January Campaign Updates

January has been a busy month for the four candidates for 50th Ward alderman: Majid Mustafa, Zehra Quadri, Andrew Rowlas, and Debra Silverstein.

Candidate Forums

The West Ridge Community Organization is sponsoring the first candidate forum on Thursday, January 31, at Devon Bank beginning at 7 p.m.  All candidates have been invited to participate. The group’s announcement on its Facebook page states the forum ends at 10:00 p.m., but other sources say it will end at 8:30 p.m. No information on the forum is available on the WRCO Website. 

A second forum jointly sponsored by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council will be held in February. Details have not yet been finalized.

Candidate Questionnaires

The Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, and WBEZ Public Radio invited candidates to submit responses to questionnaires about their candidacies and positions on local issues. Click on the links above for their responses. (The Sun-Times site is not working, although the questionnaires were accessible earlier; it appears to be under construction.)

Mustafa, Rowlas, and Silverstein filled out questionnaires for the newspapers. Rowlas is the only 50th Ward candidate who provided answers to WBEZ.  Quadri did not respond to either the newspapers or the radio station.

Challenges to Nominating Petitions

Mustafa and Quadri have both overcome the challenges filed by Silverstein surrogate Mark Tannbebaum.

On Friday, January 25, the Chicago Board of Elections will rule on  the challenge to Quadri’s petitions by Mustafa petition circulator Abdul Shaikh Rahman as well as the objections to Mustafa’s petitions by Quadri supporter Armando Ramos.

Endorsements

Rowlas has been endorsed by Northside Action for Democracy.

Quadri has been endorsed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. A video of the endorsement is posted on her Facebook page.

Fundraising (all figures from the Illinois Sunshine database) 

Mustafa has loaned his campaign $85,603.04. He has not reported any donations, but has a cash-on-hand balance of $171,206.08. It appears that his loan has exactly doubled in size, which could be a reporting error.

Quadri has not reported any donations and has not yet registered her campaign committee with the state of Illinois. The only active committee supporting her is the committee established for her run for state senate last year. It shows a balance of $40.01.

Rowlas reports total receipts of $2,891.29.

Silverstein has received $192,625.67 in donations, much of it from labor and business PACs.  She also received $20,000 from Rahm Emanuel, who gave that sum to all of his most loyal City Council supporters, and a total of $1,000 from two separate donations (August 2018 and July 2017) from the S4 PAC, the political action committee of The S4 Group, the lobbying firm formerly headed by our newly-appointed state rep, Yehiel Mark Kalish.

Reclaim Fair Elections.org has created a database that maps donations to incumbent aldermen by ward. Click here to see where Silverstein gets her money.

The Illinois Sunshine database is easily searchable by candidate and by donor. Be sure to click on “All Donations” or “All Expenditures” to see the most recent transactions in both categories. If you want to know who else a donor gave to, click on the donor’s name on the far left side of the page.

Websites

Majid Mustafa -none found
Zehra Quadri – none found
Andrew Rowlas – https://www.rowlasforward50.com/blog
Debra Silverstein – http://www.debrasilversteinforalderman.com/index.html

 

 

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Crony Politics

Lou Lang announced on Sunday that he and Ira Silverstein had chosen Lang’s replacement for the Illinois House. Lang claimed that after interviewing 20 applicants on Sunday–what Lang termed “interview day”–he and Ira decided on Yehiel Mark Kalish, a rabbi and political lobbyist. The people Kalish will represent had no voice in the matter. Kalish was sworn in Sunday, hours after his appointment was announced.

Kalish has already had to deny a report that he traded lobbying clients to Lang to get the position (Lang resigned his seat to become a lobbyist). The news of the Kalish appointment was greeted less than ten minutes after Lang’s emailed announcement with a lengthy press release from Agudath Israel of Illinois congratulating Kalish, whose Wikipedia page was already in place. The Website of his lobbying firm, S4 Group, was “under construction” on Sunday evening and remains so today, but I did see it on Sunday afternoon, and Kalish has a long history of political lobbying. He’s an insider, not a reformer, known for representing the same interests that have donated tens of thousands of dollars to our incompetent alderman.

I find it troubling that three men chose our state rep, bypassing the voters, and that one of those men was so disinterested in what was clearly a rigged process that he gave his proxy to the other two. I find it especially troubling that our new state rep was selected by two men who had to resign their leadership positions in the legislature because of charges of sexual harassment. Both resigned as deputy majority leaders, Silverstein from the Senate and Lang from the House. Both were investigated after female lobbyists complained that they had been harassed. In Silverstein’s case, it was found that his conduct was inappropriate but did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. In Lang’s case, the charges were declared unsubstantiated because the complainant chose not to speak with the investigator. Silverstein subsequently lost his bid for re-election.

I find it unacceptable that the voters were not part of this process. We don’t know who applied for the position, or when, or what questions were asked of them, or what their answers were, or how they were vetted, or who lobbied for them. Why the rush to get Kalish sworn in? There’s no transparency in the process, but the long-range planning is obvious.

This is crony politics. The residents of the 16th District should be outraged at this kind of chicanery. It’s pretty obvious that the fix was in, and that 19 candidates didn’t have a chance at appointment. Lang’s decision to resign before being sworn in after being re-elected was an insult to the people who supported him. That Kalish had already been chosen by local power brokers is clear. The praise for his integrity is undercut by the way he gained office.

Kalish is now under obligation to Ira Silverstein. It makes me wonder what Kalish is going to do to help Debra Silverstein win reelection. Don’t kid yourself that favors he can grant to the Silversteins were irrelevant to his selection.

We have a state senator elected because he exploited identity politics and shamelessly inflated Ira’s scandal. We have a state representative selected because of his religion. We may well see the re-election of the laziest, most incompetent alderman in the City because the Orthodox–at least fifty percent of the voters in the 50th Ward–insist on a Jewish alderman rather than one with a vision and a plan to revitalize this ward.

It isn’t racist or anti-Semitic to call out such behavior. Backroom deals narrowly focused  on power and influence for one or two groups over all others undermine democracy. The two groups scheming for political control of the 50th Ward, Asian Indians and Orthodox Jews, disregard the political and economic interests of all other residents in the ward. Neither is anywhere close to a majority; Asian Indians being only 10-15% of residents, depending on who’s counting, and not all are citizens. The Orthodox are roughly 30-35% of the population.

Both are playing a losing game. The majority they have politically marginalized is beginning to recognize the strength that comes with voting and organizing to gain the political power their numbers warrant. Latinos, for example, are 20% of the Ward and growing. Many Muslim residents will become citizens in the next couple of years, and they will vote. The push for fairly-drawn political maps is growing stronger, and a ward drawn to maximize Jewish or Indian voting strength while minimizing the votes of others won’t go unchallenged. Our current legislative districts will also be remapped after next year’s census. There are constitutional issues at play and a strong push for reform locally and nationally.

The entire process by which Rabbi Kalish was chosen reeks. It won’t bother those who designed it, but it should.

 

 

 

“The New Chicago Way”

I’ve been reading an important new book that should be required reading for every Chicago voter. “The New Chicago Way” describes the problems awaiting the next mayor and City Council, and suggests steps to take now and in the near future to resolve the City’s chronic problems–like the ongoing pension crisis and our culture of political corruption.The authors are Edwin Bachrach and Austin Berg. 

The book tackles issues such as how the structure of city government impacts and limits its problem-solving ability and how we can begin to resolve the pension crisis that threatens to bankrupt Chicago.

Did you know that nearly a quarter of the city budget is used to pay interest on the city’s borrowing debt?  Did you know that some of our largest pension funds are less than 50% funded? Can you believe that the frightening funding shortages  reported are not actual dollar figures but only estimates based on actuarial assumptions? Are you aware that other cities–some bigger than Chicago–have more efficient city governance structures that cost less and accomplish more?

Among the reforms Bachrach and Berg suggest is a smaller City Council that would focus on City business operations rather than on providing relatively minor services to constituents. They note that most of what aldermen do is administrative in nature, and that aldermanic privilege–the absolute control of zoning  and licensing at the ward level–is a source of corruption. Other cities elect at-large council members who focus on city contracts and operations, leaving administrative and clerical work to managers and clerks.

The book outlines the history of the pension crisis and suggests ways to resolve it, none of them painless. However, the authors note that until we  address the problems presented by high interest payments and overdue pension contributions, there will be less money available for City operations; we are reaching the point where these obligations will wipe out the funds collected by ever-increasing taxes and fees, leaving Chicago with no choice but bankruptcy.

I am just beginning the chapter on pensions. So far, I have only a couple of minor quibbles with the authors. The chapter on the City Council makes clear the system’s built-in inefficiencies and its potential for corruption. It also makes the case that treating each ward like a fiefdom contributes to the strong mayor-weak council system that allows the mayor to politicize decision-making and the City Council to ignore its responsibility for overseeing City business.

The New Chicago Way will be discussed at a forum on Wednesday, January 30, sponsored by Truth in Accounting, a Chicago non-profit founded on the belief that the public has a right to honest and accurate financial statements from government.The event will take place at the Union League Club, 65 West Jackson, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Cost is $35. (See registration information at the end of this post.)

The book is available from Amazon in both hardcover and e-book editions. It is not available from the Chicago Public Library, but I have submitted a purchase request. This book belongs in the library’s collection.

The coming election may be Chicago’s last chance at meaningful reform. It is time to elect a mayor and aldermen who understand their responsibilities and act accordingly.

Our Ward, in particular, needs an alderman with more important accomplishments than 4,000 sawed-off tree limbs. 

FYI: The Union League Club does not permit guests to wear denim  or athletic wear  To register for this event:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authors-group-and-the-public-affairs-state-and-local-government-subcommittee-presents-the-new-tickets-55002345496

 

 

 

 

Snowstorm Updates

Ald. Joe Moore of the 49th Ward today released the following updates on this weekend’s snow.

“The National Weather Service reports a Lakefront Flood Advisory, remains in effect until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.  Strong onshore winds are expected to produce waves of seven to ten feet, which will drive up already-above-average lake levels.

You can track the Streets & San snow plows as they move through the city in real time by clicking here.

City ordinance requires homeowners and business owners to shovel the sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after a snowfall ends.  Not only is it the neighborly thing to do, but failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $500. For more information on the City’s snow removal requirements for sidewalks, click here.”

I’m disappointed but not surprised that nobody from Silverstein’s office was assigned to monitor the storm or provide updated information to residents.

City snowplows are concerned only with plowing the streets and end up blocking intersections and bus stops with piles of snow, making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to safely cross streets or access buses. Seniors and those with disabilities are often unable to shovel their sidewalks.

During her eight years in office, Ald.  Silverstein has never organized a volunteer snow removal corps for the 50th ward. The SSA collects taxes  to pay for snow removal on Devon’s sidewalks and sidewalks on Western from Arthur to Granville;  it did not do an adequate job with the previous snowfall, and never shovels intersections  or bus stops.

Any help that you can give to shovel a sidewalk or unblock a bus stop or intersection would be greatly appreciated by your neighbors. I’ll be out tomorrow shoveling intersections, bus stops, and alley crossings, too. There’s more snow due on Tuesday.

Personally, I prefer Hollywood snow. It falls gently, looks great, and disappears on its own.

 

 

 

 

50th Ward Candidates Forum

The West Ridge Community Organization (WRCO) is sponsoring the 50th Ward Aldermanic Candidates Forum on Thursday, January 31, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Devon Bank.

At this writing, Andrew Rowlas and Debra Silverstein are the only candidates on the ballot. Both Majid Mustafa and Zehra Quadri are awaiting decisions from the Chicago Board of Elections on challenges to their nominating petitions. Both were challenged by Silverstein surrogate  Mark Tannbebaum; the Board is scheduled to make a final decision on those challenges  on Saturday, January 19.

The challenges to Mr. Mustafa’s petitions by Armando Ramos and Ms. Quadri’s petitions by Abdul Shaikh Rahman have not been settled.

I understand there will be a second candidates forum sometime in February, sponsored jointly by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Neighborhood Development Council (formerly the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park).

 

Lighting the Base

The alderman announced via email that new lighting will be installed on Touhy Avenue between Kedzie and Rockwell just in time for the election. I’ll say one thing for her, she certainly knows how to deliver for her base.

The area in question borders Precincts 1, 5, 6, 9, 16, and 33–all Silverstein strongholds which supported  her in the last election, giving her, respectively, 68%, 74‰, 73%, 63%, 75%, and 70% of their votes. These six precincts gave her more than 17% of her total votes.

Naturally, she took credit for the city’s decision to install the lighting. It’s part of a city-wide lighting upgrade program but Silverstein makes the dubious claim that she arranged to have the money released early so the lights can be installed now rather than in “several years.” Naturally, this was the only part of the ward that desperately needed lighting before the election.

Dazzled by their new ability to more clearly see vacant storefronts at night, residents are not expected to notice how easily Silverstein thinks their votes can be bought.

Old-style machine politician that she is, Silverstein knows how to dole out rewards in an election year.  Ira’s little scandal and her own ineptitude have done some damage to the Silverstein brand, so she has to avoid as much vote slippage as possible. Turning taxpayer-funded programs into gifts from Herself  is one way to do it.

Lights for Votes! Could it be any clearer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“D” for Diversity

The alderman released a campaign video last week with high production values and nothing to say, except that the 50th Ward is the most diverse ward in the City, she is proud to represent our diverse community, diversity, diversity, diversity.

Last week The Center for Racial and Gender Equity released its report ranking  the City Council and each alderman on support for diversity as demonstrated by their support for political and economic equity for Black Chicagoans. Overall, the council received an “F.”

Silverstein earned a “D.”

Individual aldermen were ranked by their sponsorship on key issues identified by the Center, which points out that “…the vast majority of aldermen rarely act independently, but rather vote with the mayor and council leadership over 90% of the time.” (Silverstein voted with Rahm 96% of the time according to a recent UIC report.) One point was awarded for each time an alderman introduced or co-sponsored an ordinance aimed at improving black communities. Silverstein co-sponsored 10 of 35 bills tracked by the Center, and did not receive any points for introducing any bills. 

As usual, Silverstein was careful not to be a prominent co-sponsor of any of  those ten bills.  She’s always hiding  in the middle of the pack, careful not to offend the mayor and incapable  of  taking a stand  on any issue. She plays as much of a leadership role in the council as she does in the ward. 

Silverstein constantly babbles about diversity because she has no accomplishments to talk about. The streetscape is old news and the library was brought to the ward by the LEARN Coalition and the Mayor, although Silverstein would have residents believe it was all her doing. On her watch, the sole cultural asset in the less affluent, more racially mixxed. south end of the ward was relocated to the mostly white north end. Affordable housing has been built for seniors–but not families–on the north end, and a new luxury housing development is being constructed just a stone’s throw from the new library.

On the south end, whose residents are primarily Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Black, with a heavy population  of immigrant families, there is no new cultural institution or affordable housing being built– or even discussed. The alderman has remained silent  amid persistent rumors  that the fate of the old library building has already been decided, and that it will not become a community center or cultural center as mamy residents had hoped. Silverstein has never held a single public meeting to get input from the community on this issue.

Silverstein doesn’t seem to understand that her attendance at an Iftar dinner does absolutely nothing to help struggling non-white families or promote intercultural or interracial harmony. But then, she stays away from her white constituents, too–except at election time. She has never organized  a single event that promotes and celebrates all the ethnicities and races within our Ward. Yet she attempts to use that same diversity to get herself reelected.

Do we really want an alderman with a sorry record like Silverstein’s representing the values of the 50th Ward to the City? Diversity is yet another issue on which Silverstein talks a good game, but doesn’t deliver.

A “D” for support of racial equity should rate an “F” for reelection.

 

 

Corrected Devon Bus Reroute Info

The Alderman’s office has provided erroneous information about the rerouting of the #155 (Devon) bus while sewers are being replaced at Mozart.  We are three days into this construction and none of the parties in charge have bothered to keep one another informed. There is no signage advising of the bus reroute at any of the CTA stops west of either Western or California. There are no signs advising motorists not to park or stand in what are now the new, temporary bus lanes. And it doesn’t appear as though all CTA drivers got the new route message, either.

I called the CTA for the correct information.   Westbound buses will NOT turn south at Western Avenue but will continue westbound to California Avenue, where they will turn south to Peterson, then continue West to Lincoln, from Lincoln to Kedzie, and then from Kedzie back to Devon.

This morning while I was waiting for a northbound California bus I saw two  #155 buses turn  north on California, leaving passengers stranded on Devon  just to the west. Worse, there was a car standing in what should have been the bus lane,  forcing the bus to board and deboard its passengers at a 90—degree angle to the street, delaying traffic turning north onto California, and blocking westbound traffic on Devon.

The road closure sign on Devon doesn’t appear until Talman, so how are drivers supposed to know that they should turn south or north at Western? There is a second road closure sign at California  but drivers westbound this morning seemed confused by it, with several drivers being unable to stop in time to turn north or south onto California. If there’s a truck or an oversized van ahead of you, you won’t see the sign until you’re on top of it.

Honestly, how hard can it be to coordinate a project like this? Isn’t this what the alderman’s office is supposed to do? Didn’t the alderman get together with the City and the CTA to ensure that this project could proceed smoothly? Didn’t she realize that pedestrians, drivers, and bus riders would need to be notified, that temporary parking restriction signs would have to be put in plae  so that bus passengers  could get on and off buses safely, that visible signage is required? Isn’t it her job to see to it that everybody involved does what they are supposed to do?

Maybe Silverstein should get out of her office and out of her car and start paying attention to the details involved in projects like this. Maybe if she’d take a walk to see how things are being done, she’d find out that they aren’t.

Follies Truth Squad: Silverstein Campaign Mailer, Part III

From the day she took office in 2011, Debra Silverstein has presented herself as our very own crime-fighting alderman. She is particularly concerned with property crime, and calls public safety meetings every time there’s an outbreak of graffiti or a rash of stolen bikes. She enjoys being viewed as the law and order alderman. But is this image accurate? 

Let’s examine Silverstein’s claims about her influence and activism on issues of public safety as she describes them in her recent newsletter/campaign mailer. Most of her claims are pure malarkey.

We all want to be safe on the streets and in our homes, but heaven help us if public safety is under the direction of a part-time alderman rather than full-time, experienced, highly trained professional police officers. I think we are better served if politicians leave police work to those trained to do it. Silverstein was a CPA and has no background in law enforcement, so her claims that she “organizes” police activities or (her old favorite resurrected on her campaign website) “multi-jurisdictional task forces” are ludicrous.   Of course, as alderman she has an interest in the ward’s safety, and I’m sure the police keep her informed of crime rates and trends, but she is not directly involved in determining police strategy and shouldn’t claim otherwise.

She states that she was “…instrumental in organizing the following activities to assist in fighting crime,” and then assumes credit for decisions such as adding more police officers and introducing smart policing technology. These are decisions and actions taken by the commanders of the Chicago Police Department and do not require input from Silverstein.

To begin with, neither more cops nor improved technology were added to the 50th Ward as she states. They were added to the 17th and 24th Police Districts. This is an important distinction because both districts cover more than one ward.  Silverstein’s wording suggests that these developments are specific to the 50th Ward and result from her work as alderman. This is not so.

More importantly, police officials direct resources where they are needed. Statistically, West Ridge is one of the safest areas in the City; it, too, covers more than one ward. But Rogers Park, where the 24th District Police are headquartered, experiences more crime than West Ridge. Its activist alderman, Joe Moore,  organized the public safety meeting held after the murders of Douglass Watts and Eliyahu Moscowitz in Rogers Park. Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and a host of other police officials discussed the crimes and reassured frightened neighborhood residents.

To respond to fears  in the Jewish community that Mr. Moscowitz was targeted because he was Jewish, police officials also held a community meeting in the 50th Ward. But Silverstein did not organize this meeting nor did she “bring” them here. This was a police response to a stunned and grieving community.

What Silverstein did do in the weeks that followed was milk this tragedy for political advantage, appearing at two prayer services, outdoor police roll calls, and, as always, having her picture taken. She attended the funeral for Mr. Moscowitz, and announced with great fanfare that a reward had been offered, addressing neighborhood residents via a series of emails.  When the press moved on to other matters, Silverstein lost interest, too. But she has several times used photos of herself taken at the prayer services  in her newsletters and on her campaign website. Tacky.

Silverstein’s response to the death of Mr. Moscowitz was very different from her response to two homicides that occurred within three days on Devon Avenue in 2016. The first was a young man shot by an estranged girlfriend. The second was a 19-year-old gang member executed as he sat in a car in a parking lot outside a liquor store less than two blocks from Silverstein’s office. There were no community meetings to discuss public safety, no police officials to reassure frightened people, no alderman to “organize” a response. Instead, Silverstein dismissed both events with a single line in her weekly newsletter, describing the two murders as “some shootings.”  Where was her compassion and concern for public safety then?

Silverstein believes that outdoor police roll calls help curb crime. I’ve been unable to find any documented research that this is true. The rationale is that these roll calls enhance police transparency and help build solidarity with the community. That appears to be more PR spin than fact. What it does in the 50th Ward is provide yet another opportunity for an aldermanic photo-op, like the silly shot of Silverstein exchanging a salute with police officers that she’s published in her newsletter.

Devising, improving, or supervising policing strategies are activities  outside the scope of Silverstein’s responsibilities as alderman. Her claims of being actively involved in police work and fighting crime are baseless but play well with an audience distracted by photos of her with cops.

Public safety. would be vastly improved if she just did her job and let the police do theirs.

Follies Truth Squad: Silverstein Campaign Mailer, Part II

Any alderman who claims tree trimming as a major accomplishment should not be running for reelection.

The overall impression conveyed by the claims listed in Ald. Silverstein’s newsletter/campaign mailer is that she invests most of her time in relatively trivial pursuits rather than doing the hard work of creating an economic development plan, leading the way on community empowerment, and providing the leadership the ward so desperately needs. Among her many failures on the major issues:

  • Silverstein has failed to deliver the “spirited economic development plan” for California, Devon, Touhy, and Western Avenues that she promised in 2010. She’s had eight years to do so.
  • Silverstein has stubbornly refused to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward, despite widespread neighborhood support, and actively tried to prevent a nonbinding referendum from making the ballot, hiring her elections attorney to challenge the wording of the PB petition and fight the issue before the Chicago Board of Elections. Instead of granting the community a voice in how the $1.3M menu money is used, she spends it all on her major obsession–potholes
  • Silverstein never engaged the community in what she now claims was one of her major priorities–a new Northtown Library. She should have led the community in its attempts to replace the crumbling structure on California with a new building, but she did nothing except discourage neighborhood residents who approached her about doing so. The LEARN Coalition was organized as a direct response to her lack of interest and succeeded in bringing the neighborhood’s needs to the attention of the Chicago Public Library Board and the Mayor’s Office. Silverstein was not the driving force behind the new library, despite her claims otherwise. She refuses to acknowledge that LEARN led the way.
  • Silverstein has failed to attract significant numbers of new businesses to the ward. She has failed to create the business districts that would support the idea of West Ridge being “The International Marketplace,” as its marketing campaign claims. The new campaign, “On Devon,” is built on the fantasy that there are a wide variety of shops selling a vast array of unique goods . In fact, most stores on Devon are small grocers, beauty shops, and cell phone stores. Touhy Avenue is commercially barren, with blocks of vacancies. Western has many vacancies as well.

Yet Silverstein brags about “improving our local businesses” by hanging banners and attending meetings of the Chamber of Commerce and the SSA.  She doesn’t just meet “regularly” with the SSA, she controls it. The poor decisions it makes are made in her office, with Silverstein  in attendance. She chooses the commissioners, who are technically appointed by the Mayor. The hodgepodge of community programs it offers (Movie in the Parking Lot, Devon’s Got Talent) are poorly conceived and executed.

I’ve discussed the new library extensively in various posts. One  important point needs to be reiterated:

  • Silverstein appointed a secret advisory committee to help her make decisions on the library’s final design. Its members were appointed nearly two years ago, but to this day Silverstein refuses to disclose who they are. They were sworn to secrecy by her and forbidden to discuss their deliberations or reveal the names of fellow committee members to anyone. This is public business. Why the need for secrecy?

The Devon Avenue streetscape, her other major accomplishment, is a disaster.

  • The street is now so narrow that it slows traffic and creates constant traffic jams
  • The lack of police foot patrols from Talman to Western–the main shopping area on Devon–has left drivers feeling free to park or stand in bus lanes, forcing passengers to board and exit the bus in the street, while the bus blocks traffic  Many vehicles park or stand in crosswalks while waiting for shoppers inside the grocery stores
  • Many drivers park parallel to the curb bump-outs, and it is impossible for two lanes of traffic to pass each other.
  • Devon is an environmental disaster. The BGA recently released a report on the most polluted areas of Chicago. Because the business model on Devon requires that shoppers be recruited from outside the neighborhood, vehicular pollution is high. You’d think the alderman who claims educating the neighborhood’s children as yet another of her “priorities” would show some concern for the toddlers in daycare centers and the kids in our local schools. Ha! Silverstein’s busy looking for potholes and counting sawed-off tree limbs
  • The sidewalks are simply filthy. Many are stained by pan, a mixture of beetle juice, herbs, and often tobacco that is chewed and spit all over the place. The stains on the new sidewalks are permanent, and the seating areas disgusting. I call them sit-and-spit areas. Pan is banned in India and Canada, among other nations, because its use is unsanitary and indelible. It’s allowed on Devon, and sold by a significant number of stores. The alderman doesn’t care.
  • The streetscape design did not include trash cans in the seating areas, so garbage is dumped in planters and on / under seating

Notice that Silverstein takes credit for attending parades, “Iftar dinners,” and claims she participated in soccer games and the World Cup Final. That’s a sight I’d like to see. But however clumsy the wording, labeling these activities as “celebrat[ing] all our cultures” is ridiculous. I’ve always said she excels at the ceremonial aspects of her job–nobody is more willing to pose for pictures–but this is symbolism, not leadership.

Is the Movie in the Park really an example of Silverstein working with the community? Did Silverstein really help produce the Indian Boundary Park Harvest Fest? Or did she simply show up for yet another photo-opp?

It’s worth noting that the alderman with more than $190,000 in her war chest could not find a few hundred dollars to buy turkeys for the poor at Thanksgiving. In eight years in office, Silverstein has never organized a food drive or a coat drive for the less fortunate. Yes, her office collects items for Toys for Tots, veterans, and others, but I’ve never felt that she has any compassion for people less well-off than she is. I reviewed her campaign fundraising expense account, and find she consistently makes only two charitable donations: $200 per month to CJE for transportation for the elderly, and $50 per year for the North Boundary Homeowners League.

Four more years?? With this sorry record??

I think not.

Tomorrow: Part III will focus on Silverstein’s claims regarding public safety