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Katie Banks/MEDILL

Volunteers for 50th Ward aldermanic candidate Debra Silverstein prepare to mobilize voters on Tuesday morning.  

Challenger looks to unseat longtime Ald. Bernard Stone in 50th Ward

by Katie Banks
April 12, 2011

Change has been a theme of the 2011 Chicago elections, and the decision on who will represent the North Side’s 50th Ward on the City Council turned on whether voters would seek the new or stick with the old.

Voters went to the polls Tuesday in 14 aldermanic runoffs that will further shape the council that works with incoming mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel has been campaigning for nine candidates he feels will advance his agenda in City Council.

“It’s important for the city, not for me,” Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune Monday. “I need a new partner. I was upfront in the election about that and that partner is the City Council that wants to work in the spirit of reform and change the way business is conducted in city government.”

Voters already elected six new aldermen to the Council in February. At least four more new aldermen will join them, more if some incumbents fall Tuesday.

Of the 10 incumbents running, 50th Ward Ald. Bernard Stone is doing so without Emanuel’s support. Instead, the mayor-elect is backing accountant Debra Silverstein.

Silverstein, wife of 50th Ward Democratic Committeeman and state Sen. Ira Silverstein, is fighting hard to unseat Stone -- the second-longest serving alderman, who has represented his ward since 1973.

Silverstein has pledged to tackle service issues in the ward that many voters feel Stone has consistently neglected.

“Pot holes, tree trimming, garbage can pickup, all the city services. Berny has been very bad about them,” Scott Cisek, Silverstein’s campaign manager, said.

Stone, naturally, disagrees. His campaign website showcases a long list of accomplishments, including services he has procured for residents.

Kyle Hillman, a resident of the 49th Ward, said he volunteers for Silverstein because he wants to see his neighboring ward prosper economically.

“If the 49th and 50th Wards don’t work together, you get uneven development,” Hillman said. “As soon as you cross the ward line you see empty storefronts. It’s a city, so the success of my ward is directly connected to the success of the 50th.”

Silverstein appears to have a good shot at winning, thanks to anti-incumbent sentiment, significant financial contributions from Emanuel’s political action group, called the New Chicago Committee, and an abundance of support from labor unions.

Kevin Loeza, Silverstein’s field director for union volunteers and member of UNITE HERE Local 1, said he wants to elect Silverstein because she will be more responsive to the concerns of ward residents.

“We want to build a City Council that’s closer to the people than to big institutions and lobbyists,” Loeza said.