Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Again with the half-truth about the raise.

After 34 years in office, you'd think an incumbent would have more than a couple of laurels to rest on. But here's another recent Stone piece:

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My response to this? See previous post. Too lazy to click? Very well: *after* 2003, Stone not only was on the bandwagon for an aldermanic raise, he led the charge.

This and Thillens are the only two things I have *ever* heard in defense of Stone. And both are open to criticism. I want to know what objective, verifiable, undisputed benefit Stone has created for us. What else does the man have to show for 34 years in office and over $100,000 in salary for each of many of those years? What has our tax money gotten us?

Concerned consumers want to know.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stone's Off-the-Mark Mailer

Stone has begun circulating a new anti-Dolar piece through canvassers (I guess it's technically not a "mailer" then):

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Here's a link to the full-size image.

I'm not sure why the Dolar half of the piece looks so crappy - that's how the piece itself looks. You can barely read her name. It's as if Stone so much didn't want to spend money "on Dolar" that he couldn't even be bothered to make her side of the mailer look legible.

Among the many misstatements, let's pick the top 4:

Mislead 1: Stone "refused to accept a $10,000 per year pay increase from 1999-2003."

Truth: ... and then Stone carried the torch for the recent aldermanic pay increase after 2003!

Mislead 2: Dolar has a "0 resident service record."

Truth: Dolar was director of the city's Commission on Human Relations. In that position, she successfully removed illegal 24-hour parking meters that Stone installed on Devon Ave. Therefore, she has already shown a record for serving the residents in the ward. Bernie, on the other hand, should be deducted "service" points for wasting taxpayers' dollars on both these illegal parking meters, and the illegal wall he built and had to tear down.

Mislead 3: Dolar runs "a divisive campaign creating mistrust, tension and division in a normally united community."

Truth: Nothing from Dolar's camp has been aimed at dividing the community. Dolar's entire career has been about coalition-building and bringing communities together. I think this remark from Stone's side was probably meant to echo his previous sentiments that "all was well" in the 50th until troublemakers like Dolar and Brewer started campaigning. Rather than being concerned with what is best for the 50th, Stone from the start has been selfishly absorbed only with keeping the 50th complacent. Why should such a person be the one advocating for our ward in the City Council?

Mislead 4: Stone has more law enforcement experience than Dolar.

Truth: Stone's vague reference to "assisting in the creation of C.A.P.S." sounds like less law enforcement experience than Dolar. Not only is Dolar endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, she's also married to a cop - so I'm sure she's more familiar with the day-to-day realities of law enforcement. Also, when did Stone "assist" in creating CAPS? I believe that was more than a while ago... has he done anything to further encourage CAPS' growth and resident participation since then?

In addition, as the recent Emmerson Park beatings show, Stone and his friendly neighborhood talking heads prefer to label any local violence "isolated" rather than condemn it harshly and take steps to prevent it. While Stone was doing only as much as necessary to fend off bad PR, Dolar had her own press conference and offered affirmative, fresh action-taking solutions to help prevent such problems in the future. In fact, the press conference she held sounded much more like what I want to hear from "my alderman" than what we heard from the actual alderman!

Monday, March 12, 2007

What's at Stake

Sorry for the temporary lapse; I had a storm of projects come to a head at work and could not find the time to post something. In any event, it seems the campaigns were taking a brief reprieve to rest up and tally the score thus far before launching into run-off operations.

Well, let me correct that, because his majesty Ald. Stone has already taken action to reclaim his sovereign territory. Look at what the former Brewer campaign office looks like, as of a few days ago:

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That is what's at stake, my neighbors in the 50th ward. I don't think Stone could have taken any action more representative of his administration than this unprofessional, immature act against a former challenger. I can only hope that this visual kick-in-the-teeth mobilizes Brewer supporters to join Dolar's fight.

If we don't pull together to support Dolar in these last 5 weeks, Stone will continue to mark us as his territory too.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Growing Brewer Camp Support for Dolar

I've spoken with some insiders in the Dolar campaign, and a steady stream of Greg Brewer's supporters have been emailing or calling Dolar's campaign staff to express their support and to volunteer. This bodes very well for Dolar, and comes along with the public support expressed by Brewer's Field Director Bridget Dooley and this Feb. 28 email from Brewer Campaign Manager Cottrell to Brewer's supporters:

I congratulated Naisy and her campaign manager today. The banner of change continues to be carried by Naisy and her campaign. I hope that all of Greg's supporters will choose to support Naisy in whatever way they feel appropriate.

I know that hard feelings can emerge after a campaign like this one. I ask that you set them aside for now. There is nothing that helps Bernie Stone more than for resentments to persist between challengers' supporters. Stone is still the target here. As Greg has said from Day One, this is all about beating Bernie Stone.

Many if not all of you will be contacted by Naisy's campaign. They know you have supported Greg. I'm asking that you support her now. Four more years of Bernie Stone is four years too many...

-- Alan Cottrell

So, I write this post in the spirit of reconciliation and solidarity against a common foe, and invite all of Brewer's supporters to help unseat Stone. With the picture as it was on Tuesday night, not voting for Dolar in the run-offs may basically be a vote for Stone!!

P.S. to anyone who tries to contact Dolar's campaign office this weekend, note that they are taking the weekend off to rest after a chaotic election week.

Will Labor Back Dolar?

Both AFSCME and CFL supported Brewer, and gave him some money and ground troops. SEIU stayed out, but funded anti-Stone mailers.

Now, word is labor will hand-pick the runoffs to throw its weight into. So the $50-100k (or more) question is: will the 50th ward be one of those runoffs?

They absolutely should, because yes, Dolar only got 28.3% to Stone's 48.32%, but combined with Brewer's and Aftab's numbers, she outnumbers Stone. The unions could make the difference between Dolar convincing all of Brewer's supporters to come over or not.

Moreover, one of Stone's largest support bases is seniors, and good luck getting them to come out again.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Truth Behind Brewer's Negative Mailer

I recently got an anti-Dolar mailer from Brewer, and felt the need to respond to the accusations made. Here are the three allegations made against Dolar on that mailer, and the truth behind them:

Statement 1: Dolar has connections to the "Machine" because she was on the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

Truth: Dolar was on the CCHR, but it was in that capacity that she accomplished the removal of 24-hour parking meters illegally placed on Devon Ave. by Bernie Stone. That achievement does not sound like the product of machine politics.

Statement 2: Dolar has a family member on the city's payroll - her husband, a Chicago police officer.

Truth:Yes, Dolar's husband is a cop. Is that a bad thing? Is Brewer saying every single Chicagoan with a family member who risks their safety to protect the rest of us is ... corrupt and unfit for public office?

Statement 3: Dolar started an organization to encourage job placement among minorities while she worked for the city, and therefore abused her city position.

Truth: Dolar, in her personal time, started the organization referred to. But simply because she started the organization while she was working for the city doesn't make it an abuse of power. If that were an abuse of power, then all off-duty Chicago cops who moonlight as private security guards are abusing their city positions.

Chicagoist-censored comment

At approximately 2am this morning, I attempted to publish the following comment in response to this post on Chicagoist. As of this moment, it appears my comment has been censored. Another comment that is dated after I posted mine has been approved and is already up.

To provide context, here are snippets from the blog owner's - Kevin's - previous comments:

"I've been unimpressed with [Dolar's] campaign, and it's lack of sophistication. . . . Admittedly, I don't live in the 50th Ward, but from what I can tell, people seem way more fired up about Brewer than they do Dolar. . . ."

"My analysis is based on my experiences both in the ward, and conversations I've had with people that live there. Just because I don't live in the 50th doesn't mean that I don't know what's going on there. "

Here is my comment:

Kevin, you're going to have to provide much more specific support for your conclusion. Because, from what I see - in addition to everything mentioned by [the previous poster questioning your anti-Dolar evaluation]:

1. One of Brewer's major mail pieces compared Stone to an old VW bus and seemed to imply (probably unintentionally) that old things must be gotten rid of - a pretty egregious faux pas considering the ward's many seniors. Another one of his mailers looked like an ad for a second-rate money-making seminar of the type you find in finance magazines. Pretty "unsophisticated." By comparison, Dolar's mailers discuss ward issues including education generally, ward schools, safety, and point out one instance of her standing up for ward residents by removing illegal parking meters put in by Stone.

2. Dolar's website is updated almost every single day with new content, and almost all of her literature is available online in both web-readable and downloadable formats. Brewer's site changes much less often and none of his literature is available on it.

3. As mentioned above, both NBC News and Chicago Tonight discuss how Dolar is in the best position to take Stone out of office (for NBC News, watch the NBC video, as opposed to the typed web article, to see the exact quote).

4. I have yet to see Brewer's campaign office with more than one dozen people at most, and over 90% of the time there are 3-5 people or less in there. Dolar's office is often jam-packed with 20-30 people on weekends who are eating, phone-banking, and warming up between door-knocking runs. Feel free to verify this with your own eyes today (Sunday), the last weekend day for phone and door canvassing.

5. As [the previous commenter] points out, Dolar's endorsement list continues to grow. Brewer's has frozen.

So, Kevin, are you going to provide more specific evidence to justify your "analysis," or are you just asking us to rely on your "experiences" and "conversations"?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anti-Semitism v. Anti-Brewerism

Nothing in this post is meant to belittle or make light of the seriousness of the alleged threats.

Yesterday, the media reported that Ald. Stone received a piece of anti-semitic mail -- a defaced copy of one of his mailers.

That same media report states that there are now allegations that Stone's own camp may have put the defaced mailer "stunt" in motion to garner sympathy and media attention to his campaign.

If that is true, how pathetic can you be. To exploit such a dire issue for your own political gain is... well, unspeakable.

On a different but similar note...

Greg Brewer's front page now reports a bomb threat that his office received "yesterday" (I don't know if the post was put up today or yesterday). Here's a screen capture of Brewer's front page in case it is removed.

Again, by no means do I belittle the seriousness of the matter... but what does this have to do with ward issues? Is it really important enough to get top billing on the candidate's front page? Meanwhile, correct me if I'm wrong, but we haven't heard a well-developed peep from Brewer's website on any ward issues.

The thing that these two incidents have in common is that, even if they are true, they gain pity/sympathy-based attention for the candidate, not affirmative, skill-based attention. Yes, it's horrible that Stone, Brewer, or anyone be the brunt of such threats. But the attention a candidate gets should be based on the merits of their political performance - whether that's their stances on the issues, their professional abilities, or their personal charm. It's kind of "cheap" to capitalize on victim-based attention. I know for a fact that Dolar's camp has also been victimized by unknown aggressors trying to intimidate them (I was told the facts in confidence, so you'll have to trust me -- and if you don't, then watch as the rest of this sentence remains true), but you will not hear them cry "foul" and play the victim.

Sun Times and National Org. for Women join the fray

By now, everyone and their blog-reading little brother knows about the Sun Times endorsement for Naisy Dolar. If you look closely, you can see a slight bit of hesitation on their part, as they give a nod to Brewer in their bit about the 50th ward. Most likely (though I have no hard evidence to support this), they were not keen on going against the CFL and AFSCME endorsements of Brewer. However, that pro-union bias was still beaten by their clear support of Dolar. Not only is her name in bold, but the Sun Times went on to say:

"She's energetic, has deep roots in the Devon Avenue area and as a former human relations liaison with the city, is experienced at building coalitions."

That endorsement puts both of the major Chicago papers in favor of Dolar. Equally important is the National Organization for Women's endorsement of Dolar. And lest any of you nay-sayers say that's a totally "worthless" [as in meritless] endorsement [because she's "just" a woman getting endorsed by a women's organization], note that NOW endorsed Daley over Dorothy Brown.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dolar Endorsed by the Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune has published its endorsements for the city elections. Regarding the 50th ward, it said:

Ald. Bernard Stone has represented this ward for 33 of his 79 years. He has had a long and rich career, and the council has often benefited from his direct, plain-spoken advice. But he seems to have lost some of the drive for the job. His opponents argue it's time for a change, and they're right. He has three challengers: architect Greg Brewer, businessman Salman Aftab and Naisy Dolar, a diversity training consultant and former director at the city's Commission on Human Relations. Dolar's years as a community leader have prepared her for this. She has a broad platform for improving her city and her community, and she's an energetic political newcomer. Dolar is endorsed.

Meanwhile, Greg Brewer has gotten the Chicago Reader's logo on his front page. Not as an endorsement, but because he accepted Stone's debate challenge published in a Reader article.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Takeaways from the West Rogers Park Community Organization Candidates Forum

As you may know, last week three of the candidates for 50th ward alderman appeared at the West Rogers Park Community Organization's Candidates Forum - Salman Aftab, Greg Brewer, and Naisy Dolar. I thought I would post lasting impressions from the event, for those who were unable to attend.

The room (auditorium) was full, but not packed. A good turnout.

Rather than a blow-by-blow, I'll just jump to the biggest takeaways, mostly sorted by candidate. After all, that's the choice everyone has to make.

Greg Brewer

Unfortunately for Brewer, I have the most to say about him. He was disappointing. For a guy who is pitches himself as a change of pace from Stone, he sure did not sound like it. For starters, he did not answer the issue questions at times, preferring to talk about an issue that was on his mind but not raised by the question itself. For example, when asked about youth opportunities, he quickly turned the discussion to safety rather than focusing his answer on the prompted subject. During a series of "yes or no" questions, Brewer had to be reminded he had to answer the question properly by stating "yes," "no," or "I can't answer that." At times, he seemed to simply prefer not to follow the rules. In such a situation as a candidates' forum, this behavior is pretty inappropriate. Questions are asked in a manner that is supposed to allow an apples-to-apples comparison of each candidate's position on various subjects. In my opinion, to give a non-responsive answer to a question belies an arrogance in Brewer. It's like, "I heard your question, but I'd rather talk about something else, so here is what I'll give you." Isn't this kind of "Take it or leave it" attitude supposed to be the opposite of what Brewer stands for?

Second, the candidates were asked whether they would support one of the other challengers if one of the others ended up in a run-off with Stone. Of the three candidates, Brewer handled this question the worst. He hemmed and hawed about putting enough work into the primary that he expects to be in the run-off. Only in the end did he say tentatively that he would support another challenger in the run-off. Both Dolar and Aftab handled this well, with Aftab saying "ABS - Anyone But Stone." This, again, left me wondering about whether Brewer's motives were genuine.

Finally, Brewer's (and his whole campaign's) biggest faux pas was on everyone's minds, as Dolar highlighted it in her closing comments. In case you are unfamiliar, it was uncertain until just before the forum whether Brewer would be attending. His campaign manager Alan Cottrell alleged there was "bias" and said Brewer would not walk into such a "trap." After an uproar about a candidate actually refusing an opportunity to speak to voters at a candidates' forum, Brewer changed his mind and attended. Dolar capitalized well on Brewer's actions and brought to everyone's minds how unfortunately similar the behavior was to the status quo - indeed, Berny Stone also refused to attend the forum (but did not change his mind about it).

Salman Aftab

Aftab is a funny guy. He is definitely entertaining, and he does well speaking in public (I still laugh about "I don't wanna go in that City Council and somebody call me ho - no.") On the whole, his answers were more graceful than Brewer's, but my concern with him is that he doesn't actually seem to know what an alderman's powers are. He mentioned at one point that he wanted to raise the salaries of school teachers. But that is outside the power of an alderman, because school districts are an independent unit of government and outside aldermanic domain. Prior to the forum, Aftab has also been known to say, "No more TIFs," but it has never been clear whether Aftab thinks aldermen can outlaw TIFs (they can't), or whether he simply means to end all instances of TIF financing in the ward. Even if it's the latter, I question the wisdom of that - as shady as Chicago's TIF practices are, the TIF financing structure does help grow business and turn neighborhoods around.

So, even though I would like to have Aftab for a friend, I don't know that I would want to have him for an alderman. There is also the unaddressed issue of his assault of Ifti Nasim, a gay writer whom Aftab attempted to attack in a restaurant with a kitchen knife while yelling that Nasim was an "embarrassment" to South Asians.

Naisy Dolar

Last but certainly not least, there was Naisy Dolar. She has improved immensely in her public speaking skills. She has learned to command a room and is much better at suppressing the urge to fill every pause with a sound (I can be guilty of the same behavior when I speak publicly). Unfortunately, she drank too much coffee during the forum, and while her energy started out at a good level, by the end of it she was way too caffeinated. But she provided a responsive answer to every issue question and had well-thought-out, sensible platforms -- though, at one or two points, she provided a relatively generic answer (not that unusual for a politician). Of the three, she also came off as the most genuine, sincere, and accessible to any ward resident. Brewer did mention her faux pas with exactly how many years she has lived in the ward - saying something like "You don't get points for pretending to live in the ward all your life." But that attack seemed to fall flat with the audience, as it does not appear many people are buying his conspiracy theory that her "lie" about living in the ward for 30 years versus some 26 indicates some unknown, darker intent to deceive the voters. As one commenter on this blog has already pointed out, Rich Miller, who runs the renowned Capitol Fax Blog, also put his foot down on unsubstantiated speculation about some devious intent on Dolar's part. The more distasteful aspect to Brewer's "You don't get points" comment was that he immediately followed it up with praise for his own "worldly" and "international" experience, implying that Dolar's home-grown familiarity with Chicago/the ward was beneath his more "cosmopolitan" perspective -- i.e., attempting to portray her as "provincial" or a "small-town girl." This, too, fell flat considering Dolar answered the prepared issue questions better than Brewer.

* * *

There will likely not be another opportunity to get all the candidates in one room for debate, as this was the last candidates' forum before the election. Appropriately enough, for me, the forum solidified my support for Naisy Dolar. I hope my disclosure of this support does not overly taint my future posts to this blog; I intend to continue to be as fair as possible. And I do welcome people to try and change my mind with coherent points and, where relevant, citations to evidence. But, there you have it, as of a few days ago, I believe I support Naisy Dolar.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Internet(s)

At least a couple online articles have pointed to our ward's race as tech-savvy and possessing a significant internet presence, including the News-Star and the Capitol Fax Blog, which has called our ward's race "the most Internet-savvy battle in the city."

So I thought I would examine the issue:

Does the Internet a Campaign Make?

In my opinion, the internet can only be one facet of several in a campaign. The amount of people who use the internet is limited; the percentage of internet users who surf/read the blogs is even smaller. Internet campaigning also leans heavily toward younger voters, by simple virtue of the fact that the newer technology is more widely used by younger people (no slight against my older, wiser neighbors of course :) ).

At the same time, there is absolutely no substitute for in-person contact. The internet's strength is also its weakness. It is cheaper and faster to establish and maintain a presence on the internet, and two or three people posting can achieve wide readership. But it also feels cheaper and faster. It will take me only an hour or so to post something (relatively) thoughtful and substantive, and after that hour investment my site counter tells me several dozen people will read it (and growing!). By contrast, to reach that number of people either door-to-door or even by phone, it will take more than one session of phone banking or possibly the equivalent of several days of the candidate door-knocking. But when a resident/constituent sees a human take the time out of their day to come talk to him/her about a candidate, it has much more potential to make the resident feel important and his/her vote appreciated by the candidate. Of course, there are people who just hang up the phone or shut the door on a volunteer. But having door-knocked myself (not in this election, because work has me full-time and then some), I know that the vast majority of people are receptive to someone approaching them on behalf of a candidate.

That said, it is no secret that Brewer's campaign wields some internet heavy-hitters. But I have yet to have any personal contact from Brewer's campaign (nor Aftab's nor Stone's). The only people who have come knocking at my door have been Dolar folks (though it's possible I might have been at work - but the hours I spend at the office itself are pretty average, I just do a lot of work at home). At the same time, it now looks as if Dolar's site is the most consistently updated (I don't imagine Brewer's tech savvy people are happy about that). There was a long while that it wasn't getting updated, but it looks like her team is stepping up to the plate as the big day draws nearer. New stories and issues are getting put up almost every day - I can literally learn more about her platforms as we get closer to the election and I need to make a decision. Most importantly, the new updates are right on the front page, so I don't have to dig around clicking for them. In sharp contrast, Stone's site appears to be the most static - it's got a real "early web" feel to it. The only recent updates on Aftab's site appear to be in the form of a ticker tape along the top and left column of the website that announces new news. Last but not least, Brewer's site sports one recent update as far as I can tell -- the Early Voting post near the top. Other than that, the front page has two photos from early autumn 2006. Yes, I am only looking at the front page. Why? Because that's where a casual resident/voter will look.

In the defense of Brewer's team, their internet talent may very well be primarily in blogging and not in webpage design. But as I mentioned earlier, blogosphere surfers are an even smaller share of voters than voters who take a single internet address they've been given and check it out. If blogging is in fact the strongest suit of the Brewer team, it's very much "niche" and not the basket I would want to put all my internet campaign eggs into. Were I a casual repeat surfer, the only site I would keep revisiting is Dolar's.

Hence, my conclusion: internet advantage Dolar.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Stone Welcomes Me to America

It seems appropriate that the first substantive post on this blog be about the incumbent.

I recently received this piece of literature from Berny Stone's campaign (click for larger images):

My initial reaction to it was: are all of these people on the front new immigrants? The statement, "Welcome to America" is typically what one says to new immigrants. Did he send this to me thinking I'm a new immigrant? Because that's hardly so - in fact, I've been in this ward for a long time. Long enough, in fact, to feel neglected by the alderman.

I don't think this is the reaction the alderman intended to evoke in me, but maybe that's a sign of how out-of-touch he is with the residents. In fact, this piece seemed to be a "Berny-come-late" response to the perception that Stone is not very in-touch with the ward's increasingly diverse population. That perception may be particularly strong with Naisy Dolar supporters, who likely see the young, female minority candidate as the polar opposite to the old-school machine politician.

Re: the promises on the back page. An incumbent is in a particular pickle (or sometimes, advantage) because he can't just make promises about what he *will* do. He has to show what he *has* done. And in that, an incumbent can't get away with vague references to what his accomplishments have been. Words used on this piece like "support" (used twice) and "include"
fall flatter than bullet points recalling specific instances where he showed his commitment to the ward's diversity in some way. It goes back to gradeschool writing lessons: it is better to show than tell. Sure, it might take a little more space. But does this piece look like it was short on space?

At the end of the day, I am left with the conclusion that Berny Stone doesn't really have any proof of his past "support."

Friday, February 2, 2007


Welcome neighbor or fellow concerned citizen, even if you do not live in our ward or in our state.

I have decided to start this blog because as far as I can tell, the majority of other blogs discussing the aldermanic race in the 50th Ward of Chicago, Illinois degenerate into petty mudslinging and character assassination on a daily basis.

One is surely run by Greg Brewer's campaign itself and its whole purpose seems to be to discuss off-target issues.

In contrast, the aim of this blog is to discuss the issues -- at the end of the day, isn't that how we are supposed to make our decision?

For the Record
1. I do not work for any of the candidates.
2. Comments are extremely welcome.
3. Comments will be moderated simply to prevent phishers and other heinous characters from posting comments. Differing views will not be censored.
4. A minimum level of civility will be expected of all commenters.

Without further ado... may the "best for the 50th" win!