Debra Silverstein, Candidate for 50th Ward Alderman

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Candidate Full Name: Debra L. Silverstein

Office: 50th Ward Alderman

Email Address:

Web Site:

Campaign Name: Friends for Debra Silverstein

Campaign Office Mailing Address: 2949 W. Devon, Suite B, Chicago, IL 60659

Phone: 773-465-1216

Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)

1. What is the most important issue that you will address in your ward?

We put constituent services first and I have the most responsive and efficient aldermanic office in the City of Chicago. I have close relationships with the City's commissioners and we work tirelessly to fix potholes, clean sewers, complete tree trims and remove graffiti as quickly as possible.

I have maximized investment in our community to benefit our constituents and businesses.

Our ward's streets and alleys were devastated by years of neglect. For years, very little was spent to fix our city streets. Since 2011, I have secured millions of dollars in discretionary funding to repave more than 100 streets in the 50th Ward. The infrastructure throughout our premier business district along Devon Avenue was crumbling and desperately out of date. After petitioning the Office of the Mayor and working with other elected officials, I delivered a multi-million dollar streetscape project that includes new streets, wider sidewalks, new lighting, street furniture, new planters and trees and features to improve pedestrian safety. This multi-year project, which is currently underway, will drive the economy and investment in one of the City's most vibrant business districts.

The streetscape project includes $1.7 million in state funding.

I obtained an additional $1 million in state funding for an expansion of the North Shore Channel Bike Trail. This money will allow us to build a new crossing for the trail at Lincoln Avenue, giving residents a beautiful and fully connected bike path that stretches for many miles to the north and south.

Additional state funding includes over $1 million for residential street lighting.

When I ran for Office, I pledged to improve our community's many parks. I was successful in securing funding for eight state-of-the-art neighborhood playgrounds, one for each of the parks in the 50th Ward.

When the historic Indian Boundary Park Fieldhouse was destroyed by fire, we worked with the Chicago Park District to ensure it was restored to exacting standards.

2. What are your plans for helping fight crime in your ward?

Strong relationships and leadership are critical to public safety. I speak with or text the 24th Police District, the 17th Police District or my contacts at the Office of the Cook County Sheriff on a daily basis. When I took Office, these relationships did not exist. Since the start of my term in Office, I - or someone from my staff - have attended all CAPS meetings with residents. Our CAPS program is active and has been effective in addressing local concerns thanks in part to our involvement. I talk regularly with constituents and business owners about safety issues that concern them so I am aware of the issues and I am able to hold police officials accountable for addressing these issues.

In 2011, I initiated a program through which I meet monthly with business owners to address specific problems along Devon Avenue. The ongoing program was completely new and has been very successful. It has led to additional video monitoring by businesses along Devon Avenue and these recordings have been used to arrest and prosecute criminals.

In partnership with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, I have hosted several special, day-long policing events with a multi-jurisdictional task force with numerous public safety agencies, including the 24th Police District.

These events, which were the first-of-their-kind in the City of Chicago, flooded the neighborhood with more than 50 Sheriff's Police and Chicago Police officers. The taskforce has netted dozens of arrests in our community including the criminals with outstanding warrants, violent offenders and drug dealers. Drugs and weapons were taken off the streets. Other wards have adopted this program following the successes in the 50th Ward.

Additionally, Devon Avenue has been the scene of several tragic accidents involving vehicles pedestrians. The new streetscape project incorporates engineering solutions to slow traffic and prioritize pedestrians over motor vehicles. Upon completion, this roadway will be dramatically safer for everyone.

3. What, if any, city assets would you consider privatizing to raise money?

I oppose the privatization of public assets and I will continue to fight efforts to sell off City assets. I support the Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance to establish a process to provide for public input and City Council review of any proposed City privatization plans.

4. Do you support or oppose the vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019?

In December 2014, I proudly co-sponsored and voted for the proposal to increase the minimum wage increase. The people who buy the groceries and pay the rent in Chicago's working families deserve more than just enough to get by; The City Council voted overwhelmingly to deliver a living wage to people struggling to make ends meet.

My 2011 campaign was actively supported by UNITE HERE Local 1 and, after I was elected to office, I lobbied on behalf of their members in support of a living wage for their employees. In September 2014, I was proud to see an executive order come forth to immediately increase the minimum wage for all City service, construction and concession contract employees. This action helped deliver on an agreement I had with UNITE HERE to advocate for them in the City Council.

I also supported the executive order to extend a minimum wage increase to all City of Chicago sister agencies, including the Public Building Commission, Chicago Housing Authority, CTA, City Colleges, Park District and Chicago Public Schools. This action helped more than 2,400 sister agency employees.

5. Are you in favor of Chicago's Red Light Camera program?

The red light camera system is not perfect and needs improvement. The yellow light timing of stoplights needs to be checked across the board not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure the City is not wrongly issuing tickets. In addition, the City should ensure that the placement of the red light cameras be located at intersections that have a high risk for accidents. Any expansion of the program should be suspended until the City Council can be assured that the program is operating in a fair and reasonable way that helps protect the public and targets for fines only those people who drive recklessly.

The program has increased safety when it comes to the most dangerous types of accidents, specifically the side-impact accidents that lead to the most serious injuries and fatalities.

In light of recent reports, the evaluation of the number and severity of rear-impact accidents should be thorough and ongoing. There should be time set aside in the near future for a review of these findings so adjustments can be made.

Devon Avenue has been the scene of several tragic accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians. The new streetscape project incorporates engineering solutions to slow traffic and prioritize pedestrians over motor vehicles. Upon completion, this roadway will be dramatically safer for everyone.

The red light camera program is not a comprehensive solution. I believe revenues should be set aside to provide funding for additional pedestrian and motorist safety measures such as traffic-calming engineering projects, green light synchronization to help the flow of traffic and pedestrian-friendly bump outs and islands to make crossing major streets easier.

Debra Silverstein

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