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$156,450 in real estate industry contributions (and counting)

Learn about the wealthy donors and PACs who are buying our communityby buying an alderman.

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Campaign donors come first: The Silver Properties story

Longtime Albany Park residents fighting eviction by a big developer who bought their building on Sunnyside Ave. found strong support from neighbors, community organizations, and fellow renters.

But support didn’t flow quite as freely from 33rd Ward alderman Deb Mell, who was collecting thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the developer.

Mell refused to use her influence to nudge the developer, Silver Property Group, into negotiations with the tenants, and saved her harshest words for the tenants themselvesaccusing them, falsely, of looking for a handout.

"I've lived in Albany Park for 30 years. I've lived in this building for 12 years," said one tenant who was given an eviction notice by Silver. "I've always paid my rent on time and have never been short."

While Mell claimed publicly that she was unable to help, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act tell a different story: That Mell has taken an active role helping developers with neighborhood evictions. “The alderman was very involved as current ownership purchased and worked to vacate the tenants from the property,” Silver Properties principal Ron Abrams wrote in a letter to the Cook County Assessor’s office in November 2016.

Unfortunately for the tenants, campaign donors come first.

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+ Where did this information come from?

Data on this website came from Illinois Sunshine and include the 984 donations received between 7/24/13, when Ald. Mell was appointed, and the most recent reporting date.

Our gratitude goes to researcher Julie Hilvers, who provided key assistance in breaking down these numbers, and housing advocate Jacob Marshall, who obtained important pieces of this story through public records research and Freedom of Information Act requests.

+ Why do these donations matter?

Our elected officials are supposed to represent us, their constituents. But too often, politicians like Deb Mell represent a different set of interests—those of big-money donors, connected insiders, and corporate interests, as well as establishment backers like outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel.

When industry money flows toward a particular politician, that money can give you a pretty good idea about which interests those politicians are actually supporting. An industry wants to enrich itself, not working people.

+ Doesn’t Deb Mell say she supports keeping the neighborhood affordable?

It’s campaign season, so of course she says that. But Mell’s track record while in office tells a different story—a drive to usher in luxury development at higher rents, and the bare minimum when it comes to enforcing neighborhood affordability standards. All of that amounts to a ward that, under Deb Mell, is becoming more expensive by the day.

+ What does it mean that Deb Mell is on the side of developers?

Ask the former tenants at Sunnyside Manor. When these longtime residents were handed eviction notices so that a developer could raise the rents, they went to Deb Mell for help. Despite their pleas, Mell took the side of their landlord. Unfortunately for them, her donors come first.

+ I definitely don’t want to vote for Deb Mell. Who else is running?

We recommend a vote for Rossana Rodriguez, a youth educator and community activist who’s running on a “neighborhoods for the many” agenda. Rossana is taking a “No Developer Dollars” pledge, meaning that she’s refusing campaign donations from developers. Rossana’s plan also includes a community-driven zoning and development process, to put important neighborhood decisions back into the hands of residents.

Learn more about Rossana at

+ When is the election? What is my polling place?

A runoff between Deb Mell and Rossana Rodriguez will take place Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

Find your polling place here: