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.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

YOU CERTAINLY HAVE GREG BREWER PEGGED CORRECTLY.HE IS A FRAUD ,CLAIMING TO BE A MAN OF THE COMMUNITY,WHEN HE REALLY IS A LOCAL"MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE" FOR SKIDMORE-OWINGS(HIS EMPLOYER),THE DFA, THE LEADERS OF SOME UNIONS (WHOSE MEMBERS INTERESTS ARE FURTHEST FROM THEIR MINDS,AND DEVON BANK.WITH ALL THOSE MASTERS HOW INDEPENDENT IS GREG BREWER?WHOSE INTERESTS WOULD HE SERVE? CERTAINLY NOT THE INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE 50TH WARD!

willow9 said...

concerned citizen: I agree with your "takeaway" 100%. I too was at the forum and was concerned with the sneer Brewer gave to Aftab when Aftab was making his point. I did feel that Dolar effectivly answered my questions about her qualifications but Brewer skirted the issue.

Hugh said...

> 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)

Yes, they can.

The City Council must approve all TIFs. Our aldermen can stop new TIFs if they so desire.

Further, the City Council could expire all the existing TIFs ahead of schedule if they so chose.

Educate yourself

Online resources for learning more about TIFs

Hugh said...

> 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.

The yes/no questions are inappropriate in a candidate's forum. They do a disservice to educating the public and served no purpose other than "gotcha" politics.

Hugh said...

> ... the TIF financing structure does help grow business and turn neighborhoods around.

May I ask, what is your source on this?

This assertion is not supported by anything in your post.

Hugh said...

> well-thought-out, sensible platforms

Can you please give some examples?

Hugh said...

WHOSE INTERESTS DOES STONE SERVE?

Amrish Mahajan
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mutual Bank
6335 N Western.

To the Democratic Club of the 50th Ward
Bernard L. Stone, Chairman
Ilana Feketitsch, Treasurer

$2,000.00 5/9/2006
$1,000.00 4/27/2006
$2,000.00 6/10/2005
$1,000.00 6/11/2004
$300.00 5/23/2003
$300.00 5/3/2002
$300.00 5/18/2001

To Bernard L Stone Campaign Committee

$1,500.00 12/13/2002

Illinois State Board of Elections Campaign Disclosure

Anonymous said...

Brewer skirts all issues.i agree with the poster who wrote that Brewer is a fraud.He has no real issues and looks at everything through the narrow ,selfish prism of certain BUNGALOW DWELLERS' prejudices and the agendas of far-left wing radical groups. Don't let his appearance fool you-he is a radical in conservative attire.

Anonymous said...

I went to the forum because I was undecided between Dolar and Brewer. I had already made up my mind that Stone is useless and Aftab will run a poor 4th in this race.

I'm glad to say that because I attended the meeting I have decided to vote for Brewer based upon his qualifications, sincerity and grasp of reality.

Dolar was very nervous and it showed with her foot tapping constantly and her death grip of the microphone to boom her emotions. That actually pushed me away from her. If she can't handle a neighborhood forum how will she handle city hall meetings?

Aftab could not be spontaneous. He constantly refered back to his poorly assembled notes and scrambled for something to say that might apply. If he really had a grasp of the needs of the 50th he would have had this in the forefront of his mind. He went down in flames and failed terribly.

Brewer went with the flow. True, he decided to not stick to the Yes/No answers 2 times however I can not find fault with that based upon the forum format. I've attended many poitical forums in my day and never have seen a Yes/No segment.

No candidates were supposed to read from notes in their opening statements but they ALL did. That evens the tally there.

I'll mention a couple observations about the posting by "Concerned Citizen".

There was NO uproar regarding Brewer attending. I've got to believe every campaign committee was in discussions and negotiating with WRPCO on the format.

Brewer did the absolute BEST job of answering the questions directly. You may not agree with his answeres but his DID answer the questions instead of dancing the issues like Dolar and Aftab.

Final score:
Brewer +1
Dolar 0
Aftab -1
Stone -100

Anonymous said...

All members of the Chicago Board of education are confirmed by the City Council. So Aldermen do, in fact, have a legitimate oversight role over teacher salaries and anything else that board does. The parallel would be members of the U.S. Senate stating that they would not vote to confirm judges with particular views.

Concerned Citizen said...

hugh:

> 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)

Approving a TIF is different from outlawing TIFs. I am aware aldermen must approve TIFs, but that's a very different promise from promising to "outlaw" TIFs categorically.

> ... the TIF financing structure does help grow business and turn neighborhoods around.

See, for example, this article from the Government Finance Review. Excerpt: "Through TIF, Chicago has become one of the strongest industrial markets in the country." Plenty of other sources on Google as well. Again, TIF is also well-criticized, as pointed out in the link you reference.

> well-thought-out, sensible platforms

See Dolar's vision page on her website; she raised several of these points at the forum. Then, compare these issue-by-issue discussions with Brewer's vision page.

Anonymous said...

It is important for "CONCERNED CITIZEN" and all "READERS" TO REALIZE THAT H-U-G-H IS A SERIAL POSTER who will dominate any BLOG that will let him .Hugh hates all incumbents,with a special personal PREJUDICE directed at ALD. STONE.Hugh is an INNUENDO ARTIST and NEGATIVE SPIN-MEISTER AND SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.

Hugh said...

> See, for example, this article...

About the Authors

"LORI HEALEY is First Deputy Commissioner for the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. JOHN F. MCCORMICK is TIF Financial Manager in the Chicago Department of Finance."

I strongly recommend you get beyond the information provided by the City in your evaluation of the efficacy of the City's TIF program.

Chicago's TIF program is particularly vulnerable to criticism on the critieria you mentioned, fostering industry. The record of TIF in Chicago on creating and retaining industrial jobs is abysmal.

The main contribution of Chicago's TIF program is luxury condos.

Here's one example of an industrial TIF in Chicago:

Those Slippery TIFs
The Pilsen tax increment financing fund was created to promote industry. How does a 391-condo development qualify?

By Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, December 9, 2005

Hugh said...

> well-thought-out, sensible platforms

I understand each candidate has a website, thanks. I was more asking which platforms struck you as particularly well thought out and sensible.

Anonymous said...

CONCERNED CITIZEN-I AGREE WITH THE POSTERWHO GAVE THE "HEADS- UP" REGARDING HUGH. AS THE POSTER SAID,HUGH WILL DOMINATE ANY BLOG COMMENTS SECTION THAT WILL LET HIM.AS YOU CAN SEE HE IS OFF AND RUNNING HERE.THE MAN HAS A HATEFUL OBSESSION ABOUT INCUMBENTS,AND WOULD LIKE TO DICTATE HOW SOCIETY SHOULD RUN WITHOUT EVER FACING THE VOTERS,HIMSELF.

Anonymous said...

It's clear that this blog has a Naisy Dolar slant.

That said I too attended the forum and found Greg to be the best candidate out of the three in attendance.

His answers were well grounded and full of substance. He came off like a statesmen with well thought out solutions.

On the other hand Aftab was full of jokes and kept claiming he was the only "reform" candidate - uh - world to Aftab - all the three challengers are reform candidates.

Naisy came off like a cheerleader. She was using a lot of buzzwords and dancing around the issues. Sadly, I was turned off by her voice too.

The only thing I could keep thinkign was wow! who would I rathere hear at a town hall meeting? Nasal Naisy or Breezy Brewer?

It's a sad reality. But the voice aside - I did ultimately prefer Brewer's answers - they were right on.

Anonymous said...

One thing that isn't right-on is the SHELL GAME aka Brewer's campaign disclosures.After misleading voters with a "CREATIVE ACCOUNTING" disclosure for the end of December,GREG"MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE"BREWER SHOWS NOT A THING IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY ,TO DATE.WHAT ABOUT HIS UNION HELP?THAT HAS TO SHOW ,SOMEWHERE. THE COMMUNITY MUST DEMAND THAT GREG BREWER COMPLY WITH STATE LAW!

Hugh said...

Hey, anon, maybe you can help me with some questions I've been wondering about.

You know the $100K in the City budget for the Vice Mayor's office, where does that money go?

And another thing,

Who is Stone's campaign manager?

His campaign finance disclosures do not list any expenditures for staff for his campaign.

Thanks in advance for your help.

BrewerAJoke said...

I feel bad for everyone in the ward supporting Brewer. Brewer has NO idea what the issues are! Before the polls, he had NO idea that the MAIN CONCERNS in the 50th ward are SAFETY and EDUCATION.

he ONLY added those issues to his FRONTPAGE and to the top of the list of his issues page because he JUST FOUND OUT from a poll that 50th ward residents care about those two issues most. Originally, he was only about development. As a developer for a firm that is CLOSELY connected with the city -- I WONDER who he owes favors too post election. By the way.. good luck repaying that 85,000 debt!

Brewer will only drop the race if he can get that money back. It shows how much he really cares about this race. BUT he is an idiot cuz he spent all that money paying his PROFESSIONAL team.

Hugh said...

> he is an idiot cuz he spent all that money paying his PROFESSIONAL team.

Berny's smarter. He uses TAXPAYER money.

Anonymous said...

Brewer Field Director Bridget Dooley has gone over the line.This left-wing Bloomingdale radical has gone on a wild Hate-Driven Dirty Trick binge directed at Brewer's opponents with a VALENTINE'S DAY" CHARADE that was hateful,rather than loving;Bridget,who regularly mocks Indian-American's by posting demeaning "BOLLYWOOD FRIDAY" VIDEOS ON HER "bridget in the sixth blogspot" is a CARD-CARRYING MEMBER"OF THE "BLAME AMERICA FIRST"dfa( disguised fascists of america).

Hugh said...

Bridget has gone over the line?

You mean Bridget chased Ilana down the street swearing at her?

Ilana: The 50th Ward's Queen of Mean

Hugh said...

> regularly mocks Indian-American's

you feel mocked personally?

who died and appointed you spokesperson for Indian-Americans?

we are very lucky to have you around, scowering the neighborhood for slights against our minorities

Hugh said...

> well-thought-out, sensible platforms

let's talk issues

which of Naisy's platforms strikes you as particularly well-thought-ou and/or sensible?

Concerned Citizen said...

Hugh:

As an example, I am attracted to Naisy's stances on safety and education. Yes, safety is not something you can really argue against, but her concern and experience working on hate crime awareness and prevention, IMHO, is especially on-point for the 50th, seeing as we're one of (or the?) most diverse neighborhood in Chicago. I can't recall where I heard it, but I heard that the 50th ward leads the city in the number of hate crimes.

I also distinctly remember being impressed with her ability to speak about youth opportunities. She discussed education both inside and outside the classroom as it applies to kids in grade school all the way up to internships.

And yes, I like that Dolar is open to considering TIFs as a way to invigorate the local economy and not just benefit high-end developments. Note my use of "considering" - I don't know that it's the right or wrong way, and I don't see Dolar as "pushing" TIFs either. As you have pointed out, it has been misused quite a bit to benefit a narrow segment of people. But I believe Dolar is correct that they should be considered, and I believe she will only pursue them if they benefit the ward.

Your turn-- whose platforms do you like or dislike? (skip Stone) Or, which platforms of Dolar's do/don't you like?