The correct date to meet Lori Lightfoot and Andrew Rowlas is Wednesday, February 20. I apologize for the error.
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.
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?
Debra Silverstein says a lot of things about what a good job she’s done for the 50th Ward. Most of them are not true. In some cases, she tries to associate herself with–and thereby claim credit for–routine City services, like sewer cleaning and tree trimming. In other cases, she claims credit for the vision and work of others, as she does with the new Northtown Library / senior apartments. Silverstein still can’t bring herself to utter the words “LEARN Coalition,” but it was this group of neighborhood improvement activists who actually deserve the credit for bringing a new library to this neighborhood.
Silverstein’s latest exercise in artful political lying arrived in my mailbox yesterday. This one is about how she votes against “…any budget that included a property tax hike…” and will “…continue to hold the line against any new middle-class taxes.” Yes, she has voted against budgets with property tax increases. But she’s voted for the tax increases themselves. (See my earlier post for details.)
If she had any political courage or any real convictions, she’d vote against both the budget and the tax levies that fund it.
Silverstein wants to have it both ways. As usual.
Take the Laquan McDonald case.
Silverstein voted to pay the family of Laquan McDonald $5.5M so they wouldn’t sue the City for his death, effectively allowing Rahm to keep the video of the shooting from the public. Every alderman who voted for the settlement knew about the video and what it showed. There was no discussion in the City Council when the settlement in the matter “In re Estate of McDonald” was presented. As she has in settlement after settlement after settlement, Silverstein asked no questions and voted to pay the money. When a judge ordered the video released, Silverstein claimed in her weekly newsletter that she was shocked by what it revealed. Really? It begs the question:
If she didn’t know about the video, why did she vote for the hush money? If she did know about the video, where was her conscience?
Silverstein recently said that she is a strong supporter of working-class families and looks forward to negotiating with Chicago’s labor unions during her next term. But which side will she be representing? True, the taxpayers pay her $120,000 year for her part-time job. That’s roughly a half million dollars every term, or just under $1M for the past eight years.
But over the past 8 years, UNITE Here has donated $42, 464 to Silverstein, while its Local 1 has contributed another $28,268. SEIU Illinois PAC has given her $14,397. The Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC donated $12,293, and AFSME Local 31 has given Silverstein $12,000. The Chicago Teachers Union has given her $6,500.
That’s roughly a year’s salary in political donations right there. Add the money she’s received from Rahm over the past eight years–a staggering $90,000–and the money donated by Ira’s senatorial campaign ($12,500) and the 50th Ward Democratic organization ($7,650). Silverstein has received almost two years salary from six unions, the mayor, her husband, and the 50th Ward Democratic organization he controls.
Do you really believe she’s representing the people of the 50th Ward? Or her donors?
These amounts do not include funds received from local merchants and other businesses.
Machine politicians find it easy to raise money from organizations and people they insist are NOT looking for favors, while finding it nearly impossible to locate funding for basic public services without raising taxes and/or fees.
Responding to a question raised by the Burke scandal about whether staff member should have outside jobs , Silverstein recently told a Chicago newspaper in her endorsement questionnaire that she “…would not employ staff who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city.” Yet her campaign manager, Keith Sokolowski, is also a Community Relations Commissioner for the Village of Niles, and spent the last 18 months as an organizer for now-Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
This is why political reform is so hard to enact. Machine politicians like Silverstein get re-election help from professionals with ties to special interests and a strong interest in keeping things as they are. Special interests are where the money is. Silverstein has more than $212,000 in her campaign fund.
Her closest competitor is Andrew Rowlas, who has less than $3,000.
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:
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?
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.
Andrew Rowlas contacted me to ask that I correct a misstatement in my post on his endorsement by Lori Lightfoot.
He asked that I clarify that he was not a founding member of LEARN, but joined the Coalition about a year after it began work.
I regret the error and thank Mr. Rowlas for correcting me.
Andrew Rowlas has been endorsed for 50th Ward alderman by mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, who cites his commitment to reform and transparency as major reasons for her belief that he is the best candidate to represent the 50th Ward.
Rowlas is an educator and community activist. A member of the LEARN Coalition, Rowlas was part of the team that suggested building the new library on Western Avenue. He worked for months obtaining signatures on the citizen petition that resulted in the new Northtown Library. He has advocated for longer library hours and is presently obtaining signatures on the petition to transform the old library building into a community cultural center. Last year, as president of the West Ridge Community Organization, Rowlas helped create the Warren Park Advisory Council.
Committed to citizen participation in Ward governance, Rowlas has promised to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward. He also plans to establish a citizen Zoning Advisory Board and promises to build a partnership between residents and business owners to work together to develop a far-reaching economic and community development plan.
Unlike the alderman, who likes nothing better than to pose in a hard hat with a shovel in her hands but skips the actual hard work of building coalitions and gaining public support for economic and community development projects, Rowlas works well with community residents and businrss owners and listens to and reasons with opponents. He is a team builder and does not claim solo credit for team efforts.
I don’t agree with his views on many issues, but I see him as a leader willing to work with the community for the common good, willing to listen and consider other viewpoints, and committed to the kind of good government–open and transparent–that this Ward desperately needs. Most importantly, he is absolutely committed to developing future leaders for the 50th Ward. Unlike Silverstein, who shuts the community out of ward business and is committed to keeping herself in power, Rowlas believes that engaging with the community in civic matters will create an active, invoved citizenry and produce future leaders committed to public service.
For more information about what Andrew Rowlas believes and what he would do as alderman, visit his website at rowlasforward50.com.
Volunteer for his campaign by contacting Andrew at rowlasforWard50@gmail.com
Don’t forget to attend the two aldermanic forums to meet the candidates in person and hear what they have to say. The first is set for next Thursday, February 7, at 7 p.m. at Devon Bank, 6445 North Western Avenue. It is sponsored by the West Ridge Community Organization.
The second forum is on Sunday, February 10, at 2 p.m. at the Bernard Horwich Center, 3003 West Touhy. It is co-sponsored by the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council, the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, and the League of Women Voters.
Lori Lightfoot, a former prosecutor and head of the police review board, was one of the original challengers to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She has a long record of public service accomplishments, and is committed to reforming Chicago’s corrupt political system. You can learn more about Lori Lightfoot and her ideas and plans through her campaign website, lightfootforchicago.com
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.
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.
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.