Debra’s Pathetic Year-End “Newsletter”

It’s time for the alderqueen’s annual end-of-year newsletter, her statement of her achievements for the past twelve months. Every year it gets worse. This year it’s just pathetic. Pure malarkey.

Four glossy pages, seven pictures of Herself, and–lest we forget– her name and title mentioned 28 times.  The words “Alderman Silverstein” begin 20 of the report’s 32 paragraphs.

Ira, who usually figures prominently in these fluff pieces, is nowhere to be found. He-who-must-not-be-named apparently also must not be seen.  One of three photos on page two shows a male torso in a checked shirt with its head carefully lopped off. Maybe this is her  first public statement on last Halloween’s sexual harassment charges. [See the uncropped photo here.]

Front Page
She begins by noting that she opposed the property tax increase. That’s so last year, 2016, in fact. She’s voted for every tax since, including water and sewer taxes, and voted just last month to to support the Mayor’s 2018 budget that includes increased taxes on phones, ride-sharing services, and amusements.  If we’re going to report on the past, let’s include her vote for the 2012 budget, which closed half the City’s mental health clinics.

She proudly claims co-sponsorship of bills increasing the minimum wage, requiring paid sick leave for all workers in the City, and making Chicago a “Welcoming City” for illegal immigrants.

Why does she call the minimum wage bill a “new law” when it was passed three years ago (December 2014)? Why is she still claiming credit for the Welcoming City bill, passed in 2012? Her claims to co-sponsorships are overblown. She was one of 33 co-sponsors for  the minimum wage bill, one of 40 co-sponsors for paid sick leave, and one of 28 co-sponsors for the Welcoming City bill. She’s not a leader, not a mover in the City Council, and not a risk-taker. She co-sponsors bills when she can hide safely among her colleagues.

[It’s worth noting that the Welcoming City ordinance (amended this year to prevent Chicago police from working with immigration authorities to apprehend and deport criminals illegally in the U.S.) led to the Municipal ID, which will permit the same illegal immigrants to vote next year and in 2019. Despite claims that the card will be used as a library card and for public transit, its primary purpose is to give non-citizens the right to reward–er, vote for–the Democrats who made the Municipal ID possible.]

Public Safety
Her actions to improve public safety are laughable. How does requiring working police officers to serve as background extras so the alderman can pose for pictures improve public safety? One of her weekly newsletters published a ridiculous photo of her taking a salute from the officers – to what purpose? It was almost as bad as when she claimed credit for the Neighborhood Watch Program, posing in one of the jackets worn by participants. Why? She “regularly” speaks with the police commanders?  What does she discuss? While no troubled area in the ward can get a beat officer who actually walks around, she did manage to arrange for police to be on hand to protect the “rights” of Hindu dancers disturbing residents by blasting music via loudspeakers in a parking lot. Twice. Great sense of law enforcement priorities, Deb.

Silverstein claims that she “enhanced” the community via the new library, the street scapes on Devon and Howard, and the new lighting in Warren Park. Not true.

She was as blindsided as the rest of us by the Mayor’s sudden decision to combine a new library with senior housing, an idea that has been used in Europe for over a decade. We got the library only because more than 2,000 citizens signed a petition demanding that the old library be replaced. This was never a priority for Debra, so ignore her claims to “years of hard work and planning.”  She had nothing to do with it. And if you attended any of the meetings you might have noticed that “deer in the headlights” look she gets when she’s asked a question about one of “her” projects. The alderman is clueless.

The Devon streetscape has created a traffic nightmare. The Howard project was almost entirely an Evanston project. The bike bridge at Devon & McCormick had nothing to do with Silverstein. The Park District handled the lighting at Warren Park without her help. And “Stone Park” is actually “Bernie Stone Park.” She still can’t bring herself to speak her predecessor’s name. It’s hardly a “destination.” It’s out of the way, has no playground equipment, and is backed by a hulking storage facility. She’s so on top of things that in one newsletter she asked her constituents which of three sculptural panels they favored for the park, not knowing that the three pieces were components of a single piece.

Supporting Education
She supports education by lunching annually with the ward’s school principals. Then she takes credit for the job they do. Yet in 2013 she voted against the TIF surplus ordinance, which would have returned money to our public schools, and in 2012 she voted for the closure of 50 public schools. .

Community Services
The tax appeal workshops don’t need her, they’re Larry Suffredin’s responsibility.

The Senior Fraud seminar had roughly a dozen participants. Poor attendance for a ward with thousands of senior citizens. See her April 21 newsletter for the photo.

Both the Hiring Fair and the Flue Shot Clinic are sponsored by the City and paid for with tax dollars. Many aldermen find it possible to “host” both events without slapping their own names on all the promotional materials, as Deb does, and without referring to them in the possessive.

One Community, One City
Silverstein’s meetings with “community leaders” on solidarity were embarrassing. Her newsletters of March 13 and March 31 show that they were poorly attended. She didn’t organize either of them, and throughout the year leaves the problems that arise from cultural and religious misunderstandings strictly alone. She’d rather not get involved, thank you, just stopped by for a quick photo for the gullible.

The SSA Meetings are a farce. The SSA covers a limited area (Devon, and Western from Arthur to Granville). No merchants west of California are involved, and the community property-owner representatives do not reflect the diversity of the community.

The other events listed are not Debra’s projects, she participates for the photo ops they bring.

Back Page
I hardly know where to begin. She didn’t announce the new library, Rahm did, and he left without taking questions.

It’s interesting that she brags about the affordable housing, since she chose not to support the “Keeping the Promise Affordable Housing Ordinance.” Although the ordinance would reform CHA (which this year gave public land to developers for $1 for a 99-year lease, and loaned $2 million at zero interest to developers). Deb ain’t interested in reform. In any case, despite misleading statements to West Ridge residents at the open community meetings, the CHA announced at its final meeting that the 30 CHA-controlled apartments at the new library would be assigned to the next thirty individuals or couples on the CHA wait list, not to community residents. This is a matter of law. The other fourteen apartments at the new library were added so the developer could make money (I have no problem with that), and will be subsidized so tenants will pay around $700 per month rather than 30% of their income, as CHA residents do.

I haven’t a clue as to what Silverstein means by “amenities,” unless it’s the seniors’ laundry room.

The newsletter reveals that she’s still using private e-mail and Web site addresses rather than those provided at taxpayer expense by the City. Before you write to her or sign up for her newsletter, you should understand that (a) her continued use of a private e-mail address to conduct City business raises serious ethical questions; and (b) her use of a private Web site permits the collection of private information from your IP address.




Public Safety and Campaign Mailers

I received the alderman’s new campaign mailer today.

Masked as an invitation to a public safety meeting, nearly a third of the announcement  side is adorned by a glossy photo of Herself, with her name and title appearing in the same subhead-size type used to announce the meeting’s purpose. Heaven forbid we forget who she is.

There are no photos of Eddie Johnson, Chicago’s new Police Superintendent, even though the whole point of the event is to introduce him to the residents of West Ridge. There aren’t any photos of the two “Special Guests” either. They are the Police Commanders of the 24th and 17th police districts, Roberto.Nieves and Elias Voulgaris. As a courtesy to the Ward’s guests–and so they won’t be mistaken for visiting aldermen–links to photos of them appear below.

Supt. Eddie Johnson          Comdr. Roberto Nieves          Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris

The back of the mailer invites the community to subscribe to the alderman’s weekly newsletter, touted as “…all of the neighborhood news you need to know” and to attend the movie in the park and the backpack back-to-school giveaway. No point keeping the focus on safety in a neighborhood that is beginning to experience gang violence–including murders–and random shootings.

I suppose we should be grateful the alderman didn’t re-use the silly photo of herself saluting at a police roll call a week ago. Such meaningless stunts do nothing to make the neighborhood safer although they do provide visuals that give the impression that this alderman is a real crimebuster. More people will remember that dumb photo than her recent newsletter reference to “…some shootings…” that in actuality were two gang-related murders in three days, one on Rockwell and one on Devon. And that mention came only after she discussed city stickers and summer lawn care.

Now it’s true that West Ridge is sill one of the safest communities in the City, currently tied for 65th out of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods (meaning only 12 communities have a lower crime rate than ours), according to the Chicago Tribune. Community involvement is essential to keeping it that way. Maybe we can get some answers and insights from the superintendent and his commanders. I can already see the photo for next week’s aldermanic newsletter: A smiling alderman posed with police officials. Good for the end-of-year report and the campaign mailers to come.

While the community’s distracted by her before-the-camera images, it’s the things she does behind-the-scenes–like introducing an ordinance allocating $600,000 in TIF funds tor Park 526 while telling the LEARN coalition that there’s no money for a new library–that are so worrisome. She never mentioned the ordinance or the TIF allocation in her newsletter. That’s not the news the neighborhood needs to know.

The meeting’s at the Horwich JCC, 3003 West Touhy, on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. See you there.






Sign the TIF Petition

Tom Tresser, co-founder of The Civic Lab, has spent years tracking TIF funds and how they’re used, misused, and/or not used. His research shows that the City currently has over $1 billion in available TIF funds, money that came from our property taxes and could now be spent to relieve the ongoing school-funding crisis or be put toward other taxpayer priorities.

Tom is seeking signatures on a petition demanding that all available TIF funds be returned to the proper governmental unit to serve their original purpose.

The TIF program, designed to help build infrastructure across the City, particularly in poor and underserved areas, has instead been used by both Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel to help private corporations and real estate developers. One recent example is the Montrose-Clarendon development, which would give $16 million in TIF funds to a private developer for a 381-unit building at Montrose & Clarendon. Only 20 of those apartments would be set aside as subsidized housing for current neighborhood residents.

Please join your fellow Chicagoans in signing this important petition. Help Tom get your money back!

For more information on the Montrose-Clarendon development, see the City’s Web site, which contains links to both the Community Development Commission and City Plan Commission staff reports. And don’t miss Ben Joravsky’s December 2013 column in The Reader that tackles the issue of TIF funding for both an earlier version of the Montrose-Clarendon project and other sites.


TIF Funds, School Deficits, and the Alderman

Seventeen aldermen have co-sponsored a resolution to use surplus TIF funds to overcome the budget deficit at the Chicago Public Schools.

Alderman Silverstein was not among them.

She should be.