Business Alliance. The ordinance was amended to make the Business Alliance rather than the Chamber the service provider.

Note how the monies are budgeted.

Most of it (more than $270,000) goes to “Public Way Aesthetics,” the primary job apparently being cleaning-up after the litterers, spitters, and food-tossers who shop on Devon and don’t care about dirtying the neighborhood.

Rice Computer Services is to be paid $4,000 for repair and maintenance of the Big Belly trashcans.

“Customer attraction” is budgeted at $54,000; less than half that sum ($25,000) is earmarked for “Safety Programs,” and only $12,000 will be invested in business development. Mixed-up priorities?

“Sustainability and Public Places” gets $8,000. Perhaps that will result in an investment in signage, such as “No Spitting” or “No Parking in Bus Lanes” or “Parking in Crosswalks Prohibited.”  Perhaps the presence of uniformed police or Revenue Department personnel writing tickets would also be effective deterrents.

No 50th Ward businesses landed service contracts. Instead, two of the six subcontractors listed by the Business Alliance are from outside Chicago, and one is in Maryland. Three are from other neighborhoods. Why hire a $16,000 accountant from Skokie when there are many accountants in the Ward? No local businesses can make street banners (to be provided by a company in Blue Island at a cost of $10,000) or provide landscaping and holiday decorations ($25,000 to a business in Rockville, Maryland)?

Of course, there has to be a consultant, paid $30,000; at least the business is in the City, as is the $20,000 snow shoveler and the $4,000 auditor; the latter is located in Edgewater.

All fees are estimated.

Stealth taxes. Secret, two-minute meetings. Services from vendors outside the Ward.

The Silverstein way.

 

The Water-Sewer Tax

In this week’s newsletter the alderman says that her vote for the Mayor’s new water-sewer tax was “…necessary to prevent bankruptcy of the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) and finally put it on a path to solvency.”

What she doesn’t say is that several independent analyses all came to the same conclusion: the City will need another $300 million by 2023 just for this one pension fund. Nor does she say that the bill passed without Council debate in a lopsided 40-10 vote.

The tax kicks in next year, raising the average water and sewer bill to $53 per year. It goes up every year after that: to $115 in 2018, $180 for 2019, and $225 in 2020.

The pension fund would run out of money in 10 years without the tax.  However, after the Council’s Progressive Caucus demanded specifics on the plan, the City finally admitted that the new tax will hold off bankruptcy for only seven years. This is solvency?

This tax will hit the most vulnerable Chicagoans hard. With rents escalating due to the property tax hike, other everyday needs like laundry services will also cost more. For example, residents who use Laundromats can expect to pay about forty cents more per load, according to published reports. And those increases will be in place long before the new tax kicks in as Laundromat owners seek to recoup costs from the property tax hike. Neighbors of mine are moving after being hit with a $700 per month rent increase. Yes, $700 per month–$1,600 for a two-bedroom apartment. Granted, the previous rent was on the low side, but $700?

Chicago is rapidly becoming too expensive for average folks. The cost of corruption is killing us.

 

North Side Police Accountability Reform Meeting

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) has announced that the City Council’s North Side Police Accountability Subcommittee that he chairs is holding its only North Side meeting next Tuesday, August 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Senn High School, 5900 North Glenwood (at Thorndale).

To quote from Moore’s announcement:

“This is one of five public hearings to be held across the City of Chicago in August to gather public input regarding proposals to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a new civilian investigative agency and create a Public Safety Auditor to audit the Police Department and investigate allegations of misconduct within the Department.  Both reforms were recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force. For a copy of  the task force report and a list of the Task Force’s recommendations, click here.”

“These community hearings follow a series of hearings held at City Hall and are intended to solicit input from community residents who are unable to attend daytime hearings at City Hall. I urge you to attend this hearing, as the input offered at this and the other four community hearings will inform the City Council’s decisions on the important goals of reforming the police accountability process and assuring the public that any instance of police misconduct will be thoroughly and independently investigated.”

“A separate engagement community engagement process, led by neighborhood-based community organizations, will soon be held on a proposal to establish a Community Safety Oversight Board. This is another reform recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force and would be designed to give community residents a role in overseeing law enforcement.”

The other hearings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Thursday, August 11, 6:30 p.m., Little Village Lawndale High School, 3120 S. Kostner
  • Tuesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m., Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin
  • Monday, August 22, 6:30 p.m., North Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia

Moore notes that several North Side aldermen are expected to attend, including Ald. Harry Osterman (48th); the meeting is being held in Osterman’s ward. No word on whether Ald. Silverstein will be there. The event was not mentioned in her newsletter today, although she had room for three pictures of herself at Ward events. Her attendance is unlikely unless she cancels her property tax seminar scheduled for the same night for property owners North of Devon.

Simpson Report on Chicago City Council

Former alderman Dick Simpson and his team at UIC’s Department of Political Science have released a new report on the more independent relationship between the City Council and the Mayor. Entitled “A More Active City Council, Chicago City Council Report #8, June 17, 2015 – April 13, 2016,” the report examines 32 divided Council votes during that timeframe.

Not surprisingly, 28% of the alderman supported the Mayor 90-100% of the time, with another nine supporting him 80-90% of the time. Ald. Silverstein ranks in the next tier, supporting the Mayor 75% of the time. This is a big change from Simpson’s previous City Council study, which reported that, from June 2011 to November 15, 2014, Silverstein voted for the Mayor’s initiatives 98% of the time.  [See “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council, Chicago City Council Report #7, June 8, 2011 – November 15, 2014.”]

The report concludes that, “the city council is still a rubber stamp, but a weaker, less reliable rubber stamp” than it had been. That’s mixed news for the voters, but a sure sign that Emanuel is permanently weakened by various scandals and citywide violence.

And the aldermen know it.

 

 

 

Update: TIF Funds, School Deficits, and the Alderman

The alderman announced in yesterday’s ward newsletter that she has signed on as a co-sponsor of this resolution.

She will be joining the 17 original co-sponsors who presented the resolution to the City Council on January 13.

Supporters believe that surplus TIF funds (more than one billion dollars at this writing) should be used to help balance the CPS budget deficit.

 

 

Poll: Term Limits for Aldermen?

I’m also wondering if we should have term limits for aldermen. What do you think?

Poll results will be reported March 10.

[I lost my first poll, about the election, when I tried to move it and a post to another page. They both disappeared. I promise not to do that again.]

 

Poll: Does the City Need 50 Aldermen?

I’ve been wondering if it’s time to have a serious debate about the number of aldermen in Chicago. Given the ongoing budget crisis, do we really need 50 wards? Would administration of city services be improved if we had only 25 wards?  How much would taxpayers save in administrative costs if we had to support only 25 ward offices? What are the trade-offs?

The Better Government Association studied this question in depth and published a provocative report in December 2010. Read its report here.

What do you think?  Poll results will be reported March 10.

[I lost my first poll, about the election, when I tried to move it and another post to another page. Both disappeared. I promise not to do that again.]