If you run for alderman in Chicago you need a sponsor: the political machine, unions, or a political party nominally affiliated with the Democrats or Republicans.
Independents do run and win on occasion, but quickly fold into one of the three categories mentioned above so they can get reelected.
In the 48th Ward, Ald. Harry Osterman, whose family roots run deep in Chicago politics, has a challenger.
But you wouldn’t know that if you walked down the busy Argyle St. and saw all of Osterman’s blue election signs in almost every restaurant and storefront window.
His opponent is David Earl Williams III, who ran as a Republican for Congress and was a former Libertarian Party of Illinois Lt. Gov. candidate.
Osterman is an alderman who is well-liked and generally respected on the North Side. He has offered strong support of public education, is proud of the turnaround at Senn High School where enrollment has increased significantly, and he has taken courageous stands on the cor-rupt Tax Increment Financing [TIF] program that seems more often to subsidize developments in wealthy areas rather than in blighted areas as it was intended to do.
He voted against the TIF financed luxury condos in Uptown at Montrose and Clarendon and recently said he will vote against the controversial $900 million Lincoln Yards TIF development in the 2nd Ward that most of the surrounding communities oppose.
In his weekly newsletter Osterman wrote that it was “reprehensible” that all of the affordable housing units required to be built under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance would not be built on site, as he requires in his North Side ward.
“As a city, we should (incentivize) investment in the South and West Sides, areas that have been largely excluded from the economic development we have seen for decades on the North Side and downtown,” Osterman wrote. “A TIF for Lincoln Yards is counter-intuitive to growing the city’s economy in an equitable fashion, as it is the only undeveloped land on the North Side, situated between two affluent, transit-rich neighborhoods. I am not convinced that public funding is needed in order to attract development here.”
He also said the inclusion of small music venues in the Lincoln Yards plan directly threatens the success of the Uptown Entertainment District to the south of his ward where the city will help renovate the historic Uptown Theatre, along private efforts with Double Door, TimeLine Theater, and The Baton’s planned locations to Uptown.
“The city’s investment in another nearby mini-entertainment district undercuts the hard work of stakeholders and local leaders who worked tirelessly to breathe new life into Uptown,” Ald. Osterman said.
There are five TIF districts in the 48th ward, which is part of the Northside Red/ Purple Line TIF district. Bryn Mawr Ave (near lake) is a SSA (Special Service Area) and the east side of Clark St. (Andersonville) are a few. In 2013, the ward had $22.3 million in TIF funds, with some funds used to renovate the CTA Red/Purple “L” line and former Ald. Mary Ann Smith secured $55 million for the ward schools.
Osterman touted his accomplishments in his recent newsletter before the Feb. 26 election. He said he helped pass the Senior Relocation Ordinance that will force developers with city funding to communicate and coordinate with the elderly impacted by construction, and co-sponsored an ordinance to enable the city’s inspector general to conduct a full review of City Council committees, a forensic audit of the Workers Comp program and demand an alderman to be a full-time position with no outside employment. This was in the wake of the FBI investigation of Ald. Ed Burke for shaking down a Burger King operator, and his private law practice that helps property owners lower real estate tax assessments on their properties.
So what is wrong with Ald. Osterman?
“He’s voted 94% of the time with the Chicago machine, favors the affluent part of the ward (East Andersonville) more than Edgewater and North Uptown, drops the ball on providing basic services unless you’re his friend, and was one of the many aldermen who tried to push a $5 million settlement on Laquan McDonald’s family to cover up the actions of former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke and aid Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 Mayoral re-election prospects,” says Williams.
Williams, a Navy veteran, has lived in the ward for six years and said people asked him to run so that voters would have a choice. He said he favors more affordable housing, rent control, an elected school board, a LaSalle St. tax to give home owners relief, and a Civilian Police Accountability council, and wants to preserve Edgewater’s historic landmarks and enforce littering laws. He said he’s also in favor of legalizing marijuana, building a casino and reducing aldermanic salaries from $104,000 to $73,000.
He said he’s been endorsed by mayoral candidate and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson as well as progressive Ald. Scott Waguespack [32nd].
Williams said he would preserve the Edgewater historical landmarks such as the 1912 house and 64-unit apartment building on 6300 N. Winthrop block which is in the process of being torn down by Loyola Univ. to build a sophomore dormitory. This will displace the low-income residents, he said.
“It isn’t fair for one part of the ward (East Andersonville) to have a voice when it comes to downzoning to save 2-flat apartment buildings, but ignore the residents of Edgewater by not allowing them to voice and vote their concerns on these local matters,” he said. “Due to gentrification, many low income families who have been loyal, longtime residents of the ward are being pushed out.”
Williams says he no longer is a Libertarian and is now Independent because he doesn’t agree with lowering the age of consent to 13. He said his campaign has raised $10,000, while Ald. Osterman has nearly $97,000 cash on hand according to Illinois Sunshine.
Unlike other incumbents, Ald. Osterman chose not to challenge the 1,902 signatures Williams gathered for his petition.
This article provided by NewsEdge.