By: Kyle Boone, Emilee Levanas, Heather Higgins (Loyola)
After 11 years, Harry Osterman is stepping down as Alderman of the 48th Ward.
Before he became Alderman in 2011, Osterman served for 11 years as a state representative for Andersonville, Edgewater, and Rogers Park.
“As someone who deeply loves this community, this was not an easy decision,” Osterman wrote in an email to 48th Ward residents announcing his resignation. “However, I feel that the time is right to make this transition.”
Osterman grew up in Edgewater and his family has had a history of service in the community. His mother, Kathy Osterman, represented the 48th ward as alderman from 1987 to 1989.
According to Osterman’s website, one of his main priorities as alderman was to help improve the quality of life in the community and make the neighborhood a better place to live in. He worked together in partnership with neighbors, business owners, block clubs, and the police who have vastly reduced crime in the Edgewater neighborhood and surrounding areas.
During his time as an alderman, Osterman emphasized the improvement of schools around the community, specifically Senn High School.
Osterman was able to secure $13 million dollars in funding to renovate Senn. According to his website, he has brought local grade schools together to work with Senn High School to create a cohesive educational network that supports children from preschool to college. He has also led efforts to expand the IB (International Baccalaureate) program at Peirce and Senn high school and worked to have Loyola University support and partner with Senn and other local schools.
Osterman believes that having a good education system draws more people into the community. This ultimately leads them to stay for the long term due to the success and safety that a good education brings.
However, his tenure has not always been smooth sailing. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Osterman was involved with the previous mayor, Richard M. Daley’s hiring scandal.
In a written statement obtained by the Sun-Times, Osterman denies the claims saying, “In over 30 years of public service I have never been accused by any authority; city, state, or federal; for any wrongdoing of any kind, much less any criminal behavior. I have tried, in every position I have been honored to hold as a public servant, to serve the interests of citizens to the best of my ability.”
Osterman has also faced some backlash that may have impacted his decision to step down. According to an article in Block Club Chicago, a political organization, “The 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice”, were aiming to influence and or replace Alderman Osterman. Hundreds within the organization hope for the adoption of the police reform measure known as the Civilian Police Council.
Despite what feelings arise within the community, Osterman is proud of what he has done for the community.
“I am proud to have done my part to serve our community and move it forward. Now is the time for others to step forward and take on the responsibility to lead our community,” Osterman said in a WTTW article.
One of the candidates who has seemingly gained a lot of traction in the community is fellow community organizer, artist, renter, and restaurant worker, Nick Ward.
Nick Ward is currently campaigning to fill Osterman’s seat in the 48th ward. He is one of several progressives in the race and is a long-time grassroots organizer in the Edgewater area.
Ward said he became politically active during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with local grassroots and mutual aid organizations like Uptown Buena Solidarity Network and 48th Ward neighbors for justice.
Ward said that his time spent organizing in the community, particularly his work supporting union workers in the 48th ward, set him apart from the former alderman. Thus pointing to Osterman’s absence at many rallies and events supporting union workers in the community.
“One of the things I have really prioritized as a candidate is really being vocal and supportive of union workers, and all workers but specifically union workers in the 48th ward,” Ward said.
There are several progressives running for alderman along with Ward. Ward said he is thankful that there are so many good candidates running for the alderman position, but he thinks his combination of skills makes him the best option for the ward.
“It’s really about making sure that people get the resources that they need to live safe, stable, healthy and happy lives. That’s a constituent service piece, it’s a policy piece and its values, and I think I’m the only one who could bring all three of those pieces together,” Ward said.
With Osterman’s time coming to an end, he went on to say, “I will use the remainder of this term to continue the critical work we have started.”
The 48th Ward is now faced with a decision on who will be next up as Alderman. However, it is apparent that Osterman will make sure it is left in good hands in order for the 48th ward to flourish.
Early voting in Chicago for the February 28, 2023 Municipal Election will start in late January, so make sure to check back in at https://chicagoelections.gov.