The City Council will be a less entertaining place if 50th Ward Ald. Berny Stone loses on April 5.
Stone and his opponent, Debra Silverstein, debated Tuesday on Chicago Tonight. Viewers didn’t learn much about the ward, other than what happens when you put two prickly Rogers Park politicians on the same soundstage.
Moderator Phil Ponce spent most of his 10 minutes asking the politicians about the personal attacks they’ve launched at one another. First, he asked Stone whether he was too old to be alderman, and mentioned photographs of him sleeping during council meetings.
“I’m proud of being 83 years old, but that doesn’t mean I lack the ability or the energy to be the alderman,” Stone said, animatedly. “There are times when [meetings] become extremely boring and I’ll close my eyes, but that doesn’t mean I’m falling asleep.”
Then Ponce turned to Silverstein, and asked what she thought about Stone dismissing her as a “housewife.” Silverstein is the wife of state Sen. Ira Silverstein, who defeated Stone for ward committeeman in 2008. She also has the support of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.
“He’s been quoted in the Sun-Times as saying I’m nothing but a housewife, and he’s put in his campaign literature that all I do is host ice cream socials.”
“I value housewives,” Stone said, defensively. “I never said she was nothing but a housewife. Ice cream socials? She brags about the fact that she’s run the movies in the park, and they’re serving ice cream and popcorn to the kids. I hosted them, too!”
Then Stone hit Silverstein with the lowest possible blow you can deliver in the 50th Ward, home of the city’s Orthodox Jewish colony.
“Which face does she want to show to the cameras?” he asked. “Does she want to show the face that talks about ethics or does she want to show the face that takes moneys from slumlords, or the moneys that comes from a terrorist that preaches the destruction of Israel?”
“Would you care to elaborate on that?” Silverstein asked.
Stone removed a folder from an accordion binder.
“We don’t have time to go through that,” Ponce said.
“She doesn’t want to talk about it, but the facts are here,” Stone insisted. “I have the facts on the slumlords. I have the facts on the terrorists.”
In the final minute, Silverstein got to talk about an actual 50th Ward issue.
“We need economic development,” she said. “We have a multi-cultural ward, very diverse. We could have an international marketplace. Right now, it’s a diamond in the rough. We need to promote and we need to attract businesses.”
It’s true. The mile-and-a-half of Devon Avenue, between Ridge and Kedzie is the most American street in Chicago. Where else can you watch a cricket match while eating sag paneer in a Pakistani cabdriver diner? Where else can you see a billboard for shrimp tacos across the street from a kosher bakery? Where else can you smell terrified chickens and rabbits about to be slaughtered for halal meat? Where else can you see an Irish tavern called Casey’s Corner a block away from a vegetarian Indian restaurant and a Russian bookstore? And where else can you find an old Eastern European tailor who sends you away with the blessing “Be well”?
That’s the Rogers Park everyone should see. That’s not the Rogers Park everyone saw on Chicago Tonight.
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