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Debra Silverstein Secures 4th Term Representing Far North Side’s 50th Ward After Challenger Faced Controversy

With 26 of 28 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Silverstein held nearly 69 percent of the vote to Bawany's 31 percent, sealing Silverstein's fourth term.

Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) speaks about public safety concerns from her residents at the Feb. 1, 2023 City Council meeting.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WEST RIDGE — In a contentious race, Ald. Debra Silverstein won reelection to represent the Far North Side’s 50th Ward, defeating sole challenger Mueze Bawany.

With all 28 precincts reporting, Silverstein held nearly 66 percent of the vote to Bawany’s 32 percent, sealing Silverstein’s fourth term.

Silverstein first took office in 2011 after defeating 38-year incumbent Bernard Stone. She won the head-to-head runoff with more than 61 percent of the vote, and she easily won reelection bids in 2015 and 2019.

Bawany, a Chicago Public Schools teacher, announced his challenge nearly a year before the election. In recent weeks, he has faced controversy after past offensive tweets were leaked that included comments against Israel.

The Democratic Socialists of America and Asian American Midwest Progressives rescinded their endorsements of Bawany this month.

Silverstein, the only Jewish person to sit on City Council, publicly condemned the tweets. A spokesperson for Silverstein previously said she did not attend the community’s only aldermanic forum this month because she felt it was “inappropriate” to sit down with Bawany after his comments came to light, along with a scheduling conflict.

Public safety has been a priority for Silverstein’s office throughout the race. She’s advocating for adding 20 police officers in the area and has called for a meeting with the mayor and police superintendent about getting more resources.

Silverstein also announced last month that the city’s Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement program will expand to West Ridge by this summer. CARE staffs mental health professionals in teams that respond to 911 calls as part of an effort to stop relying solely on police to respond to mental health emergencies.

“This expansion will help those in crisis access the care they need, while freeing up the police to respond to more appropriate emergencies,” Silverstein wrote in a Feb. 3 newsletter.

Silverstein plans to develop Western Avenue by attracting business while keeping it safe for pedestrians.

But Silverstein has also been the subject of controversy for her involvement in a deal to sell the old Northtown library branch to an organization she co-founded.

Silverstein helped get funding for the new Northtown branch at Pratt and Western avenues, which opened in 2019. But last year, a neighborhood group pushed the city to halt plans to sell the old building on California Avenue to Silverstein’s Jewish developmental disabilities service organization.

At the time, Silverstein said a city agency was handling the sale, and she’d spoken with the Board of Ethics to ensure there was no conflict of interest for her.

But after neighbors protested and Block Club Chicago raised questions about the deal, city leaders scrapped the proposal and launched a public bid for the building. Nonprofit Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America offered $962,786, more than double the original deal.

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