The Osterman Defense | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Osterman Defense 

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To the editors:

Since Robert Bartell's letter to the editor in the February 26, 1988, issue attacking Kathy Osterman was based largely on misinformation, we assume that he must be a new resident of the 48th Ward. This assumption was strengthened by our not seeing him at any of the countless public meetings held on the subject of the redevelopment of the Broadway Treasure Island site. So we are taking this opportunity to correct his factual misstatements.

We too are amazed at the statement that there is community opposition to the proposal to redevelop that site, because there is no such significant opposition. While it is true that political opponents of Osterman are falsely telling people who live East of Broadway that the redevelopment aspect of that site that calls for a CTA bus turnabout or cul-de-sac literally means a concrete wall blocking the sidewalk of Berwyn so as to "wall out" East-of-Broadway people, few people actually believe such racial demagoguery. It is also true that someone said at a number of said community planning meetings that State of Illinois tax dollars should not be spent in Edgewater because Edgewater doesn't need it, yet, as can be predicted, that argument, aside from it being factually untrue (no State money is spent), carried no weight with Edgewater residents.

The public meetings and forums that were held by Alderman Marion Volini, Kathy Osterman, the Edgewater Community Council and various Ad Hoc meetings sponsored by area residents always had an overwhelming consensus of support--urging only that the development be expanded to include Berwyn "El" stop improvements and the retail space East of the "El." At the last such community meeting over four hundred people attended to urge the City and the CTA to get on with the job of giving their necessary approval.

Mr. Bartell goes on to say that Alderman Osterman's Ward and City Hall offices were not taking calls after the death of Mayor Washington until after the election of Eugene Sawyer as the new Mayor. He does not say that he personally tried to call unsuccessfully. As Mr. Bartell is new to the Ward, he would not know that our freshman Alderman is not given enough staff to cover a City Hall office when the City Council is not in session. However, the City Council staff answers calls in the absence of Aldermanic staff for all Aldermen during all working hours. As to the Ward Office, we personally know that it was open and taking calls for virtually the entire period of time. Indeed there were hundreds of calls voicing opinions of all kinds on the Mayoral selection, as would be expected in a Ward as politically active and open as the 48th. We in fact know that Osterman personally talked to scores of citizens on all sides of the Mayoral succession during those hectic days.

Mr. Bartell also attacks Osterman for meeting with 15 Aldermen in her Ward Office: actually at various times there were more than 18 Aldermen in her office including Tim Evans, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush. Is Mr. Bartell suggesting Alderman Osterman should not have met with other Aldermen in an attempt to arrive at a consensus as to selection or process? What should she have done--abstained? Taken the week off and gone fishing? Hand the decision to some downtown political guru?

But Mr. Bartell admits that Osterman did talk to "elected officials and community leaders" and "rejected their input." We take it that means that she said she disagreed with them. Well, we are sure that is true; she could not have agreed with everyone's opinion. She could not have agreed or disagreed with anyone if she had been talking to people, as charged. We must point out to newcomer Bartell that the history of the 48th Ward independent movement has been a struggle to create a truly "independent" politics in which our elected officials are responsive to the needs and desires of 48th Ward residents and not to the dictates of outside kingmakers. We hope that outside "elected officials and community leaders" of all stripes will come to learn that to receive 48th Ward support they must be responsive to 48th Ward community concerns. To a large extent the current Committeeman race is a referendum on the question of whether 48th Ward residents desire to support proven community centered and directed leadership as against a candidate whose support comes from those whose central desire appears to be that 48th Ward elected officials be quicker to jump to the fiat of outside directors.

It is also true, as stated by Mr. Bartell, that active community people were in the race for Committeeman and it indeed appeared that there was a possibility that they would split the independent vote. That is why those candidates and others including Marion Volini asked Osterman to run and all of the previous announced community activist candidates withdraw to take leadership roles in the Osterman campaign. And it is true as stated by Mr. Bartell that Osterman has been able to bring previous opponents of each other such as Marion Volini and Sharon Bender together for the benefit of the Ward. Mr. Bartell seems to think that this is a bad thing--yet the mission of a Democratic Committeeman is to create the strongest possible, most unified, broadest liberally based Democratic Party and to most successfully elect Democratic candidates. You don't defeat Ed Vrdolyak by excluding Democratic supporters from your party.

Osterman's short aldermanic incumbency has already demonstrated her successful practice of the politics of inclusion. Her various citizens assemblies and committees such as Zoning and Land Uses, 48th Ward Human Rights Commission, Senior Citizens Forums, Community Administration Task Force, provide ample opportunity for citizens of the Ward to express their own beliefs, needs and desires, even if they are not as "pure" and submissive as some ideologues would prefer.

48th Ward Democratic politics is characterized by hard and open struggles on issues, open to all opinions. But, if we are going to continue to have meaningful debates, please stick to the facts.

Ronald C. Smith

Professor of Law

John Marshall Law School

Austin Wyman Jr.

Attorney at Law

Jacob Pomeranz

Attorney at Law

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