|Bernard L. Stone|
|City of Chicago Alderman|
|Preceded by||Jack I. Sperling|
|Succeeded by||Debra Silverstein|
|Born||November 24, 1927|
|Died||December 22, 2014
|Alma mater||Wilbur Wright College, Bachelor’s Degree
John Marshall Law School, Juris Doctor
Bernard "Berny" L. Stone (November 24, 1927 – December 22, 2014) was alderman of the 50th Ward of the City of Chicago, Illinois. The 50th Ward encompasses part of Chicago's far North Side and includes the West Ridge, West Rogers Park and Peterson Park neighborhoods. First elected to the Council in 1973, Stone was also the second longest-serving alderman (after Edward M. Burke). Stone was also Vice Mayor of the City of Chicago from 1998 to 2011. Stone was a member of the "Vrdolyak 29", which blocked Mayor Harold Washington's nominees to school, transit and park district boards. Stone was a protagonist in a protracted legal conflict with the neighboring suburb of Evanston in 1993–1994. Employees of Stone's 2007 re-election campaign were convicted of vote fraud in 2010.
- 1 Education
- 2 Early attempts at elected office
- 3 1973 campaign for alderman
- 4 The Republican years (1987–1990)
- 5 "Berny's Wall"
- 6 Sleeping in Council Chambers
- 7 Campaign employees convicted of vote fraud
- 8 Committees
- 9 Loss in 2011 run-off
- 10 Political philosophy
- 11 Personal life
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Stone was born on November 24, 1927. He was educated in the Chicago Public Schools, at Von Humboldt Elementary and Tuley High School, which is now Roberto Clemente Community Academy. Stone earned an undergraduate degree from Wright Junior College, now known as Wilbur Wright College, where he was president of his freshman class and a letterman on the school football team. Stone enlisted in the United States Army in 1945 and served for two years before being honorably discharged with the victory and good conduct citations. Stone obtained his Degree of Jurist Doctor from John Marshall Law School.
Early attempts at elected office
In 1956, Stone ran in the Democratic primary for the Illinois state House of Representatives from the 8th District, but was defeated by Esther Saperstein, who went on to serve in the Illinois House for 10 years and became Illinois' first female state senator.
In 1963, Stone was one of a then-record 233 persons who filed to run for Chicago alderman. Stone was one of eleven candidates who filed to run for alderman of the 50th Ward, including the incumbent, Republican Alderman Jack I. Sperling, who was seeking a third four-year term, and ten challengers. Stone filed without the endorsement of a political party. By February, 1963, Stone was not on the ballot for the February 26, 1963 election.
1973 campaign for alderman
On January 29, 1973, the Supreme Court of Illinois appointed Alderman Sperling to fill a vacancy as Cook County Circuit Court judge. The Chicago City Council called a special election for June 5, 1973 to fill vacant City Council seats, including the 50th Ward alderman seat. Stone was an employee in the office of Cook County Sheriff Richard Elrod and the vice president of the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, which endorsed him for alderman. Stone was one of five candidates who filed to finish Sperling's term. Another candidate, independent Theodore Berland, was a medical writer and nationally recognized anti-noise activist who was chiefly responsible for Chicago's anti-noise ordinance. Stone organized the "Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward" to counter neighboring Lincolnwood's opposition to a bridge over the North Shore Channel at Pratt Avenue, which Stone called a "necessity" for the 50th Ward. In the first round of voting, Stone led with 47% of the vote and Berland finished second, with 27%; they then proceeded to the July 3, 1973 run-off.
In the run-off, there was a turnout of about 53% of registered voters in the 50th Ward and Stone defeated Berland 12,882 to 10,958, recapturing the 50th Ward for the Regular Democratic Organization for the first time since 1955.
The Republican years (1987–1990)
On October 29, 1987, Alderman Stone announced he had joined the Republican Party and that he intended to run for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. "I found the party I have supported since 1932 has changed completely," Stone said in a press conference. "The party I thought stood for all the people stands for special interests." Former Alderman and former Cook County Democratic Party chairman Edward R.Vrdolyak, a recent convert to the GOP, encouraged Stone to become a Republican and to run for recorder. "I can no longer be part of a party [Democratic Party] that punishes law-abiding, tax-paying citizens and communities," Stone said. Stone said another factor in his switch was that "the Democratic Party is drifting away from America's historically strong commitment to Israel." By threatening to run for Chairman of the Republican Party of Cook County, and for Cook County State's Attorney, Vrdolyak brokered a deal to slate himself for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and Stone for Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
On November 25, 1987, Harold Washington, Chicago's mayor, died. Stone announced his candidacy for mayor to fellow aldermen on November 29, 1987 and to the public on December 1, 1987. Few took Stone's candidacy seriously; many saw it as a publicity ploy for his Recorder race. Two days later the City Council elected Alderman Eugene Sawyer as mayor.
In 1988, Stone ran as a Republican against Democratic Illinois State Representative Carol Moseley Braun, who is black, for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Stone told reporters he did not expect their newspapers to endorse him. "Just run a picture of Braun," Stone said. "That's all I ask." Disappointed that few people were focusing on the racial factor in the recorder's election, Stone went for the backlash vote by featuring Braun's photograph in his own campaign literature. Stone was soundly defeated by Braun and contributed to a sweep of Cook County offices by Democrats.
In 1989, Stone unsuccessfully sought the Republican slating for Mayor of Chicago, to unseat Mayor Sawyer. Richard M. Daley defeated Mayor Sawyer in the Democratic Primary, trounced Republican nominee Edward Vrdolyak in the general election and became mayor. In 1990, Stone returned to the Democratic Party.
Although resident and corporate relations between Chicago and neighboring suburb Evanston are generally cordial and co-operative, Stone was an agent in perhaps the most significant altercation in recent decades. The Evanston City Council adopted the Southwest II Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, also called the Howard-Hartrey TIF, on April 27, 1992, in order to incent the development of a disused 23-acre Bell and Howell distribution center. At the behest of Stone, on May 26, 1993, a contractor hired by the City of Chicago erected a three-block long, continuous steel guardrail down the middle of Howard Street, preventing vehicles on the Chicago side of Howard from crossing over to Evanston and vice versa. The 21⁄2-foot-high median was aimed at protecting residents of the ward from the hundreds of cars expected to converge daily on a proposed shopping center on the Evanston side of Howard Street, projected to open in 1995. A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation said construction of the wall cost about $150,000. A Cook County Circuit Court judge denied a request by Evanston for a restraining order to stop construction of the wall. The Chicago Tribune called Stone "silly," editorializing that the wall was a "senseless idea...just an insipid ploy by a useless alderman who has too much time on his hands and too much of the taxpayers' money at his disposal."
On May 28, 1993, Evanston Mayor Lorraine H. Morton met with Mayor Richard M. Daley, Stone and top city officials at Chicago City Hall. Stone demanded that Evanston pay for the construction and dismantling of the wall. Hours later, Morton announced that Evanston would drop legal action against Chicago. The next day, after discussions with Evanston's corporation counsel and others, Morton announced through a spokesperson that Evanston would continue a two-pronged approach, in court and at the negotiating table. On June 1, 1993, the Evanston City Council voted to continue legal action, to refuse to contribute any funds regarding the wall and to decline to consider making any changes in the shopping center site plan until the wall was removed.
Testimony in the trial began July 25, 1994. City of Chicago Transportation Commissioner Joseph Boyle Jr. and City of Chicago Planning Commissioner Valerie Jarrett both testified the guardrail was erected on Stone's request without any previous traffic or planning studies. A partner with the firm overseeing the shopping center construction testified that in 1992, Stone contacted him about doing the project on vacated property in the Lincoln Village Shopping Center in Chicago on the far North Side, a site due to be re-districted into the 50th Ward in 1995. Evanston officials said Stone was just jealous about a new shopping center in Evanston instead of Chicago.
On September 21, 1994, the judge ordered Chicago officials to promptly remove the border barrier, pay all the accompanying costs (estimated at $35,000), and to pay Evanston's legal bills (about $40,000). The judge declared that Chicago's Department of Transportation had no authority to unilaterally order its installation, ruling that the passage of a resolution on the issue Stone pushed through the Chicago City Council on March 25, 1993 only authorized the department's commissioner to "give consideration" to a barrier, and not permission to install it. The decision also dismissed a countersuit filed by Chicago that sought to halt construction of the shopping center. The Chicago Tribune editorialized calling the wall "a petty, indulgent waste of money at the people's expense." Chicago officials requested a stay of the judge's orders pending appeal, but the judge denied the stay. Bell and Howell agreed to pay the estimated $35,000 to remove the barrier, and removal started on October 4, 1994. "The party isn't over until the fat man sings, and I'm the fat man," said Stone.
Fearing that traffic from the new Evanston Center shopping plaza would overwhelm 50th Ward neighborhood streets, Stone persuaded the Chicago City Council to make Kedzie Avenue one-way, northbound only from Touhy Avenue to Howard Street and to make a smaller portion of Sacramento Avenue one-way, northbound only. But after the changes were implemented November 10, 1994, Stone's office was deluged with calls. On November 16, 1994, Kedzie was again a two-way street.
On November 3, 1999, the City of Chicago established the Lincoln Avenue TIF district, including the Lincoln Village Shopping Center area.
Sleeping in Council Chambers
A photograph of Stone asleep in Council Chambers during a hearing (on limiting cell phone use while driving) ran on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times on January 14, 2004. "Some aldermen have a tendency while they're thinking to close their eyes and that may register with their constituency as not paying attention or, perhaps, even sleeping during the session," Stone later explained. Stone fell asleep at his desk in Council Chambers in City Hall during the City Council's Finance Committee debate on the controversial parking meter lease on December 3, 2008, in full view of the press, and was photographed by the press. Stone was videotaped sleeping during a Finance Committee hearing on transparency of the City's tax increment financing program on March 16, 2009.
Campaign employees convicted of vote fraud
On September 4, 2007, speaking from the floor of Council Chambers during a meeting of the Buildings Committee, Stone warned fellow aldermen of an ongoing investigation into absentee balloting.
On January 28, 2008, two paid workers for Stone's 2007 re-election campaign were arrested and charged with improperly steering primarily Indian and Pakistani voters toward absentee ballots for Stone. Anish Eapen, a 37-year-old employee of the city's Streets and Sanitation Department, and a Stone precinct captain, was charged with two counts of official misconduct, three counts of absentee ballot fraud and one count of mutilation of election materials. Eapen worked in tandem with Armando Ramos, 34, an unemployed student. Ramos was charged with two counts of absentee ballot fraud and two counts of mutilation of election materials. Stone accused the state's attorney's office of engaging in a political witch-hunt at the behest of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. "We know where this all started. We know it's politically based. ... Her [Schakowsky's] aide was soliciting the state's attorney to investigate. It's absolutely a devious political trick," Stone said. Schakowsky denied she had instituted the investigation. Bond was set at $50,000 for Eapen and $40,000 for Ramos.
City Inspector General David H. Hoffman recommended that Eapen be fired. Eapen was placed on paid administrative leave from his $83,940-a-year job with the city's Streets and Sanitation Department for nearly 2 years. On October 8, 2009, Streets and Sanitation Department Commissioner Tom Byrne found a job for Eapen helping with the tracking of equipment. Stone blamed Byrne's demoted predecessor for allowing Eapen to sit idle, saying "Mike Picardi has no cojones."
On October 24, 2008, Inspector General Hoffman appeared before the Committee on the Budget of the Chicago City Council, of which Stone was a member, during the annual budget hearing process. "It is my intent, Mr. Inspector General, to wipe your entire office out of the budget," Stone told Hoffman. "It is my intent to submit a budget amendment which will destroy your department." Stone's amendment came before the Budget Committee on November 17, 2008. "He’s come after me and my staff, and I’m going after him, and the only way I have to go after him is to cut his funds," Stone said. Stone's amendment was tabled in committee 14-2.
Eapen and Ramos waived their right to trial by jury. In a bench trial, four members of a West Rogers Park family testified that Eapen coaxed them to vote absentee, collected their ballots and then mailed them. The family members said Eapen came to their townhomes and watched them as they filled out the absentee ballot applications and forms for both the 2007 February general election and the run-offs in April 2007. One family member, who wasn't registered to vote, said Eapen filled out her ballot. She signed the ballot, as did all her relatives, but said, "I didn't mark anything." Another witness testified that when she told Stone that Ramos filled out her ballot in the 2007 aldermanic run-off, the alderman brushed her off, saying "This meeting is over." Stone commented on the testimony, "I have no recollection of what she is talking about."
Cook County Judge Marcus Salone found Eapen and Ramos guilty on June 24, 2010. Eapen was found guilty on nine different counts, including one count of attempted mutilation of voting materials and eight counts of attempted absentee ballot violations. Ramos was found guilty on 20 different counts, including one count of attempted mutilation of voting materials and 19 counts of attempted absentee ballot violations. On August 4, 2010, Salone sentenced Eapen to 364 days in jail and Ramos to 270 days in jail. Salone said the sentences were like a "kiss," essentially a slap on the wrist. "This is a kiss," Salone said. "I think the evidence is overwhelming. The reality is that Mr. Eapen and Mr. Ramos attempted to steal democracy and they did it in a vicious way." Stone called the case "a witch hunt," called Ramos and Eapen "political prisoners" and compared their crimes to "spitting on the sidewalk." Stone said former city Inspector General Hoffman singled him out in the ballot fraud investigation while failing to probe other aldermen. "They are not the ones who attempted to steal democracy. The one who attempted to steal democracy was David Hoffman," Stone said. "This is a miscarriage of justice."
Stone served on 7 committees in city council. He was the Chairman of the City Council Committee on Buildings. Stone also served on the following committees:
- Committees of Budget and Government Operations
- Finance Committee
- Historical Landmark Preservation Committee
- Housing and Landmark Preservation Committee
- Traffic Control and Safety Committee
- Committee on Committees
Loss in 2011 run-off
In 2008, Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein ousted Stone as 50th Ward Democratic committeeman. In a five-way race for alderman in February 2011, no candidate garnered 50% plus one of the vote, forcing a run-off in April 2011. Silverstein's wife, Certified Public Accountant Debra Silverstein, defeated Stone in a run-off with 62% of the vote to 38% for Stone. On election night, Stone said Silverstein will be “a disaster for this ward. There’s no way I’ll help her. She knows nothing.”
Stone stated his political philosophy as "You take care of the people who take care of you - you know, the people who voted for you. That's not Chicago politics, that's Politics 101."
Stone worshipped at Congregation Ezras Israel and served on their Board of Directors. Stone also served on the Board of Directors for the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center, the Associated Talmud Torahs, and the Jewish National Fund.
In 2003, Stone's son, Jay, launched an unsuccessful attempt to unseat 32nd Ward Alderman Theodore Matlak. Stone publicly supported Matlak, calling his son "an embarrassment" who "doesn't know what he's doing." Despite Jay Stone's defeat at the polls, father and son reportedly remained on good terms.
Stone died on December 22, 2014 at age 87 from complications from a fall.
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- "Committee of One: Berny Stone don’t need no stinking quorum" Mick Dumke, Chicago Reader, December 15, 2006
- "The $75,000 Parking Spot" Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, April 28, 2006
- Bernard L. Stone materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)