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Former Ally of Alderman Schulter is Now His Opponent

By Mike Fourcher | Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ald. Eugene Schulter (center) and Tom O'Donnell (right) officially open the new play lot at Welles Park in May. Photo by Teresa Fourcher.

Tom O’Donnell, a former president of the Democratic Party of the 47th Ward, filed to run against 47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter in the February municipal elections.

O’Donnell, a long-time staffer for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, had been a close ally of Schulter. When contacted by Center Square Journal for comment, numerous local political leaders declined to speak on the record, but all were surprised to learn that that O’Donnell had filed for alderman.

Besides Ald. Schulter, who filed his petition for candidacy with the Chicago Board of Elections last Monday, three other candidates have filed for the 47th Ward post including Matt Reichel, one-time Green Party candidate for the 5th Congressional District, activist Ameya Pawar and Tom Jacks.

A common ploy for incumbent candidates running against a strong challenger is to stack the deck with numerous “friendly” candidates, but some local political experts did not think that was the case with Pawar and Reichel.

“They’re not realistic candidates,” said a local well-known political consultant who wished to remain anonymous, “Gene has done a great job and I don’t think these other candidates can articulate why they could do a better job. When it comes to talking about the day to day issues I don’t think they can say why they’d do a better job than Gene Schulter.”

UPDATE (11 p.m. 11/23): Capitol Fax wrote: “Tom O’Donnell filed to run in the 47th Ward. O’Donnell is Ald. Gene Schulter’s right-hand man. There’s word that Schulter may be appointed to Joe Berrios’ current seat on the Board of Review.” Schulter supported Berrios’ opponent Forrest Claypool in the Nov. 2 race for Cook County Assessor.

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  • Anonymous

    I am glad my old friend Matt Reichel is in the race. The Green Party had him way too stretched out in that Congressional run. This is a lot more manageable task.
    Bottom Line: 9 terms is too many. Ol’ Gene should have retired with the rest of the machine.

    • Anonymous

      I’d like to ask the business owners and residents of the 4800 N. block of Western Avenue if they think Gene has done a great job? Especially as he was trying to use eminent domain in 2008 to take their property in order to re-develop it, thereby increasing the tax revenue and developers’ bottom lines. Or ask the residents of the 47th Ward how they like the fact that Gene voted for the Chicago Parking Meter Lease Deal that basically gave away $2.85 Billion over the next 75 years, or roughly $38 Million a year, to private entities. The “business as usual” way of doing things has not benefitted ordinary citizens, it has benefitted those connected to Daley and his puppet aldermen. I find it funny that so many of them have dropped out this year in fear of facing a real challenge and a potentially devastating defeat, thus following their “leader” as they quit,! Why do I have a feeling that Tom O’ Donnell’s candidacy is really just a new way of “installing” the new “chosen one” vs. the old way of having an alderman resign at an advantageous time in order for Mayor Daley to “appoint” one in their place. Something sure smells fishy to me so wise up 47th Ward residents and dig deeper into why Mr. O’ Donnell is running. I’d sure like to know more and suspect it will be more of the same if he gets elected. I’ve lived in Lincoln Square since 1977 and it’s always been a great place to live. It, and Lincoln Avenue in particular, really benefitted from the influx of young professionals moving to areas along the Brown Line and the re-development that came with it, so no one can say that Gene Schulter was the only reason that Lincoln Square and the 47th Ward is what it is today solely because of him. Did he contribute, absolutely, but at what cost? When property values are down but tax bills have increased, what do we say about that? When TIF districts are created near Lincoln Square and divert needed tax revenue for our parks, schools, etc., how does that benefit us? I thought TIF’s were for blighted areas? In the 30 + years I’ve lived in this area, I don’t remember anything resembling blight, or is that what they call it now when rats or graffiti appear?

      • Anonymous

        Go to Clark Street by Leland Ave. Drive up along Clark street and you’ll find that it isn’t Lincoln SQ. The Metra Station is his as well. Give him credit where credit is due

  • Anonymous

    Realistic candidates? Is the consultant that was quoted the same as the author of this article? How about setting up a debate so the candidates can ‘articulate’ how they can do a better job. Do you honestly think that O’Donnell collected signatures on his own? You really think he didn’t have the support of the 47th Ward organization?

    He started circulating on Saturday…

    • http://twitter.com/vouchey Mike Fourcher

      Eric-

      We may sponsor debates. We’ve discussed it at CSJ/RVJ.

      As for source of this quote, I spoke to three political consultants and elected officials who all expressed similar responses as the one quoted. I have spoken to half a dozen more since writing the article who expressed the same surprise.

      The person quoted is not me. I am also no longer a political consultant. See here: http://blog.fourcher.net/2010/09/introducing-early-and-often.html

      • Anonymous

        Thank you Mike. I hope that the community gets a chance to hear from all the candidates. Are you going to profile each candidate?

        • http://twitter.com/vouchey Mike Fourcher

          Eric-

          Like sponsoring debates, we’re still working on that. In a couple of weeks we’ll know how many people are still on the ballot and how the race is shaping up. Either way, we plan on being as evenhanded as possible.

        • Anonymous

          Your whole story is in question.

          What’s sad is that Schulter is out for himself again and any opposition is labeled unrealistic. Sad.

          Quoted from the Sun Times
          Schulter filed for re-election as 47th Ward aldermen, but covered his political bases by having a member of his ward organization file nominating petitions as well. The deadline for one or the other to drop out of the race is Dec. 23.
          The timing of the aldermanic resignations are designed to get ahead of pension reforms that will raise to 67 the age for retirement with full benefits and base benefits on an eight-year average of pay instead of four. After Jan. 1, it will also become illegal to collect an aldermanic pension and simultaneously draw a salary from another state or local government agency.

        • Anonymous

          I think this candidacy of Tom O’Donnell is welcome to me and my family. I’ve been a long time resident of the 47th ward and no of no other place that I would live in the City of Chicago. Tom’s time is spent bnettering his community, while others out there gripe and do nothing.

          To all the pundits on this posting board, you name me one thing that has disturbed you so much, that under Alderman Schulters guidance, has your property values dropped? No you say? Is the high Quality standard of life and the “Neighborhood” feel upsets you too? Capital Improvements over the last 10 years to make the ward a better place to live, shop, entertain, and enjoy a warm atmosphere and yet you are still not satisfied?

          IF the man wants to retire after giving 35 years of service to this city, and will do a great job protecting the tax paying citizens of the 47th ward from being over taxed and keep property values high, then I say to those opponents, let’s see you “walk the talk”. These guys do.

  • Anonymous

    Ameya Pawar’s – Response to article in the Center Square Journal:

    Mike -

    Thank you for the thoughtful write-up on the 47th ward race.??

    I just wanted to respond to some of the critics and professional politicos who summarily dismissed my campaign along with the campaigns of Matt and Tom for being “unrealistic candidates.” I hate to speak for the other candidates, but I think we all agree that we love this Ward and City. That is why we are running. There is nothing more real than that.

    So let me articulate why I will be a good alderman. First, it is not about doing a better job than Gene. Why? Gene has done things the old Chicago way. That Chicago way was about getting things done no matter what the cost. The old way no longer works. We are headed towards a financial disaster unless we act now. That means we need to elect someone who can legislate and oversee ward services. That legislator must work to pass a responsible budget that delivers services responsibly and sustainably. We can’t keep mortgaging our future.

    I am qualified to be alderman because I understand how an alderman should focus their attention. He or she must work to remedy citywide problems like poverty, crime and education so that taxes do not continue to increase and thereby negatively impact the bottom line of 47th ward residents. An alderman should work to decrease pressures on the taxpayers by understanding that by also working on problems outside the ward, residents in the 47th ward may pay less. So that means we must structure services equitably and efficiently while reducing waste. Then the alderman should ensure that the people delivering services in the ward have the tools to do their job. That is what an effective macro/micro level manager does.

    Now on to my background. How do I know I am qualified? I currently work for Northwestern University and am leading the effort to build a university-wide business continuity program. I have a Masters in Public Administration, a Masters in Threat and Response Management and am working on a third in Social Service Administration. The MPA is from Illinois Institute of Technology and the latter two graduate degrees are from the University of Chicago. My work at the University of Chicago (Threat and Response Management) earned me a book deal from Taylor and Francis. Here is the link: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439847978;jsessionid=faw9gqiTavIh3i-aaz9SXw. This textbook will teach graduate students in public policy and administration how to harness emerging trends, local intelligence and data points to better prepare for disaster. In a nutshell, this book teaches future administrators how to fully understand their populations, infrastructure, budgets, tax revenues and micro/macro level economic trends in a way helps them make more robust decisions about current policies. In fact, it is this thinking that helped me create the Chicago Works iphone app. Chicago is one of only a few cities that have yet to implement Open 311 — my application is a first step in that direction. In 2009, I was a United States Department of State Scholar and spent a summer in India with some of our country’s brightest minds. I sit on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention where for two years I chaired their gala and raised a combined 80K. And finally, let me tell you how all of this got started – at the Common Pantry. I am now on the Board of Directors of this 47th Ward pantry, but it was my volunteer experience at this pantry that inspired my work at the University of Chicago, my book and this campaign. This pantry serves our most vulnerable neighbors and what we are seeing at the pantry is happening all over the city. I am an expert in identifying these trends and that is why I am running. I am running because I love this City and I refuse to sit back and let the status quo politics reign over public service.

    Finally, it is my sincere hope that before dismissing new candidates, who are representing issues critical to our collective future, that information is solicited from the residents of the City wards. I say this because in the many months that I have been going door-to-door and been meeting with 47th ward residents and families I am hearing a very different sentiment. When I am out talking with people, listening to people, having discussions with the residents of my ward I am hearing excitement regarding the possibility of new representation from someone with a vision and background like mine. I am also hearing fear and frustration from people who are tired of not having a voice. Most of all, I am hearing that people are ready for a change. They are ready to be heard and represented in a new way. I don’t know anyone powerful and I certainly don’t have any big corporate donors or a well funded war chest. While that might make for an “unrealistic campaign” to some, residents of the 47th ward seem to disagree. Maybe someone should take the time to ask.

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