Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Report Shows Shiller, Smith Vote 100% With Daley

A reader sent us a recent report from Dick Simpson and the UIC Department of Political Science. It's called "The Independent Caucus: Breaking the Rubber Stamp Mold" and deals with the Chicago City Council and the new "independent votes."

Oddly enough, for someone who's still described as a maverick and the Council's "independent spirit," this is what it says about Ald. Shiller:

Some previous Daley opponents like 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller are now voting with Daley 100% of the time on these key votes.

Although not mentioned by name, 48th Ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith has the same perfect record of voting with Daley on key issues over the past year.

Take a look here at the voting records of Uptown's aldermen (click to enlarge):

To see the entire report, click here.


  1. The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be.

  2. Shiller was similarily criticized when she used to vote 100% with Harold Washington. And those were the days of Slim Coleman/Hillbilly Uptown, before it had luxury condo projects and places like Crew, Borders Books, and a Starbucks and "high tea" restaurant on Wilson Ave.

  3. I guess that's even more proof that maverick and independent are completely inapplicable phrases when used to describe Shiller. Apparently she just goes with the flow of whatever mayor has bought her allegiance.

  4. this just goes to show how daley (aka) fidel and helen are of the same ilk - they know what is best for all the "little" people - their idea of public service is what is wrong with this city and the democatic machine - hs represents what is in it for her not the area

  5. "...perfect record of voting with Daley on key issues over the past year."

    This is inherently biased and deceptive. Who defines "key issues?" Out of all the votes Shiller cast last year, how many of them were on "key issues?" One percent? Ten percent? Fifty percent? A "key issue" to you might not be considered a "key issue" by me.

    I'm no fan of Shiller. But I am a fan of fairness. This post was deceptively written (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not) to trick readers into thinking Shiller voted with Daley 100 percent of the time. Uptown Update, you owe readers, and probably Hel', an apology.

  6. Seeing how this article was written by a former alderman and now professor at UIC, perhaps there might be some validity to what he espouses as what is a "key issue".

    I don't see any need for an apology about this at all.

  7. Nope, no apology needed. Read the article and the report it quotes. It clearly says that Helen Shiller and Mary Ann Smith vote with Daley 100% of the time on key issues. If there's bias, it's in the original report, not UU's summary of it.

    Take it up with Dick Simpson and the UIC Department of Political Science. They're the ones defining the terms and doing the research.

  8. If you would like to read the whole report, you can find it here:

    It is quite alarming to see how many of our elected officials, just fall in line with the Mayor. Of note, of the 13 divided roll call votes from 6/07 - 2/08, Shiller has voted with the Mayor 100% of the time.

  9. There's also a link to it at the end of the UU's blurb about it.

  10. Interestingly, four or so years ago, I was in her back office and saw that she proudly displayed an editorial-like cartoon (I qualify that, as I don't know if it was ever published anywhere) on her desk showing her like St. George facing down a dragon labeled "The Daley Machine" or something similar.

    I wonder if it's still there.

  11. sorry 1:13. I noticed that after I posted. It was kind of hidden down there at the bottom.

  12. I would urge my neighbors to read the report with a healthy skepticism.

    Please note the report is a posting on a web site, not a peer-reviewed article.

    The authors periodically posts these reports with a common methodology: As noted previously by anon, the authors define "key issue" as equivalent to "divided roll call" thus ignoring the 99.99% of City Council votes which are unanimous, many of which any sane taxpayer would consider "key."

    To take one obvious example, the City Council passed doznes of new TIFs and new TIF projects during the period of the report, but the authors do not consider any of those votes "key."

    Also, "voting with the Mayor" is not rigorously defined, since the Mayor does not vote except to break ties, which has not happened. So the authors get to decide which side of each divided vote is the machine and which side is the opposition.

    The authors single out 13 votes from the 1st year of this Council for analysis. This methodology is deeply flawed because, of course, any researcher could make any arbitrary conclusion they desired by sufficiently reducing the universe of votes.

    Sadly these researchers seem intent on creating the impression of renewed activism when the preponderance of the evidence is to the contrary.

  13. " ... more aldermen are voting more consistently against the mayor than in previous councils."

    that is not saying much

  14. Simpson's annual or twice annual "reform is coming to the council" column. He and Laura Washington dream of a future where a black, latino, and white lakefront liberal coalition wrests control from the "bosses". It ain't gonna happen and it is probably a good idea that it doesn't.

    I kinda subscribe to the Professor Paul Green, of Roosevelt U, notion that the alderbeasts are so corrupt and incompetent that them having real power is a sad notion.

    It might be different if they were better quality, but like my speling they ain't. I mean a council that argues over Foie Gras in the midst of a rising murder rate, federal indictments of the mayor's associates, sorry schools, and crumbling infrastructure is not a council I want to see with real power. I suspect the waste and corruption would only increase and that some of the good things that "da mare" has done would not have been accomplished.

    Think of it as more corruption and less good.

    Of course what the city really needs is federal oversight and a short term federal takeover. I nominate myself for Czar of Chicago. First thing I do is get some old horse drawn wagons and gather up all the city wide elected officials and alderbeasts and drop them off at the Evanston border with the following admonition:

    "Don't come back ye vermin, or ye next ride will be less pleasant, argh."

  15. I'll 2nd that nomination

    the Evanston drop-off is a great idea - there are some real bargains to be had there, a typical campaign for a seat on the Evanston city Council comes in at under 4 figures, 5 tops, and you still get TIFs and zoning to play with

  16. Paul Green and Dick Simpson from 2003. Scroll down to January 27th and listen to the conversation. Simpson does not deal with reality. Amusingly the first alderbeast mentioned was "Shiller". Simpson also predicted that Daley would lose in 2007. Green scoffed.

    I imagine that Simpson is now waiting for Daley to be defeated in 2011.

  17. Hugh says, "Sadly these researchers seem intent on creating the impression of renewed activism when the preponderance of the evidence is to the contrary."

    Quite the opposite, I think. Although there is some variance since 2006, the general trend in the Council is compliance with the Mayor's wishes, wishes that are abundantly clear whether or not he casts a tie-breaking vote.

    Setting aside the methodological squabble, consider the comparison of Alderman to one another on "key issues" or, if you please, issues selected by the researchers. That's the message and it's worth considering.

    And folks, before getting your panties in a wad, the comparison is across stated measures, or "key measures" as defined by the researchers. It's their report, they chose the measures. Anytime one thing is chosen instead of another, some value is being expressed. But bias? That's a different beast.

    BillyJoe says Shiller was "criticized" for voting with Washington. Now we see she's voting 100% with Daley on divided roll call votes. That's not a perfect assessment but it sure is an interesting one.

    Oh, and Hugh, they've not ignored the other votes but they've simply chosen to look at the divided roll call measures because, as units of analysis, they're cleaner. They can't include bundled votes because the variables would have no independence (and, perhaps, one of the reasons the Council votes in that manner).

  18. "They can't include bundled votes"

    of course they COULD

    they could choose to study ALL votes of the Chicago City Council

    when you do, you are forced to conclude that the most wild-ass alderman is "in agreement with the Mayor" 99.99% of the time and that there is no opposition worth mentioning

  19. "they've not ignored the other votes"

    yes, they are

    if they are not, please read the report and post what page number that mentions the thousands of unanimous, rubber-stamp votes delivered by the even the very alderman cited as forming the mythical "independent caucus."

    any peer review process would require the authors to at least mention how many votes the 13 were drawn from

    this report is not research, it is propaganda in support of an alternate reality

  20. " ... the property tax increase ... 29-21 vote has been the high water mark of opposition thus far."

    Q: what do you call a proposed ordinance that 21 Chicago aldermen voted against?

    A: a law

  21. Oh well. At least they didn't vote 110 percent of the time with the mayor.

  22. Oh, Hugh. You're going to have to prepare that analysis for us. Really. If prepared per your claim, the covariance would undermine the entire enterprise because there is absolutely no way to unpack and discretely analyze 12, 15, 24 separate issues stuffed into one cumulative vote.

    The authors selected a few particular votes for analysis. The report is limited in scope. So what? Digest accordingly.

    As far as I can tell, you just don't like the votes they chose to look at.

  23. according to an earlier study done by Mr. Simpson, Shiller's voting record of late has come more in line with the Mayor's position. From May 2003 - November 2006, Shiller *only* voted in line with the Mayor 84% of the time.

  24. it cut off the url. Sorry for that.

  25. not sure why it keeps cutting of. The rest of the url is: Jan2007.pdf

  26. Regardless of whether one believes all the Dick Simpson says or not, one thing come through loud and clear. No one can mistake Helen Shiller for in independent Lakefront Liberal anymore.

  27. " ... there is absolutely no way to unpack and discretely analyze 12, 15, 24 separate issues stuffed into one cumulative vote."

    Any alderman could "unpack"

    You may be thinking the City Council's use of the omnibus frustrates analysis of voting, but it does not. You may be under the mis-impression that the vast preponderance of City Council votes that are unanimous, are unanimous because the alderman are somehow forced to vote on them as a block. But that is not true.

    City Council Rule 19 entitles any individual alderman to ask for a roll call vote on an item.

    "RULE 19. At the request of any member, the yeas and nays upon any question shall be taken and
    entered in the Journal;"

    Items are added to the omnibus via a motion and voice vote unanimous consent, given any member who so desires the opportunity to ask for a roll call vote. But they do not. Every alderman consents to the unanimous votes, it is not something that is forced on them.

    We have no choice as constituents but to hold our elected representatives accountable for ALL their votes.

  28. "The report is limited in scope. So what?"

    so by focusing on divided roll call votes the report greatly exaggerates dissent in City Council, very misleading to those unfamiliar with City Council processes

  29. " ... you just don't like the votes they chose to look at."

    I guess that's one way to put it: they chose not to look at thousands of votes they should have

    to take one example of local interest, the period of the report 5/21/07 to 5/13/08, saw the City Council increase property taxpayer subsidies to Peter Holsten for Wilson Yards TWICE - neither of which vote the authors considered a "key issue."

  30. Thank you Hugh, you proved the point!

    The Council could have unpacked the vote but they didn't---and they don't---so making that the researchers fault is baloney criticism.

    The researchers chose divided roll call votes. Those are the only responsible units of analysis. Apples to apples.

    What you're saying is they should have made an apples to mangos analyis and it would have been just as valid. Talk about crummy methodology and non-publishable rubbish!

    To claim that the researchers have exaggerated anything by virtue of the votes they selected is possible only if a reader is incapable of recognizing clearly stated limitations---a feature of ALL research, not just this report.

  31. Simpson is alleging that there is an emerging independent caucus in the city council. He is clearly wrong.

    Most of the alderscum who voted against the Mayor on the tax increase or Big Box ordinance could easily have been brought into line if the Mayor needed their votes. They were allowed to vote against the mayor because it was helpful politically for them. If he needed one more vote he could have pressured 2/3 of them and they would have rolled over and wagged their tails for him.

    If you think JP Banks or Ginger Rugai were standing up to the Mayor then you are wrong. The mayor could snap his fingers and Banks would find himself off the zoning committee and his extended family would wail from loss of business.

    The mayor gets what the mayor wants whether it is tax increases or a Wal Mart on the south side. Watch the council vote on the Children's Museum next month. Of course that will end up in the courts eventually anyway.


    ALL of the votes in this study had at least one alderman flagrantly defying the Mayor!

    it's the dawning of a new era

  33. sure, when you're writing a political tract anything goes

    when you're doing science you don't get to throw out some data

    any fool can post a pdf on a website

    this "report" would have zero chance of getting by an editorial board

  34. Hugh, let's cut to the chase and ditch the stats debate because, whether you like Simpson's approach or not, you are not getting the concept of statistical independence. Whether you understand it or not, it matters (kinda like gravity) and it explains, at least in part, Simpson's selections.

    So how about we set that aside and focus on what may be the more interesting take away from this report:

    If we assume Shiller's record is indeed more consistently aligned with the Mayor's agenda than it used to be, is this something that is ok with you and others or not?

    What, if anything, would such an alignment mean to Uptown residents?

    Forest? Trees?