Stone loses 50th Ward, offers no apologies

April 6, 2011

By Odette Yousef

(WBEZ/Kate Dries)
Berny Stone reads results from precincts on election night.
(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)
Debra Silverstein talks with reporters after winning the campaign for alderman of the 50th Ward.

In a race that dislodged Chicago’s second-longest serving member of City Council,  Alderman Bernard L. Stone lost his seat of nearly 38 years to a political newcomer. Debra Silverstein, a certified public accountant, swept the ward with 62 percent of the vote, against Stone’s 38 percent. For many residents of this ethnically and religiously diverse far North Side ward, Silverstein will be the first new alderman within their lifetimes.

“This has been a very tough campaign,” Stone told reporters from his campaign headquarters, which adjoin his ward office in the Lincoln Village shopping center. “I’ve never had the situation where I’m up against the machine. I’ve always been the machine, this time I’m against the machine,” he said. Throughout the race, Stone railed against Silverstein’s endorsements from mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, labor unions, and the political apparatus that her husband, Ira Silverstein, commands as Democratic Committeeman of the 50th Ward. Stone was committeeman until he lost that post to Ira Silverstein in 2008.

Debra Silverstein ran on a largely negative platform, often claiming that Stone’s office failed to provide basic constituent services, such as street cleaning, filling potholes, and baiting alleys for rats. “The people of the 50th Ward are really ready for change,” said Silverstein at her campaign victory party at Great Chicago Food and Beverage on Devon Avenue. “There are so many things that we can do for this ward, and somebody has to get in there with the vision and the determination to turn things around for the betterment of the community, and I hope to be that person,” she said.

Stone has called this race against Debra Silverstein the most “personal” of his political career. “I started her husband in politics,” Stone said, referring to Ira Silverstein, who is also a state senator. “I gave him his first boost, and in turn what they did is they stripped me of everything. So why should I do anything to help her?”

After conceding to Silverstein over the phone, Stone walked from his campaign headquarters to Pure Cafe, around the corner, where his supporters gathered for food and muted reflection. Stone sat with his family and ate soup between interviews and phone calls. “I’m proud of services that I’ve rendered in my ward. I’m proud of the things we’ve built in my ward. And I’m proud of everything we’ve done,” said the 83-year old politician. “I don’t want to apologize for anything I’ve done. I made mistakes, but I’m human. Humans make mistakes.” Stone gave no concession speech.

In the following interview, WBEZ’s Odette Yousef asks Stone whether he will help Silverstein transition into office and what he hopes his legacy will be.