Home of the 43rd Ward Democrats - Michele Smith Committeeman

featuring political news and community information for 43rd ward residents and businesses -
2527 N. Lincoln Avenue - 773-661-2133

Monday, December 28, 2009

What Do the Candidates for County Board President Say About Abortion?

O’Brien: “We all have our own personal beliefs. As Andy said, I’m a practicing Catholic. However, I do have a public statute to uphold and as I have told the people around this county, that I can decipher between church and state. I will not interrupt any services that are currently being provided at the county with relationship to a woman making a choice. I feel that that decision is between a woman or a patient and their doctor. With the Stupak amendment, I will continue to make sure that there is funding available for those particular services to women who so chose to do that and make that decision between them and their doctor. . . . My personal beliefs are not brought into my public life.”

Brown: “I am pro-choice and so I would not do anything to affect what is occurring at Cook County Hospital at this present time. I was a little disappointed that at the last minute the House had to do the compromise in order to get the conservative democrats to vote for the health care bill. And I would hope that possibly that when the bill goes over to the Senate that they would be able to rewrite that portion where the individuals that get - use the public option actually can continue to get abortions as well. So I’m a prochoice person and of course I would be - ensure that we continue to provide that service at Cook County Hospital.”

Preckwinkle: “I’m a strongly pro-choice Democrat. I have been my entire life and it’s important to understand that the abortion services that are offered at County Hospital now are modest in relation to what the possibilities are, I mean frankly. And I think this is something where we need to look to expand these services and regularize them rather than simply maintaining the status quo. Abortions at Cook County Hospital I think are $50. They are the most reasonable abortions in the area. And we ought to be providing that resource to women who make that choice as reasonably as possible. And I think that it’s important to remember that we need to be committed to this whatever the Supreme Court decides about choice. And we’re in a position where it’s uncertain the direction of which the Supreme Court is going. But we have to make that commitment locally that we’re going to provide these services for women who desperately need them.”

Questions Asked of each Candidate for County Board President

At our October candidate forum, moderater Andy Shaw asked each candidate a specific question about their past record. Here they are:

Shaw asked Brown, “You’ve been called to task for having people on your staff circulate petitions, show up at campaign rallies donate to you with presents or cash. How do you square this with a claim that you are for “professionalism over politics?”

Brown: “I will stack my record of ethics and reform up against anybody.” “I met with all 2300 employees … and I made it very clear that they do not have to donate to me or anyone else.” With regard to the allegation that petitions were passed on county time, she said, “No one to my knowledge . . . People are dropping lies out there and I’m dealing with those lies. “

Shaw asked O’Brien: “You run the water reclamation district and you’ve had a successful private sector business. . . . The MWRD has a list of 500 significant industrial polluters and on that list are some that are clients of one of your companies. How can you work at a company that helps companies that help perpetrate dirty water?”

O’Brien said he was a partner in K-Plus and a minority shareholder in other entities. “No impropriety [has been found] in relationship with any dealings with the Water Reclamation District.”

Shaw asked Preckwinkle: “The perception is that you started as a fierce critic of the Olympics but the sense was that as this race harkened that you backed off your criticism of the Olympic bid considerably.”

Preckwinkle replied, “I’m the one person who is most likely to be on the other side of the mayor. . . . It became quite clear to me early on that this was one of the three items that the mayor would consider part of his political legacy. The first being educational reform, the second being CHA transformation, the third being the Olympics. So given that fact I decided that I would try to work hard to get the best deal I could for the constituents that I represented. I make no apologies for that.”

Where do the Candidates for County Board President Stand on the Independent Board for the County Hospital System?

O’Brien: “I would like to see it go another year and a half before we do an evaluation. Some people want to keep them as a permanent board. I want to keep them, but on a contractual basis, maybe every three years, so the board and the taxpayers can evaluate what their doing and how they’re doing it.”

Preckwinkle: “We need permanent, permanent independent governance of our health care system to separate it from the patronage and political influence which has crippled it in the past. We have that independent governance now. We need to make it permanent.”

Brown: “I do believe that Cook County Hospital system is such a large organization . . .and I believe that there needs to be an independent oversight of the hospital. We would, I would look at the, with the commissioners of course, the current board and see if that is the type of format that’s necessary. But I do feel that having that independent, separate oversight, because we can’t - Generally, there was a committee, I believe, that was, or one or two commissioners that had that responsibility. But that, that is just not enough. I believe there needs to be that independent oversight. So I would be looking to continue it in some way form or fashion some kind of independent oversight of the Cook County health and Hospital system.”

Michele’s comment: The Independent Board governing the County Hospital is critical to increasing the quality and decreasing the cost of the hospital system. The possibility of returning the system to political oversight should be completely unacceptable.

Where do the Candidates for County Board President Stand on The County Sales Tax

Preckwinkle: “I will eliminate the tax incrementally over my term.” Preckwinkle wants to do it incrementally because “when your income goes down you have to cut expenses, but you want to do that responsibly.” On getting more government funding for the county: “That you take federal money or when you take money from state programs you have to be accountable. You have say what you used the money for and who you hired and the county has had the policy, frankly, unspoken, of not wanting to be accountable to outside entities for they way they spent their money so they didn’t apply for it. Now this is ridiculous because it could take the burden off of our local taxpayer.”

“Health care advocates … say that the county doesn’t apply for lots of money that’s available from the federal government to provide health services and I think it’s because of this historical reason.”

O’Brien: “My intention is to repeal it the first day I get in office. Because what happens is if you extend it over a long period of time you start becoming dependent on the use of that particular revenue. I think what needs to be done is it needs to be repealed and there needs to be an audit of all the operations throughout the county . . . purchasing, labor and other personnel matters. … We have to take a look at everything up and down
across the board.

Brown: “We need to strategically lower the sales tax while finding additional revenue. . . .What I would do is . . . similar to what I did as Clerk of the Court. I created a revenue increase initiative task force upon taking office. And that task force looked at every non-tax revenue that was available . . . .” “We have a lot of assets that could be advertised on.

Michele’s comment: The sales tax has just been cut ½ of a percent, so we are halfway to a total repeal. But I favor studying the operations of the County to see how best to reduce costs

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Does the Community Want at Lincoln Park Hospital?

My newsletter last week describing the proposed redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital drew an awful lot of comments. Here are some of the comments:

People who live near the hospital said:

“I support your position regarding Lincoln Park Hospital as a resident in this district and as an individual who was a member of the medical staff of the hospital for 54 years.”
“I am in complete agreement with you.”
“I am concerned by the building of a 12 story condo building in the heart of Lincoln Park.”
“I am opposed to any taller structure in our area.”
“I am interested in keeping the neighborhood with the neighborhood feel.”
“I would not like to see a high rise condominium complex and retail center built on the site of the former Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“I am adamantly opposed to any retail on Webster.”
“Webster east of Lincoln is a charming Lincoln Park residential neighborhood and it should remain that way.”
“I am against a high rise development or the development of a shopping center of any sort.”
“I moved to Cleveland Ave. 25 years ago -- since then, I have not been able to add one brick to the front of my house. And now the powers that be may allow a high rise residential building to be constructed only one block away?”
“It is insane to be building more retail and high rise buildings in this environment. Let me know what I can do to fight this.”
“I definitely oppose the retail plan.”
“It sounds terrible.”
“There is no need for large retail in that neighborhood.”
“I agree that the retail scheme being proposed seems very inappropriate, let alone that it ignores zoning.”
“I am concerned about this potential zoning disaster.”
“I am opposed to the plans for Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“I would like to voice my strong opposition to adding retail shops to the property at Lincoln and Webster. The LAST thing we need in this area is additional retail shops.”
“I am a concerned neighbor.”
“I think this is a terrific letter.”
“I am absolutely opposed to the current plan set forth to built retail and large scale condominiums. Aside for aesthetics, my major concern is about added traffic and congestion in an already congested area.”
“I am one of the original settlers on Geneva Terrace, since 1963. I have lived through many of these fights and I know how powerful we can and have been when we work together.”
“We STRONGLY support your position on the redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital. The last thing we need is more retail on Lincoln.”
“We are very interested in joining the opposition.”

Other Lincoln Parkers said:

“My husband and I wish to convey our concern for the retail plans that would drastically change the nature and character of the neighborhood.”
“I, as a resident in Lincoln Park for over thirty years, am very opposed to any high rise condo building and retail shops where Lincoln Park Hospital is now.”
“This is really the most wrong time ever to build new retail spaces - especially in this neighborhood.”
“I for one am opposed to more retail and hi-rise condos in the area – traffic is already a nightmare and it would change the feel of the neighborhood in a negative way.”
“I agree with your recent email!!!!!”
“I agree with you totally about the site and the proposed usage and I have met individually with one of the potential developers and expressed my concerns. Please keep me informed as I am very much opposed to the current plan.”
“I have been a resident of Lincoln Park since 1974. I own several properties in the area and think enough development is enough.”
“My Husband, and myself have fought long and very hard to keep the nature of our neighborhood
as intact as possible.”
“Let me know how I can help defeat this current retail/condo development plan for the Lincoln Park hospital site.”
“Please keep me informed about what we can do to preserve the residential low rise character of the neighborhood.”
“No malls in Lincoln Park Hospital area.”
“I am very concerned about the redevelopment.”
“We agree with the tenor and substance of your email on the subject of redevelopment at Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“Excellent e-mail re: Lincoln Park Hospital’s problematic growing plans. We’re behind you & in agreement that the plan should be redrawn to fit the landmark area of low- rise homes and townhouses.”
“We don’t need another high rise and especially more (soon-to-be shuttered) retail spaces. The impact of Children’s Memorial will be huge on our neighborhood as well. I’m OK with new building that is in keeping with the neighborhood.”

I received only three comments that were somewhat favorable:

The Webster retail will be “2 units no larger then 15,000 each. The remaining of the retail will be on the north side of the street on Webster and Geneva Terrace.”
“I do like the idea of adaptive reuse e.g. affordable apartments and/or senior apartments rather than a tear-down of that asbestos laden fortress. (Augustana Hospital went down with NO safeguards, no plastic).”
“Lincoln Park needs a mega business/retail infusion. So before we shun significant retail development in an existing commercial corridor that has built in parking, we should carefully consider the significant downside implications of our hair trigger preservationists.”
If you haven’t commented before, please comment here!

What's Going On At Lincoln Park Hospital?

Our neighborhood is about to undergo its greatest change in 50 years. Lincoln Park Hospital, a 3 acre site, is already vacant and has been purchased by a developer, and Children's Memorial, two blocks away, is closing in 2012. What is built on these sites will have a tremendous impact on our community - and we need to get it right. The current plan being put forth has already met with substantial community opposition. Here's the background and what you can do about the proposal.

There has been a small hospital on the corner of Geneva and Webster for a century. Even then, the neighborhood was residential, with small shops and bars along Lincoln and Larrabee. In the 60s, the city designated the area around the hospital a "conservation area" and later designated it an official city historic landmark district. In the 70s, the commercial area on Larrabee was demolished and developed into the Walpole Point townhouses, as part of an overall plan to make the area residential.

The current hospital tower was built in 1972, over the opposition of then-Alderman Bill Singer and after a lawsuit by the Mid-North Association tried to stop it because the proposed hospital violated the residential plans for the neighborhood. The neighbors especially opposed the parking garage because Webster Street had always been low-rise residential - three flats and single family. More suits followed each time the hospital wanted to expand. The neighbors eventually were able to limit the height of the hospital tower and the parking garage, and received other concessions.

Today, the landmark Mid-North historic district and townhouses surround the hospital. But a developer wants to build two large (total 50,000 sq. ft.) retail stores on Webster, put retail on Geneva Terrace, enlarge the parking garage for those stores, and convert the hospital into a twelve-story condominium building with 330 units. After all, the developer argues, the tower and garage are already there. Why not reuse them - even if that ignores the underlying low-rise residential zoning of the land, the historic agreements with the community, and the impact on a quiet residential neighborhood?

Our community has fought long and hard to save its historic residential character and not let it be overrun with high rises, retail malls and traffic. We have invested in our historic homes because we value the look and feel of this community. If a high rise is allowed at Lincoln Park Hospital, what will be the impact a block away, at Children's? And we don't need even more retail in our neighborhood, especially large stores. There are 46 empty storefronts within several blocks of the Lincoln Park Hospital.

It boils down to this - it may be hard for neighbors to fight building a hospital, but DARN if we have to let someone take advantage of concessions given to a hospital to build a high rise and a strip mall in the middle of an historic district.

If you don't think the community can make a difference, you are wrong. Augustana Hospital stood on the property between Sedgwick, Lincoln and Dickens. When it closed, a builder proposed two high-rise apartment buildings. The neighbors fought back and achieved the very successful Pointe townhouse complex. And another group of neighbors stopped the development of a huge indoor auto mall on Wells Street just two years ago.

There are neighbors already organizing to put the community's voice front and center in this dispute, and I support them. If you are concerned about this potential zoning disaster, please contact me at michele43rd@gmail.com and email sanedevelopment@aol.com if you want to be kept informed about what your neighbors and neighborhood associations are doing.

Let's support sane development in our community.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Press Coverage of 43rd Ward Candidates Debate

Todd Stroger's failure to appear for our candidates forum yesterday became the focus of the media coverage of the event. Unfortunately, that masked the excellent conversation among our moderator, Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association, and the candidates Dorothy Brown, Terrance O'Brien and Toni Preckwinkle. In a later post, we'll discuss the substantive differences among the candidates.

Download a podcast of the forum (which lasted a little more than an hour) at Chicago Progressive Talk.

But for today, here are links to the press reports:

ABC 7 Chicago
WGN TV Chicago
Fox News Chicago (I'm interviewed!)
Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Tribune
WBBM Newsradio 78
Lincoln Park Now
Chicago Current
Chicago Reader
The Living Room
Chicago News Bench

Friday, November 13, 2009


Richard Zisook and Michael Supera now own and propose to re-develop all of the existing hospital buildings, including the Lincoln Park Hospital buildings on the north side of Webster (running north all the way to Grant Place) and the parking garage on the south side of Webster. They propose the following changes and new uses:

Parking garage

Remove second floor and reconfigure structure for a ground floor drug store on the west side and a hi-level grocery store on the west side, containing a total of approximately 32,000 square feet of retail space.

Re-clad the exterior of structure with brick, and extend the height of the parapet wall (top level) by 4 feet. There would be parking on the roof.

Trucks making deliveries to the drug store and grocery and picking-up garbage would back in and out of a newly-created driveway running from the east side of Lincoln Avenue into the west (Lincoln Avenue) side of the garage.

Hospital Building along Geneva Terrace

Remodel hospital building along Geneva Terrace, between Grant Place and Webster, plus portion of building on Webster between corner building and hospital "tower", and convert to rental senior citizen's housing, with approximately 330 units in all.

Convert first floor on north side of Webster to commercial use, with a number of small shops.

New driveway from Webster would provide all access for parking, deliveries and garbage pick-up to the entire complex. Parking to be underground.

New façade to be installed.

Hospital Tower

Remodel existing tower and convert to120 for-sale condominium units. Presently projected prices around $500/ sq. ft. Parking to be underground.

New façade to be installed.

Existing driveway and small "park" area to east of Hospital Tower

To be converted into two, for-sale residential lots.

Existing utility buildings on south side of Grant Place

To be demolished and new, for-sale housing to be built. Exact type of building and height limitations under discussion.

Candidates Forum with Andy Shaw!

43rd Ward Democrats Host Candidates Forum

Todd Stroger, Toni Preckwinkle, Dorothy Brown and Terrence O’Brien to Appear at DePaul Forum with Moderator Andy Shaw

November 15, 2009
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
DePaul Student Center
2250 N. Sheffield Avenue

Andy Shaw – former Political Editor oSunday, November 15f Channel 7 News and current Executive Director of the Better Government Association will moderate a lively discussion among the Democratic Candidates for President of the Cook County Board.

Candidates who have confirmed their appearance:
Todd Stroger
President Cook County Board
Toni Preckwinkle
4th Ward Alderman
Dorothy Brown
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Terrence O’Brien
President, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Democratic Committeeman Michele Smith and the 43rd Ward Democrats are hosts of the
County Board President Democratic Candidates Forum moderated by BGA President Andy Shaw.
The 43rd Ward Democrats is an independent Democratic organization
committed to promoting socially progressive, fiscally responsible Democratic candidates.

The event is also co-hosted by the DePaul Democrats, the DePaul University Political Science Department, the Better Government Association and WCPT AM & FM - Chicago’s Progressive Talk Radio.

All are welcome. Admission is free. Doors open to the public at Noon.
Attendees are asked to please RSVP, if possible, at countyboardforum@gmail.com to help accommodate the expected large turnout.

Public Parking Available: 2335 North Sheffield
Public Transportation Red, Purple and Brown Lines:
Exit at the Fullerton station

The BGA and County Board Candidates Forum

I'm thrilled that we will be hosting a debate for the candidates for Cook County Board President on November 15.

As we know, this is the critical race that will decide our sales taxes, property taxes, and the provision of county services - like our judiciary, prosecutors, jail, County hospital and forest preserves.

So I'm doubly thrilled that the 43rd Ward's own Andy Shaw, former star reporter from ABC7 News, and now the executive director of the Better Government Association, will be moderating. I asked Andy to referee this debate because I believe very strongly in the mission of the BGA - and I think you might too.

To quote Andy, "The debate in the 43rd Ward offers voters and taxpayers an excellent opportunity to see who, among the Democratic candidates, is truly committed to eliminating the 'corruption tax' we all pay when government is run for the benefit of the politicians and not the public. And who is dedicated to restoring FAITH in government, which is an acronym for Fairness, Accountability, Integrity, Transparency and Honesty. That's the Better Government Association's mission, and we're eager to see who shares it." I very much agree.

We all know that serious investigative reporting is threatened by the cutbacks in our local papers and newstations at this time. Now more than ever we need a watchdog group like the Better Government Association.

Find out more about the BGA and think about joining. You may even decide to send a contribution.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What I Learned

I'm proud to report on our first Meet Your Elected Officials Event, held on September 2nd at the St. Vincent DePaul Center. A full crowd heard from Congressmen Danny Davis and Mike Quigley and State Representatives Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey.

Rather than report on what each said, I'm going to share what I learned and my impressions from the evening. Today I'll just talk about health care.

If the participants in the room are representative, the 43rd Ward strongly supports national health care reform and the so-called "public option." Federal, state and local impacts from reform are closely linked. As Rep. Davis said, 20,000 more people with health care means 20,000 people who are relying less on the "free" healthcare from Cook County Hospital. While the County treats Medicaid patients, a huge amount of people receiving care are working people who lack any health insurance because they earn too much to get Medicaid. And Rep. Feigenholtz told us that health care is the largest part of the Illinois budget, and because of the downturn, more people are losing their jobs, their healthcare and putting more strain on State-funded hospitals, including putting more people on Medicaid which is 40-50% funded by the state. So, if we want to help our local and state agencies, we should support the national effort.

I also learned that cost-effective strategies are not wholly employed, thus costing us more money. Rep. Fritchey told us that, like it or not, we are funding the uninsured today: because they are forced to go to emergency rooms for care - the cost for this is $1100 per taxpayer today. Universal coverage would lower this cost because the cost of primary care is far less than receiving care in emergency rooms. Rep. Davis told us that community health centers, which he pioneered, and which bring primary care to poor, rural and migrant communities serve about 18 million nation-wide today. As part of a national health care fix, these centers should be expanded to serve about 60 million people - and save costs. Rep. Feigenholtz told us that budget pressure to fund programs that get a federal match puts huge pressure on great programs that save money - like the Illinois Community Care program, which provides in-home assistance to seniors to keep them in their homes instead of forcing them into nursing homes, saving taxpayers about $30,000 a year per person in these programs.

Where do our representatives stand: All of our speakers strongly supported the President, including the public option to increase competition with the insurance companies. Rep. Quigley tutored us on the political realities of the situation that while we have a majority Democratic House and Senate, many are so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats, that is, Democrats from conservative states. Gaining their support for a wide-ranging plan has proven difficult.

What can WE do?

Make your voice heard while bringing others on board for Health Care Reform. Join us for our second Health Care Phone Bank on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at our office, 2527 N. Lincoln, from 5-8 pm. 43rd Ward Democrats again teams up with Organizing for America to speak with our neighbors. Sign up or call us for details at 773-661-2133.

Thanks for your support.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Volunteer in Democratic Campaigns!

It's petition season and these campaigns would be happy for your help getting signatures. We will also be having a number of Petitioning Parties in our office before the November 2nd deadline. If you want to collect signatures to fulfill the Voting Member requirement we will be notarizing petitions at those times.

Pat Quinn – incumbent Governor http://www.quinnforillinois.com/
Dan Hynes – Illinois State Comptroller http://www.friendsofdan.com/

Lt Governor
Terry Link – State Senator, Lake County Democratic Party Chairman http://www.blogger.com/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK3BA5/www.link30.org/html/biography.html
Art Turner – State Rep., 9th District, Deputy Majority Leader, Illinois House of Representatives http://www.turnerforillinois.com/

Justin Oberman - 43rd Ward Resident and former U.S. Dept of Transportation official www.obermanforillinois.com
Robin Kelly – Chief of Staff, Illinois State Treasurer, former State Rep. 38th District, Political Science Professor http://www.robinfortreasurer.com/

Raja Krishnamoorthi – former Deputy Illinois State Treasurer, former issues director, Obama for Senate http://www.rajaforillinois.com/
David Miller – State Rep, 29th District, practicing dentist in underserved communities http://www.davidmillerillinois.com/

US Senate
Alexi Giannoulias - Illinois State Treasurer www.alexiforillinois.com/
Cheryle Jackson – President, Chicago Urban League http://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=211746
David Hoffman - http://www.hoffmanforillinois.com/

Congress 5th District
Mike Quigley – incumbent http://www.quigleyforcongress.com/

State Representatives
Ken Dunkin – incumbent State Rep., 5th District http://www.repkendunkin.com/
John Fritchey – incumbent State Rep., 11th District http://www.blogger.com/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK3BA5/www.fritchey.com
Sara Feigenholtz – incumbent State Rep., 12th District http://www.sarafeigenholtz.com/

State Senators
John Cullerton – incumbent State Senator, 6th District, Majority Leader, Illinois Senate http://www.senatorcullerton.com/
Mattie Hunter – incumbent State Senator, 3rd District http://www.blogger.com/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK3BA5/www.ilga.gov/senate/Senator.asp?MemberID=1065
Kwame Raoul – incumbent State Senator, 13th District http://www.blogger.com/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK3BA5/www.kwameraoul.com/

County Board President
Dorothy Brown – Clerk of the Circuit Court http://www.friendsofdorothybrown.org/
Danny Davis – Congressman, 2nd District http://davisforpresidentofcookcounty.com/
Toni Preckwinkle – Alderman, 4th Ward http://www.tonipreckwinkle.org/

County Clerk
David Orr – incumbent Cook County Clerk http://www.blogger.com/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK3BA5/www.davidorr.org/

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District – 3 races
Stella Black – real estate valuation and tax appeals consultant
Todd Connor – business consultant and former investigator with Illinois Inspector General http://www.toddconnor.org/
Mariyana Spyropoulos – incumbent Water Reclamation Commissioner, lawyer http://www.mariyana4cleanwater.com/

County Board Commissioner 10th District
Bridget Gainer – incumbent Cook County Commissioner http://www.bridgetgainer.com/

43rd Ward Democrats - Membership Requirements

The following is an excerpt from the By-Laws of the 43rd Ward Democrats:
Section 1. A Member of the 43rd Ward Democrats shall be any person who supports the principles of the 43rd Ward Democratic Party organization – electing progressive, fiscally responsible Democratic candidates; running fair, well staffed elections; providing educational and relevant information to our voters; motivating and working towards higher voter turnout in the 43rd ward - subject to certification (and decertification) of the Executive Board

Section 2. A Voting Member of the 43rd Ward Democrats shall be entitled to vote in Ward endorsement sessions called by the Committeeman if the member has met the following criteria:
1) A voting member must be registered to vote within the 43rd Ward.
2) A voting member must have attended at least one non-endorsement Ward Meeting in the nine months prior to the vote in question.
3) A voting member must have met the Volunteer Requirement in the last year prior to the vote in question. This requires the member to have participated in or accomplished at least two of the following:
a. Served on an Official Committee or as Precinct Leader of the 43rd Ward Democrats.
b. Volunteered a minimum of 2 hours for an Endorsed Candidate or, when no endorsement has been made, a Democratic candidate listed by the 43rd Ward Democrats Executive Board.
c. Worked an Event for the Organization by helping with planning, set up, sign in and clean up.
d. Volunteered on an Election Day in some capacity for the 43rd Ward Democrats.
e. Volunteered for an Initiative or Referendum approved by the 43rd Ward Democrats.
f. Volunteered at a Community Event staffing tables, gathering signatures or registering voters on behalf of the 43rd Ward Democrats.
g. Volunteered in the 43rd Ward Democrats Office or doing office work in some capacity.

The Executive Board may approve other activities suitable to fulfill the Volunteer Requirement.

Meet Your Congressman...and More!

Please join 43rd Ward Democrats for a truly exciting
and informative evening.

Our Honored Guests
Congressman Danny Davis
Congressman Mike Quigley
State Representative Sara Feigenholtz
State Representative John Fritchey

When & Where
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
St. Vincent De Paul Center
2145 N. Halsted

Mysteries Revealed: Becoming a Judge in Cook County

As Democratic Committeeman of the 43rd Ward, one of my duties is to sit on the committee to "slate" judges and county-wide offices - deciding who will get the official endorsement of the party. So I figured I'd better learn what it's all about before the slating session for the February Primary which takes place on September 10th and 11th.

It turns out that becoming a judge is a very complicated process, and not well understood. It took quite a bit of detective work before we could figure it out and explain it here and in the next couple of newsletters. Read on. . . . So you want to be a judge, do you? If you're an attorney in Cook County, there are three ways to get on the bench.

One: You run for election. There are two paths to get elected: one is to run county-wide - there are 98 seated county-wide judges -and the other is to run in your "subcircuit." In the early 1990's Cook County was divided into 15 subcircuits, or defined geographic areas, where voters elect judges who reside in that specific subcircuit. The idea was to promote greater diversity on the bench. The entire 43rd Ward is in the 8th Subcircuit, where there are currently ten judges.

So you just throw your hat in the ring, right? Wrong. You can't run against an incumbent judge. Once elected, sitting judges do not run for re-election county-wide or in their individual subcircuit. They run for Retention, county wide, every six years. (You've seen that endless part of the ballot where you vote yes or no). Judges are retained if they get 60% of the vote. They are rarely, if ever, removed by the voters. (More on this is a future newsletter.)

Since you can't run against an incumbent, you can only run if there is a "vacancy." When a sitting Judge does not seek retention, retires or resigns, a vacancy is created in that Judge's name. Right now, there are seven vacancies listed for the county-wide judges. There are also Subcircuit vacancies listed, but there is no vacancy in the 8th Subcircuit at this time.

Having to run for a specific vacancy means that if there is more than one vacancy - either county-wide or in a specific subcircuit - you have to figure out which one to run for. The practical result is that candidates often circulate petitions for all, or a number of, the vacancies, and at the last minute, pull all but one set (you can't leave all the sets active, because under the law, you can only run for one office at a time).

Complicated? Yes. But wait, there's more.

Normally, your petitions for the judge are due Nov. 2, 2009, the same date as all other petitions for elected office. But judges get a special extended filing period. If a vacancy is declared at the last minute, between Oct. 12 and Nov. 2, 2009, a person can file petitions by November 23, 2009 and still get on the primary ballot for judge.

So, even if there is no vacancy right now, an alert candidate will keep an eye (and ear) on the rumor mill. Someone could announce their retirement before November 2, and if you are quick, you could still get your petitions in.

So if you want to be a judge, are your chances over if there is no vacancy by November 2? Nope.

Two: Get Appointed First, Run Later. Remember, you can only run if there is a vacancy. But what happens if a judge retires, resigns, or fails to seek retention after November 2, 2009? Under Illinois law, the judge has to announce whether is he is going to seek retention no later than six months before the next GENERAL election. That means if a judge resigns, retires, or does nothing by MAY 2, 2010, 3 months after the Primary, that creates a vacancy.

What happens then? A vacancy created after next February's primary is filled by appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court. The person appointed serves out the departing Judge's term until the next Primary election in 2012 when he will have to run for election to fill the vacancy of the Judge he replaced. That person has the advantage of incumbency, which, while not a guarantee, is certainly a help.

So that's it, right? You run, or you are appointed to fill a vacancy and run in the next election. No - there is a third way to become a judge.

Three: Become an Associate Judge. There are 146 sitting "associate judges" now in Cook County. They can serve in exactly the same courts as the other judges (except they cannot try felony cases, unless authorized by the Supreme Court) but they earn about $10,000/year less than full circuit court judges, Associate judges are elected by the other sitting circuit court judges, and are up for "re-election" by the Circuit Court judges every four years.

Case closed - but we just hit the highlights. It's not easy to become a judge, and we have a mixed system of appointment and election. But you notice, in all of this, I haven't talked about whether potential judges are qualified or not, or how slating works. Stay tuned for future newsletters for the answers to these mysteries, and my recommendations for reform.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2010 Primary Election - Petitions Hit the Streets!

Candidates for various offices - County, State and Federal - are beginning to gear up for the 2010 Primary Election. Nominating Petitions for these offices can now be circulated, begining today, August 4th, 2009.

Passing petitions is a time consuming task requiring a lot of door-to-door work from the candidates and the volunteers working with them. While there are very specific signature requirements for a candidate to successfully make it onto the ballot, those signing the petitions sometimes make mistakes - they are registered to vote in another state, they give an old or incorrect address, or other such errors. That is why candidates routinely collect twice, or even three times, the number of signatures required so that they can be assured of having enough "good" signatures.

We are listing the Signature Requirements for the Democratic Candidates seeking to be nominated in the 2010 Primary so that it will be clear that Petition Circulating is a big undertaking.

For United States Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller and Treasurer: At least 5,000 signatures but not more than 10,000.

State Senator: 1,000 signatures.

State Representative: 500 signatures.

Cook County Offices:
County Clerk, Treasurer, Sheriff, Assessor, County Board President: 8,147 signatures.

County Commissioner District 2: 316 signatures.
County Commissioner District 10: 319 signatures.

Member of Board of Review of Coook County: 5,022 signatures.

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: 7,981 signatures.

Supreme Court Judge (1st Judicial District, if vacancy occurs): 3,417 signatures.

Appellate Court Judge(1st District, if vacancy occurs): 3,417 signatures.

Circuit Court Judge (County Wide, if vacancy occurs): 3,268 signatures.

Subcircuit Court Judge (8th Subcircuit, if vacancy occurs):500 Signatures.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It Matters.

The Illinois campaign finance reform legislation passed in June includes a provision that State political parties will not endorse candidates for statewide office during the next primary season. Pundits claimed that Gov. Quinn demanded the deal so that Mike Madigan couldn't use State party money to support his daughter, though others said it was a political deal for other purposes. *

But we could also look at this as a temporary reform of the primary process - when the party "slates" a candidate, that candidate is the official party candidate, even when there is a primary. You may recall that in our recent Congressional special election, I voted for an open primary, where no candidate would get the nod as the official candidate of the Democratic party.

So, in the face of new restrictions on raising money, which at the outset tends to favor incumbents, we could look at this provision in the law as a means of leveling the playing field a bit, at least at the statewide level.

And that is what I argued at the July 14 meeting of the Cook County Central Democratic Committee when it was proposed that since the state party would not endorse candidates for Governor, Treasurer and the like, the Cook County Democrats should. I suggested that allowing the Cook County Democrats to endorse candidates seemed a circumvention of the state law.

Rising in defense of the measure was Committeeman Todd Stroger (Cook County Board President) who said that the state legislation was "stupid" and that we should endorse statewide candidates "because that's what we do."

Committeeman Mike Krelov from the North Shore announced he thought both Stroger and I were right: he thought the state law was a bad idea, but he also thought that the proposal was a circumvention of the spirit of the state law - so he was going to vote no.

In defense of the measure, I understand that many other county Democratic parties (and Republicans) are adopting similar measures. Plus, the finance restrictions don't start until 2011 (after the next election).

All I know is, the measure was adopted by voice vote, so I can't tell you who in addition to myself voted against it.

It does matter when you question the status quo and stand for principle.

What do you think?

What a Swell Party We Had!

The 43rd Ward Democrats Second Annual Unity Fundraiser was an enormous success! It was a delightful cool summer evening outside and standing room only inside. Thanks to each of you who attended and helped make this a night to remember.

A very special thanks to our gracious hosts Shirley Weese and Donald Young for inviting us into their lovely home.

The crowd was entertained by the sharp musical satire of the Chicago Bar Association's Road Show performers.

We also want to extend Special Thanks to:
Dilly Lilly Flowers - Christine Gorman
Sugarplum Catering - Richard Mott
Catering ◊ Chocolate - Jay Shindler
Leona's Restaurant - Sam Toia
Basil Leaf Café - Sean Tehrani
House of Glunz - Christopher Glunz
Milito's - Tony Milito
Lincoln Park Market - Bruce Longanecker

Many of our local elected officials served as hosts along with numerous friends in the 43rd Ward community.

This is a tremendously important time for the Democratic Party, including those of us in the 43rd Ward. As we approach next year's state-wide elections, with a Primary in February, we are at a real tipping point in Illinois politics. We can make real change at a county and state level.

Thanks to all of you who gave so generously at our Unity Event.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Are Invited...

Michele Smith, Committeeman

Thursday, July 9
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
At the Historic Home of Shirley Weese and Donald Young
626 W. Arlington Place

Political Satire byThe Chicago Bar Association's"Christmas Spirits" Road Show

Diane Graham-Henry and Tom Hall · Henry FeinbergHon. Marty Oberman · J.B. Pritzker
Bill and Laura Wangerin, Jr.

Our Honored Hosts
Hon. Charles Bernardini, Hon. Forrest Claypool, Hon. Annazette Collins, Hon. John Cullerton,
Hon.Vi Daley, Hon. Sara Feigenholtz,
Hon. Bridget Gainer, Hon. Brendan Houlihan,
Hon. Jim Houlihan, Hon. Mattie Hunter,
Hon. Dan Hynes, Hon. Lisa Madigan,
Hon. Dawn Clark Netsch, Hon. David Orr,
Hon. Larry Rogers, Jr., Hon. Peg Roth,
Hon. Debra Shore, Hon. Bill Singer
and Hon. Larry Suffredin

Eugene Chesrow Burt Lewis

Tickets: $50
Friend $250
Host $500
Sponsor $1,000
Co-Chair $2,500

You may also contact michele43rd@gmail.com
or call 773-661-2133

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Important Membership Meeting!

Save The Date
Tuesday, June 2nd
6:30 PM
Lincoln Park Library
1150 W. Fullerton
(parking available)

Guest Speaker:
County Commissioner Bridget Gainer
Representative for the 10th District
Please RSVP to michele43rd@gmail.com

Learn about all the ways you can get involved with the
43rd Ward Democrats:
Volunteer Opportunities
Help with Voter Registration
Become a Precinct Leader
Be an Election Day Worker
Become an Election Judge

Change We Can Believe In - Right Here in Illinois.

If you supported Barak Obama for President now is your time to help make change happen here in Illinois.

Just as we were celebrating the election of our new President, we suffered the humiliation of having our Governor removed from office for alleged corruption, and we endure the almost daily reports of mismanagement in many of our local governments. The reason this has happened is that, for a long time, some people here at home didn't really follow our politics in Illinois. And that happened in particular, right here, in Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast - the 43rd Ward. For example, last November, over 30,000 people turned out to vote for President Obama in our ward - a voter turnout of 82%. But in our last series of State elections, only 24% of voters came out in our ward.

We can change all that. Start by joining us for an exciting evening:
Important Organizational Meeting
Tuesday, June 2nd
6:30 pm
Lincoln Park Library
1150 W. Fullerton

Guest Speaker: County Commissioner Bridget Gainer
Representative for the 10th District
RSVP to michele43rd@gmail.com

The 43rd Ward is the only ward in the entire city of Chicago that never voted for Rod Blagojevich (other candidates carried the ward in his previous elections). Imagine the change we could make in our State, our County, and our City if our voters here in the ward turned out in the way we did to elect President Obama.

Those of you who volunteered to elect President Obama know how to do it - you walked precincts and made phone calls into communities.

We're going to give you the same opportunity to help elect progressive Democrats right in your neighborhood - to organize parties in your own homes. Turn the vote out in your block and your own precinct - using the same tools you used in the Obama campaign.

You can join a larger effort here in Illinois that is committed to reform our State, County and city. Learn how on June 2nd - or email me at michele43rd@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mike Quigley's Replacement on the County Board?

We pick a new County Commissioner on April 11.

On April 11, the Democratic Committeemen who servein Commissioner Quigley's 10th district will meet to select his replacement. I'm one of those committeemen, so I get to vote.

There are a number of folks thinking about putting their hat in the ring, including me. Thus far, most interested people have been meeting informally with the committeemen. As soon as these names become "official," I'll give you the list.

Here is the process.

"The Democratic Cook County Board District Committee for the 10th District of the Cook County Board of Commissioners will meet on Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at Truman College, located at 1145 W. Wilson, Chicago, IL, 60640, for the purpose of organizing and appointing a person to fill a vacancy in office caused by the anticipated resignation of Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley."

Those people interested in filling Commissioner Quigley's seat on the County Board will give a presentation to the Committeeman and answer their questions. This meeting is open to the public and I encourage you to attend and hear from these individuals, including me, about how they intend to serve and what their qualifications are.

You must apply by April 9.

If you are interested in applying, you must follow this process: "Any person interested in appearing before the Committee to be considered for appointment must submit: (1) a current resume; and (2) a completed Statement of Economic Interests form. The Statement of Economic Interests form is available at the office of the Cook County Clerk, 69 W. Washington, Suite 500, Chicago, IL, Zip Code 60602, or through the Clerk's website: http://www.voterinfonet.com/sub/disclosures.asp."

There is a deadline for submitting the information to be considered by the Committeemen: "Submissions must be made to the office of the Cook County Democratic Party, 134 N. LaSalle, Suite 1420, Chicago, IL 60602 no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2009." You will not be considered if you don't apply.

The Committeemen will deliberate in private after the public presentations have been made. As I told you in a previous post, the winning candidate must get a majority of the weighted vote of the committeemen.

So, what do you think? Tell me at michele43rd@gmail.com

What Happens Next?

Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley has been nominated for Congress, what happens next?

1. We have to get Commissioner Quigley elected to Congress.
While we believe Commissioner Quigley will be elected handily, the Republicans have nominated a very far right candidate. We must make sure their candidate is defeated.
Help turn out the vote for Mike and build our ward organization by being a precinct leader for the April 7 election!

Early Voting has begun. You can vote March 16th - April 2nd, Monday - Saturday, 9am to 5pm, at:
Lincoln Park Library,
1150 W. Fullerton
Chicago Election Board, 69 W. Washington, Lower Level

You can get more Early Voting information or check your Voter Registration and find your polling place for April 7th.

2. We have to select a new Cook County Commissioner - and I want to hear from you!

Under Illinois law, vacancies are filled by the vote of the committeemen in that district who are of the same party as the office-holder. That means that the Democratic Committeemen who serve in Commissioner Quigley's district will select his replacement, who will until Commissioner Quigley's term expires in 2010.

I'm one of those committeemen, and I'll explain how it works. Each committeeman gets a "weighted vote." The weighted vote equals the total number of votes Commissioner Quigley received in November 2006, when he was last elected. Now you know why voter turnout is critical - it determines my weighted vote.

Here's how the votes break down:
Vote for Quigley
Ward in Nov. 2006
32 1208 John Fritchey
39 3629 Randy Barnette
40 5527 Pat O'Conner
41 210 Mary O'Conner
43 10786 Michele Smith
44 12923 Tom Tunney
45 217 Pat Levar
46 12013 Tom Sharpe
48 12545 Carol Ronen
49 1463 David Fagus
50 2384 Ira Silverstein
Total 62,905
31,453 Needed to win

As you can see, there are several combinations of committeemen's votes that can result in the needed votes.

The vote will not take place until after Commissioner Quigley resigns his seat to take his place in Congress, though there is a procedural meeting on March 20. I will be asking for a public meeting to hear from interested candidates.

Bear in mind that the appointment by the committeemen is no guarantee of keeping the seat. The person who gets the nod will have to campaign for election in 2010 - and potentially have to fight a primary challenge.

I'd like to know who you think might be a good successor to Commissioner Quigley. You've probably read a lot of names in the blogs and newspapers. Let me know by what you think by replying at michele43rd@gmail.com and tell me what ward you live in. If you don't live in the 43rd Ward, please let your committeeman know as well.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

5th CD Candidates Forum Packed!

Over 500 people attended the 5th CD Democratic Candidates Forum at DePaul on Super Bowl Sunday withat least another 100 people listening outside the hall! 11 candidates for the Congressional seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel were heard from. The event was hosted by the DePaul College Democrats and presented by IVI-IPO. the Northside DFA and the 43rd Ward Democrats.

We needed a long table to seat all the candidates! To learn more about the candidates, you can click through to the links on the right of this page or you can go to http://www.illinois5th.com/. The forum was broadcast live on 820-AM Chicago's Progressive Talk Radio (commentary by veteran political reporter Dick Kay) and was recorded by CAN-TV, which will air the forum on February 22 at 9 am on CAN TV21, February 24 at 9:30 am CAN TV19, February 27 at 1:30 pm on CAN YV21, March 1 at 2:30 pm on CAN TV21 and on March 2 at 8:00 am on CAN TV19.

43rd Ward Committeeman Michele Smith with the forum moderator Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Candidate Forum!

5th Congressional District Candidates Forum
Sunday, February 1, 2009
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
DePaul Student Center
2250 N. Sheffield
multi-purpose room

Moderator: Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times
Washington D.C. Bureau Chief

The event is presented by DePaul Democrats and co-hosted by 43rd Ward Democrats.

In the interest of fair and open government, 43rd Ward Democrats have supported an Open Primary and are committed to providing a platform for all candidates who have announced in this race - all 15 of them! The list on the right includes all Democratic candidates who have filed petitions to be on the ballot for the March 3rd Primary.

The Reader's Ben Joravsky writes about the event.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

43rd Ward Dems Witness Change...

We celebrated today as Barack Obama took the oath of office. What a thrilling year it's been for the new 43rd Ward Democratic Ward organization. We had an Inauguration Party and over 100 people watched the ceremonies and cheered on our new President. Here are some of the faces that made our victories and accomplishments possible. Each person was asked to say how they felt on this historic day. We hope you'll add your voice to theirs! [To turn off the music, which is built into the slide show tool, click on the speaker. To see what each person said, move your cursor over the image.]

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's An Open Primary in 5th CD!

The Committeemen of the 5th Congressional District met for a slating session this past Saturday. The meeting was convened to hear from potential candidates and decide whether or not to officially endorse one of them as the Party candidate.

As I indicated in my last post to this blog, in the interest of fair and open government, I am in support of an Open Primary and committed to providing a platform for all candidates who have announced in this race.

So, I am pleased and proud that in my first slating session as Democratic Committeeman of the 43rd Ward I was able to cast my vote for an Open Primary and that it carried the day!

According to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times:

"Michelle Smith, the new committeewoman of the 43rd Ward, argued with O'Connor about his suggestion that "...as committemen we 'shirk our responsibilities' by supporting an open primary."

"I disagree," she said, noting that Barack Obama never would have been slated to be the Democratic candidate for president, she said.

"I don't know if we're shirking our responsibilities if we fail to endorse someone," she said. "I wonder if we are embracing our responsibilities to build involvement and to revitalize this party. I am quite concerned that should we choose on just three days' notice to slate a candidate, we will turn off the voters.""

Read Lynn Sweet's complete coverag of the slating session at: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2009/01/omg_open_primary_for_rahm_eman.html

Monday, January 5, 2009

5th Congressional District Race

The date has been set. The special election for Illinois' 5th Congressional District seat will be held on April 7, 2009, with a special primary election to be held on March 3. This election is to fill the seat of Rahm Emanuel, incoming Chief of Staff to President-elect Barack Obama.

We have come into office as the 43rd Ward Democrats pledged to fair government, openness and transparency. We, therefore, support this open primary and are committed to providing a platform for all the those candidates who have announced their run for this seat.

We will be providing contact and event information for each candidate and keep the community up to date and informed as the petitioning begins and we learn more about each candidate's stance on the issues important to Progressive Democrats.

We are committed to hosting a public forum for voters in the 43rd Ward so that we can all be educated about the candidates in this very important race.

The candidates who have thus far filed with the FEC are listed on the right.

Happy New Year!

Thanks to all of you, I was elected Democratic Committeeman of the 43rd Ward in February 2008. We've accomplished a lot.
43rd Ward Democrats:

  • Registered more than 1,000 new 43rd Ward voters.
  • Delivered the 5th highest voter turn-out in the city!
  • Filled more than 150 Democratic Election Judge slots with a record number of 43rd Ward residents as judges.
  • Introduced Anita Alvarez, Democratic Candidate for State's Attorney, to the ward at our first Membership Meeting.
  • Sponsored trips for Obama to Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana and hosted phone-banking volunteers for Obama at our new HQ.
  • Ran a highly successful Election Day with dozens of volunteers who drove judges to the polls, delivered lunches and answered phones.
  • Hosted our First Annual Unity Fundraiser with Peg Roth, the former 43rd Ward Committeeman, as our Honorary Co-Chair and over 150 people in attendance.
  • Held a Rally for Obama co-hosted by DePaul Democrats, Students & Families for Obama and the Obama Campaign where over a hundred students and longtime residents volunteered to make phone calls, go door-to-door and go out of town to help elect Barack Obama.
  • Opened our New Ward Office - at 2527 N. Lincoln Avenue. It's proven a great spot for Democrats to gather. Come visit soon!