The Osterman Defense: A Rebuttal | Letters | Chicago Reader

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The Osterman Defense: A Rebuttal

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To the editors:

So many inaccuracies about me and my Ward were printed in the April 8th letter-to-the-editor signed by Austin Wyman, Ronald Smith, and Jacob Pomeranz that I feel compelled to reply.

That letter was in response to my letter of February 26 in which I stated that my alderman, Kathy Osterman (48th), often fails to elicit the opinions of a broad cross-section of her constituents. Wyman, a close advisor to Osterman; Smith, the husband of Osterman's chief of staff; and Pomeranz failed to address any of my allegations.

I noted in my letter that just before Mayor Sawyer's election, Osterman convened a closed-door meeting of 15 aldermen in a clear violation of the spirit of the Open Meetings Act. She and her fellow aldermen were making important decisions affecting Chicago's future and none of her constituents was able to see or hear what was said. Wyman, et al., responded to my point with a series of rhetorical questions which implied that I was advocating that Osterman should have had no involvement in the selection of the new mayor. Of course, I was not suggesting that. My point was that by meeting in secret, Osterman and the other aldermen not only skirted the law, but locked their constituents out of one of the most important decisions ever made by the City Council.

I also stated in my letter that during the week the City Council was selecting the new mayor, the phones at Osterman's ward office and City Hall office often went unanswered. Thus it was difficult for the residents of the 48th Ward to make their views known to their alderman on a very crucial issue. Wyman and his co-signers suggest that I did not try to make any of these calls myself. As a matter of fact, I made more than thirty unsuccessful attempts to phone Osterman or one of her staff members. Many others have related similar stories to me. Whether her inaccessibility was by design or merely due to the chaos of the week, the point is that Osterman's constituents had limited opportunities to express their opinions to her.

Osterman could have given her constituents more time to voice their opinions on the mayoral selection issue, but instead she voted repeatedly against any postponement of the election. Alderman Orr was performing well as interim mayor. Why was there an urgent need to elect an acting mayor just hours after Mayor Washington was buried?

I also pointed out that Osterman broke a campaign promise not to run for ward committeeman. Wyman, et al, state that Osterman broke her promise when "all of the previous announced community activists" withdrew to prevent a possible split in the independent voting bloc. Although two candidates withdrew in favor of Osterman, a third, Ed Farmilant, threw his support to independent candidate, James Exum, and took a leadership role in his campaign. The fourth candidate, Sharon Rae Bender, was not an independent, but rather a representative of the corrupt Marty Tuchow machine. When Bender dropped out and supported Osterman, any pretext about splitting the independent vote vanished. Osterman's only opponent was James Exum, a long-time independent community activist.

Osterman's claim to political independence is further diminished when her record is examined. In her race for alderman, Osterman received considerably more than half of her campaign funds from State's Attorney Richard Daley and the 11th Ward organization. When she ran for ward committeeman, she received the endorsement of Marty Tuchow's organization. Many of her campaign "volunteers" were precinct captains from other wards, including the 47th Ward organization of veteran machine politician Ed Kelly. Since her election, the Tuchow organization has been operating out of her office, apparently rent-free. Just how independent can Osterman be when she owes her financial and organizational strength to machine politicians?

Finally, Wyman, et al., state repeatedly that I am a newcomer to the Ward. Although I fall to see how the length of my residence has any relevance to the issues I address in my letter, I will state for the record that I have been a resident of the Ward for nearly ten years. Having been accused of "misstatements" and not "sticking to the facts," I hope that this letter will move the debate to a higher level, and help some of my neighbors make informed choices in the future.

Robert Bartell

W. Ainslie

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