Sun-Times: Schulter & Rosenfeld Will Withdraw from Committeeman Race

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times today says former Ald. Eugene Schulter and Paul Rosenfeld will withdraw from the race for 47th Ward Committeeman today.  The Sun-Times says the two withdrew in preference to Peter Coffey, the choice of mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The story quotes Tom Bowen, an Emanuel operative, as saying “the mayor felt the best thing for the 47th Ward was to avoid a divisive fight.”

Read more at Chicago Sun-Times.

Three vie for 47th Dem committeeman spot; Races in 32nd Ward Dem and 3 GOP positions

On the final day of filing two additional persons entered petitions to create a three-man race in the 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman race. There were also races for the GOP and Democratic Committeeman race in the 49th Ward, and the 32nd, 33rd and 40th Ward GOP Committeemen races.

Scott Waguespack and John Fritchey were already contesting the 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman position.

Richard Mell, Pat O’Connor, Tom Tunney and James Cappleman are running for Democratic Committeemen unopposed in the 33rd, 40th, 44th and 46th Wards.

Scott Davis and Diane Shapiro are running unopposed for Republican Committeeman in the 44th and the 46th Wards.

Incumbent boss Eugene Schulter faces two challengers in the 47th Ward. Former Alderman Schulter gave up on what promised to be another term as alderman in January to seek selection to the Cook County Board of Review. That effort was to end poorly as Michael Cabonargi was selected for the Board of Review spot and the aldermanic position was lost by the regular organization to newcomer Ameya Pawar.

Schulter, first won the committeeman spot in 2004.  He backed ward residents Tom O’Donnell for alderman in 2011, Dan Farley for Statehouse in 2010, Independent Forrest Claypool over Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios in 2010 and Dan Hynes for US Senate in 2004.

Schulter first sought the post in 2000, but lost that year to his mentor, Ed Kelly. Kelly ran a candidate against Schulter in the 2003 municipal elections, Jack Lydon. After Schulter’s victory, Kelly stepped down in 2004.

Lydon contributes to The Bulldog as a sports writer.

Opposing Schulter is Paul Rosenfeld and Peter Coffey, both of the East Horner Park neighborhood.

Coffey is the Director of Government Affairs at DePaul University and, according to LinkedIn, was the past Director of Government Affairs at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Rosenfeld and his family are active members of the Bell School community and Grow 47. His role in the Blagojevich scandal as “Lobbyist 2″ was acknowledged in an exclusive interview with The Bulldog.

His candidacy is backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, according to the Chicago News Coop. “It is an endorsement of Paul,” Preckwinkle said of her attendance at (a) fundraiser for Rosenfeld. “I worked with Gene. I just think that Paul will bring the kind of energy and progressive vision that I share” the CNC said in a September article.

In the 32nd Ward, a race between Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey and Alderman Scott Waguespack promises fireworks.

As reported by The Bulldog, Fritchey criticized Waguespack for his vote on the city budget last month. Waguespack was opposed in his reelection bid by two candidates associated with Fritchey. Both Fritchey and Waguespack have reformer credentials, with Waguespack leading the opposition to former Mayor Richard M Daley in City Council and Fritchey leading efforts to reform Cook County government since his election to the Cook County Board.

Incumbent Republican Committeeman John Curry faces challenger Stephen Boulton to be boss of the 32nd Ward party.

Curry has been active in the Republican Party since he was in college at Northwestern. He reports he is a third generation Chicago Republican. A lawyer, Curry is a resident of the Bucktown neighborhood.

Boulton is a partner at McCarthy Duffy, according to his LinkedIn Profile.

Scott Campbell and Gregory Eidukas are both running for the 33rd Ward GOP boss slot. In the 40th Ward Rafael Chagin is opposing Bill Powers for the post.

22 file on 1st day for 2012 Primary

The first day of filing for the March 2012 primary indicated there will be at least two contested races for voters to consider. A primary contest to select the Democratic party boss of the 32nd ward and to select the Democratic candidate for the 14th Representative to the General Assembly both drew challengers.

Ald. Scott Waguespack files for 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman on Nov. 28, 2011

Ald. Scott Waguespack files to run for Democratic 32nd Ward Boss. Credit Jack Lydon

In the 32nd Ward, Ald. Scott Waguespack is opposing the reelection of Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey. Waguespack and Fritchey have been at odds, with Fritchey supporting two challengers against Waguespack in the 2011 Municipal election.

Waguespack is considered the leader of the opposition in City Hall. However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be supportive of Waguespack as Waguespack backed the mayor’s 2012 budget proposal that passed unanimously.

Fritchey, who had served in the General Assembly, is coming off a failed bid to fill Emanuel’s congressional seat in 2009. His open county government push has gained wide support and press.

In the 14th District Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a freshman who was appointed to the job, faces opposition from Paula Basta. A third candidate has announced but has not yet filed.

Cook County Commissioner files to retain his seat as 32nd Ward Democratic boss.

Cook County Commissioner files to retain his seat as 32nd Ward Democratic boss. Credit: Jack Lydon

Cassidy, a lesbian activist, signed on to HB 3810, which would eliminate the General Assembly Scholarship Program and has sponsored a number of bills, SB 19, HB 3814 and SB 395, all of which would eliminate a widely criticized provision of the seven percent tax cap that required senior citizens to reapply each year for the exemption.

Opposing her election is Paula Basta, a senior citizens activist who is also gay. Basta is well known as the director of the Levy Senior Center located on Lawrence Ave.

Paul Rosenfeld has filed for the Democratic 47th Ward Committeeman. Former Ald. Eugene Schulter currently fills that position, but has not announced whether he will run for reelection or not.

The committeeman position is critical in the slating of judicial candidates. It also fills vacancies in public offices until the next election. Locally committeeman have filled positions several times.

  • Greg Harris was selected to fill in the ballot vacancy created by the retirement of Ill. Rep. Larry McKeon in 2006.
  • Kelly Cassidy was selected earlier this year to fill the position of Ill. Rep. Harry Osterman when he successfully ran for Alderman.
  • Kathleen Moore was selected instead of Ann Williams to fill a two week vacancy in 2010-11 created when Ill. Rep. John Fritchey ran successfully for the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Williams had won the seat in the general election, but the committeemen claim she wasn’t interested in filing the position for the two week opening. Moore’s appointment is controversial because she provided the critical 60th vote for the passage of the income tax increase and also for the end of the death penalty in the state.

The primary will allow voters to choose party candidates for the offices of:

  • President of the United States
  • Representatives in Congress
  • State Senators
  • Representatives in the General Assembly
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioners
  • State’s Attorney
  • Clerk of the Circuit Court
  • Recorder of Deeds
  • Board of Review Commissioners (Districts 1, 2 & 3)
  • State Supreme Court Judges, vacancies
  • State Appellate Court Judges, vacancies
  • Cook County Circuit Court Judges & Subcircuit Judges, vacancies
  • Additional Judgeships (if required)

In addition delegates and alternate delegates to the National Nominating Conventions and Ward Committeemen are being selected in the primary.

The Primary is organized for major parties. In Illinois only the Republican and Democratic Parties qualify as major parties. The Green Party is allowed to qualify candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The 2012 Illinois primary is set for March 20. The final day for filing is Dec. 5.  For filing requirements see the page of the County Clerk.

State Board of Elections Web Site
 

 

List of offices representing North Side Communities, or candidates from select North Side communities running

 

 

 

Ravenswood Community Council management under scrutiny— again

Management of the Ravenswood Community Council is under scrutiny again. An award winning series by The Bulldog in January and February noted that the charity, which runs Special Service Area 31, almost failed financially in the period 2005-7.

The series went on to criticize the SSA for failing to provide basic snow clearance following the heavy snow fall. It contrasted the failure in the SSA with successful clearance efforts in other areas that did not have SSA funding available.

SSA stands for Special Service Area. Created by the city, SSAs collect a property tax levy to fund “enhanced” services such as cleaning snow and trash from sidewalks. The RCC manages SSA 31 for the city.

As the manager of the SSA the RCC receives a management fee from the city. In addition it manages the services provided in the area, principally snow removal and street cleaning, but also promotion.

Although the SSA eventually cleared the sidewalks, it was a failure of the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department to clear the streets of snow on Ravenswood, while streets were cleared on industrial streets such as Rockwell and Bradley, that led to issues, according to the story, in ordinary commercial work and the efforts of charities such as the Night Ministry to maintain services.

The series is credited with being a key element in the election loss of Ravenswood Community Council President Tom O’Donnell in the aldermanic election.

A recent spat between a blog and the council has raised the issue again.

CSJ Report has errors

The post, found here at CenterSquareJournal, says the RCC is a tool of Schulter. “Current board members with political ties to Schulter include (Tom) O’Donnell, the former president of the 47th Ward Democratic Party, (Bill) Helm, the current president of the 47th Ward Democratic Party and Marty Casey, who was 47th Ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent under Schulter.”

The inside scoop

The news that the RCC is a political tool of Schulter is not news. Sadly missing from the list of members with political ties to Eugene Schulter is Rosemary Schulter, listed by the RCC on its website as a director. Rosemary Schulter is married to Eugene Schulter.

The CSJ report goes on to confuse SSA revenue, describing $368,000 received as applied to “administering the Special Service Area #31 contract.”

The inside scoop

As noted by RCC Executive Director Chris Shickles in a reply, “RCC will receive about $50,000 in service provider compensation for managing the SSA which is in line with other similar sized SSAs throughout the city.”

The remainder of the funds are directed to efforts such as signage (the hanging banners you see on light poles), snow clearance, litter removal and landscaping. Much of that work is done by independent contractors.

The post says the RCC experiences high administrative costs.

 The inside scoop

As The Bulldog noted months ago, administrative costs at the RCC have historically ranged up to 143.14 percent of revenue in 2007. The Bulldog also pointed to HRAIL as a program with glaring inefficiency. During a four year period the RCC administered HRAIL program repaired ten homes each year for $241,538, excluding the administrative costs.

    • HRAIL is a program of small home repairs intended to maintain senior citizens in the community.
    • HRAIL has been superceeded by the SARFS program: Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors.

And The Bulldog noted that much of the revenue received was spent on independent contractors and employees, not community efforts.

Despite the financial meltdown the RCC avoided, it continued on with O’Donnell at its head. On the one hand, the RCC headed into a serious financial meltdown under O’Donnell’s leadership. It was also a hands-off leadership, The Bulldog found. O’Donnell was only present at one SSA meeting over a two year period.

Since that initial examination of the SSA minutes, O’Donnell has continued to be absent from each SSA meeting.

The issue is not just that RCC has high administrative costs, but whether the city should even fund these entities. For one thing, RCC is not the only political creature in city that receives money. As Tom Tresser, a former candidate for Cook County Board President, noted if there is a need for these services there is nothing to prevent neighborhood businesses from getting together to provide them.

The services provide a means of cloaking city services. Few property owners and fewer voters understand whether they are covered by an SSA and how to influence them. There must be a more efficient means of administering SSA services than through chambers of commerce.

Plus, the creation of a relationship between the chamber and the city creates a dependency relationship that stifles political dissent.

In essence, the chambers become tools of the city, they lack transparency and accountability to the public.

Finally, the post says there was testimony that the RCC was “politically motivated.” And the post says a hire has “alleged connections to organized crime.”

The inside scoop

The assassination of people based on association is broad. Sheila Pacione, a new employee of RCC, is correctly noted by the blog to be a former staffer of Shulter for example.

Dan Stefanski, another employee, is painted by the blog as a childhood friend of “convicted” former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Stefanski parlayed that childhood friendship into a position in the Blagojevich administration.

And the post says he was fired from the Illinois Department of Transportation for drunk driving. AND Stefanski has a past as a bookie, the report says.

According to a 2005 Chicago Sun-Times article cited online by other web sites but no longer available, an International Brotherhood of Teamsters team of investigators named Stefanski is a friend of reputed mobsters Robert Abbinanti and Nick “The Stick” LoCoco. Stefanski, according to the report, issued a statement offering a $20,000 reward for the address of a mob informant.

Stefanski does not deny keeping company with alleged mobsters, according to the report.

In the spirit of full transparency, The Bulldog itself has ties to RCC. The Bulldog sponsored an event with RCC in September, “The Bells of Ravenswood.”

As noted last month, Michael Fourcher, the publisher of the CenterSquareJournal, is a prolific entrepreneur. According to the CSJ post, Fourcher was a contributor to the post.

Fourcher was associated with the politically connected Haymarket Group, Podesta Associates, former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and ran a political consulting firm as recently as last year, overlapping with his creation of the CenterSquareJournal blog. Fourcher’s political interest in ward politics remains unknown.

It is a “politically motivated” piece according to a reply to the article by Democratic ward boss Eugene Schulter.

According to social media, Schulter is running again for the 47th Ward Democratic committeeman position. Schulter has not formally announced his run.

*** UPDATE Nov. 13, 2011 @ 10.30A We added two paragraphs to explain the roll of SSAs and how they receive their funding. Go to the new text ***

*** UPDATE Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11.05A We moved two paragraphs to the end of the post to provide better flow to the story. And we added an explanation of what the HRAIL program is. ***

Ravenswood to be split into two wards under Black Caucus remap proposal

Current ward boundaries (in red) and a proposal by the Black Caucus (in blue) would shift the 40th and the 47th Wards south.

A proposal unveiled yesterday by the Chicago City Council Black Caucus would split the Ravenswood community between the 40th and the 47th Wards. The two wards boundaries would move south by about one mile under the proposal.

The proposal is the first in what promises to be a contentious debate over redistricting in the city, a once a decade process of giving equal weight to each voter in legislative bodies.

The caucus proposed 19 majority black wards and 13 majority Hispanic wards in the 50 member chamber. Previously there had been 20 majority black wards and eleven Hispanic wards.

The city’s Hispanic population has grown by about 25,000 in the last decade while the city’s black population has fallen by about 181,000, according to census figures. Caucasian populations have also fallen.

The caucus, which was unanimous in its proposal, is seeking to maintain the number of black wards through a theory called non- retrogression. That legal idea is that once granted, a right may not be taken away. The caucus holds that non-retrogression requires every effort must be made to guarantee at least 20 black wards in the remap.

The 40th and the 47th Wards would move about one mile south under the proposal.  Parts of Horner Park East and all of Lincoln Square and Ravenswood north of Montrose would be placed in the 40th Ward if the map is adopted.

Ravenswood Manor, currently in the 33rd Ward, would be represented by the 39th Ward. The 39th Ward would also represent some areas in Budlong Woods. Ravenswood Manor is currently districted into the 33rd Ward.

Both the 40th and the 47th Wards would extend west of the Chicago River to represent areas in Irving Park.

Andersonville, currently represented by four wards, would find most of the business district north of Foster represented by the 48th Ward. The business district south of Foster by the 46th Ward.

The 47th Ward southern boundary would extend to about Wrightwood and would include most of Roscoe Village.

Lathrop Homes and parts of western Roscoe Village would be in the 38th Ward.

Some adjustments were also proposed in the boundaries on the eastern side of the 40th and the 47th Wards.

The caucus noted that it had not worked with Hispanic aldermen on the proposal. In answer to a question from The Bulldog, it also noted it has not presented or consulted with political power houses such as Joe Berrios, Michael Madigan, Dick Mell, Pat O’Connor or Ed Burke about their plan.

It also did not use a state Voting Rights Act doctrine called minority influence district. Finally, the caucus noted it did not take into account Asian communities as they are not a protected minority.

The minority influence district holds that if a minority has a sizable population, but not a majority, the population should not be divided into multiple districts. The theory allowed a sizable, but still minority, population of Asians to be considered in the drawing of districts north and west of Ravenswood.

A concern the caucus did apparently consider were the home address of current aldermen. They noted that no incumbent would be required to run against another incumbent under their plan.

The caucus also provided evidence they considered neighborhood communities in its proposal.

A neighborhood community is a city defined area. There is no city defined area called Ravenswood. The area we generally consider Ravenswood is comprised of two other communities, North Center and Lincoln Square.

State legislators heard considerable testimony about communities of interest, a term that drilled down deeper into our city, considering such things as churches, schools, ethnic groups and other geographic areas with a shared sense of identity.

 

Ward Alderman Democratic Committeeman Republican Committeeman Minority

1

Joe Moreno

Jesse Ruben Juarez

Kathleen Cordes

Hispanic

32

Scott Waguespack

John Fritchey

John Curry

33

Dick Mell

Dick Mell

Lisa Reed

Hispanic

38

Timothy Cullerton

Patricia J Cullerton

Kevin Edward White

39

Margaret Laurino

Randy Barnette

William Miceli

40

Pat O’Connor

Pat O’Connor

Steve Seiling

43

Michele Smith

Michele Smith

Doug Glick

44

Thomas Tunney

Thomas Tunney

Jim Fuchs

46

James Cappleman

Tom Sharpe

Diane Shapiro

47

Ameya Pawar

Eugene Schulter

David Ratowitz

48

Harry Osterman

Carol Ronen

Adam Robinson

50

Debra Silverstein

Ira Silverstein

Kenneth Hollander

 

Pawar ordinance to support urban agriculture

Ald. Ameya Pawar and Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would loosen restrictions on urban farming.

Emanuel used an appearance at the Iron Street Farm in Bridgeport Tuesday to announce the initiative.

The ordinance would expand limits on community garden plot size to 25K square feet, or about half an acre. Hoop houses could be used for aquaponic cultivation of fish and produce. And, there would be limited sales in residential areas. Finally, the ordinance would loosen restrictions on landscaping, fencing and parking.

Former 47th Ward Ald. Eugene Schulter had been a prime mover behind the landscaping ordinance.

“By revising our zoning code, we can remove serious obstacles that have hampered the development of urban agriculture in Chicago,” said Alderman Pawar. “Passing this ordinance will unleash the full potential of Chicago’s urban farmers and community gardeners, expanding access to fresh, healthy foods in neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Action on the ordinance is expected in September.

Read the press release from the city.

 

Stewart: “Bumbler” Schulter comeback planned/ opposed

Russ Stewart, a political columnist in the Nadig papers spared nothing in downgrading former Ald. Eugene Schulter’s political capital in a post this week.

“By bungling his aldermanic succession and fumbling his attempt to secure appointment to Joe Berrios’ vacancy on the Board of Review, Schulter proved that deceitful deeds are punished and boneheaded judgment is not rewarded,” Stewart said.

Schulter plans to oust Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael Carbonargi, Stewart hints. With a big win in the 47th Ward, Schulter could stage a comeback. Another part of Schulter’s plan: remaining 47th Ward Democratic boss.

But his relations with Ald. Ameya Pawar are strained.

Stewart claims Schulter’s regular Democratic Party Ward apparatus has never given Pawar a chance.

“Schulter’s precinct minions are already spewing negativity throughout the ward,” Stewart says.

As a result, Pawar indicates to Stewart he will support opposition to Schulter. “There’s going to be a ‘progressive’ candidate for committeeman,” promised Pawar, who said he is not interested in the job. “We will find and I will support” a Schulter opponent, Pawar said.

Read more at Russ Stewart.

Gene Schulter park revisited and rededicated

You may recall the picture of “Gene Schulter Park” place in The Bulldog last month.

The Bulldog hadn’t realized the small plot had been named for then Ald. Eugene Schulter.

Eugene Schulter Park

Fortunately TribLocal in Park Ridge continues its fine coverage of our city neighborhood with a story about the park located on the corner of Oakley and Bell Plaine.

“A tranquil half-acre park at the center of the North Center Senior Campus recently was rededicated in the name of former 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter,” the post by Aimee DeBat says.

Apparently, parks need to be rededicated, over and over again, as the park sign indicates the park was first dedicated to Schulter in 2009. You may remember that the 47th Ward rededicated the playlot at Welles Park when former Mayor Richard Daley dropped by earlier this year. Next up: rededicating Revere Park for the famous patriot who warned the British, after his capture, that the Americans were ready for them.

The post is mainly a review of the real estate in the former Martha Washington complex.

“Only eight units remain for sale at Belle Plaine Commons. Prices range from $175,990 to $191,700,” it notes.

“Prospective buyers may view floor plans and amenities at www.belleplainecommons.com. For more information, to see the models, or to arrange a personal appointment, please call Mary Jaeger of Baird & Warner,” it finishes.

The eight units represent a vacancy rate of nearly nine percent.

Read more at TribLocal.

From Schulter to Pawar; a story of us

The Bulldog’s second story, March 15, 2010, was about an upstart grad student who planned to challenge Eugene Schulter. Nearly 1,100 posts later, and The Bulldog can report that the upstart is your new alderman. Was it as much of an upset as other media outlets say? Ameya Pawar himself reports that he was surprised by the outcome. Was it a surprise? Today, in celebration of Pawar’s win and his elevation to alderman on Monday The Bulldog looks back to consider the campaign.

The early campaign: Late February 2010 to September 7, 2010

Ald. Eugene Schulter

Ald. Eugene Schulter Credit: Jane Rickard

Early in the campaign Schulter looked like a shoo-in for another term. He was blessed with a ward organization that was large, organized and if not always effective, well financed. In addition Schulter had mastered the art of bringing home the pork. In meetings around the ward Schulter promised and delivered on millions of dollars of public projects. The largest, the $200 million bridge project for the Union Pacific, would tap into Federal stimulus money to create a new Ravenswood Station. The project would take years to complete and would require a specialized work force. However there were other projects too.

Looking back Schulter was playing old-time politics.

  • In late March 2010, Schulter cut short a vacation to oppose a plan to cutback on street sweepers. But the street sweeper plan, forecast to save the city millions of dollars, refused to die despite its withdrawal by Mayor Richard Daley.
  • In late July Schulter appeared with Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn when Quinn used a Ravenswood home as the backdrop to sign into law a seven percent property tax cap. At the signing Quinn noted Schulter’s work on behalf of property tax reform.

Aside from the new station for commuters, the bridge work would not provide significant benefits for a Ravenswood workforce not generally engaged in the specialized construction of the railroad bridges. However there were clear benefits for families with the new playgrounds and to businesses benefiting from the landscaping. Yet the financial crisis was creating questions about the administration of the TIF districts used to pay for much of the local projects while nationally the Tea Party and the Republican Party were addressing the proper role of government.
The strengths that Daley, Quinn and Schulter relied on for political support, identifying tax dollar projects, were eroding under financial and political pressure. It is still not clear how big a liability big spending will be both for the government and for some politicians. However what is clear is that the issue, at this point, mid-way through 2011, still has legs.

The middle campaign: September 7 to November 2

Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

The world turned upside down on September 7 with the unexpected withdrawal of Daley from the contest for mayor. Schulter accompanied Daley that evening to a German-American function at the Cultural Center. While Daley’s attitude was one at peace with his decision, Schulter’s face betrayed concern. The Bulldog talked to Pawar that day. He forecast that Daley’s decision wouldn’t change things in the 47th Ward. But in fact, the mayor’s decision had changed everything. Within days Schulter’s name was being listed as a possible contender as mayor. Schulter’s main asset was his large campaign fund. But this was a stronger asset than many candidates possessed. Schulter indicated soon enough that he was not interested in the post.

Schulter held an aldermanic campaign fundraiser shortly after he removed his name from consideration. Campaign financing reports indicate his aldermanic campaign raised a multiple of what Pawar had raised in the months previous. In fact, few voters were thinking of the municipal elections coming in February. The 2010 general election was still on the horizon. In the streets of Ravenswood The Bulldog would run into Pawar, walking a block in his quest. At this point it must have seemed a lonely and forgotten effort. Pawar, in an interview with The Bulldog last week said these days formed a foundation that served him well later in the campaign. People, he said, remembered him knocking on their door or knew he had met with neighbors. They were withholding their opinion, but watching developments. Two further developments may have been considered. The first, the city budget came up for consideration by the City Council prior to the General Election.

  • In October Schulter announced he would oppose plans to cut budgets to chambers of commerce. In Chicago chambers of commerce receive support from the city. Direct support may vary from a few thousand dollars annually to tens of thousands. In addition, the chambers administer Special Service Areas, each providing municipal type services valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by issues associated with the Logan Square farmers market recently, a local alderman can use the city support to reward or to punish chambers. Despite calls to cut the chambers, which would allow them to function as independent political entities, Schulter and the chambers rallied to oppose the cuts. Schulter went so far as to say he would not support any budget that cut chamber support.
  • The City Inspector General issued a report detailing $243 million in estimated savings on Oct. 25.
  • Fitch, a bond rating service, downgraded the city’s rating on Oct. 28.
  • The Civic Federation released a criticism of the budget. That was followed by a delay in an $800 million city bond sale.
  • Standard & Poor’s followed the lead of Fitch, also downgrading the city’s bonds. The downgrades have added to the cost of city borrowing and made borrowing more challenging.
  • In early November Schulter voted for a budget that borrowed heavily from ‘rainy day’ funds created by the sale of the parking meter system. The budget was widely criticized for failing to address the structural deficit of the city. The $1.5 billion parking meter fund was spent to avoid addressing the structural issues. Critics described the situation as kicking the can down the road for the next mayor.
  • Schulter would not comment to The Bulldog about the budget, but it appeared that he wouldn’t offer solutions to the fiscal crisis, and would defend his current aldermanic prerogatives against cost cutting.

The November General Election saw Illinois move against a Republican swing elsewhere. Here Democrats, with the exception of a US Senate candidate, generally won. The election left the Illinois Democratic Party in control of both chambers of the Statehouse and the governor’s office. In Cook County there was a push to elect independent Forrest Claypool, a Ravenswood resident, to the office of the Cook County Assessor. Schulter had thrown his hat in with Claypool, opposing the county party. Other Democratic Party organizations, notably Evanston, had also supported Claypool over Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios. Berrios’ victory was despite these objections and strong opposition by both the local daily newspapers.

November 3 through January 17

Matt Reichel. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter demonstrated the strength of the 47th Ward regular organization by filing 5,641 signatures. Even discounting the thousands of signatures collected by circulators living outside the Ward boundaries, Schulter gathered more signatures than collected by all other candidates running in the ward combined. Outside the ward however, it was clear there would be a change on City Council. Dissatisfaction with politics as usual and the promise of a new mayor combined to attract a large number of aldermanic candidates in many wards. Tom Jacks and Matt Reichel joined the hunt for the 47th Ward seat. On the final day of filing there was also a surprise filing: Tom O’Donnell. O’Donnell had been a circulator for Schulter. They were considered close. Schulter had supported O’Donnell to replace Larry McKeon. O’Donnell ran the Ravenswood Community Council for Schulter. In on-line discussions there were dark rumblings from persons claiming to be in the 47th Ward Democratic Party that ‘mean Gene’ would be receiving payback for slighting Berrios and Ed Kelly. The role of O’Donnell was a mystery. O’Donnell added to the mystery by turning aside all attempts to contact him. In late December it became clear that Schulter was seeking a position on the Cook County Board of Review. The position had come open when Berrios had taken the position of assessor. O’Donnell was covering the aldermanic opening if Schulter succeeded.

January 18 to the Coonley debate

Tom Jacks. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter’s announcement that he would withdraw from the aldermanic race was a move designed to convince Head Judge Tim Evans of how serious Schulter’s interest in the position was. O’Donnell’s administration of the RCC, the near financial collapse of the RCC, the fact that O’Donnell had only attended a single meeting of the SSA 31 in a two year period all came to the attention of the community January 25 when The Bulldog ran an article that examined O’Donnell’s community leadership claim. The Bulldog noted that O’Donnell lacked a door-to-door effort, lacked a phone, lacked a web site. “The heir apparent to Schulter is relying on the strength of the 47th Ward Democratic organization to get him elected,” we wrote. On January 26 the candidates appeared at Coonley School in a forum. It was the only forum or debate that featured all four candidates.

The Coonley debate

Tom O'Donnell. Credit: Jane Rickard

The Coonley debate is generally held to be the turning point in the campaign. Prior to the debate O’Donnell was raising money outside the ward. His supporters were confident of victory.

After the debate the momentum shifted to Pawar. The small gymnasium at Coonley was packed to standing room only. With each question, Jacks, Pawar and Reichel would ad-lib an answer. O’Donnell would leaf through a pad, placing it in front of his face and read the statement off the pad. In one case, regarding the Western Avenue South TIF it wasn’t clear O’Donnell understood the way TIFs work or what they could do. The ‘experienced community activist’ was turning out to be a dud who couldn’t explain what he’d do different after all his years of activism.

In many cases O’Donnell defended Schulter, despite the fact Schulter’s role wasn’t being questioned. Jacks answered one question, firing at O’Donnell about his qualifications. Jacks, without ever saying O’Donnell’s name, questioned the Chicago practice of political nepotism. On stage O’Donnell’s face grew red. Reichel tried to describe his plan to tax motorists, a toll based on congestion pricing. A similar system is used in Central London. Although he spoke eloquently, he described policies to address institutional racism and taxing upper class citizens to relieve the burden on poorer citizens. His largely white and upper middle class audience wasn’t interested.

Jacks thought’s about government were better received but still did not appear to have meat to them. It is fine to criticize political nepotism, but what policy does that point to at the Ward level? News likes conflict. Listen to the discussion of Donald Trump and you’ll understand that the colorful and quick quote provided on deadline is meat to the news media. In the months that The Bulldog had been writing about Pawar we’d learned that Pawar wasn’t a good quote. What we mean by that is Pawar is thoughtful. He listens to questions, considers them carefully and answers with care. At one point in the Coonley debate the candidates were asked about the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance. That proposal would use TIF funds for affordable housing. O’Donnell, Jacks and Reichel all supported the proposal. Pawar said he would study it. It could, he noted, create political support for TIFs and he felt the need for TIF reform was great. Other means could be found to fund affordable housing, he said.

It was a thoughtful answer to a complicated question. It may be at this point that our photographer took the picture which accompanies this post. It seems to capture a moment in time when the possibility of winning seemed real to Pawar.

The Coonley debate. Credit: Jane Rickard

The end of the campaign: January 27 to election day

Pawar notes that after the Coonley debate he saw a dramatic uptick in campaign financing. Three days after the debate The Bulldog laid out questions about O’Donnell’s bio. A day later The Bulldog laid out the case against the Ravenswood Community Council. And, like any historic Chicago election, this one had a blizzard. At The Bulldog, the efforts of the RCC to clear the sidewalks were chronicled. The snow removal in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor were compared to similar areas on Rockwell and in the Addison Street Industrial Corridor. [The RCC, which O'Donnell led, was responsible for snow removal on sidewalks. The city, led by Schulter, was responsible for snow removal on ward streets.]

On-line there were complaints of streets that needed to be cleared and alleys piled high with snow. Pawar says that this was a period of intense social media communication. Stories from The Bulldog, but also from other media, were being exchanged by neighbors. And neighbors were meeting on the streets of Ravenswood, clearing our streets and freeing our cars and talking politics. Neighbors expressed anger that Schulter had selected O’Donnell without allowing neighbors input. More than once I heard “who does he think he is with this guy?” Well, Schulter thought he was the alderman.

On January 31 a small event seemed to sum up the hopelessness of the O’Donnell cause. That was the day Pete Leki endorsed Pawar. Leki is an environmental activist who maintains the Waters School Garden. A small community group is closely associated with Leki’s work, the Riverbank Neighbors. In addition Leki is close to another activist community, the Beyond Today Co-op. In the years I have known Leki he generally worked with Schulter. The Leki endorsement was considered key at The Bulldog. It showed a genuine interest in Pawar among Beyond Today, probably at Riverbank Neighbors and also among the education community. Undoubtedly, there was an element of the artistic community that closely followed-up on Leki’s endorsement too. And the endorsement broke with Leki’s tradition of working with Schulter. It was an endorsement that was a multiplier. It may have appeared small, but was in fact a much bigger event.

O’Donnell now made a new enemy. The Center Square Journal, a blog that also features events in the Ravenswood neighborhood announced O’Donnell was pulling out of its candidate forum. O’Donnell skipped a third forum at Lake View High School later that same week. On the last weekend of the campaign The Bulldog launched the last of its investigative posts on O’Donnell, noting he was under investigation for using Sheriffs department equipment for political purposes.

Election Day

Ald. Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

On the morning of the election Pawar asked me what I thought his chances were. I had told him that I believed there was a 40 percent chance he would win outright, but that there was a only a small chance of O’Donnell winning outright. The day proved to be a lesson in getting out the vote. Winning in politics is often dependent on the basic things. GOTV, raising money and getting ballot access separate the professionals from the amateurs.

The 47th Ward Regular Democratic Party had proven itself by superior fundraising and an excellent ballot drive. Election day saw the regular organization with a superior GOTV effort. At many polling places there appeared to be no sign of Pawar, Jacks and Reichel. Despite that Pawar won. The election of this thoughtful man was an affirmation of neighbors using new and old social media. Neighbors talking while clearing a street of snow, trading e-mails and the decision of a neighborhood activist all added up to a win, with Pawar receiving as many votes as that enjoyed by Schulter in previous contests.

Old-time politics, and in particular a strong Get Out the Vote effort, were unable to overcome frustration at politics as usual. The ward organization once again showed that it is unable to deliver votes for anyone but Schulter. Would the result have been different if Schulter had run? Yes. Schulter, for all his weaknesses, wasn’t O’Donnell.

Schulter exits; His legacy remains Part 1


This weekend marks the end of an era, not just for Chicago, but for Ravenswood. Today, for the first time since 1975, the 47th Ward will not be represented by Eugene Schulter.

Schulter’s impact on the Ward will last well into the future, even as the laminated signs disappear from our alleys and his name from projects completed.

Schulter joined the council at the age of 26 in 1975. At the time he was the youngest alderman to ever serve.

Schulter will be remembered in the Ward for his leadership in the movement of the Old Town School of Folk Music main campus to Lincoln Square, the establishment of the Sulzer Regional Library and the economic revitalization of Lincoln Square.

In this first part The Bulldog examines the political legacy of Schulter. In part two, we look at the civic projects and legacy of his time in office.

 

Political career

 

Russ Stewart, an attorney who often editorializes on Chicago politics for the Nadig Newspaper chain, describes Schulter as “the caricature of the meek, mild, loyal, do-what-you’re-told” Chicago alderman.

Back in 1975, when Schulter was just 271, powerhouse 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman Ed Kelly plucked him from obscurity and ran him for alderman. In a major upset, Schulter beat 28-year Republican incumbent John Hoellen by 2,300 votes, getting 57 percent of the votes cast.

In a 2009 history of 47th Ward politics by Ben Joravsky in the Chicago Reader, Schulter was called “one of the most cautious cats in the City Council.”

In 1968 (Richard J) Daley anointed Ed Kelly, soon to be named general superintendent of the Park District, as the (47th) ward’s Democratic committeeman, the party’s ward boss. In those days the job consisted of building and marshaling a patronage army that could deliver the vote on Election Day—and the better the results, the more jobs and power were granted from the mayor. Kelly was just what Daley was looking for. He handed out Park District jobs and chipped away at Hoellen’s base, and by 1975 he had enough campaign workers to oust this gadfly once and for all. All he needed was a candidate.

Kelly drafted Schulter, then a 27-year-old aide in the county assessor’s office, to run against Hoellen for alderman. “We needed a German name to run against Hoellen and Schulter is a German name,” says Kelly. “I bought up all the billboards in the area. Put Schulter’s name all over the ward. People didn’t know Schulter’s name when the election started. They did at the end.”

Schulter remembers things a little differently. As he recalls it, he wasn’t exactly a creation of Kelly’s organization. “Yes, I had the Democratic Party’s support, but I had a lot of support in the area,” he says. “I was a community activist.”

The 26 or 28 year old “community activist” played get-along and go-along politics at first. In the council wars he first sided with his political mentor, Kelly, working to block Mayor Harold Washington from appointing replacement Park District Board members. Schulter’s biography in CloutWiki notes:

The parks stalemate broke following the 1986 special Council elections, when the council tied between Washington supporters and Vrdolyak supporters, giving Washington the tie-breaking vote. One of the new council’s first actions was to appoint a new Park District Board and oust Kelly. In response, Schulter startled his long-time mentor, Kelly, by moving out of Kelly’s 47th Ward office and switching his support to Mayor Washington. Schulter supported Washington in 1987 and began a long-running enmity with Kelly.

With Kelly in control of the Ward organization and Schulter in City Council, the next 16 years were tense. Members of the 47th Ward Democratic organization wanted to replace Schulter, but were held back by Illinois Senator Bruce Farley and also by Kelly’s lack of interest.

Farley’s conviction on mail fraud in 1999 changed the equation.

In 2000 Schulter took on Kelly directly, running for 47th Ward Committeeman. Schulter lost that election by 153 votes. When Schulter ran again four years later the 80 year-old Kelly did not oppose him.

Schulter’s independent streak manifested itself again in 2010.

In that campaign, Cook County Democratic Party boss Joe Berrios ran for Cook County Assessor.

Berrios had won an early primary in 2010, gaining the party’s nomination with just 40.58 percent of the vote. His election was challenged by the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

However, it was only after Forrest Claypool’s entry as an independent that there was a chance of success of defeating Berrios, according to political watchers.

Schulter joined other Democrats opposing Berrios and supporting Claypool. Berrios gathered more than twice as many votes in the city as all other candidates combined, and 48.03 percent of votes in the county overall.

The 1987 split with Kelly reappeared as Schulter’s end was forecast by anonymous commenters on sites such as CapitalFax.com. Older precinct captains indicated they hadn’t forgotten what “Mean Gene” had done to mentor Kelly. Berrios didn’t need to wait long to deal with Schulter.

In December 2010 Schulter announced he would seek the opening on the Cook County Board of Review created by Berrios’ move to the assessor’s office.

As noted at the time in The Bulldog, Berrios opposed Schulter’s appointment.

Schulter threw an all-in bet, announcing he would not seek reelection as alderman.

As the door closed on Schulter’s bid for alderman, his bid to be on the Cook County Board of Review closed too. In late January 2011 Schulter was passed over for the position.

That left Schulter supporting Tom O’Donnell’s failed bid for alderman in the 2011 municipal election.

Schulter’s ability to support candidates had been in question for several years.

For example, in the 2010 primary Schulter had backed Dan Farley against two candidates for the 11th Legislative seat. Ann Williams, who was supported by Lisa Madigan won the election with 46.23 percent. Farley, the son of Bruce Farley, garnered just 32.06 percent of the vote.

A further example is Schulter’s attempt to fill the seat of Larry McKeon in 2006. In a four hour executive session of four Democratic committeemen, Schulter’s candidate, Tom O’Donnell was abandoned as Schulter, with 32.85 percent, joined committeemen Patrick O’Connor, (D-40) 21 percent, and Tom Sharpe, (D-46) 35.75 percent, in appointing Greg Harris.

Nevertheless, Schulter remains well funded, with $8,092 available under his control in the Democratic Party of the 47th Ward and $834,600 available to him through Citizens for Gene Schulter.

 

1Stewart has the age for Schulter at the beginning of his term as 27. The website of the City has it listed as 26, which is the age used by The Bulldog. However, further clouding this small detail, Schulter’s birthdate is listed as November 14, 1947. If he took office in 1975, how could he be 26 and born in 1947? Perhaps we should demand the birth certificate?

Read Part 2 of the Schulter legacy.

*** UPDATE 05/16/2011 1.19P *** Schulter did not move out of Kelly’s offices until 1997.