Monday, April 23, 2007

An after-election response to me from former aldermanic candidate James Cappleman, and my response back

I was surprised, though not unpleasantly, when former political candidate James Cappleman posted a comment last week to one of a handful of posts I did on the 46th Aldermanic elections here in Chicago. His post in turn led to me writing one of my interminably long responses, long enough that I'm posting it as a front pager instead of a comment. Background: Mr. Cappleman challenged incumbent Helen Shiller in the March elections, and lost. As the election progressed I, as someone who finds in Alderman Shiller the rarest of commodities (a politician with integrity), did give her challenger and supporters a fairly hard time. The election, for the majority of those voting for both candidates, had as subtext the class struggle between more wealthy, invested interests vs. those struggling to make ends meet.

Again, here is what James wrote (along with the contested article itself as well as about 20 other comments). My response to his comments follows:

== + ==

James, I am glad to see you responding to my post here, but sad you couldn’t have responded during the election. Nonetheless, thanks again for posting. Allow me to initially respond to your concerns. After I do that, I’ll try to add some comments reflecting more on what lies ahead for our 46thWard, and Uptown in particular, than focusing on the election now behind us.
I honestly don’t think we’ll get anywhere meaningful by debating as if the election is still underway. Nor, probably, will we get anywhere debating my opinion about your platform and presentation vs. yours. You write that I accused you of being a “fan” of George Bush. I did not. I did suggest that your presentation on PBS Channel 11 as well as your comments in the debate with Helen Shiller at Uptown’s Disney Magnet School offered a rhetorically heavy and content-light approach quite similar to President Bush’s.

What was offered instead seemed to be mostly an assault on Ms. Shiller rooted in character assassination, coupled with your own insistence that, unlike her, you would be a good alderman.
This failed to impress me. Again, that was my take, and I’m the first to admit my perspective is only that of one very limited human being. But can we move on to greener pastures? You list five points, which I will attempt to respond to in what will probably be too long for many and not long (explanatory enough) for others:

First you say: "I am a liberal Democrat." Perhaps you are on many issues. But somehow, on the set of issues consistently facing Uptown (and I’m talking as someone who’s lived here for the past 30 years) you have drawn around you a group of very conservative-leaning (one might even say reactionary) folks on key issues for our community. If a politician’s appeal can be known through his followers, then I would have to say you don’t appear at all progressive on the interlinked issues of homeless, housing, and poverty. Nor did I personally detect anything progressive in your platform on these subjects. You signaled you'd worked with the homeless, which I applaud. But you also seemed highly resistant to more low-income and affordable housing being built in Uptown, a fact reflected by your hostility toward the Wilson Yards low-income housing component engineered by Helen Shiller.

What I suggest, if you want the votes of progressives in the Ward (should Helen not run again), is to interview folks ward-wide about the history of what many call -- fairly accurately -- a “class war” in our Uptown. A growing number of folks would love to see this class war resolved, but I don’t think anyone will respond to rhetoric alone. You would need a platform filled with very specific, well-informed, and worked out plans to actually CREATE low income housing, more jobs for the very poor, and more help in particular for homeless men, who appear very unwelcome in the “new” Uptown some of your supporters would seemingly like to build.

Second, you say: “I have always remained a strong advocate for people who live in poverty.”James, this just doesn’t ring true. Perhaps you believe it; that’s not the question. All I can do is point to those who voted for you in this last election.

Why did the same interests gather around you as gathered around every challenger of Helen Shiller for the past twenty years? Those interests have always focused on stopping any further low-income housing in Uptown, and where possible, eliminating some or all social services in Uptown for the poor. For us long-time watchers, nothing has changed. This seems true also of your supporters, many of whom repeated the exact same anti-poor rhetoric we’ve been hearing since 1985 or ’86.

If, once again, you want the votes of a majority of progressives, you have to fight consistently for the poor, for more low-income housing, rather than against it on the very dubious grounds that it doesn’t meet HUD’s guidelines. The trouble with such narrowly defined “proper ways” of doing things creates a probable death of a thousand pin-pricks for any truly creative plans for low-income housing.

You go get HUD dollars if you think you want HUD housing. Otherwise, that housing has to be created via other plans and other specifications. Helen Shiller did go get housing dollars via one of the most innovative plans we’ve seen in this or any Chicago ward in recent memory. The Wilson Yard TIF plan created something for everyone, including the large retail outlet we’ll all use, but also created low income housing. If you wanted to appear sincere in your claims above, you would have supported this plan unreservedly. Frankly, for my own two cents, I had hoped for more affordable housing out of it than we actually got. But I do think Helen did about as well as she could considering the lack of HUD or any other government funding for housing. (Guess it is all being spent in Iraqthese days. If you don’t believe me about HUD, take a look at post-Katrina New Orleans, where up to 60 percent of their housing other than downtown is still vacant due to flood damage!)

Third, you say “I have always sought efforts to eliminate racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and sexism. That comes with being a liberal Democrat. That comes from being a Christian with strong humanist leanings.” These are good words, Mr. Cappleman. But in order to actually deal with such issues you have to become engaged with the history of these matters. Uptown’s history is particularly painful, as there has been an unrelenting class struggle here for at least four decades (and actually since the 1930s). At first Uptown was indeed the North Side’s main “ghetto” area, a place where poor southern whites, blacks, and various other racial and ethnic groups could find low-income (but also horrendously dangerous and unhealthy) housing.

Then, as speculators realized Uptown was located near Lake Michigan and had easy access to public transportation (among other things), the area became victimto selfish developers. We watched as mass evictions of (for instance) Cambodianrefugees took place via a developer who bought their building in order to turnit into high-rent apartments. The condo boom made things even worse. (I’m greatlycompacting a story which is fairly horrendous.)

So… your words are good. I applaud them. But I’d need specific plans for the future where such noble sentiments are fleshed out in hard, cash-savvy, people-savvy terms. Otherwise, you and your supporters remain vulnerable to charges of NIMBYism** regarding the poorest of the poor who are your neighbors.

Fourth, you say “I abhor the polarization that exists in Uptown. At the WTTW interview, I brought up the What the Helen* blog to demonstrate that there are deep divisions within this ward in order to confront Ald. Shiller's attempts to gloss over the anger that is present in the community.”

Sigh. Again, you must honestly believe this. But I just don’t see it. In fact, by far the most divisive campaign I saw was your own. Part of that is just good politics, in the pragmatic sense at least. That is, you were the underdog to an established favorite. Discontent is a political necessity for an underdog, otherwise the underdog will be basically unelectable. So I don’t even particularly hold it against you that you used division in order to try to build and strengthen your beachhead of voters. Where you ran into trouble, however, was in what kind of voters – and how incredibly shrill and hateful – the most public voices among them ended up being. The whatthehelen folks, as your very worst expression of support, should NEVER have been mentioned by you even strategically. That is, unless you thought their site would be helpful to your cause. I assure you it was not.

You make the same mistake in your post here to you made on the WTTW broadcast. That is, you blame Helen Shiller for the rantings of extremists, while (it could be argued) you yourself are fueling the extremists' rage. And the “blame game,” even in good ol’ Bushite America, is beginning to wear thin. Extremists are extremists, angry people are often simply angry people, and will find some target to vent at.

Most of my post, actually, was directed more at the whatthehelen dot com folks than at you. But your verbal endorsement of them – because that is what it was for the viewers, whether you meant it that way or not – does implicate you. Never did you distance yourself from either them or even the more extreme voices on sites such as (a site where moderate, thoughtful voices do also post). The deeply offensive comments made their about Helen, about the religious community I am a part of, and about others, were passed on by you in silence.

In retrospect, and for the future, I think if you really mean it when you say “I abhor… polarization,” you should promptly and publically reject hateful and knowingly inaccurate websites supporting your cause as being divisive. Not only would that show integrity, but it would also quite possibly lose you a few votes and gain you some votes.

Fifth, you write what appears to be a reiteration of your campaign rhetoric. In fact, I think some of that sounds like the very wording you used at the Disney school debate and on WTTW. I’m not going to respond point by point (collective sigh of relief from readers here—Trott’s already windy enough!). The election is over, and if anything perhaps I can aid you (to one degree or another) in finding lessons in the whole process. Or perhaps I won't be of use to you in that regard. If so, I'm sorry. I do realize that you are at least pondering another aldermanic run in a few years, so polishing one's rhetoric is no less important for you, a political hopeful, than it is for me, a writer.

Speaking of my writing, you said this: “Jon, there's a spirit of meanness that pervades your writing. You might see as sarcasm and dismiss the seriousness of it, but it's there. You would benefit from searching your own conscience. In the meantime, I will not sink to your level. We don't agree with one another on politics. I don't and never will agree that the end justifies the means. I also embrace a spirituality that sees an element of God's truth in all religions, including yours. I expect you to be truthful. I would think your God expects the same.”

James, when it comes to me and my motives, my voice as “sarcastic,” and many more matters of personal ambiguity, I always plead guilty. Only God knows my heart for sure; I don’t. But as for “meanness,” I don’t think I ever called you anything like your followers have called me and/or the religious community to whom I belong. Re-read what I wrote, or peruse some of the threads on Buena Park Neighbors' message board regarding us, Helen, or other supporters / employees of Helen.

The business about Denice, who works with Helen, was very Imus-ish in my opinion and the opinions of others who read it (again, I referenced it in my post to which you responded). All of that was nasty character assassination, without basis in fact. And I did hear you directly attack the integrity of Helen Shiller as a person, not merely a politician. That line is a fine one, I understand. But in my humble opinion, you crossed it early and often during the campaign.

And re sarcasm, I don’t think my comparison between you and President Bush was meant to be mean. It was meant quite literally. I did feel somewhat angry as I wrote it. If you felt that sense of indignation from me, I plead (again) guilty. Again, I would absolutely love it if you proved me wrong by your future actions. I mean that in 100% sincerety. You will find in me a solid ally if you in turn ally yourself – in action – with the poorest of the poor. You were a Franciscan once, so I know you are familiar with his way of life and not just his words. And I don’t doubt that in your personal life, you attempt to do many good, gracious, and noble things that might reflect his spirit as well as the Spirit of his Master.

But politically and socially, you ended up supporting ideas that I don’t think St. Francis would have supported. And lest we forget, N. T. Wright (a great Anglican theologian) reminds us that Jesus Christ wasn't just a feel-good guru. No one would have killed him for that. Jesus’gospel was (and is) political at its heart, and Christ died for political reasons at the hands of both religious and secular authorities. How have we ended up, as Christians, supporting the powers-that-be over against the poor and dispossessed? None of us are innocent, James. I do indeed, as you suggest, try to plumb my own conscience before the God of Love and Justice.

A few philosophical threads to tie off, and I’m done. Not because I really have given an adequate response – even though it is as long as a Helen Shiller response (joke!) – but because I think these issues are the hear of what makes us human, or our political end results humane or non-humane…

You mention the end justifying the means and seemingly direct that comment toward me. Without a referent to something I said or wrote, I'm baffled by it. It was a strange sentiment, seemingly reflecting the very thing you are accusing me of doing.

You write: “I also embrace a spirituality that sees an element of God’s truth in all religions, including yours.” Um, my religion is Christianity. If yours is also Christianity – defined normally by one’s belief in the historic life, death, and resurrection of Christ as portrayed in the gospels, and its personal application to us individually and corporately as human beings, then you and I are both of the same faith. We may (and likely do) disagree on other issues, sub-sets if you will of the gospel’s core, but that doesn’t necessarily make either of us an unbeliever. As the Apostle James said, in words that burn whenever I ponder them, "faith without works is dead."

But back to the "elements of truth in all religions" sentence of yours. There is a very superficial way this expression can be read -- as a sort of fluffy Hallmark card sentimentalist sound-bite. Scrape at it with a fingernail and the meaning vanishes away, leaving only a thin sugary crust.

But on a deeper level I agree, depending on what we mean by “elements,” I suppose. Every religion that exists points to the yearning in each individual heart for meaning, for hope beyond death, for love (both as lover and for a Beloved). All the great religions have at their heart an idea of mutuality, or as Martin Buber calls it, an “I – Thou” relationship between human beings as well as between human beings and God.

And all great monotheistic religions have at their heart the idea that God, at heart, cares for us and is concerned for us each personally, that he reveals himself to us through general and specific revelation. C. S. Lewis deals with some of this on the popular level with his Mere Christianity.

The problem with that sentiment, however, is when it is taken too far. For instance, neither you nor I would agree with much that many religions have to offer. The law of non-contradiction indicates that if I say God is a Sentient, Personal, Perfect Being, and that what he created materially is “good,” I cannot also believe that God is an impersonal “it,” or “stuff” that creation is made of, and that creation in its material form is actually an imperfection or even evil. These two ideas, from western monotheistic and eastern Hindu-based religious traditions respectively, come into logical conflict. They may both be wrong, but they can’t both be right.

There are a number of other core issues of faith which likewise demand intellectually that we choose between them. That does not, however, necessitate a dehumanization of others who do not see reality as we do. All human beings -- not just Christians -- are made in the Image of God. Christ died not for some, but for all men. The fact some humans reject that sacrifice is one of those terrible mysteries I don't pretend to understand.

Finally, you say "I won't sink to your level." Well, knowing me as well as I do, I’m glad for you! All of us are pretty low on the morality scale. God didn’t really become human to make us into good moral, decent citizens. Most of us already think we are good people, not really in desperate and needy straights. He came to rescue those of us realizing our predicament, and to make us into His disciples. The very first step of that process is to discover that we are sinful, selfish, lustful, and unloving, even in the midst of our most altruistic, "good" by human standards acts and words.

In short, any politician really wanting to be a "good" politician must begin with the self-project, what AA calls a "fearless self-inventory."

Redemption of a world begins with the smallest world, my own.

Or, as St. Francis put it, “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

So, as one sinner to another, can we get started?

Jon Trott

* The "whatthehelen" blog site was pulled down within hours of the election ending. Another site has since taken the URL, but is missing most of the content the first site had.

** NIMBY = "Not In My Own Backyard" and refers to political liberals who suddenly become conservative when faced with the implications of progressive liberalism in their own neighborhoods.


chris said...

Very diplomatic, even kind Jon. No sign of the "mean" Jon. For that reason I hope this isn't a less popular post. "If it bleeds it leads." Sigh. You're so conversational--when you want to be. Musta got that from reading Ron Sider's book on pacifism, eh? Or maybe some of Yoder's "Politics of Jesus" soaked into your violent heart. Nah.:)

Anonymous said...

What I suggest, if you want the votes of progressives in the Ward (should Helen not run again), is to interview folks ward-wide about the history of what many call -- fairly accurately -- a “class war” in our Uptown.

Jon, in my discussion with many people from all different levels of income and ethnic backgrounds, I found that we all had shared values of wanting a safe, diverse, and welcoming neighborhood that would help the children in the neighborhood blossom into adulthood. You and Helen continue to focus on a class war between different groups of people. I agree that prejudices and discrimination are deep-rooted and must be addressed on all levels of society. However, I’d like to suggest your approach has not appeared to help bring about needed change. You both attack various groups of people based on their income and then act surprised when hostility is returned.

Advocating for the poor must go beyond good intentions. I remain an adamant believer in the use of best practices for low-income housing, job training, schools, and assistance to those experiencing homelessness. It comes from my training as a licensed clinical social worker. Social services all over the country are in dire straits when it comes to funding and so it is imperative for us to use our tax dollars wisely and come up with solutions that are effective while also compassionate. I will remain critical of interventions that have not shown to empower people to change their lives. I will also speak up when a particular solution has not demonstrated success elsewhere.

The vast majority of the frustrated people I've met are not NIMBY's. They are angry about social services and low-income housing that are not run well. Many residents all over the area volunteer their time and money to help those in need. The same is true with many of the block clubs in the area. It's fair to expect the social services to be good neighbors to the rest of the community. It's fair to expect management companies of low-income buildings to address problems that affect everyone. There are many social services and managers of low-income buildings that do a wonderful job, but there are also the few that don't act as good neighbors and that gives the rest a bad reputation.

As far as your condemnation of developers who have robbed the poor, keep in mind that they contributed heavily to Helen’s campaign. I owe developers no favors. Helen does, along with many other outside special interest groups. The vast majority of my funds came from residents, which to me speaks of real & genuine support. And given the odds, I am a newcomer to politics and I still almost won.

You may believe that my campaign was the most divisive ever in the history of 46th Ward aldermanic elections. Every piece of fact stated in my campaign literature was backed up with an objective source which was listed. There were no lies. There were no exaggerated truths.

Helen cannot say the same. It was slanderous to accuse me of wanting to round up all the children in the neighborhood and have them arrested on sight. It was slanderous to suggest I am a member of the KKK. It was slanderous to say that I am against all affordable housing. It was slanderous to say that I sought the closing of Uplift School. It was slanderous to say I was against all job training. It was slanderous to say that I believe people living in poverty are a “waste of space” and “cause crime”. Jon, that’s divisive.

St. Francis had many wonderful traits, but what I most appreciated about him were 2 things:
1. He promoted peace in such a way that it excited others to do the same.
2. He was a man of integrity.

I believe the community is long overdue on addressing the harmful polarization that has festered for many years. As a boy I was taught that I could either be a part of the problem or the solution. I believe I have made some very real positive steps to be a part of the solution to address the polarization that exists in Uptown.
-James Cappleman

Jon Trott said...


Thanks for continuing the conversation. If nothing else, at least we're talking about our disagreements rather than shouting. And that's something. I do agree with one thing you say here, and that is that many of us on all sides of the issues do have a shared base of values. In other words, it is never hopeless, just very hard, to see one another's point of view.

One illustration of how hard it is, unfortunately, is your suggestion that the "class war" in Uptown is an invention of mine or of Helen's. Just a few weeks ago, the Chicago Reader (as I noted in my blog) wrote:

At the risk of generating dozens of screechy e-mails, I think it all comes down to good old-fashioned class warfare. Shiller’s made it clear there will always be a place for the poor in Uptown and some people can’t abide that.

Further, the article's author noted this about the past campaigns against Helen (including yours):

I’ve witnessed eight 46th Ward aldermanic campaigns since then, and though Shiller has won every one since 1987, when she ousted incumbent Jerry Orbach by 498 votes, they’ve all been pretty much the same.

I trust that drives home the point I was trying to make. Uptown has been, and now is, involved in a struggle based on class. Helen is no more the author of that struggle than the '60s civil rights leaders were authors of the racism they battled. To suggest differently is simply not to know the history of Uptown.

As for Helen's supporters suggesting you had connections or backing of the KKK, or were going to round up every child in Uptown and put them in jail, that's a new one to me. I never heard any such thing. To me, that sounds akin to an urban legend. But if someone did say it, all I can say is that they were silly, unwise, wrong, and on their own.

I did hear and see with my own ears and eyes the rabid anti-Shiller marchers (your supporters) who showed up outside what was supposed to be a celebration of the Joan Arai Middle School's successes. They were so offensive in tone and manner to parents, children, and others attending the celebration, that police had to cordon them off far from the school entrance. Imagine how the students of that school felt who'd come to recieve awards? We heard them. We were awakened by their screams -- and I really do mean screams -- outside our 920 W. Wilson address, which of course is right next door to Joan Arai. This was not reasonable, neighborly, or respectful. It was highly offensive, and really fairly saddening. I went to that Uplift celebration, by the way, and it was a very unitive and beautiful thing for and about the kids in Uptown.

The rest of what you wrote, once again, sounds pretty much like what you said in the debate at Disney Magnet School. I wish we could get past that, but for it to happen, I suppose one of us would have to change our mind on the nature of problems facing Uptown. To you, the problem is Helen. To me, the problem is what we will all do -- collectively -- to aid the poorest among us. I continue believing Helen's pragmatic yet principle-based approach to creating a community for everyone is key.

And I do not trust a laissez-faire approach to development in Uptown; nor has virtually any religious or social organization involved in aiding the poor in Uptown. In 1987 I addressed the City Council on unfettered development which had begun with Sheridan Park, the neighborhood we then lived in (at 4707 N. Malden, now the Miriam). I was part of the Uptown Taskforce on Housing and Displacement, which also had as members nearly 25 other ethnic, religious, and social organizations, including Uptown's Jewish, Catholic and Protestant, Islamic, and Buddhist communities virtually in toto. Some of your core support comes from the very people who dismissed that moral coalition as misguided do-gooders. It's history.

Re developers contributing to Helen's campaign, I think one must discriminate between responsible and irresponsible developers. Responsible developers such as Peter Holsten are involved in creating affordable housing in Uptown already, as shown by the Wilson Yard development. (Peter, by the way, is if memory serves me correctly, involved with the very socially conscious Reba Place community of Evanston... an Anabaptist-based group never before accused of money-grubbing.)

I'll pass on commenting on your campaign literature. James, the campaign is over, unless you're already thinking about 2011. If you are running, let's go ahead and get the word out now. Yes, or no?

Finally, I had a struggle to relate to your reasons for appreciating St. Francis. They aren't bad reasons. But for me, I suppose St. Francis more than anything was about his passionate love for, and thus identifying with, his Lord. This is very hard to say, because I can easily be misconstrued to think *I* share in the good things of St. Francis. Yeesh! I wish! Ol' Trott has waaaaay too much Self to be in any league approaching Francis'.

Francis loved. He loved Christ, he loved his neighbor the rich man, he loved his neighbor the beggar or one with leprosy. He was a non-discriminating lover.

From my very human, very frail, very limited perspective, James, I believe you fail to grasp at least one vital aspect of St. Francis' heart. St. Francis not only had a heart for the poor, but became himself truly poor so that he could love them as one of them. You, and frankly myself as well (even though I live very poorly by American standards), exist outside that true identification he -- and His Lord -- lived every day.

Christ did love the rich. But he was not always very kind to them, because sometimes those with more need to be awakened to their true spiritual poverty, just as the poor sometimes need to be awakened to their true worth.

These are the deep things. I'm sure you know many of them -- perhaps better than I due to spending time among Franciscans. But I would hope and pray for you to show me -- show all of us -- a political imagination baptised by that lovers' heart of St. Francis. To obtain such a heart, however, is an ordeal involving a whole lot of pain.

Again, thanks for your thoughts. And blessings on you as you, I pray, pursue He Whom Francis loved.

One beggar to another...

James Cappleman said...

Jon, I don’t believe I ever suggested you and Helen invented the class war in Uptown. I do believe both of you focus on it and in return, have alienated many people in the community.

As far as the anger about Helen having a CAPS event at Uplift, I didn’t go to the event, but I thought it was rather disingenuous to host a CAPS event a month before an election, especially when we can’t get her or her staff to attend CAPS beat meetings and positive loitering events. My partner is the CAPS beat facilitator for Beat 2312 and Uplift is located in this beat. He learned of this event a few days before it was scheduled. If Helen wants to work with the community, she needs to work with the community, including the local beat. If you see no coincidence between this event and the election, well, what can I say?

I believe people living in poverty deserve our utmost respect. I think treating them as victims of a class war doesn’t do it. I find that approach to be demeaning after awhile. I don’t trust a laissez-faire approach to development, but I also don’t trust an approach that has shown no history of working well.

Peter Holsten has given over a $100,000 to various campaigns and I am not being naïve to think he’s gaining some financial benefit from it. I am disappointed that he has been so adamant about using best practices with his other developments, but his standards take a sudden shift for the 46th Ward. Still, most of Helen’s money from developers did not come from Peter Holsten. Developers know it’s “pay to play” in the 46th Ward.

As far as St. Francis goes, I lived the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for 5 years. My understanding of St. Francis and appreciation for him grows the older I get. I believe in his utmost respect for the poor and for all of creation. Like St. Francis, I believe we are all worthy of love because we are all made in the image of God. So, I will continue with my theme (that you label rhetoric) and call for uniting this community.

Jon Trott said...


As someone who has seen what happens when Helen dares show up at CAPS events, I'm not at all surprised she doesn't come. She's been screamed at, interrupted while trying to respond, and generally shown a complete and total lack of respect. Unfortunately, from the very folks supporting your candidacy... sigh.

She does, however, work very closely with the police, both giving and getting advice. As I mentioned in my original article, the crime rate in our area was cited by the Chicago Chief of Police as exemplary.

And on we go...

Class war. It sounds like you are admitting there is a class war. That seems a change in what you've said elsewhere, where it seemed you suggested Helen was more or less creating the class war in order to stay in office. Since all war sucks, I'd love to see the class war end. But I don't think blaming Helen (or her supporters) for its existence is very credible.

You say that you agree with me on not trusting a laissez-faire approach. That is good news. What specific requirements, then, do you think should be made on any new Uptown developer regaring setting aside a percentage of apartments for low-income housing? What other specific means of creating and maintaining low income housing in Uptown would you support? And finally, do you agree or disagree with the oft-stated comment from many of your supporters: "Uptown doesn't need any more low-income housing, we have too much already!"? These are burning questions which really would help clarify your position.

James, you say the history of Helen and low-income housing is that "it hasn't worked at all." Whew. That is light years from the understanding those who vote for (and successfully re-elect) her every time seem to think. I would say that each election over the past two decades has been a de-facto referendum on Helen's approach to affordable housing. The results pretty much speak for themselves.

I was very disapponted with your attack on Peter Holsten. He creates housing you don't like, and the result is an attack on him, then on Helen's very integrity (she is, according to you, selling out to any developer who'll have her):

Peter Holsten has given over a $100,000 to various campaigns and I am not being naïve to think he’s gaining some financial benefit from it. I am disappointed that he has been so adamant about using best practices with his other developments, but his standards take a sudden shift for the 46th Ward. Still, most of Helen’s money from developers did not come from Peter Holsten. Developers know it’s “pay to play” in the 46th Ward.

"Pay to play"?! That sort of character assassination is, again, beneath you. I don't hear St. Francis saying anything along those lines.

As far as Holsten, or anyone, voting in a manner which would bring them financial gain, I suspect most people would so vote. But whether they are doing something unethical or not is the question, not simply that they might be profiting. Holsten is involved in creative and affordable projects within Uptown. Helen has been a big reason he's been able to carry out those projects. What's he going to do, vote for you? C'mon...

Finally, James, I'm afraid we probably both haven't done Francis any good with our respective usage of him. At any rate, I'm glad you had the very challenging experience of a five-year experience of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Did that take place within intentional community? We at Jesus People really love and appreciate another Catholic writer on that topic, Jean Vanier. You probably ran into his writings. Community and Growth is a sort of primer for us on "doing" and "being" community -- very honest about how hard it sometimes is, as well as the joys involved.

Well, again, thanks for the dialogue. And I don't think all your talk of unity is rhetoric. I just would really like to see some unifying language that wasn't also tear-down language toward others. We all have a lot of hurts and fears, as well as tremendous mistrust. Bridge-building is a rough job.

James Cappleman said...

After years of promoting a class war, Helen should not be surprised that people have lost their respect for her at CAPS meetings. Also, her lack of involvement with CAPS has generated anger. While most alderman understand the need to have monthly forums, Helen knows that there is now too much anger to do that in this ward. She’s now paying the fiddler for all her years of divisiveness. There are not too many wards in Chicago where an alderman is intimidated from hosting an aldermanic forum… and I don’t think it’s because only divisive people move to Uptown.

The 23rd Police District is one of the safest police districts in the city. I said that in the debate. My concern has always been in areas of the 46th Ward where the crime rate has been exponentially high. When looking at, one can see where there are pockets of high crime within the 23rd Police District. Ald. Shiller won’t talk about that, and she won’t attend CAPS meetings where it is discussed. Ignoring those problems has gotten her in trouble.

With regards to affordable housing, I made it very clear in the debate where I stood on set-asides. I want a 15% set aside for affordable housing. I would also insist that all affordable housing use HUD’s standards as a baseline. Barack Obama ‘s recent statement about low-income housing leads me to strongly believe he’s highly in favor of mixed-income housing as well. We do not have that in the 46th Ward.

I am aware that the majority of people living in CHA and HUD high-rises voted for Helen. I am also aware that they were told that I considered them “a waste of space” and that I was against all affordable housing. I have copies of her campaign literature that state this. In every election, Helen has used that tactic. I believe it’s always unethical to use ungrounded fear tactics to get someone’s vote.

Peter Holsten has a history of doing some wonderful examples of affordable housing throughout Chicago. He just doesn’t create it for the 46th Ward. He even said that elevator buildings are not conducive for low-income families, but he’s still building one at Wilson Yard. You can believe that Peter Holsten and other developers are generous to Helen’s campaign out of the goodness of their hearts. You call Holten’s Wilson Yard project “creative”. Creative or not creative, it’s not supported with research. People living in poverty deserve the same standards for affordable housing in the 46th Ward as is done throughout the rest of the City.

Developers giving money to the incumbent in the 46th Ward is just a small part of the problem. It happens in every ward. I believe we are in sore need of campaign reform. There’s a reason why people wince when they hear the words “Chicago politics”. At this point, the City Inspector General is not even allowed to investigate alleged aldermanic corruption; a decision supported by City Council, including Ald. Shiller (per her IVI-IPO application). That’s disgraceful.

Ah... I have many interesting stories about life in a friary, including one where we took in people off the street. I remember a 6'2" guy banging on the front door with a bar bell at 3AM. He had stopped taking his psych meds because they affected his libido and he wanted to talk. I opened the door, let him in, and we talked long enough so that I could get him to a psych hospital. He later told me that he was shocked that I wasn't afraid of him. Honestly, I wasn't because I was too naive.

My experience with intentional communities leads me to believe that they have their place, but there are no guarantees that living in an intentional community is the result of some “higher calling”. I have met some wonderful people whose lives were enriched from living in intentional communities. I’ve also met some profoundly egotistical jerks and others who used intentional living as an escape. I have trepidation about intentional living if it is promoted as the ideal way to live. It’s not; it’s just one of many ways to live. I think St. Francis would have agreed.

Jon Trott said...

James, your comment about the six foot two dude with a barbell thumping on your front door made me laugh in recognition, as did your friends not knowing your bravery was more about naivete. Hehehe... yeah, been there, done that. The naivete part, I mean!

As for what you said regarding community, totally right:

My experience with intentional communities leads me to believe that they have their place, but there are no guarantees that living in an intentional community is the result of some “higher calling”. I have met some wonderful people whose lives were enriched from living in intentional communities. I’ve also met some profoundly egotistical jerks and others who used intentional living as an escape. I have trepidation about intentional living if it is promoted as the ideal way to live. It’s not; it’s just one of many ways to live. I think St. Francis would have agreed.

That's the funniest, most annoying, and most humbling part of community -- the bit about the jerks, I mean. Because sometimes someone else is the jerk, and sometimes I am. Intentional community is a peculiar calling, not a "higher" one. I love it sometimes, and hate it sometimes. As far as ideals -- and idealists, for that matter -- I find both suspect. Real humanity, and reality itself, are not idealistic. Love itself is not idealistic. Christ's Sermon on the Mount is not an idealistic riff but rather a notification that we human beings, on our own, cannot and never will reach the heights of moral rightness which characterize Christ, the Father, and the Spirit. Quite the contrary -- ideals make idealists into cynics...

As Catholic community co-founder (of L'Arche), Jean Vanier write: "A community is never there for itself. It belongs to something greater--to the poor, to humanity, to the church, to the universe." That is, there is no room for a truly Christian community to posture as some sort of "super-christian" breeding ground or "elete faithful." Far from that, our understanding of the biblical passages and of our own and fellow Christian communities' experiences is that the more vital the spiritual life of that community is, the more it will identifiy with and serve the poor, one's neighbors (wherever they are found and whomever they may be), one's fellow believers (in or out of intentional community), and humanity overall. Like Vanier said, except more verbose!

We wrote at length about some of this in our various community documents, linked to here: -- the FAQ might be a good place to quickly get a snapshot view.

Well, I was having so much fun with the last part of your post, which provides a lot we could probably exchange humorous (and maybe some sad) notes. But back to the stuff we don't see eye to eye on...

It would probably be better to let Helen address your continued, er, fascination re CAPS. All I'd note is that it appears you changed channels. First you complained she or a rep doesn't come. I noted some of your past supporters made it pretty much a miserable experience for her. You *agree* with me, then counter that this rudeness and hostility is really all her fault. I reject that interpretation, as someone who did indeed attend CAPS meetings faithfully for quite a while (including some of those in question). (I'm really bad lately about attending, but not because anyone was particularly rude to me; just other stuff going on, and I should probably start attending again.)

You agree with me that a majority of poorer residents of Uptown (those in CHA and highrise public housing) voted for Helen. But you then basically say they wouldn't have except they were misled by Helen's campaign. Now, that is an odd claim on at least two levels.

One: The implication is that po' folk are too dumb to think for themselves, and simply believe whatever they're told. That's pretty darn patronizing.

Two: If they are being misled by Helen's folks, you could have un-misled them. Unless, of course, they simply wouldn't believe you for other reasons. My own suspicion -- based only on my own very non-scientific hunch -- is that they know Helen and trust Helen. Likewise, they know their Uptown history, that Helen's challengers have historically been unfriendly to the poor. Maybe you'd be different, but they're looking at your backers and not finding such an assertion a good bet.

As for your backing of 15% of all new housing as set-asides for low-income housing, that's a good thing. I'd push for 20%, greedy dog that I am. And I'd also push for total preservation of all low-income housing currently in existence within Uptown and the 46th Ward. Finally, I would hope a vision that saw in Uptown a possibility for a creation of more low-income housing rather than less -- who cares what others are doing?! Let us set an astonishing example of a sparkling community where those moving here quickly realize the rest of us -- wealthy or not so wealthy -- are on the same page regarding a special concern for the poor. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but that is my vision and the vision of many others.

Blessings, and -- once again! -- thanks for the dialogue.


James Cappleman said...

Using campaign literature to state that I sought efforts to close down Uplift, etc has been the same tactic used in past elections. Helen uses those tactics because it has worked in the past, otherwise she wouldn't waste her time with such practices. I believe such a tactic is wrong, but that hasn't stopped her from doing it. I would imagine she will continue using these same tactics.

Let's be honest here, Jon. You would be ranting and raving had I done the same thing. Why is it excused for Helen?

I am and have always been on the same page as Helen when it comes to being an advocate for the poor. There has been a false assumption that anyone running against Helen would be a closet Republican. All my work during my entire adult life has been spent advocating for the poor, and at a much lower salary than Helen's. The difference is that I believe we must use our limited resources wisely, and that's why any proposed housing should be something that is supported with research as most benefiting the poor. Do creative housing... but do it in a way that has shown to be successful elsewhere.

I believe the dream of all of us is to have a neighborhood where children can blossom into adulthood. I won't let go of that dream and settle for something that's substandard. In the end, that's not respectful of the poor.

Anyway, I enjoyed this myself. I was warned that running for office would have people say all kinds of ugly things about me. I was prepared for it and I wasn't surprised. I resented the lies said about me, but I expected that as well. Regardless, I will never resort to the use of those same tactics. Integrity is priceless. It's not worth power, fame, and riches.

Jon Trott said...

Re Uplift, I didn't hear rumors about it being closed by you from anyone in Helen's camp (or anyone else) durin the election. I did hear that nasty demonstration by Cappleman supporters outside the Uplift celebration at Arai, though... but we covered that ground.

I did hear your supporters, and you yourself, say things about Helen that villified her motives and her integrity. I really hope you won't deny that. You've done it a couple times even in this dialogue, accusing her of being "unethical" and so on. This quote offers one example:

"Developers know it’s 'pay to play' in the 46th Ward."

Wow, that sounds like Helen is in it for the money. If there is one thing I absolutely know about Helen Shiller, it is that she is ideologically committed to creating quality low-income housing in this ward, and that money for her is *not* an object. As the Chicago Reader observed, neither her nor anyone on her staff over the past 20 years of her holding office has ever been accused, much less convicted, of ethics violations.

Now. I could go on retorting to you about the past election, Wilson Yard, Helen's ethics vs. yours, the respective "nastiness" factor when it comes to each of your bases of support... but doggone it, I really want to move past all that!

Just one vignette, and then I will ask you (and I!!) to move this conversation somewhere else more constructive....

Two JPUSA women walked into a local shop on Wilson Ave., one of the newer ones. I could name it. I won't out of charity. At any rate, the owner (or one of them) mistook our well-dressed sisters as being from a different socio-economic strata than they were. The women talked a while about his store and the nice stuff he had. Then he blurted out this lovely sentiment: "If we could only get rid of the homeless scum in the neighborhood!"

The women were so shocked, they left the store without even buying anything and did not return; my wife, who met with the women only hours after the incident, and who walks by the store every day on her way to work at our transitional housing project on Leland Ave., has never since entered the store.

This same store, ironically enough, later posted what amounted to pornographic images in its front windows (they were homosexual in nature, but if they'd been heterosexual in nature they'd have been just as objectionable). The photos were easily viewed by children. Thankfully, after some calls to Alderman Shiller, after a few weeks the photos disappeared. The store did in the past election support your candidacy (posters in their windows). Again, we observing all this are made extremely uncomfortable by such reactionaries. (And yes, simply because they supported you doesn't mean you yourself as as reactionary as they were/are.)

My reason for including that story is fairly simple. We all, as members of the various subcultures making up Uptown's mosaic may need education in how to properly treat our neighbors.

And that is where I hope we can put this last election behind us now, and focus on ways to start a unifying process outside normal "political" categories. I am aware we here at JPUSA can do better... at least, I personally could, in this regard. And I'm sure (from my past attempts to talk with, for instance, folks on the Buena Park Neighbors message board, that to do so invites the wrath of posters there. It makes conversations fairly useless -- everyone is so emotionally charged up and sure that "the other side" is made up completely of villanous no-goods. I would go back there and try again, but every time I read posts there, I sense the same rage and decide not to expose myself to further abuse by "anonymous posters" while I -- for reasons which may be insane -- insist upon using my real name when posting anywhere, thus making myself an easy target for angry and anonymous posters.

I'm asking you... can we somehow start a process of unification outside the old adversarial roles? We have three years to put our action where our mouths are. Forget the Aldermanic race, past or future. You say you're a Christian, I say I'm one. It sure seems silly that we can't do better on this.

Maybe we won't ever agree on Helen's role in all this. If she runs again, I'll vote for her. If she doesn't run again, I'd personally be looking for a candidate who is putting her or his entire energy into maintaining present housing for the poor, creating new housing (in cooperation instead of resistance to) w/ present government officials including Helen, and in bridge-building between Uptown's disparate elements.

My first suggestion is to find a language of communication rooted in story. That is, if we can begin sharing our stories of how we came to Uptown, what the neighborhood means to us, perhaps we can through those stories begin realizing we share more in common than we thought.

My second suggestion is to find a way to criticize ourselves, even if only among ourselves. Are the respective sides in Uptown all so afraid that we are in danger of ostrasizing one another because it feels "safe" while dialogue by nature is risky?

Again, I am sure all of us are implicated here. My hope is simply to talk for starters, talk without anger and recrimination being the focus. Perhaps we can even begin by sharing our common interests: quality of life, safety for kids, safety for adults, continuing efforts to lessen the pernicious city and country-wide drug trade that haunts our own neighborhood as well, finding ways to support the mosaic of Uptown's middle class, working poor, and homeless population.

I know... the above sounds like a pipe dream. But man, would it be great or what?! Your ideas welcomed...


James Cappleman said...

Jon, when I came out as a gay man in the 1980's, I remember hearing from friends who were saddened that I was going to die. They made the assumption that all gay men contract HIV, and nothing could convince them otherwise. They also made the assumption that I was letting lust take hold of me when I "chose" to be gay and settle down with the man that I've loved now for over 15 years. Rather than see me in a different light, they chose to see me as who the media portrayed all gay men to be. There was no talking to them; I was declared guilty as charged. No trial. No jury.

My faith in my God deepened from what I went through with my friends and some members of my own family who refused to speak to me for many years afterwards. It didn't stop me from pressing forward.

I went through pretty much the same thing with this election. I was portrayed as a "hater of the poor" based solely on a few people in the media and people like you who were sure that the only person who would ever run against Helen would have to be someone who hated poor people. After all, there were some "other" people who supposedly hate the poor, so surely this James Cappleman must be just like them. Never mind my life's work as an advocate. Never mind that I was the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from U of C for my advocacy. I was declared guilty as charged. Again, no trial. No jury.

I learned from my own life experiences to never assume that someone was awful based on the people who hung around them. Jesus was certainly criticized for hanging around some of the people he did, and they were all types and from all economic backgrounds as well, and yes, they were even sinners.

If we're going to set the stage for people to tell their stories in this community, we can't do it while also judging them to be haters of any particular group of people... those who are wealthy, those who are poor, whatever their race, size, age, sexual orientation, whatever is different about them. It's why I had very clear rules about my campaign materials and my campaign workers... and there's a huge difference between campaign workers and campaign supporters. Just ask anyone who's ever run for public office.

Jon, we all have stories to tell. In your efforts to promote a class war, I don't believe you have been open to hearing those stories.

We can both agree that there are many people who have a strong dislike for Helen. Where we differ is that you believe it's because of her values for poor people. I share those same values, yet it was very clear to me we needed a new alderman.

You say you are a dreamer. So am I. My dream is that someday we have an elected alderman who can work to unite people of all different beliefs, colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations, sizes, income levels, ages... you name it and find a way to celebrate the diversity of a neighborhood that we all love... and it's all done without labeling one group as bad or evil. There's no focus on our differences. The focus is on our shared values.

peace, James

chris l. rice said...

These comments back and forth are quite interesting. It seems like you guys would have far more to talk about if you 1)ignored the whole "class warfare" bit.
2)talk about constructive ways to empower the poor in Uptown now that the election is over.
James you can prove your interest in low income housing now that you're not running. Instead of reinventing the model, why not get involved to better the model you say Helen is running poorly.
Instead of begrudging her work for being the only game in town, why not show your ability to get along and work as a team. Lead now with your example! That sounds like the best way to sell yourself for the next election.:)

Jon Trott said...

Chris, thanks for the thoughts. I concur. (In the interest of full disclosure, Chris works in my office and is my fellow bike-path walker on pretty much a daily basis. We agree on stuff... sometimes.)


Perhaps surprising to you, I agree with much of what you say in your last post. We are a community of communities, and not all those communities see reality the same way. The trick is to, without pretending to agree on everything, still show one another the respect and deference each one of us as human beings deserve.

I also appreciate you sharing your story about coming out as a gay, and the pain you felt as some did not understand. Re "lust," speaking as someone on the heterosexual side of things, I think about 90% of what passes as sex these days is rooted in animal lust rather than compassionate, agape / eros rooted, and fully committed and relational sexuality. It is depressing.

I may not agree with your understanding re homosexuality, but it is imperative that I treat you as a fully human being and my neighbor, perhaps a more fully-realized "human" than I am for all I know! I have written elsewhere about my own understanding (admittedly limited) as a Christian heterosexual male of gayness. See my self-inflicted interview for more on that topic.

Further, though it shouldn't need to be said, I believe a Christian viewpoint that homosexuality is not God's ideal for humankind has no bearing whatever on a candidate's viability in an Uptown aldermanic race. That is, if Helen was not in the picture and you or another self-identified gay ran for alderman and supported creating and maintaining low-income housing, services, and economic opportunities for the poorest as well as others, I would enthusiastically vote for them.

James, what I do have trouble with is your continual avoidance of one central issue. That is, that a significant portion of your most vocal supporters exuded hatred, and that you cited them ( as an example) as evidence of Helen's sins. That interpretation is not credible from this camper's point of view. Rather, those voices betrayed a historic thread which your own campaign, whether you knew it or not, was a part of. The historic thread, quite simply, goes back to the mid-80s' and before when speculators and developers made clear their intent to "flip" (that is, gentrify) Uptown. Helen's election massively slowed that process, though arguably did not stop it. But at least development has had some balance with the preservation of low-income housing, and even the creation of some new low-income housing. And as for our "disagreemnt" over Helen... sigh... I think, without any snarkiness meant whatever, that issue was solved at the voting booth, as all such disagreements must be politically. So. Let's move on.

Back to the future. If you are dead serious about becoming a candidate for the poorest of the poor (which I, too, think your background would suggest you're potentially capable of doing), I would think such a move would cause the haters on the other side to target you as another "slum-lover" and "divisive voice." You would be percieved that way because -- let us be honest -- some persons (as my story illustrated) really do hate (fear?) the homeless and the very poor. So, in the future, if I see those people target you the way they've targeted Helen, I'll start paying close attention to you as a serious candidate.

Until then, I'll pay attention to you as a serious neighbor, and wish you the best. I'm surprised I haven't noticed you around the neighborhood, as your campaign headquarters is (was?) just down the street from us.

A final thought, or at least question for you... Do you really think I'm (as you wrote) trying to promote a class war? I mean, do you think I get some sort of psychological "reward" in being vilified as a "cultist" or "communist" or "Shiller shill" (blablabla)? Sigh. I assure you it is no fun at all, and that I am not a masochist. As most moderately sane people do, I like people to like me. If I thought there was any ethical way to cast oil on the roiled waters, to bring a truce to the class war in this area, I certainly would be interested.

I understand you don't trust me. I think both of us are trying to see just what, if any, foundation of trust might be formed. All we can depend upon right now are words, which of course are easily manipulated to obscure rather than reveal truth. How to move beyond words is the real issue... beyond words into real human relationship where we bear one anothers' burdens and in some way do "hear" each others' stories.

All we can do is gingerly move forward in that regard...

James Cappleman said...

Jon, herein lies the point I’ve been making all along. You and Helen have both made the assumption that most condo owners will revile anyone who is an advocate for the poor. In my conversations with huge numbers of people, I have very rarely come across condo owners who were against subsidized housing if it was built using best practice standards that are now being used elsewhere throughout Chicago and the nation.

I believe 99% of the complaints of my supporters could have been addressed by ensuring the use of best practices when it comes to addressing the multi-layered needs of people living in poverty, be it affordable housing, services for people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and drug dependence. Relying on past failed policies and then shouting “bigot” when people expressed concerns about them will incite anger every time. What-the-Helen was created before my campaign started, but I believe it was due to anger toward Helen, not people living in poverty.

As an example, some years ago when my partner and I were walking our dog near some scattered site housing, gunfire from the CHA property sent people flying out of the way. One of the bullets hit a dumpster just a few feet in front of us. A large group of kids ran for cover, shouting at us to run as well. This particular building had constant drug dealing and efforts to address this with the management company were futile. When the police would come, the dealers would run in the building to hide, although they didn’t live there. Many of the neighbors were fully aware of a well-known drug dealer living in one of those units, but because his name was not on the lease, the management company did nothing. People living there were too afraid to empty their garbage in the dumpster in the back so they would use the neighborhood garbage cans. None of us were against the subsidized housing there. We knew the residents living there and they needed affordable housing. We were against the lousy management, but when we spoke up, we were told we hated poor people.

I remember once coming across a police officer who told me that he didn’t understand why all these condo people moved here and then complained about the crime. If it was so bad, why did they move here in the first place? I told him that it just so happened that a few days before, I saw a couple with their pants down having sex on the sidewalk in front of my home. To be honest, it didn’t bother me any because it wasn’t unusual for me to see people in the alley giving oral sex for drugs. However, there was CHA scattered-site housing a few doors down and I would think the parents living there, like me, don’t appreciate it when children watch adults having sex out in the open.

Jon, there's so much to unite all of us and when this occurs, it will encourage everyone to be more compassionate and accepting of others who are different from us. Focusing on our differences does not and will not elicit compassion.

As for what I do in the neighborhood: Well, this weekend I helped organize a Clean & Green for all of Uptown. Last week I participated in the health fair sponsored by CAPS and Uptown Baptist Church where I helped people complete their Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document. I’m on a task force to address the problems of loitering around the U-Haul. That has been a long-standing problem with multiple arrests for drugs, public drinking, and robbery. We now have Ald. Shiller at last agreeing that it’s a problem… a first. I work in a children’s hospital where we get a lot of donations of perfectly good toys, but we can’t use them because of various hospital regulations. Over the last 4 or 5 months, I have taken over 8 carloads of toys and clothing to various places like the Salvation Army Family Shelter, Christopher House, Buena Park for the Easter Basket Drive, and the Explorers. I also donated goods to Edens Center from the hospital. I just got another bag of new children’s hats that I’m giving away today.

With UCC, I have worked with the community and CAPS to address aggressive panhandling, graffiti, child sex offenders living within 500 feet of a school or daycare center, and I’ve also worked with the area liquor stores to encourage them to stop selling liquors that cater to the public drinker. I just completed the final edits on a book I started 6 years ago to help people advocate for better health care for themselves and I hope to have the book out this summer. I say all that because it’s absolutely ludicrous that Helen sent out campaign literature suggesting that I thought poor people were a “waste of space”. I remain open to criticism, but I expect it to be honest.

Jon Trott said...

James, ya killin' me heah! I think we're both probably like broken records, repeating what we must have already said a dozen times. But this paragraph about "whatthehelen" -- YEESH!:

I believe 99% of the complaints of my supporters could have been addressed by ensuring the use of best practices when it comes to addressing the multi-layered needs of people living in poverty, be it affordable housing, services for people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and drug dependence. Relying on past failed policies and then shouting “bigot” when people expressed concerns about them will incite anger every time. What-the-Helen was created before my campaign started, but I believe it was due to anger toward Helen, not people living in poverty.

Sigh. Final time I'll say it. If you keep trying to justify the 'whatthehelen' folks' mean, wrong, and illogical rage as somehow none of the former, I can only throw my hands in the air. Let them GO! There is no good reason for their illogic. Okay? It was bigoted. Period. There were rancidly non-factual statements made there -- about Helen, about Uptown, even about me (which I already dealt with in the post leading to this marathon correspondence). Were those lies "Helen's fault"? Really, James. I'm done with that topic.

I'm hoping we have something new to say. I'm out of ideas right now... how about you?

James Cappleman said...

Jon, I work as a family advocate for a children’s hospital. My job has me addressing all kinds of complaints, and some of them are against staff. Off hand, I can think of 2 approaches I could use to address problems that surface involving staff:

1. I could alienate the staff and tell them how awful they were to the families and remind them that the health care system is blind to the notion of family-centered care. (Don’t get me started about the problems with health care in the U.S.) The end result would be that staff would never call me to address issues raised by the families, and when I did get the chance to address a problem, the families would view me as their “superman” who flew in to rescue them. If I took a day of vacation, the family would be screwed because no one would be there to rescue them from the awful staff. The staff would view me as judge and jury and would avoid me at all costs, and may even try to sabotage the work I did.

2. I could give a heads up to the staff and let them know the perceptions of the family’s experience and then work with both the staff and the family to bring about a resolution. There’s no finger pointing, but the emphasis is coming up with a solution. The end result is that staff view me as someone who will help them problem-solve a tense situation with the family, and I get more referrals to address more complaints in the process, which then enables me to address system issues within the organization as well. The families, in turn, feel heard by the staff and a tighter bond develops between them, which ultimately benefits the patient.

It’s very easy to go the first route, and I would have the pleasure of being a hero. It takes a lot more skill to go the second route, and there are no heroes. I have always believed the 2nd route in problem solving is so much better, both at work and in the community. I believe most politicians take the easier route and try to be the heroes. We all get shortchanged in the process.

Jon, I’m also a dreamer. I believe Chicago politics can change and become more ethical, transparent, and less hero-oriented. I will at least do my part and join others to influence it to change for the better.

We've probably gone as far as we can go on this thread, and if anything, we've shared some stories.