On the second floor of City Hall today, in front of Richard Haas’s 1983 portrait of the city’s architectural achievements, 50th Ward alderman Bernard Stone approached a podium to the applause from a crowd mostly made up of German middle and high school students, in town from Hamburg as part of a sister cities program. His purpose was to announce that he'll seek an 11th term in the City Council.
But first he wanted to talk about his age.
Stone has long said he’d like to become the oldest serving alderman, a feat that would require him to win reelection in the upcoming municipal elections and again in 2015.
“I have never vacillated or made a secret of my age or tried to shave a few years off my actual age,” the 82-year-old said, reading from a printed copy of his speech. “I am what I am. Currently I am the eldest member of the City Council and its only World War II veteran. I am in fairly good health for a man of my age even though I do have some minor physical limitations. However, as I have proven on many occasions on the floor of the council or in committee, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my mental capacities or abilities.”
Stone also told reporters Mayor Daley's decision to bow out had influenced him to run for reelection.
"You don't abandon the ship when the ship has sprung a leak," he said, noting the dire economic situation of the city. Stone said he "foresaw" the recession and tried warning Mayor Daley while offering suggestions to help the city save cash—like finding out how much vacant land the city owns and how much artwork the city could sell off.
"We have an abundance of objects of art," he told reporters. "There's a method of selling art without actually giving it away, like just making the people put their name on it."
Stone barely won reelection in 2007, when he was pulled into an April runoff against Naisy Dolar. One of Stone’s other challengers from that race, Greg Brewer, is mounting another campaign, and Debra Silverstein, the wife of 50th ward committeeman and state senator Ira, is also said to be eyeing Stone’s seat.
“Certainly a number of people and their supporters are circulating petitions for the office of alderman of the 50th Ward, either assuming I would retire or that if I run, I would not be able to run a vigorous campaign, or that my age would be a major weakness I could not defend,” Stone said, returning to his prepared speech.
"I sincerely hope my constituents will grant me the honor to serve them for four more years. I pledge to do so faithfully, honestly, and to the best of my ability," he said, prompting a passerby to yell "four more years!"
Werner Lamp told me he isn’t convinced Stone would be the right choice. Lamp, who teaches Russian and English in Hamburg, was with the students who were touring City Hall.
“It’s interesting to see his argumentation [on] his physical appearance,” Werner told me. “If I had to vote, I’d go with youth and new ideas.”
As Lamp and his students packed up and filed into an elevator, a reporter asked Stone how he’d respond to challengers who made his age an issue during the election.
“All I can say to them is that they may be guilty of age discrimination,” he said.