Now What?

The old Northtown Library on California Avenue closed on Monday. The new building on Western and Pratt is still under construction. While library staff pack books and prepare to move into the new space, the question of what will happen to the old library needs to be addressed.

The fate of this publicly-owned building is officially undecided. Yet rumors persist that Silverstein has already promised it to either the Indo-American Center for its new home or the Jewish community for a synagogue, private school, or social service agency.

As I understand the procedure, once the building is vacant it must undergo a structural evaluation to determine if it is suitable for repurposing. If it is not, it will be demolished. But if it is, it must first be offered to City agencies and departments. Should none of them be interested in using it, then the alderman plays the largest role in determining its use and tenancy or new ownership.

Given Silverstein’s complete lack of transparency in Ward business it is highly unlikely that the community will have any meaningful input in this matter. She has still not revealed the names or organizational affiliations of the secret committee that advised her on library construction, and it’s been nearly two years since they were appointed.

We shouldn’t permit sham community meetings asking for neighbrhood input, as happened with the old theater at Devon and McCormick. A proposed cultural arts center was deemed impssible due to the lack of parking. In truth, the sale of that property for a storage facility had already been decided. After the sale and the creation of Berny Stone Park, the alderman announced that the Office Depot parking lot aross the street would be available to park users. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Community demand in West Ridge for a cultural and performing arts center available to all members of the community is ongoing and strong. Silverstein should pay attention. There should be open discussion and meaningful community input on the fate of the old library building. It should not be a prize doled out by Silversein, especially in an election year. Nor should it become a reward should Silverstein be reelected.

Other uses have also been suggested. Many less affluent children from the south end of the ward will lose access to the library and its services, like computer usage. A community center with classroom facilities is therefore another proosal, as is a senior center. Can these uses be combined? If the building is found to be structurally sound, would the addition of a second floor be possible?

Let the alderman know that you want the community to determine what happens to this public building. Call her office (773-262-10550) or email her (info@50thward.com).

Andrew Rowlas speaks eloquently about potential uses for this space. Saving this building for the use of the entire community is, in fact, an important part of his aldermanic campaign. Visit his campaign webste for details (rowlasforthe50th.com).

Let’s put an end to secret committees deciding public business. Let’s demand an open process and meaningful community input on the fate of this building that has served our community so well for nearly 60 years.

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Campaign Updates

Petition Challenges  There were no challenges to petitions for either the alderman or Andrew Rowlas.  Objections are pending for the other two potential candidaes, Majid Mustafa and Zehra Quadri.

Both were challenged by a Silverstein proxy, Mark Tannbebaum, who is represented by Silverstein’s elections attorney. No hearing dates are set yet for Tannbebaum’s objections.

Mustafa petition circulator Abdul Rehman Shaikh is also objecting to Quadri’s petitions, and Armando Ramos is objecting to Mustafa’s petitions. (As noted here before, Ramos is my nephew.) Preliminary hearings are set in these two challenges for this Thursday.

Tweet, Tweet The alderman has sent two campaign tweets. The first shows a medical office  and darkened storefronts  at a deserted intersection with one sad and lonely lamp post draped in Devon Avenue’s sorry holiday lights. Does this say happy holidays to you?

https://twitter.com/Debra4Alderman/status/107081069772502630

Her second tweet announces that she and the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs  took a tour of Devon Avenue. Naturally there’s a photograph. Naturally it prominently features the alderman. Naturally she praises our “unique” shopping, then takes a photo inside Tel Aviv Bakery, not the first place I think of for holiday shopping.

https://twitter.com/Debra4Alderman/st8atus/1074791855664054273

Campaign Fundraisers  Andrew Rowlas and Zehra Quadri have both held successful fundraisers in the past week. Nobody has raised anywhere near as much money as the alderman–she has over $190,000– but they have ideas and plans. The only question is whether the community can get past the barrage of glitzy mailers from Silverstein and focus on the issues the mailers are designed to hide.

Debates  I hear that two debates are being organized, one by the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park (JCC-WRP) and one by the West Ridge Community Organization (WRCO). No dates have been announced.

The West Ridge Chamber of Commerce usually also sponsors a debate, but in 2015 it was a luncheon event with a ticket price of $40 per person and wasn’t widely advertised outside the business community.

Personally, I think there should be as many debates as possible. Both the ward and the City are facing serious issues that require serious discussion. We have a right as citizens to hear about their ideas and plans directly from the people who would lead us.

In 2015, the alderman refused to take part in any debates on the grounds that write-in candidates would be present. Many in the neighborhood were outraged by her arrogance but no amount of voter fury could force her to attend. This year it has to be made clear to her that no such high-handedness will be tolerated. She must attend all debates and defend her record–if she can.

I’ll keep you posted on futher developments. Don’t wory. There are just two more months until  election day.

 

 

 

Fundraiser for Andrew Rowlas

The first fundraiser for 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas is set for Sunday, December 9. Friends and supporters will gather at Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville to help raise money for the Rowlas campaign.

Hamburger Mary’s is well-known for its eclectic entertainment offerings. This Sunday will be no different. The main attraction– apart from the food– is drag queen bingo, one of Mary’s most popular games. Play ten rounds of bingo for $15. West Ridge merchants have donated gift certificates as bingo prizes.

Rowlas had to schedule his first fundraiser outside the ward because the 50th currently offers few entertainment choices. As alderman, Rowlas would seek to bring various types of recreational opportunities to the ward.

Join Andrew Rowlas, his friends and supporters at Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 North Clark Street, on Sunday, December 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. Come early and treat yourself to one of Mary’s many delicious burgers, salads, or wraps. Expect to spend an additional $10 to $15 for dinner.

Debra Silverstein has reported a total of  nearly $200,000 in her campaign fund. Like the other candidates running against her, Andrew has a small fraction of that available.

Can a candidate with an inclusive  vision but a small budget overcome an incumbent with no vision but lots of money?

Join Andrew on Sunday evening, have some fun, and support a good cause.

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.

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.

 

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.

Jason Honig Ends Aldermanic Campaign

Jason Honig has ended his campaign to become alderman of the 50th Ward.

In a statement released to supporters, Honig stated that his decision was  “…due to health challenges and family issues that need our urgent and full attention.” Jason promises that once the situation is under control, he will “continue to implement and support many of the issues we care about.” That’s good. He is a young man who can make a difference in this Ward. We wish Jason and his family well.

There are still two main challengers to Ald. Silverstein, Andrew Rowlas and Ira Piltz. Silverstein is vulnerable on a host of issues, and she won’t be able to campaign by mail this time around.

More Challengers for Silverstein

Two new challengers have entered the race for 50th Ward alderman, Lawyer Ira Piltz and former candidate Ahmed Khan.

Ira is a graduate of DePaul University Law School and has a wide-ranging practice that includes real estate, corporate law, estate planning, and civil litigation. One particularly important court victory resulted in a change in Illinois law to allow religiously observant women to cover their hair in State ID photos.

Ira’s announcement notes that he is not running against an individual, but for the 50th Ward. He cites ” traffic, parking and zoning” as among his concerns, along with education. He notes that housing affordability and taxes are key issues in the City. As alderman, he would address the needs of the various communities within the ward and encourage contact between the various groups.

He intends to run “a campaign of ideas,” noting that “fresh ideas” are needed. As he said in his announcement, “We are all in this together and it is my goal to create a coalition that represents the entirety of our community.”

Ahmed Khan, who challenged Ald. Bernard Stone back in 2011, has also joined the race. One of four challengers in that election, Khan finished in fifth place with just under 6% of the vote. That race resulted in a runoff between Stone and the eventual winner, now alderman, Debra Silverstein. The other challengers were Michael Moses and Greg Brewer.

Khan recently received a Master’s degree in Communications from Northwestern University, where he is employed as assistant director of the alumni reunions program. He was a field organizer for both Bob Fioretti and Chuy Garcia in the 2015 mayoral election, and deputy executive director  for the Draft Biden campaign. Although he has considerable organizing experience, he has never worked on a winning campaign.

He is also a former chairman of the West Ridge Community Organization.

Piltz and Khan join Andrew Rowlas and Jason Honig as potential candidates for alderman.

Ald. Silverstein is seeking re-election to a third term.

 

Andrew Rowlas Releases Ethics Statement

Andrew Rowlas, candidate for 50th Ward alderman, has released the following ethics statement:

” I shall maintain in my campaign for alderman of the 50th Ward the highest ethical and legal standards as a candidate and as a public servant.

” I will work to keep people informed of important issues, restore trust in our government and fulfill governmental duties to the people for the common good. People want to know about issues that impact them; they are not interested in personal attacks, but prefer practical results that improve our community.

“I see myself as a man of integrity. I pledge to uphold high ethical standards and practices.”

Rowlas is the first of the three announced candidates for 50th Ward alderman to release a formal ethics statement.

Candidates, Petitions, and School Property

It’s a beautiful summer morning, bright and sunny, birds singing, the temperature cool and breezy. Your child is headed for the first day of school, perhaps for the first time. Both of you are excited and happy, waiting to greet the teacher,  the principal, your child’s friends and all the other parents. It’s one of those moments you’ll always treasure. Focused on  this special day,, you ignore the woman walking in the carpool lane. You help your child with his backpack as you walk to the front door.

And there she stands. The alderman. With her nominating petitions. On school property. At the front door. She– the woman in the carpool lane–smiles and asks for your signature on her nominating petitions, extending pen and clipboard. You’re trapped. And resentful.

Is nothing sacred?

Petition circulators–including aldermen –have no business on school property, whether the school is public or private. A circulator’s presence on the property of a religious school is especially troubling. When that circulator is also an elected official, it raises the question of the proper separation of church and state–is it legal and ethical for a religious Institution to permit such activity on its premises?

From a legal standpoint, permitting political activity that benefits any candidate or party could lead to the loss of IRS tax-exempt status for private and religious schools.  Political neutrality is required.

The alderman has a history of ethical violations and illegal activities during election campaigns. During early voting for the 2015 aldermanic election, she and her husband, Sen. Ira Silverstein, paid a visit to Warren Park, where they stood inside and greeted voters while talking to a park official. On Election Day, the alderman, the senator, and their daughter visited select polling places throughout the ward to inquire about voter turnout. Both Silversteins are seasoned politicians and well aware that candidates are not permitted in polling places unless they are casting ballots in their home precinct.

The 50th Ward should demand  more ethical behavior  from the alderman and candidates for her position. No candidate should circulate petitions on any school property, public or private.  I think we can all agree that schools and religious or community organizations should not be used for political campaign purposes.

Debra, Andrew, and Jason, can the 50th Ward count on you not to politicize our schools during your petition drives?