Ballot Order for 50th Ward

The lottery for first and last ballot positions conducted by the Chicago Board of Elections determined that candidates for 50th Ward alderman will be listed on the ballot in the following order:

Debra Silverstein

Andrew Rowlas.

Majid Mustafa

Zehra Quadri

Mustafa and Quadri first must overcome signature challenges to remain on the ballot.

The election is February 26, 2019.

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More 50th Ward Challengers

This is what happens when I go to sleep. Last night there was one challenger to Zehra Quadri’s nominating petitions. This morning there are two, along with two new challengers to Maajid Mustafa.

Armando Ramos and Mark M. Tannbebaum have both filed objections to Mr. Mustafa’s petitions.

Mr. Ramos, as many of you know, is my nephew. He and Mr. Mustafa  have been enemies since Mr Mustafa changed his testimony during the Berny Stone vote fraud scandal that sent Mr.  Ramos to jail for a few weeks. Mr Mustafa was not prosecuted even though he admitted to taking absentee ballots to his home and “completing,” stamping, and mailing them. That would make me mad, too.

Mr. Tannbebaum is unknown to me, but is undoubtedly acting in someone else’s behalf, especially since he has also challenged Zehra Quadri’s petitions. Gee, I wonder who’s hiding behind him.

It’s interesting that Andrew Rowlas was not challenged. Apparently Debra Silverstein thinks he’ll be easy to beat, since she has nearly $200,000 in her campaign fund and Mr. Rowlas has less than $2,000. This signals another campaign-by-mailer from Silverstein. You’ll recall that in 2015 she refused to meet in debate with her opponents, citing the presence of unworthy beings known as write-in candidates on the same stage as Herself. Her strategy is simple: she can’t be asked to explain her poor job performance if she’s not there.

Rowlas and Quadri did not launch any challenges, directly or indirectly. That speaks well for them. They prefer facing their opponents in an honest and open campaign focused on the issues to wasting time and money in a bruising pregame battle.

The 50th Ward deserves better than shenangans like this.

 

Objections to Quadri Signatures Filed

Today was the first day to file objections to candidate nominating petitions.  As expected, signatures filed in behalf of Zehra Quadri have been challenged.

The objector is Abdul Rehman Shaikh, a petition circulator for Majid Mustafa, the only one of the four 50th Ward aldermanic candidates who does not yet have a campaign committee. Forgive me for asking  how his operation is being funded.

The point of objections to petition signatures is to harass other candidates, forcing them to spend precious campaign dollars on legal help to get on the ballot.

You may have heard that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle planned to object  to 14,000 petition signatures for fellow mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza.  Former 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Shajan Kuriakose is one of the objectors to Mendoza’s petitions. He’s also filed objections to signatures for Lori Lightfoot, another Preckwinkle target. And he’s filed objections to signatures for two little known candidates for mayor, Catherine Brown D’Tycoon and Conrein Hykes Clark. Busy man.

I wish candidates had the guts to file their own objections. This business of hiding behind surrogates doesn’t fool anyone.

The dates for the challenges to be heard have not yet been determined. Stay tuned.

 

Quadri, Mustafa File for Alderman

Zehra Quadri and Majid Mustafa filed petitions yesterday to become Alderman of the 50th Ward. They join Andrew Rowlas and Debra Silverstein as potential candidates for alderman.

To secure a place on the ballot, all four must survive challenges to their nominating petitions. Such challenges can be  filed by the candidates themselves or private citizens acting on their own or, as is common, acting as surrogates for candidates who prefer not to be seen as blocking opponents before they can appeal to the voters.

Ira Piltz did not file any nominating petitions although he had announced that he would run. I have heard that there was concern that his running would split the Orthodox vote and result in a non-jewish alderman for the ward. Such an event has not occurred more than 70 years. Although the Jewish community is only about 30% of the ward, it accounts for approximately half the ward’s voters.

Objections to nominating petitions are due on Monday, December 3.  If no challenges are filed to a candidate’s petitions, and the petitions are found to satisfy all legal requirements, that candidate’s name will be placed on the ballot for the February election.

Defending against petition challenges is time-consuming and expensive, requiring the challenged candidate to pay attorneys fees for representation before the Chicago Board of Elections. Although challenged candidates can defend themselves, it’s not a good idea, since they are up against skillful, well-paid attorneys who are generally in the employ of experienced,  well-funded campaigns. This tactic depletes the already scant funds of those who challenge incumbents, and is yet another reason why the same people keep getting reelected, no matter how poor the job they do.

I’ll have more to say about each candidate as we move through this week.

Objections, Objections

Formal objections have been filed to the nominating petitions of each of the five candidates in the 8th District senatorial contest. Objectors don’t have to admit that they are objecting in behalf of another candidate, and the candidates themselves rarely deign to be so open with the public.

Then there’s Zehra Quadri, who filed objections to petitions for  Ram Villivalam and Caroline McAteer-Fournier in her own name. Good for you, Zehra, it shows integrity and courage. Leaders lead.

Three candidates are being opposed by ordinary citizens acting on their own. Nobody’s frontin’ for nobody, as we say on the south side. If you want to sift through 1,000-3,0000 signatures (the legal minimum and maximum for the Senate position; the required totals are higher for independent, i.e., non-party, candidates), looking for “gotcha!” moments,  that’s your right.

Rulings on objections will occur next week. Losers will have the opportunity to seek judicial review if they believe the State BOE made the wrong decision. If there are no appeals to the judiciary, then the Board’s decisions stand.

Petitions were filed by Ira Silverstein, Ram Villivalam, Zehra Quadri, Caroline McAteer-Fournier, and David Zulkey.

 

Ira, Four Others File for 8th District Senator

The Illinois State Board of Elections reports that petitions have been filed for the following candidates for Illinois State Senate in the 8th District :

Ira Silverstein
Ram Villivalam
Caroline McAteer-Fournier
Zehra Quadri
David Zulkey

All the candidates are Democrats who live in Chicago.

The next phase of the elections process is for opponents to file objections to these petitions; these must be filed no later than Monday, December 11.  If no objection is filed to a candidate’s nomination papers, the papers are presumed to be valid.

I checked each candidate’s reported campaign funds this morning and learned the following:

Ira Silverstein (Silverstein for Senator) has $89,169.57 on hand. He received $9,200 of that in November, including $1,200 from the Realtor PAC; $1,000 from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association; and $7,000 from the Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC. His October contributions were from lobbying groups (SEIU, AFSCME, and PhRma) and brought in another $5,000.

Ram Villivalam (Friends of Ram) has raised $40,535, all of it between November 7-11, 2017, including $5,600 from himself. Another $5,600 came from his wife, Elizabeth Granato, identified on her November 7 contribution as the Manager of Business Development for the Public Building Commission of Chicago.

Interestingly, there are numerous small donations reported to other political groups, mainly the Indo-American Democratic Organization, from an individual named Ramachandra Villivalam who lives (or lived) in Naperville. This is the name under which Ram Villivalam was employed when he worked for Brad Schneider. Ramachandra’s Naperville address puts him in the 21st Senatorial District.

Nothing wrong with moving to a district where your political chances are better. Maybe he moved after his recent wedding. However, the Indo-American group reported an expenditure of $466.52 for Ramachandran Villivalam for a “mailing” on September 28, 2017. Since Villivalam is their current president, I would think they know where he lives. This donation-in-kind does not appear on his disclosure to the State Board.

The last thing we need is a repeat of the battles of the 2015 aldermanic election, when one candidate claimed to live in the ward but didn’t.

Caroline McAteer-Fournier (Caroline for Illinois) has not reported any contributions or expenses.

Zehra Quadri (Zehra for Illinois) has not reported any contributions or expenses.

David A. Zulkey (People for Zulkey) has not reported any contributions or expenses.

The lack of funding for the latter three candidates indicates how hard it is for female and independent (i.e., not politically-connected) candidates to acquire the obscene amounts of money now required to be considered credible candidates. Huge campaign war chests are often misinterpreted as proof that a candidate has the backing of the people, when the truth may be simply that the contributions of a few wealthy individuals and groups have bought the race.

We finally have the opportunity for participatory democracy in this State Senate race.
Let’s take it.

 

 

 

Ira Files Candidate Petitions; May Have Four Challengers

Yes, Ira’s going to run again for Illinois State Senate for the 8th District. According to The Ward Room, he and Ram Villivalam have filed petitions for the office. Meanwhile, Capitol Fax. another online news site based in Springfield, reports that Caroline McAteer-Fournier, David Zulkey, and Zehra Quadri are also expected to file nominating petitions. Alison Leipsiger, a social worker from Skokie who was mentioned as a potential candidate, has withdrawn.

According to the Illinois Election Data Web site, only Silverstein and Villivalam have actually filed petitions.

Villivalam is a former political director for Rep. Brad Schneider. He is currently president of the Indo-American Democratic Organization. When he announced his candidacy, he noted that the district is heavily Asian-American, and has been lining up local Asian-American politicians for endorsements. He’s the self-identified ethnic candidate. Though he bills himself as a progressive, I don’t see how an ethnicity-based appeal for votes can result in progressive policies. His organization states on its Web site that it wants a seat at the table because its constituency represents two percent of the state’s population, which suggests that the interests of a small group within this diverse district may be his lodestar.

McAteer-Fournier is an advocate for children with epilepsy and former president of the Danny Did Foundation. She describes herself as “…a mom, a higher-education professional, a health care advocate, and a neighbor…” but not a politician. She’s running because of the allegations against Ira, and promises that she’s ready to fight for regular folks. She’s never run for office before, which could be a good thing. However, I don’t know that I’d want another “fighter” in Springfield. I’d prefer to vote for someone who’s willing to reason and negotiate for the common good, not engage in more partisan bickering which will ensure that the current do-nothing gridlock continues.

Zulkey is an attorney and member of the Board of Directors of the Sauganash Community Association. I could not locate a Web site for his campaign, nor any public statements about this reasons for running.

Quadri was a candidate for 50th Ward alderman in 2015, finishing third in a race that included two write-in candidates. Only thirty votes separated her from the second-place finisher in a contest won by Silverstein’s wife, Debra, who was re-elected to her second terms. Quadri runs the social services agency Zam’s Hope. She had a close working relationship with the late alderman Bernie Stone but the Silversteins terminated her agency’s contracts with the City and the State of Illinois as soon as Ira became committeeman and Debra alderman.

It’s a given that multiple candidates make the incumbent more likely to remain in office. There hasn’t been much public outcry over the claims of sexual harassment made against Ira, and neither he nor his wife have made any public statements about the charges that cost him his leadership position. I think that’s a mistake. I think they owe their constituents an acknowledgment of his troubles, at the very least, but both are too aloof from the citizens they represent to deign to say anything.

If the ethnic vote goes to Villivalam and/or Quadri, and the women’s vote to McAteer-Fournier and/or Quadri, Ira could well be re-nominated. Or forced into a run-off. Maybe there are other candidates trying to get their petitions signed by next Monday.

David Zulkey, speak to us!

 

 

Food Carts, Commercial Kitchens, and Politics

The City Council at its Thursday meeting voted to license food carts. The sponsor of the ordinance, 26th Ward Alderman Robert Maldonado, estimated that the move would create around 6,400 jobs and bring in several million dollars in sales tax revenue annually. The requirements are stiff: vendors must pay a $350 license fee every two years, have their carts professionally cleaned and serviced, ensure that carts have heating and refrigeration systems, and prepare their food in commercial kitchens. The user fee for the commercial kitchen tacks on another $300+.

The 50th Ward has a commercial kitchen, paid for with a grant from the City of Chicago. But the kitchen isn’t operational. It’s part of ZAM’s Hope, the community resource center run by former aldermanic candidate Zehra Quadri. The plan was to offer kitchen space and marketing advice to residents who wanted to turn family recipes into successful food businesses. A strong supporter of Ald. Bernie Stone, Quadri has had many funding problems since the Silversteins began running the 50th Ward. While Ira cut funding for many of her programs, Debra outdid herself in pettiness and vindictiveness after her February re-election.

Quadri needs a zoning change to allow her kitchen to operate. Silverstein refuses to provide Quadri with a letter that would allow Quadri to obtain that zoning change. As a result, a taxpayer-funded commercial kitchen sits unused. It could have offered much-needed help for food cart vendors and other food entrepreneurs in the 50th Ward, but the alderman won’t allow it. No political rival will be permitted to support entrepreneurs or contribute to economic development if Silverstein has anything to say about it. And, unfortunately, she does.

Silverstein’s economic development record since her re-election is nothing short of appalling. A proposed art center lost out to a storage facility. A medical marijuana dispensary that would have invested nearly $500,000 in property improvements AND hired neighborhood residents was not approved. A commercial kitchen that could have helped 50th Ward residents create successful, sustainable businesses was not allowed to open.

Silverstein 3, economic development 0.

And we’re only five months into her second term.

 

 

Dirty Tricks

Thank goodness this election is nearly over. The two candidates with money have also turned out to be the two candidates who told the biggest lies, repeated them often, and spent thousands to make those lies seem like truths.

That’s bad enough.

But let me tell you how power and money influenced the electoral process in this ward.

Take Pete Sifnotis. Nice guy. No money. No lawyer. Two challenges. Both scheduled at the same time. Two different places. This was no accident. This was the big guys jerking the new kid around. He’s now a write-in candidate.

Take Fuji Shioura. Nice guy. So determined not to be corrupted by money that he won’t take donations. No lawyer. Two challenges. One Board of Elections examiner behaved so badly she had to be removed. He’s now a write-in candidate.

Take Zehra Quadri. Challenged a carpetbagger with clear and convincing evidence of his duplicity. The Board of Elections waived its own rules and kept the guy on the ballot. She appealed to Circuit Court. The judge ruled that the guy had good intentions, so never mind the law. The case is now in the Appellate Court, which will not rule until after the election.

Quadri’s campaign office is located in a building which has been without water for the past week. The owner has twice called the city, and twice his requests have been cancelled by another caller. Sixteen other offices are located in this building. The city will not fix the water until after the election.

Quadri lives in one of the buildings at Winston Towers. The morning before the election, copies of Jewish News, which has endorsed another candidate, were left for every resident of the building, including nonsubscribers. But Quadri’s supporters have been told that they may not distribute her campaign literature, and residents who support her have been told that they will be fined $300 if they do–and every time they do. Building management denies knowing who delivered and distributed the papers. Building management did not order the papers removed.

Powerful interests do not want positive change in this ward. The usual suspects have endorsed and contributed thousands of dollars to the incumbent. Wealthy interests from outside the ward have contributed enormous sums of money to buy this aldermanic seat for another.

The three candidates without money have shown the highest ethical standards. The two candidates with the big bucks have demonstrated the lowest character.

Remember that when you vote.

Indo-American Candidates’ Forum

The room was chilly, the candidates a bit tired, the moderator partial to Shajan Kuriakose, and the audience soon bored. The alderman, holding to her re-election strategy of not engaging with residents, wasn’t there.

It went downhill very quickly, right after the first answer to the first question. Shajan was to give the second answer, but first the moderator asked him to speak to a specific issue as part of his response. This set the pattern for the evening, with Shajan redirected on six of the thirteen questions asked. The candidates who had already spoken were not given an opportunity to speak to the redirected issue, however, and it just wasn’t fair.

There were the usual questions about red-light cameras (no candidate supports), fiscal transparency (everybody’s for) and political corruption (everybody’s against). Should the 50th Ward have its own high school? This was a question from the WRPCO forum, and there was nothing new from the candidates.

The forum focused on the problems faced by Indo-Americans: cab drivers vs Uber drivers, illegal immigration, relations with the police, lack of English, fear of discrimination, and domestic violence. Unfortunately, all of the candidates succumbed to the victimhood mindset and agreed that it is the responsibility of the larger community to educate itself so as not to inadvertently offend those with cultural grievances.  There was no discussion of whether such complaints are valid or why the larger society may not ask such uncomfortable questions as why America’s immigration laws should be ignored or how  people who won’t or can’t speak or learn English hope to support themselves or function in a multicultural society. The god of ethnocentrism was on full display.

The solution to domestic abuse, for example, is to agree that it’s a terrible thing and then to educate women not to be ashamed to ask for help after they’ve been beaten to a pulp. It didn’t occur to any of the candidates, unfortunately, that maybe educating men in anger management might be a more effective option. The moderator was just as clueless.

After several such questions, I raised my hand and rose to ask the moderator if the topic of ethnic separatism could be addressed. He said there would be no audience participation, that the format had been decided. In other words, the format was more important than questions arising from topics or responses.

This was the second and final candidate forum. Neither presented an opportunity to create a dialog between audience and candidates. Perhaps I was wrong to expect more, but it seems to me that we go about this part of the electoral process in exactly the wrong way. Voters have a right to expect better than memorized or rote responses. At this stage of the campaign the candidates are tired of talking. The preselected questions reflect the biases of the sponsoring organizations. Candidates make statements that should be challenged, or that call for facts not in evidence, but there’s no opportunity for the voters to engage with those who would be our leaders.

Sorry. Back to the forum.

Ethnocentrism raised its ugly head again in responses to a question about remaking Devon Avenue. Zehra Quadri described her idea of turning large storefronts into indoor malls that would support new businesses until they are successful enough to move to storefronts. Peter Sifnotis noted that the ward is filled with vacancies, and Devon isn’t the only street in need of business. He spoke forcefully about the need to curb needless regulation. Fuji Shioura nailed the problem when he said that he hears complaints all the time about the lack of responsiveness from the Devon merchants to the needs of the community. Fuji also pointed out that the new Mall of India in Schaumburg is Devon’s real competition, and further reason for Devon to return to family shopping for West Ridge residents.

But Shajan again supported the idea that gimmicks like 5K runs and events geared to outsiders will revitalize Devon. He is prepared as alderman to work with landlords, business owners, community organizations, and the newly-formed South East Asian Chamber of Commerce (not to be confused with the existing and ongoing West Ridge Chamber of Commerce) to remake Devon. He did not include residents in his plans, and I don’t think this was an inadvertent omission. He is the merchants’ handpicked candidate, supported by powerful Indo-American political organizations who hope to gain control of the ward through him.  Shajan even issued a campaign piece promising to protect the merchants’ interests.

West Ridge is the only community in the city that has to fight its dominant merchant group for control of its main business district.  Nobody spoke to that.

There was one further twist. The moderator asked the candidates to combine their closing statements with their answer to the question of what they see as the ward’s biggest problem over the next four years. I’ve never been to a real debate or a candidates’ forum that ended with such a bizarre request, and I hope I never attend one again.

After the forum ended I approached the moderator to ask him a question. He rudely brushed past me, snarling “I don’t want to talk to you.” I said he was an asshole, nearly got into a brawl with his parents, and went home.