Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ald. Helen Shiller Wallows in Lies, Self-Pity

Note: We received two excellent comments about this, which you can see here. This post is also available (free) as a PDF. Click to view or download.

A self-indulgent, self-pitying, inexcusable pack of lies from 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller went up on her own web site today (August 27). Shiller spews half-truths and outright lies, while downplaying the violence in Uptown.

She wrote the following, two weeks after a hot video showed a riot at Leland and Sheridan in Uptown: A Statement from Alderman Shiller on Recent Events Crime & Safety 08/27/2009 On the night of Thursday, August 13, an altercation broke out between a couple dozen young men at the intersection of Sheridan and Leland in Uptown. There were no guns or knives used, but bottles were thrown and there was yelling and attempted fisticuffs. Most of the event was videoed by a neighbor.

CNB ANALYSIS: Many of us have seen the video of that incident, made by Joe Gray (What a riot! from Joe Gray). Shiller downplays the riot by calling it an "altercation." She says there were "no guns or knives used," but she cannot possibly know that. There were weapons, as can plainly be seen in the video. CNB has isolated and highlighted at least two men holding weapons; one appears to be a golf club. Shiller downplays thrown bottles, but a bottle to the eye can blind, to the temple or skull could kill.

Shiller continues:Within minutes of receiving the 911 call, officers arrived and the youth dispersed. There was one arrest, one police officer suffered a minor injury and there was a little property damage. No one else in the area suffered any injuries. Because of the subsequent media frenzy, this incident has come to symbolize safety in Uptown. In general, the recent discussion about crime and violence in our community has been emotional, high-pitched and polarizing. 

ANALYSIS: Again, the alderman downplays the event. "A little property damage?" Why doesn't Shiller specify what that property damage was? The property owner probably doesn't consider it to be minor. A police officer suffered a "minor injury?" Again, no specificity, not even any sympathy for the officer. The worst part of this paragraph, however, is Shiller's whiny dismissal of neighborhood concern about a riot - a damned riot, people - as "emotional, high-pitched and polarizing." Well excuse the heck out of you, Shiller constituents, for having emotions about your own safety. How dare Shiller belittle you for rightfully complaining loudly about it? Shiller continues:Crime and violence is unacceptable.

ANALYSIS: You would think that (a) a college educated woman would have gotten the grammar correct (it should be "are unacceptable"), and (b) that Shiller would actually do something about crime and violence in Uptown if she truly feels that way.

She continues:My office spends more time and resource fighting crime and violence than dealing with any other issue. My staff and I regularly exchange information with the 20th and 23rd District police regarding potentially dangerous situations and how to prevent violence or crime from occurring. And today crime and violence in the 23rd and 20th police districts is among the lowest in Chicago. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out at Whether you search by district, ward and/or individual beat – you will find this to be true. This is a great accomplishment within a community as diverse as the 46th Ward, and the credit goes to our residents and the leadership of our police commanders.

ANALYSIS: Shiller claims that her "office spends more time and resource fighting crime and violence than dealing with any other issue." Chicago News Bench issues this challenge to Shiller: Prove it. Let her show us her staff's time sheets. Let her show us the exact amount of time that her staff spends on putting together park picnics, coming up with hare-brained ideas for indoor fish farms, spending years on tiny parks such as the one in the 4600 block of N. Winthrop, meeting with the Jesus People, and other non-critical activities, then show us the exact amount of time that her staff spends on "fighting crime and violence."

Alderman Shiller will have a hard time showing that to us, because she and her staff (a) probably don't keep records of such time spent, and (b) her claim is most likely untrue. If I am wrong, Ald. Shiller can provide the proof and I will publish it here. I would require that any such records be notarized.

Shiller continues: Every day individuals and organizations are engaged in anti-gang and anti-violence initiatives just by creating other paths for young people to walk down and create a life for themselves. But until we find that magic bullet to stop violence that continues to elude us all, there will always be more to do. In recent days I have had several conversations with community leaders about more creative and progressive solutions. To a person they have started with “Violence is not acceptable,” and followed that up with, “We have to do more about this and blaming you is not it. What more can we do together?” There have been a number of positive suggestions, and we are going to work on all of them.

ANALYSIS: What, exactly, does that first sentence mean? It's an empty platitude, a pretty slogan. While there is some truth to it - certainly churches and other organizations are helping keep young people out of trouble - what does that have to do with the fact that there was a riot at N. Sheridan and W. Leland, and that it is sadly typical of the gang violence in Uptown? Shiller goes on to say that she's had "several conversations with community leaders," but she fails in her web post to tell us who those leaders are. She fails to explain why she hasn't been having such conversations for years, not just in the past "recent days." She writes that "There have been a number of positive suggestions, and we are going to work on all of them."

Again, no specifics. What are the suggestions? Work on them? How? With more useless town halls such as the ones featuring Heather Steans and Greg Harris? Furthermore, if everyone is panicking, as Shiller implies, then she must be including Uplift CommunityHigh School in Uptown. They felt so strongly about the violence in Uptown that they had a big anti-violence parade on July 18.

Shiller continues: When I was first elected alderman in 1987 the 46th ward had some of the highest crime in the city, some of the highest number of buildings in housing court for hazardous and dangerous conditions, some of the highest infant mortality rates in Chicago, had a dysfunctional grid of street lights resulting in dark and dangerous streets, and had some of the poorest performing public schools in the city. To day [sic] we have among the lowest crime, the fewest buildings in housing court, lower infant mortality rates, improving schools and new street lights and sufficient lighting on every block in the ward.

CNB ANALYSIS: The 46th Ward is still one of the highest crime areas on the city's north side. Is it the worst? No. Is it as good as it could be? Far from it. Has Shiller had 22 years to make Uptown a neighborhood in which events such as the Leland-Sheridan riot do not happen? Yes, she has. Has she accomplished that? No, she has not. To say that Uptown today is better than it was 22 years ago is true. However, that's a bit like saying that Cambodia is a better place to live today than it was in 1978. Neither is very desirable.

Shiller continues:In each of my five re-election campaigns, the strategy of my opposition has followed a now familiar pattern: attack my efforts at preserving affordable housing and engaging in a goal of development without displacement by repeating a mantra that affordable housing equals crime, and polarizing the community at every opportunity in spite of evidence again and again that each day has brought improvements to the safety of our community. 

ANALYSIS: More whining from Shiller, with more self-pity and obfuscation. None of what she writes changes the fact that Uptown is still violent. There are videos to prove it. There are police numbers to prove it. There are 100,000 eyeballs that see it everyday. Yet Shiller dismisses the "discussion about crime and violence" as "emotional, high-pitched and polarizing." She herself is being polarizing in doing so, and she does so in an emotional and high-pitched manner. Shiller, like many politicians, knows where her power base is. It is with the Section 8's, it is with the non-profits, it is with the statists, it is with the Saul Alinsky wannabes. She knows that division is power, and she has cultivated it well in the 46th Ward.

Again, she continues:The media coverage of the Leland/Sheridan event was intensely and overtly personal coverage. With the exception of one television reporter, not one outlet bothered to check the police statistics to actually determine if this fight represented typical or atypical activity. Instead, they ran the video over and over, labeling the fight as a full riot and focusing on my political opponents hounding me at a Chicago’s 2016 Olympic meeting

ANALYSIS: Hurling more insults for her constituents, Shiller essentially says that the very people who put up with the violence week in and week out must be hysterical and imagining things. She complains that the media labeled "the fight" at Leland and Sheridan "as a full riot and focusing on my political opponents." I'm not sure how Shiller defines "riot," but anybody watching that video would call it such. As for hounding her at the Chicago 2016 meeting, the media was right to report that story. It's not everyday that a group of constituents chases an elected politician out of years of frustration because she has done such a consistently lousy job and been so predictably non-responsive to them.

More from Shiller: At that meeting, media and protesters stood together as I made a statement and took questions. When it became clear that some were not interested in my answers but rather a confrontation I left.

ANALYSIS: Shiller was dodging questions throughout her little press conference, and she became progressively more agitated as it went along. When one of the meeting attendees shouted "Liar!" she abruptly ended the conference and walked off. The person who yelled "Liar" was wrong to have done so, but Shiller showed cowardice by storming away from the microphones. Most politicians would have dismissed the shouted insult and continued. Not Shiller. Instead, she chose to show the world what Uptown already knows: She is an elitist, pompous, cowardly autocrat who does not give a damn about transparency or honest answers.

More from Shiller: As bad as the Sheridan fight was, on any given week, there are far more violent events, including far more arrests by police, in other Chicago communities that have received far less attention – even when there was ample video. What is it about this particular video that caused such great fear in so many people? Clearly it is important to the community because this is where we live. The importance to the media however is more difficult to understand, unless it is driven by other motives.

ANALYSIS: Are there more violent events in Uptown? Sure. Does that, however, excuse the riot at Leland and Sheridan? No, it does not. Here again, Shiller downplays an important event and dismisses her constituents' legitimate concerns. She asks what is was about Joe Gray's video that caused "such great fear." What, she has to ask?!? A bunch of young men throwing bottles and whatever else, brandishing weapons (golf clubs, blunt instruments), and screaming threats at each other should NOT instill fear and concern?

Is Shiller serious? Shiller then addressed "solutions" to the problem that she has tried so hard to downplay. Again, I do not have the solution to urban crime and violence. If someone out there has the magic bullet I’d like to know what it is. But having said that, while guns, and the requisite anger to use them, seem to be in never ending supply, there is no excuse for violence. And it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to curb violence and to give our young people the future they deserve and crave. My staff and I will continue to work closely with the Chicago Police Department to prevent crime and violence. 

ANALYSIS: Let's get this straight. Earlier, Shiller wrote that her office "spends more time and resource fighting crime and violence than dealing with any other issue." She reminded us that she's been in office now for 22 years. In spite of all that, she writes "I do not have the solution to urban crime and violence." Nobody has solution, a way to eliminate crime and violence. But there are ways to reduce it, and Shiller has not attempted to implement any of them. She is known for being anti-CAPS. She has resisted police cameras on trouble intersections. She has been unresponsive to constituents' requests to help shut down know drug houses.

Shiller throws more obfuscation out when she writes that "guns, and the requisite anger to use them, seem to be in never ending supply, there is no excuse for violence." Guns had nothing to do with the Leland-Sheridan riot, and Shiller shows her ignorance of firearms with what she wrote. One does not need anger to use a gun. If I were defending my life - or yours - and I used a gun to do so, I could do it without anger. As for the "never ending supply" of guns, as she wrote, that seems to put the lie to the useless Chicago anti-handgun laws. Perhaps if Shiller were to advise the many of her power base to stop wearing "Stop Snitching" tee-shirts, and to cooperate more with the police that she pretends to work so closely with, more progress could be made to lower violence in the 46th Ward.

More from Shiller: We will continue to get the minutes from our CAPS meetings and continue to insure appropriate responses from my and other city offices to issues raised. We will continue the improvements that are underway at our local parks. All of our public schools have improved and continue to improve. Support of their efforts will always be a priority.

ANALYSIS: The CAPS meeting minutes are useless unless Shiller reads them, which seems doubtful, and even less so if she doesn't care about them, which seems likely. She alludes to improvements in the parks and schools, but - again - gives no specifics. Once again, however, Shiller misses the point (or purposely dodges it). Uptown and the 46th Ward already enjoy some of the nicest lakefront park space in the world. Lincoln Park, right next door, offers miles of beaches and trees and grass. Regardless of the schools or the parks, again, the fact remains that the Leland-Sheridan riot did happen, another one like it will happen, and violence will continue. All of it unaffected by how pretty the parks may be, or how good the schools that the punks dropped out of may be. Shiller is simply out of touch, not only with her constituents but with reality itself.

She continues: We have no fewer than 25 educational, recreational and not for profit organizations that serve youth and families in our community. They will continue to get my support and advocacy. There is no reason for someone to be fighting on the street threatening the lives of others and their own lives when just a few blocks away they can become a star or a scientist or an athlete or anything they have the talent to be but just don’t know it yet.

ANALYSIS: This is code from Shiller, and a further display of her disconnect from reality. It is code because she's sending a message to her power base, the "educational, recreational and not for profit organizations that serve youth and families in our community. They will continue to get my support and advocacy." They depend on Shiller for funding; she can delay or stop their money flow. She's telling them that if they continue to support her, all will remain as it has been for so long. Shiller again demonstrates how out of touch she is by writing that "when just a few blocks away they can become a star or a scientist or an athlete or anything they have the talent to be but just don’t know it yet."

The sad truth is that very few of us will ever become stars or scientists or athletes, and fewer of us still if we are born into the plantation culture that has been so deliberately cultivated by Shiller and her ilk. Have you ever heard Shiller give a speech warning of the horrible effects of unwed teenage motherhood? Have you ever heard Shiller urge people to cooperate with police? Has anybody ever heard Helen Shiller urge a tax cut that would help the working poor keep more of their hard earned money? And again, what does this have to do with the undeniable fact that Shiller has been unresponsive to constituents, anti-police, anti-capitalism, anti-middle class, and that Uptown is more violent than the neighborhoods on its borders?

More from Shiller: For years we have fought for a safe community for everyone. Nothing said by political opportunism can change this. Nevertheless, even with all the improvements we have seen in our community, that it is still necessary for us each to be vigilant is a fact of life we must embrace. I continue to believe that it is possible to maintain a truly diverse community that is safe for all its residents and my staff and I will continue work towards that goal on behalf of all of our residents.

ANALYSIS: Shiller's own self-pitying statement is "political opportunism," albeit poorly executed. She makes an astounding statement in that last paragraph: "I continue to believe that it is possible to maintain a truly diverse community that is safe for all its residents and my staff and I will continue work towards that goal on behalf of all of our residents."

First, what does "truly diverse" mean?

Second, she seems to be saying that a community can be safe in spite of its diversity, which would seem to be an admission of some kind of racism on Shiller's part.

Third, the riot at Leland and Sheridan on August 13, 2009 did not look "truly diverse" at all - it was 100 percent African-American. That's not an indictment of Black people, it's just an accurate observation. (There are plenty of violent gangs made up of white, latino and other groups in many parts of Chicago and America.) The liberal mantra of "diversity" is often injected into a conversation when it has nothing to do with a situation.

There is no lack of diversity in Uptown and the 46th Ward, yet there is plenty of violence. The violence is there not because of the diversity, but in spite of it. Diversity is a neutral, neither good nor bad. Generally, it neither causes nor prevents violence. To inject diversity into this conversation is just more obfuscation by Shiller, another attempt to distract you from reality.

Fourth, Shiller writes that she and her staff will "continue work" towards "that goal," but it is not clear what that goal is. Is the goal to "maintain a truly diverse community that is safe for all its residents?" If so, well, that's a worthy goal, but will Shiller's continued attempts to artificially foster diversity through social engineering continue to push safety to the back bench?