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.

 

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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?

 

The Alderman Awakens

Yesterday was an interesting day. First, the alderman actually responded to a constituent. Then she asked for volunteers for her reelection campaign.

She seems to have suddenly realized that she represents the community.

In the first instance, she responded to a direct question from a constituent about the construction project on Kedzie between Touhy and Pratt. It turns out to be improvements to Thillens Park (officially Park 538) by the Chicago Park District. It speaks volumes about Debra’s approach to transparency that it never occurred to her to advise Ward residents about the project beforehand. Maybe she didn’t know.

But then she still has not advised the wider community about the luxury townhouse and condo development to be built a block from the new library. She did hold a meeting with about a dozen property owners in the immediate vicinity of the new development, but apparently doesn’t think it’s anyone else’s business.

And her request for volunteers to help her get her nominating petitions signed? Since petitions can be signed anytime on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe her political machine won’t be out at the crack of dawn– if not promptly at midnight– getting the necessary 473 signatures she needs to get on the ballot. Frankly, all she has to do is visit Winston Towers to get twice that number.

It looks like her appeal for volunteers is a self-serving response to years of complaints that she’s out of touch with her constituents. Such complaints have also been strongly voiced by both of her announced challengers.

But I have to give the alderman credit. After 8 years in office, she has begun to recognize that she needs the community.

It’s also been long enough for us to recognize that we don’t need her.

 

Participatory Budgeting Petition Available for Signature

If you support giving residents a voice in how the 50th Ward’s menu money is spent, please go to change.org and sign the petitionBring Participatory Budgeting to the 50th Ward.” 

All ward residents over the age of 14 as well as business owners are eligible to participate in the PB process and therefore may sign the petition.

A 2015 attempt to get a non-binding referendum on the ballot in support of PB in the 50th Ward failed because we did not have enough time to secure the required number of signatures; it didn’t help that the law was unclear about whether the percentage of signatures required applied to each  precinct or the entire Ward. The alderman’s forces challenged that petition, and the challenger was represented at the CBOE hearing by the alderman’s attorney. His participation at least clarified that the required percentage applied to the entire ward and not individual precincts, which would have made our task easier. The wording of the petition was also challenged, so determined were the Alderman’s forces  to defeat the idea of community input.

This time around, there won’t be any attempt to get the petition on the ballot. Instead, the petition will be presented to all candidates for 50th Ward alderman in the 2019 election. Candidates Andrew Rowlas and Jason Honig have already indicated their support for PB in the 50th, while Alderman Silverstein has steadfastly resisted any attempts at citizen input in Ward decision-making.

PB is open to all residents over age 14 and also business owners within the ward. Therefore, we invite all residents over age 14 and all business owners who support having a voice in the ward’s menu money spending to add their names to the petition.

50th Ward Follies will be arranging a screening of the documentary “Count Me In,” a history of participatory budgeting in Chicago, during the campaign season. The film has been broadcast on WTTW, and chronicles the PB experience in various wards in Chicago.

Among the projects funded through PB in other wards are community gardens, refurbished playgrounds, water fountains, and bus stop benches as well as tree plantings and other beautification initiatives.

For more information on PB, visit the Web site for the Greater Cities Institute at UIC.

https://greatcities.uic.edu/uic-neighborhoods-initiative/participatory-budgeting/

The history of the PB referendum in the 50th can be found in 2015 posts on this blog

 

 

Campaign News

Tuesday, August 28, is s the first day that candidates for alderman and other City offices can legally ask registered voters to sign nominating petitions.

Andrew Rowlas has released his first campaign newsletter. Contact his campaign to get on the mailing list (rowlasforward50@gmail.com).

Jason Honig is hosting a campaign kickoff at Warren Park on Saturday, August 25, from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  Contact his campaign for more information (honigfor50th.com).

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot has released her proposed ethics reform plan. It targets outside jobs for municipal workers and addresses mayoral term limits, among other sound ideas.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-met-lori-lightfoot-chicago-mayor-ethics-proposal-20180820-story.html

The Alderman Speaks

We all know  that Ald. Debra Silverstein does not like to speak to her constituents. Curious about what she has to say to her fellow Council members about the issues facing the City, I decided to look at the record.

All quotes below are taken directly from the “Journal of the Proceedings of the Chicago City Council.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debra Silverstein is paid $120,000 per year, a total of nearly one million dollars during her two terms as alderman. One million dollars to represent the 50th Ward.

Without saying a word.

It’s Not “Just a Parking Lot” Anymore

Most of us treasure these last days of summer, as the days get shorter and the breezes warmer and the backyard tomatoes are ripe for picking. There’s nothing like sitting on the porch or in the yard or even in one’s own kitchen, enjoying the evening breezes, Sinatra singing, and a fresh tomato tart.

That is, unless you live around the Republic Bank parking lot, which this week will be the site of both a Wednesday movie night and a Saturday evening India Day program that includes a concert. The Minutes of the SSA meeting reveal that initial plans for tonight called for a restaurant crawl, movie night, and ribbon cutting starring the Mayor. He may show up. He’s running for reelection and what better way to show the Indian community he loves them? It will boost Silverstein’s reelection campaign as well–another photo for the weekly family album, er, constituent newsletter.

June 18 minutes

The India Day event, including the parade and the party-in-a-parking lot , is expected to cost $100,000, most of it privately funded. The original proposal included a talent show, a fashion show, and a concert. I wonder how much of that is being spent for the privilege of eating cake alongside an alley. You’d think the organizers would want to do better by their guests.

May 30 minutes.                                                          April 16 Minutes

The SSA is also planning a back to school event for next August in the same parking lot. How this will drive business to Devon is a mystery. No stores on the street sell school supplies or children’s shoes or clothing. The Indian businesses long ago made it clear they don’t want local residents in their stores, and I doubt if many tourists shop here for pencils and paper.

Continue reading

Addendum to “The Alderman’s Secret Housing Meeting”

Sources tell me that parking was the only issue raised at last night’s meeting on the new housing development at Western and Morse Avenues. About a dozen people attended and were satisfied that the 26 parking spaces proposed would suffice.

Each townhouse is expected to sell for about $450,000, while each condo will cost about $340,000. These price points raise some interesting questions about property taxes and gentrification, but those issues were not part of the discussion.

Are residential buildings rather than commercial buildings the best choice for this stretch of Western Avenue? Should that be decided  only by a dozen residents, the developers, and the alderman?  What are the risks that existing residents will be forced out of the neighborhood because of higher property taxes? Can we talk about the fact that this development permanently alters  the character  of that part of our neighborhood? Should the larger community have any input? What exactly is the alderman’s vision for the community and how does this new development fit into it? Or is that a secret too?

So many questions. So few answers. Will the alderman meet with the entire community to discuss them?

Stay tuned.

 

 

Andrew Rowlas Challenging Silverstein for Alderman

Andrew Rowlas, a community activist and former educator, has announced his candidacy for alderman of the 50th Ward, challenging two-term incumbent Debra Silverstein.

Rowlas is campaigning on a progressive platform of economic development centered around small businesses, improved educational opportunities for neighborhood students, and civic engagement by neighborhood residents.

His goals are in sharp contrast to Silverstein’s eight years of inertia. The ward still waits for the economic development plan she promised in 2011. Her lack of transparency and refusal to engage with her constituents are near legendary, even for Chicago. She is one of the Mayor’s most dependable stooges, a reliable member of the rubber-stamp brigade in the City Council.

Rowlas has served as president of the West Ridge Community Organization, is a leading member of LEARN–the coalition of community members and organizations that led the charge for a new library– and has worked extensively to foster communication and cooperation between and with all ethnic and religious communities across the ward. He was instrumental in the formation of the Warren Park Advisory Council, which gives local residents a voice in Park activities.

It’s worth noting that, after nearly 8 years in office, Silverstein had never shown any interest in connecting the north side’s largest park with its nearby residents. Rowlas saw the need to do so and rallied other activists to make it happen. Just imagine the great things that could happen in the 50th with a proactive alderman!

Rowlas spent 38 years as a teacher, counselor, and principal. He would be a strong voice for increased quality educational opportunities both in the ward and across Chicago.

Support the Rowlas campaign by volunteering or donating via the campaign Web site, rowlasforward50.com.

Silverstein will not be able to run a Rose Garden campaign this year. I look forward to the coming debates. And so should you.

 

A Tough Year So Far

Yes, I’m still here.

It’s been a tough year so far, beginning with the death of Mr. Cat, my feline companion for more than 18 years. He was wonderfully intelligent, fearless, and the real boss of our household, lording it over a succession of dogs and humans. Tough but benevolent, Mr. Cat ruled his kingdom via a combination of charming sweetness and a ruthless indifference to anyone else’s needs. He was one of a kind, and the dogs and I miss him every day.

Then I had eye surgery, and serious complications from which I am still recovering.

And then came the March election,, with yet another carpetbagger from the Indo-American Democratic Organization moving into the state senatorial district barely a year before the election, and running a divisive campaign centered around slinging mud at an already-disgraced incumbent. He was aided in this by various special interests, and will no doubt be a reliable vote for those interests in Springfield. His campaign suggests that he will lower the ethical level in Springfield yet another notch.

You can bet he’ll have his own candidate for alderman, and probably, when the time comes, for committeeman as well.  Deals are being discussed as you read this, and deals cost money, and money is being raised, lots of it. Google Illinois Sunshine database and check out who’s giving–and who gave and expects to be rewarded.

The aldermanic race begins later this year, officially. In actuality, serious candidates have been talking to potential donors since last year. Who will run? Debra has been raising money, and Ira’s loss of both his leadership position and his senate seat suggests that she’ll want to keep her job, which pays $120,000 per year. Nobody has openly declared but I hear there are at least three potential candidates exploring the possibility of running.

It’s going to be an interesting summer, and I’m feeling better already.

I just love a good fight.