End of an era in 50th Ward

By Cristina Aguirre

By Darryl Holliday and Heather McGraw

Having lost his bid for re-election to what would have been an 11th term, Alderman Berny Stone (50th Ward) said he still has some things he wants to say about Chicago and the changing face of its City Council.

Stone was drawn into a runoff race in the Feb. 22 general election after nearly 40 years of representing the 50th Ward. On April 5, the second longest-serving alderman in the City Council lost his seat when challenger Debra Silverstein took nearly 62 percent of the vote. Stone won 38 percent of the 9,629 ballots cast, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

“There are so many things to do,” Stone said as the results came in to his ward headquarters at 6199 N. Lincoln Ave. “There are so many things I wanted to finish off. I’ve never been one who hid his light under a basket, and I won’t do it now. There are things I will have to say, and I’m not afraid to say them either.”

At 83 years old, the World War II veteran noted his welcoming home of Vietnam War troops as one of his many political highlights, alongside the saving of Thillens Stadium, 6404 N. Kedzie Ave., and development of the 50th Ward.

“We did what we could,” Stone said. “I’m sorry that in the judgment of the voters it wasn’t what they felt was good enough, but I’m not ashamed.”

Silverstein, a certified public accountant and wife of Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, will assume the role of alderman on May 16.

“I just really feel, and I’ve been saying this the entire election, that the people of the 50th Ward are ready for change,” she said. “It could be really something special, and I think this is what the people want. They want somebody [who is] going to be out there that’s going to listen … and [who is] going to take what they say to heart and to try and do things for the betterment of the community.”

The two opponents faced a contentious election from the start as allegations of ageism, sexism and inappropriately used funds ran throughout the race. A legal complaint filed by the Silverstein camp against Stone is awaiting decision from the Board of Elections, which will decide whether funds from Stone’s campaign were misused by a local ward group to target Silverstein in mailers and so-called robo-calls.

Silverstein gained the support of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel in the general and runoff election, as well as large donations from local unions who contributed to

her campaign.

Commenting on the lead-up to his loss, Stone said a combination of factors contributed, including the powerful backing behind his opponent.

“I was going against the machine, [and] in the past I’ve been with the machine,” Stone said on the night regarding Chicago’s aldermanic progressives. “I had everything going against me. I had the committeemen, I had the mayor-elect [and] I had the unions. I had everything against me.”

Bill Holland, an 88-year-old Rogers Park resident, considers Stone’s loss one for the whole neighborhood.

“What’s coming in now is inexperienced, absolutely no background—[there’s] nothing there,” Holland said. “[Stone] has all the brains. He knows [the ward] inside and out, and he can do a lot more with this area by staying in.”

However, 50th Ward resident Bob Tisch, a Silverstein supporter who claims to be “approximately the same age as the ward,” attended her celebration for similar but opposite reasons.

“This race was over at 7:01 [p.m.] when the judge closed the door,” Tisch said of her victory. “They knew it from who was voting where.”

As the 50th Ward prepares for its first aldermanic change in nearly four decades, an era of Chicago’s City Council is changing as well. Eighteen new aldermen will fill the chamber seats in May, while four incumbent aldermen have found themselves suddenly out of work.

Despite her high-powered backing, Silverstein said she won’t be a rubber stamp for the coming Emanuel administration.

“I’m looking forward to being an independent person in the City Council,” she said. “I think it’s time. I think we need to get the confidence back to the people that government is actually working for them.”

Alderman Joe Moore, independent representative of the 49th Ward, was on hand at Silverstein’s “landslide victory” to support the alderman-elect.

“I am very pleased to report that I’m going to have a new neighbor,” Moore said.