Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Local Politics are Sometimes the Ugliest: Helen Shiller Haters Make Their Move

Politics these days is close to home for me. As someone who campaigned for our local alderperson, Helen Shiller, in her very first election win back in 1987, I have always marveled at the hatred borne her by a fairly small and reactionary part of Uptown's residents. Perhaps their ill-will for her has to do with her refusal to forget about the poorest and homeless of our area, exhibited in one of the most innovative multi-leveled developments on the North Side, the Wilson Yards Project. This mix of an economic engine (the largest Target store on Chicago's North Side) with housing for low-income seniors and families should please nearly everyone... especially because we all helped plan and execute its successful beginning last year.

Helen will be re-elected February 27 this year, marking her twentieth anniversary as Chicago's 46th Ward Alderman. Unfortunately, the group of Helen haters showed up next to our residence as we live next to Joan Arai School, where a Non-Violence Rally was held just a week ago Saturday. Though inside the school a mostly African American audience celebrated with Helen, Mayor Daley, and Chicago's superintendent of police the school's multi-faceted plan involving students and community, the virtually all-white marchers outside yelled angrily as families worked past them to enter the school.

It was a very ugly incident, and without further ado, I offer this further recounting of it by a friend, Jane Hertenstein. She allowed Blue Christian to reprint her letter to the editor of a Chicago newspaper here.


Dear Editor,

Last Saturday I had to make my way through a crowd of angry protesters to attend an Anti-Violence Rally at the Uplift School [Joan Arai]. It would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. Alderman Shiller along with community leaders organized the event in order to bring attention to what is being done in the Uptown area. The mayor was there to support our local law enforcement.

In addition about a hundred or so students from Uplift and Senn High School were in attendance. A large part of the program was dedicated to recognizing several students for being “upstanding,” standing up for what is right and taking a stand against violence. Awards and certificates were handed out by Principal Morris as well as public recognition for the school’s girls basketball team and math team—city-wide winners.

It is for those kids that I feel most concerned. These boys and girls gave up their Saturday morning for an Anti-Violence Rally—only to be taunted by the chanting, jeering crowd using a bullhorn to belittle the rally as a political maneuver.

Excuse me? What were they implying:

"No more felons, Get rid of Helen."

"No more fake meetings."

It was this group of protesters that turned the event into a platform for their brand of divisive politics. No matter where a person stands in the debate over affordable housing these kids don’t deserve to be placed in the middle or have their accomplishments degraded.Perhaps those folks needed to attend the rally instead of standing out front, blocking the sidewalks and harassing the people coming into the school. If the sentiments expressed inside the gymnasium of getting along and working toward unity and peace are going to be achieved, then we might have to look to the young people to be our models.

Jane Hertenstein
resident of Uptown


Mayor Daley speaks to the crowd at the Anti-Violence Rally at Uplift Community School, thanking Helen for her central role in UpLift's success.

Links: Helen Shiller's Re-election site.

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FrustratedOnWilson said...

Lets not forget that blame needs to be spread around here. Protestors should not have trapped children in the middle of a political debate, this is true. The Alderman, and to some extent the Mayor, should not have used the children and the police in a political manner. Alderman Shiller's "Non-violence" Rally is the first of its kind in Uptown in the past 4 years (elections come every 4 years), do you expect all of bloggerville to believe that is a coincidence? Both sides should be ashamed of themselves.

Jon Trott said...

Thanks, frustrated, for your thoughts. I have to tell you, though, this was not a protest as much as a scream-fest. I saw it, and heard it. Initially as the folks marched around two sides of our building, neighbors and friends in my building were looking out the windows perplexed and afraid (I had more than a few tell me this personally--one referenced Krystalnacht!).

One woman told me, her quote, "I could hear the hate in their voices, and when I tried to go by them to get in the school, this one woman was right up on me. And she was screaming nearly in my face, hers all twisted up. I was scared."

Re non-violence rallies... perhaps it depends on what you mean. I recall various anti-gun, anti-violence marches that were done with Alderman Shiller's office and CAPS spearheading them. I participated in two or three of those marches, which were good experiences not least because everyone pretty much showed up, regardless of political affiliation. It was a positive protest in that guns -- not people -- were the targets.

But as Shiller's website notes (with links) the violence of the 46th Ward is greatly reduced, so much so that Phil Cline, Superintendent of Chicago Police, said: "Violent crime was driven down 18 percent last year in the 23rd District and property crime was driven down also, so I'm real proud of the job they've done up here."

More to the point re violence, last year's stats show "that of the 9 beats that comprise the 23rd district (7 of the beats are in the 46th Ward) the beats with the two lowest crime rates are 2312 and 2313, which are in Uptown."

That's significant in light of Helen's opponent's claims that violence here is unabated, and that the good numbers are in fact all due to the 2 beats outside our Ward. (Not the only fibs he told at the recent debate... but going point by point on that would turn this blog into one giant bashing session).

Sorry to go on so long in response to your lone paragraph. I would note just one more thing. Of *course* Helen is using a non-violence rally to aid in her re-election. Any politician who wouldn't do so -- within ethical boundaries, of course -- is not only silly but stupid. She worked very hard on a number of levels with UpLift School, Senn High School, and the Chicago Police and Mayor to achieve progress. That progress is one reason I personally expect her to win easy re-election.

Anonymous said...

Ah, let the spin begin! I love the labels though...Helen haters? She may be a good person. I do not know because she is not approachable. As my alderman, she has proven to be out of touch (virtually zero communication from her office until election time crept up).

I believe the event you are disputing is the "soft on crime until election time" cries. I was not one picketing, but from my experience, those statements are true.

Helen has shown no interest in crime prevention, until now, when it suits her re-election bid. As an active participant of CAPS, I have never seen her or her staff at a meeting. In fact, this summer, she referred to CAPS as an "elitist organization" to a news crew. I’m elitist? She make double what I do, lives in a nice pad, and hangs out in nice restaurants, but in some twisted reasoning, I the elitist one? Gimme a break. I have trouble paying my bills every month just to get by! The only “club” I belong to is the most unrepresented organization, the tax-payers club.

It is clear that Shiller cares only of own special interests groups that get her re-elected. She does not, in any way, work to represent a collective of Uptown residents. Sure, we are all different with different agendas, but that should not block a means of communication to arrive at a solution. The fact that she once served to help the poor or under-represented in Uptown may be commendable, however she has since evolved to a career politician that does not listen to the people or her ward.

Give the labels a rest. Or, if we want to toss around labels, how about this one: “hypocrite”.

Jon Trott said...

Oh, my. I hardly know where to go with your post. I think I'll leave it up as an example of how hard it is to carry on real dialogue in this Ward. "Hate" was the right word to use regarding these marchers. From what I saw of them being interviewed on television, they were not an unrepresentative sample of those backing Helen's challenger, as some were recognizable.

As for accusations of "spin" -- yeesh. I don't want to be rude, and so will simply ignore that rather "beam in eye" comment.

This comment, though, is either mendacious or terminally naive:

"Helen has shown no interest in crime prevention, until now, when it suits her re-election bid."

Ah, sure. Unlike you, apparently, I've actually spent a lot of time with our alderman since she was elected up 'til now. I've also attended my fair share of CAPS meetings. Oh, about CAPS... let me quote from Helen's own web site:

"In 1994, when it became clear that the city administration was listening to a decade of organizing and activism, I lobbied for the first CAPS pilot program here in the 46th Ward. The 46th Ward had community policing six months before other areas in the city. The result since has been exactly what we envisioned—a building of mutual respect and a decrease in crime."

Wait a minute. Helen doesn't care about crime, right? She only makes a few noises about it at election time, right? Wrong.

Read my above response to "frustrated" for the good words Chicago's Police head has to say about Helen's work here. I figure he, if anyone, should know, eh?

Again, from Helen's site at :

"This is exactly what we have done, and the results can be seen in the crime statistics. In truth, crime has gone down nationwide since the early 1990s. But the crime rate in the City of Chicago has fallen farther over the last decade than the rest of the county. And in the 46th Ward, crime has fallen much farther, much faster than anywhere else in the city. During the 1980s, the crime rate in the two police districts that serve our Ward was about average for the city as a whole. For the last four years, the crime rate in these two districts have been among the lowest in the city."

Not only will your dog not hunt. He died.

This quote of yours I just have to interact with:

"The fact that she once served to help the poor or under-represented in Uptown may be commendable, however she has since evolved to a career politician that does not listen to the people or her ward."

That is extremely interesting. What does it imply about the increasing majority that support Helen, year in and year out, in this ward? Do you and your friends somehow share special insight the rest of us poor yokels are too stupid to grasp? If she's not listening, why do we vote for her? Again, check her website out. Check out the massive number of endorsements from across the cityscape she's recieved. And then tell me again how she "doesn't listen."

If there's an issue of deafness hear, I don't think it comes from the Alderman's office.

You write "she has proven to be out of touch." Ah, me. I have walked into Helen's office over the past twenty years and -- unless she's literally not in the office -- usually been able to meet with her. Sometimes not... she has other people besides me in her ward. But she is, and has been, one of Chicago's *most* approachable Alderpersons since taking office.

There really is an air of intentional misinformation emanating from the Cappleman camp regarding Helen Shiller. His face is only the newest face on the old reactionary forces which have always hated Helen -- actually, have hated the poor and homeless residents of Uptown always under threat as the rest of us fare better economically.

The hatred is perhaps most astonishingly, blindingly evident in the enmity exhibited toward her for the Wilson Yard development, which in reality reflects one of the most nuanced and thoughtfully crafted responses to a diverse population this Chicago has ever seen. Here we have a project which will house poorer residents, provide 200 (at least) local jobs, boost our local economy with the largest Target store on the entire North Side... plus do it all with a beautifully sculpted architectual plan.

Uptown is the most unique and wonderful neighborhood in Chicago, with the most diverse population racially, ethnically, and culturally in the entire city. If any one person can be credited for keeping it that way, that person is Helen Shiller.

Not that I have a strong opinion about her or anything! But when I can actually enjoy casting a vote FOR a candidate instead of against another candidate, that is one rare moment. It happens for me every time a 46th Ward aldermanic election comes up. And I trust and hope it continues to happen for years to come.

FrustratedOnWilson said...

Well Jon, I appreciate your view and the feelings of people walking in to the rally. I too was there, I stood outside and watched the protests before and after, and was in the bleachers during the rally. The protest was very much that, a protest. As far as having to “cross the line” I did not see or feel that, I saw the police in complete control of the crowd and I saw the crowd adhering to the “zone” they were given, which was far (at least 30 yards) from the doors to the auditorium. So I am not sure how or why someone would have got in someone else’s face.

As far as “of course” Shiller used anti-violence rally in a political way, I have to disagree with you. If she wants to use the Crime Stats, (which for someone who lives near Wilson and Sheridan are not as promising as the whole beat stats), that would be fine. But she choose to use a rally that she stated in the emailer and flyer was non-political and she brought innocent children and police into it. She used city time, resources, and events to further her cause of re-election, I think that is shameless.

I thought the events inside were positive, I thought what the kids in there did and stood for was great. I just feel the use of those things by our Alderman, for her personal gain, are unconscionable. I think that is what the protesters where trying to get across, but they should have just left the kids and the event alone, it would have faded into the sunset like most of this (and the other 49) Aldermen’s election rhetoric.

JP Paulus said...


Jon said the haters were a MINORITY of people. is the prime example. They call Shiller AlderBEAST, and a lying sack of s***, and have videos equating her with the Wicked Witch of the West. i believe that qualifies as hate.

As for CAPS being elitist -- some of the regulars want to lay all blame on Shiller. They are so loud on those things that if there was any creative ideas to have the WHOLE community help, they have been overshadowed. Another reason t might be considered elitist is that they call out "problem neighbors" without treating them as neighbors first -- as partners rather than just a problem. How well represented are residents from the so-abudant CHA buildings? If not any (or very very few) then that's where the elitist perception gets fueled.

FrustratedWilson, though, is right -- blame needs to be spread around for sure. There are no innocent parties. But we have to be careful of "Jerry SPringer mentality". WHat i mean is, with that show, someone who is having an affair on his wife can sit back and say "Well at least i'm not sleeping with my sister", and not addres his own issues, because the Other Person is much worse.

i definitely think there are many weaknesses with Shiller, so much so that i think she will BARELY the past few elections, it has come down to 500-1000 votes...and it is those SWING votes that will make the difference. WhatTheHelen & IrishPirate & Anita all disavow any approval or association from the Cappleman Campaign. But to the neutral voter, that is about as true as Tammy Duckworth & Peter Roskam saying they have no knowledge/control over the negative ads by their parties' NAtional COngressional Committees.

Both sides need to engage in more one-on-one conversations, starting with what they can work on TOGETHER, rather than what the other person isn't doing.

Jon Trott said...


I hear you. And it is true that the marchers were pushed away from the front doors. This happened, however, after the events I and others in our residence experienced. Initially, the marchers were between the two buildlings and basically blocking easy access to UpLift's doors. The Chicago Police rectified the situation. We can gently --wink wink nudge nudge-- disagree over the other particulars of your post.

Anonymous said...

How to Lie with Statisticss 101:

The 20th and 23rd District stats as used by Shiller are intentionally misleading. You know that only part of the 20th and part of the 23rd Police Districts fall inside the 46th Ward. And you know that the blended overall crime stat rate Shiller quotes for those districts is not the higher crime rate stat for those sections that lie inside her Ward.

Shame on her for lying with statistics.

Jon Trott said...

Shame on you! Helen broke these statistics down for all of us at her debate with her opponent. And beat by beat, nearly all of them in the 46th Ward had a very significant decrease in crime. The Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department also praised Helen Shiller for her tireless work in our Ward working to bring such results into being.

I will step out on good faith and believe you are unaware of all the above.

So why is Helen's opponent continuing to run on this bogus set of fibs re crime in our Ward, insisting crime has gotten worse in the 46th, trying to twist statistics?

I have to assume that like any political challenger to an established incumbent, he had to find some issue in which he could attempt to cause unrest and division among our Ward's voters. What he chose, unfortunately for him, is an issue in which the incumbent Helen has excelled.

In order to to create any sort of real base of support for himself, he needs more than this rather obvious negative-based campaign. Especially when to the majority of voters, it is rather transparently based on non-fact.