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Nepotism's Big Night

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Nepotism's Big Night
Nepotism's Big Night

Debra Silverstein speaks with reporters after beating incumbent Ald. Berny Stone in a runoff race for Chicago's 50th Ward.

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So, if you see Alderman-elect Debra Silverstein at City Hall, don’t be like Ald. Berny Stone, and suggest she got the job by sleeping with the right person.

“Their bedroom is now the throne room,” Stone cracked to WLS after losing to Silverstein, who is also the wife of state Sen. and Ward Committeeman Ira Silverstein.

That remark is not only sexist, it criticizes a Chicago tradition as central to this city’s identity as playing softball without gloves: nepotism.

Nepotism had a big night on Tuesday. It wasn't just the Silversteins, who are allowed to practice nepotism, since they're not Reform. Timothy Cullerton’s father and brother-in-law were aldermen. A Cullerton has sat on the City Council almost continuously since 1871. Tim won a full term representing his family’s 38th Ward, which would elect an Irish setter if it answered to the named “Cullerton.” Roderick Sawyer, the son of Mayor Eugene Sawyer, unseated incumbent Freddrenna Lyle in the 6th Ward, with the help of former Sen. Roland Burris, who was good friends with his dad.

The newly-elected aldermen will join the Council’s My Dad or My Husband Got Me This Job Caucus. The group is chaired by Ald. Edward Burke, son of Ald. Joseph Burke. It also includes Ald. Margaret Laurino, daughter of Ald. Tony Laurino; Ald. Harry Osterman, son of Ald. Kathy Osterman; Ald. Carrie Austin, widow of Ald. Lemuel Austin Sr.; Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., son of State Sen. Howard Brookins Sr.; and Ald. Sandi Jackson, wife of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

That’s nine aldermen looking out for the sons, daughter and spouses of politicians -- a powerful bloc. Austin has already advanced the interests of political legacies by appointing her son, Lemuel Jr., to the job of 34th Ward superintendent.

For many political sons and daughters, the City Council is just a stepping stone to bigger things. Todd Stroger was an alderman before moving on to become Cook County Board President, and unemployment applicant. Perhaps we saw another Todd Stroger join the political world last night. Only time will tell.

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