Mayor Visits 50th Ward?

The alderman announced in her newsletter yesterday that Mayor Lightfoot had visited the 50th Ward last weekend. Silverstein claims  that she and Lightfoot toured the ward  and spoke to residents about their concerns. Curiously,  no photo of Silverstein with the mayor and residents accompanied this announcement.

Earlier this week, Silverstein tweeted a photo of herself with children at a West Ridge Nature Preserve event. During the recent campaign, she tweeted several photos of herself escorting the city’s commissioner for business development around Devon. Does anyone seriously believe that Silverstein’s full time photographer failed to capture a photo of her with the mayor? We all know that no event in the ward officially occurs without a photo of Silverstein as proof.

Where was the mayor’s tour? Who were the residents with whom she met? Who chose the route and the residents? The mayor doesn’t just show up. Who invited her? Why wasn’t her visit advertised to the rest of the ward? It sounds like this was a private event to address the security concerns that’s some residents have. Was Silverstein a guest? Is she making more of her participation than is warranted? 

That weekend happened to be the the weekend the mayor went to New York. She was gone from Sunday through the following Tuesday. Silverstein’s office closes early on Fridays so she can observe the Sabbath, which does not end until sundown Saturday. Did the mayor stop on her way to the airport? Did she just wave as she drove by? Did she come  for coffee  and a quick chat?  Without the pictures, it’s hard to tell.

Silverstein visually memorializes her every move, so it’s curious that there’s no photo in this case. It’s not surprising that our secrecy-obsessed alderman would not tell the community in advance that the mayor was coming, but it’s atounding that there’s no picture of the alderman and the mayor afterwards.

If you were there, if you spoke to the mayor, I’d like to hear from you. Maybe you have a picture of the alderman with the mayor and residents. Maybe you have a photo of the walking tour.

Silverstein has trained residents to wait for the pictures. Visual documentation after the event is her preferred method of communication. It’s very strange that a photo is lacking in this case.

Here in the 50th, seeing is believing.

 

 

 

Ten Days In and Reform Looks Good

I never thought I’d live to see a Chicago Mayor tell Ed Burke to sit down and shut up. Nor did I ever expect to see a Chicago Mayor tell the members of the City Council that they would have a “voice but not a veto” in their wards.  Her Executive Order restricting aldermanic privilege was issued in her first hours in office.

When Mayor Lightfoot told the press that she was elected to “get shit done,” she spoke true Chicagoese. No matter what neighborhood you live in, you heard her, loud and clear, and you knew exactly what she meant.

The Lady said reform, and she meant it.

She appointed Scott Waguespack as Finance Chair. The press reports that lots of other aldermen consider him a scold and a know-it-all. Good. Scold away. He’s always been one of perhaps ten aldermen who actually read and understand the budget documents received from City Department heads outlining how much money they need and what they intend to spend it on. Richie and Rahm never gave the Council the time needed to read, analyze, and discuss the budget requests.. I think Lightfoot will.

Pat Dowell replaces Carrie Austin as Chair of the Budget and Government Operations Committee. Lord help us, Debra Silverstein was appointed Vice Chair, even though her overall attendance at Council and committee meetings during her last term was only 56%, she skipped two-thirds of the budget meetings held especially for aldermen, and she hates working. I suppose this appointment is related to her background as a CPA.  Any other reason escapes me.

Lightfoot is mulling over a new ethics ordinance that could give voters a real voice in elections. It would, for example, restrict union contributions to $1,500 per year instead of the current $57,800 allowed by the state. It would similarly cap contributions from corporations. Lightfoot said during the campaign that people “should not have to kiss the alderman’s ring” to obtain City services, so the ethics ordinance may well prevent aldermen like Silverstein from amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from unions and corporations with business before the Council. Many businesses in the 50th Ward contribute to Silverstein on a regular basis, and many new businesses contribute after opening. It smacks of pay to play, even if everyone denies that’s the case. For more details on the proposal, click here.

Many of the reform aldermen have been appointed to important committees. The Council may actually learn to engage in discussion before approving legislation. Most importantly, all Council and committee meetings will be live-streamed, so taxpayers can watch our elected officials working–or not.

A ProPublica Illinois analysis of legislation before the City Council from 2011-2018 found that less than 10% of the proposals dealt with budget, tax, or citywide issues, the majority of legislation being ward-specific for things like sidewalk cafes, awnings, and loading zones. Mayor Lightfoot has indicated that she wants the Council to focus on citywide issues and leave administrative matters to the proper City departments where such a mandate exists in the law. Actually, it isn’t necessary to call the alderman for routine City services at all. The new 311 form allows residents to deal directly with the City, thus freeing aldermen and their staffs to work on more important issues, such as, say, economic development.

Mayor Lightfoot has proved in her first ten days in office that Chicago made the right choice when it chose reform over machine.

There may be hope for the 50th Ward yet.

 

 

Mayor Lightfoot: Reform is Here

Mayor Lori Lrightfoot’s determination to reform the political culture in Chicago may have some effect on the way business is conducted in the 50th Ward.

Lightfoot was elected because voters are disgusted with politics as usual. Voters want an end to cronyism, autocracy, boss politics, insider deals, secrecy, big money, and pay-to-play politics–all the things that characterize the 50th Ward, still the only ward in the City where religious affiliation is a prerequisite for election. Under the Silversteins, civic participation is at an all-time low, just the way they like it. It makes things so much easier when residents have been trained to mind their own business and not ask questions.

The April 2 runoff brought out only 27.64% of the ward’s eligible voters; citywide participation was nearly 32%. This downhill slide in civic engagement began when the Silversteins acquired all the political power in the ward. In the 2011 municipal elections, more than 45% of the ward’s voters went to the polls, a better turnout than the City as a whole (42%). By the 2015 elections, only 32.5% of the ward voted, less than the City total (34%). Barely one-third (33.5%) of 50th Ward voters took part in the February 2019 elections, as opposed to 35% of voters citywide.

The City Council has changed since February 26. The Progressive Caucus and its allies now hold 16 of the City Council’s 50 seats. Ald. Burke is expected to be indicted soon, and rumors are that he’ll be taking others down with him, which could give Mayor Lightfoot the opportunity to appoint even more reformers to the Council. Scott Waugespack–for my money the most honest member of the Council–will be named Finance Chair, replacing Burke, unless the Old Guard aldermen decide to put up a fight. Mayor Lightfoot plans to name reformers and supporters to committee chairmanships. She has also advised the incoming firebrand aldermen to calm down. She wants reform, not chaos.

Debra Silverstein is far from a reformer. She lied repeatedly, openly, and shamelessly throughout the recent campaign. She admitted to forming yet more secret committees, this time to develop economic policy. She has yet to reveal the names of the members of the secret committee that advised her on the construction of the new library. She continues to use a private email server and a private website to conduct public business. Her obsessive need for secrecy and her determination not to tell residents what she’s doing are troublesome and quite possibly illegal. She is now adrift, having left no mark on the City Council in the previous eight years. She has no allies. Without Rahm, she has no protector.

The photo with Lori Lightfoot in Silverstein’s recent newsletter is intended to convey the idea that she’s a player at City Hall. She isn’t. Silverstein is opposed to everything that Lori Lightfoot stands for, everything that got Lori Lightfoot elected:

  • Lightfoot promises transparency. Silverstein is obsessed with secrecy.
  • Lightfoot wants an end to aldermanic privilege. Silverstein is a ward boss
  • Lightfoot wants aldermen to remember their responsibilities to the City as a whole. Silverstein has only a 56% attendance rate for Council and committee meetings
  • Lightfoot wants results. Silverstein relies on photo-ops and outright lying to provide the illusion of achievement
  • Lightfoot believes in power through democracy. Silverstein is an autocrat who operates through shadowy unknown advisors accountable to no one

The election did not settle the many issues facing the 50th Ward. A reform mayor and a more progressive City Council might well benefit 50th Ward residents who believe in participatory democracy. For example:

  • Silverstein opposes participatory budgeting because she says she “has concerns” that residents taking part in such efforts might not fully represent the ward. Yet she herself was elected by only 8% of the ward’s residents. The 50th Ward is home to 72,211 residents, and only 6,014 of them voted for Silverstein. What’s especially laughable about Silverstein’s “concerns” is that she presumes that she and her staff–6 people–are more reliable judges of what the ward needs than 2,000 PB voters. Only a ward boss would dare make such a claim.
  • The new mayor supports term limits, as do many of the incoming reform members of the City Council.  Silverstein echoed her husband’s  2016 comments opposing term limits, claiming that “…elections are term limits.”  But elections aren’t term limits for Silverstein. The majority of registered voters in the 50th Ward–50 to 60%—are Orthodox Jews who will not consider voting for any candidate who is not Jewish. There shouldn’t be a religious test for public office. In fact, it’s illegal. And, no, it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize political behavior based on religious bigotry.
  • Lightfoot famously stated that no one should have to “kiss the alderman’s ring” to receive proper City services, licenses, permits, or zoning changes. Yet it’s an open secret that many new and existing businesses in the 50th Ward make generous contributions to Silverstein’s political fund, as do many of her appointees to our local Special Services Area #43, a taxing body that exists ostensibly to promote Devon Avenue as a business destination but fails spectacularly at that job (more on that soon).
  • Lightfoot wants to end aldermanic privilege with regard to zoning, a long-overdue reform. Silverstein has shut down businesses that wanted to open in the 50th Ward (a microbrewery and a medical marijuana clinic, for example) 4 reason she could not articulate and engages in stealth zoning changes, never letting the community know what she plans to do. There is no 50th Ward Zoning Advisory Committee, unless there’s yet another secret group that Silverstein won’t discuss.

I intend to take the Lightfoot administration at its word. The new mayor has already signed one executive order prohibiting City agencies from deferring to the aldermen unless required to do so by the Municipal Code. Lightfoot has pledged herself and her Administration to transparency in government. Silverstein is a City employee.  Will Silverstein comply with the new rules?

I expect Silverstein’s newsletter on Friday to be filled with pictures of herself and the new mayor. But don’t be fooled. Silverstein is not a player in this game. She sold her vote to Rahm Emanuel in exchange for free reign over the ward. That won’t happen with Lightfoot.

We will know on May 29 whether Silverstein will support reform or join the obstructionist forces.  Her votes at this first City Council meeting of the Lightfoot Administration will tell us. There will be no more hiding in the middle of the pack, no more ducking for cover.

I wish the new mayor and the new Council all the best. They will need all the strength and support they can muster to bring even the most basic reforms to City government.

And it’s already time to prepare for the next elections, in 2020. The March primary will elect committeemen, an unpaid but important post.  As we learned recently, it took only two committeemen to appoint our new state representative. The electorate was not consulted.

The process of reform in Illinois is going to be long and difficult. It’s time to get to work.

 

 

 

Lightfoot for Mayor

The mayoral contest between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle is a choice between real governmental reform and old-style machine politics. I’ve supported Lightfoot since the day she announced, and I believe she will lead the City forward without leaving its residents behind. Rahm’s plans for Chicago did not include the ordinary citizen. Lightfoot’s plans do.

Lori Lightfoot is a leader, not a boss. She had the courage to challenge Rahm when he seemed all but invincible. She made a strong case for City Hall reform and took it directly to the voters. Her honesty and integrity stood out in that crowded first round of candidates. She is smart and tough but not arrogant. She connects with people, she understands the frustration that turns to anger when government is unaccountable. She knows how to direct that anger into meaningful reform.

Lori Lightfoot campaigning in the 50th Ward in February 2019, listening to aldermanic candidate Andrew Rowlas addressing the crowd.

Lori Lightfoot will help reform City Hall. She opposes aldermanic privilege. She has said that nobody should have to “kiss the alderman’s ring” to get City services, and she recognizes the dangers in allowing aldermen absolute control over zoning and economic development in their wards. Lightfoot can be expected to demand that aldermen be held accountable, and to see that they are. She will not be hand-picking the chairmen of City Council committees. You can bet that Lightfoot won’t be cutting $20,000 checks to aldermen who support her while ignoring their responsibilities to both the City and their constituents.

Lori Lightfoot will help wreck the Chicago Machine. With Lightfoot as mayor, we’ll finally realize the beginning of the end of The Chicago Way. Lightfoot won’t owe her victory to the usual influencers, or the mega-rich, or the out-of-towners. She will be accountable to the people who elect her, not to special interests. Wealthy, powerful people always have a private line to the mayor’s office. But Lori Lightfoot won’t cave. That’s not the Lightfoot way. She didn’t get where she is by going along. She will not tolerate business as usual. The City can’t afford it, and Lightfoot knows it. It’s why she decided to run for mayor.

Lori Lightfoot will help reform Illinois politics. Illinois is widely recognized as the most corrupt state in the U.S. Tens of thousands of people are leaving every year. Many of them are Chicagoans fed up with corruption, high taxes, high fees, and poor services. Illinois may well lose at least one congressional representative because of state population loss. Next year’s national census will redraw congressional, state, and local political maps in 2021.The Fair Maps movement is making progress on state and national levels to eliminate partisan gerrymandering. The boundaries of every ward in the City will be redrawn. The Mayor of Chicago will have a strong influence on all these matters.

Everything about her, from her family history to her professional achievements to the way she has chosen to live her life, tells me that Lori Lightfoot is the right person to lead Chicago.

Lori Lightfoot for Mayor.

 

 

 

Meet Lori Lightfoot and Andrew Rowlas

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.

Rowlas Wins Lightfoot Endorsement

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

 

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