With 50th Ward alderman Bernard Stone running for reelection at age 79, some skeptics have been speculating that he’s simply hoping to keep his seat warm until the time is right to deliver it to his chief of staff and daughter, Ilana Feketitsch. I asked him if he was going to be next to uphold local tradition a la Burke, Lipinski, Stroger, and now Steele and Beavers. “It ain’t gonna be me,” he said.
Stone says instead that he wants to beat the record for oldest sitting alderman, currently held by former 25th Ward alderman Vito Marzullo. To do so, he’ll have to win reelection in 2007, 2011, and 2015. Marzullo didn’t hang it up until he was 89.
The 2007 race isn’t shaping up to be pretty: Stone’s facing opposition from Salman Aftab, architect Greg Brewer (pdf), and community activist Naisy Dolar. Still, he’s unfazed by any suggestion that nepotism could hurt him. “She’s been on my staff for 12 years,” Stone says of Feketitsch. “Should I fire her because she’s qualified but happens to be my daughter?”
Perhaps not–but maybe she shouldn’t have been hired in the first place? That suggestion drew a wave and a grunt.
In fairness, I should note that Stone wouldn’t hire just any relative. His son Jay, who challenged Ted Matlak for 32nd Ward alderman in 2003, is back as one of the cochairs of Dorothy Brown’s mayoral campaign. Four years ago Berny called Jay, a hypnotherapist by trade, “an embarrassment” and said he “doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Jay was stomped.
This time around, Berny Stone doesn’t have much to say about his son’s political independence. “That’s his business,” he said. “I don’t tell him who to vote for.”