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  1. chicagotribune.com
    Candidates line up in 48th Ward
    Experienced hopefuls, fresh faces seek to succeed longtime Ald. Mary Ann Smith
    By John Byrne, Tribune reporter

    January 26, 2011


    The Andersonville shopping area on the western edge of the 48th Ward is the envy of many Chicago neighborhoods.

    With a bevy of funky, locally owned stores and noteworthy restaurants, Clark Street on the Far North Side remains a crowded commercial district at a time when many blocks around the city are watching vacant storefronts proliferate.

    Other areas of the ward, which includes the crowded apartment buildings of Edgewater and parts of Uptown, are considerably grittier. Still, longtime Ald. Mary Ann Smith likes to boast about the lakefront ward’s diversity and point out it has been spared the worst of the economic downturn.

    But Smith is stepping down after 21 years when her term ends this spring, and there’s a crowded field of candidates who want to replace her. Smith’s would-be successors warn the future isn’t guaranteed. More needs to be done to make residents safe and find the money to continue other essential city services, they say.

    The 48th Ward is part of the change coming soon to the City Council. It’s one of at least 11 wards that will elect a new alderman either Feb. 22 or in April 5 runoffs if no candidate scores a majority. The new crop of aldermen plus a new mayor to succeed the retiring Richard Daley means there will be a new dynamic in city government this year.

    Among the five candidates seeking the 48th Ward post are a state lawmaker, a paramedic, a juvenile counselor, a water department worker and a wine shop owner.

    Smith backs state Rep. Harry Osterman, a Democrat who has represented the area in the Illinois House since 2000. Osterman has deep political roots in the ward.

    His mother, Kathy Osterman, was alderman until 1989, when Daley named her director of special events for the city. Smith was Kathy Osterman’s administrative assistant, and the mayor tapped her to replace Osterman on the City Council in the first of his dozens of aldermanic appointments.

    Harry Osterman puts public safety at the top of his list of concerns for the ward. He opposes a plan floated by police Superintendent Jody Weis to redeploy some police officers so there are more in higher-crime areas of the city, a move that would likely cost the 48th Ward cops.

    “There are parts of the ward that are teetering on the edge, and that’s going to make the crime situation worse,” he said.

    Osterman said he would seek to hire more police officers if elected. To pay for it, he would try to change state law to allow money raised through special property tax districts to be used for police salaries.

    The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Osterman, as has the Chicago Federation of Labor. That union put its stamp on the 2007 aldermanic election by spending heavily on behalf of its favored candidates, several of whom beat Daley-backed incumbents.

    The Service Employees International Union has not thrown its weight behind anyone in the 48th Ward campaign.

    Jose Arteaga, a paramedic, got into the race because he sees evidence that crime has gone over the edge in parts of his neighborhood. After a woman was attacked outside his building and there was a shooting in front of a nearby bar, Arteaga said friends urged him to run for the seat to bring attention to the situation.

    “Businesses are moving out of the ward because people don’t want to shop in areas where they don’t feel safe,” Arteaga said. “There’s so much promise here, and it just isn’t being met.”

    The ward’s crumbling infrastructure and stagnant development compelled Steven Chereska, a counselor at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, to throw his hat in the ring.

    Patrick McDonough, who works for the city Water Department and curates the politically themed web site Chicagoclout.com, said it’s easy to pinpoint where savings can be found in city government.

    “The greatest problem we have in Chicago is corruption and the corruption tax,” said McDonough, who was fired in 2005 for allegedly violating the city’s requirement that workers live in the city limits. He sued, claiming he was actually terminated for blowing the whistle on abuses in the city’s Hired Truck program, and won his job back.

    McDonough said that if elected he would work to crack down on firms that falsely claim to be in Chicago while vying for city business.

    Philip Bernstein, a wine shop owner who is mounting his first campaign for public office, said he thinks it would be a mistake for 48th Ward voters to accede to Smith’s wishes by sending Osterman to City Hall.

    “All one has to do is look at the sorry state of the state of Illinois’ finances, and here’s a guy who’s been in the state legislature for the past 10, 11 years,” Bernstein said. “I’ve heard (Osterman) talk, and it’s one platitude after another.”

    Bernstein argues that the money to pay for important city programs such as police already is in the budget. He said he is running to push the next mayor and council to seriously analyze the city’s finances and debate major economic decisions like the much-despised parking meter lease before voting.

    “If you had 26 people like me on the City Council, we would have a very different situation,” said Bernstein, who lists on his resume that he is a former planner with the Army Corps of Engineers. “We wouldn’t be the laughingstock of the country.”


    Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

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