Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Newly Elected Shiller Attacks UCC, Pushes Her Own Group

A leopard never changes its spots, at least in Uptown.
Check out this article from November 1987, when brand-spankin'-new alderman Helen Shiller tried to get rid of Uptown Chicago Commission and push the agenda of her own group, the Heart of Uptown Coalition.

Any similarities to COURAJ and Ald. Shiller not asking for the input of block clubs into the Wilson Yard plan is, we're sure, completely coincidental. [/sarcasm]


Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1987
by Manuel Galvan and Charles Mount

Freshman Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) flexed her political muscle Monday and persuaded a Chicago City Council committee to cancel a federal grant for a community group in Uptown that is a rival of her own group.

The action came while the City Council's Budget Committee was approving the distribution of $95.1 million in federal spending for community projects, as part of the Community Development Block Grant package.

Shiller requested that the committee deny the Uptown Chicago Commission its entire grant of $20,000.

"I can prove this organization is not doing what it is supposed to," Shiller said.

She conceded the 32-year-old Uptown Chicago Commission has criticized her in the past. The Uptown Commission has long been at loggerheads with the organization of which Shiller is cochairman, the Heart of Uptown Coalition.

Ald. Kathy Osterman (48th), part of whose ward is also served by the Uptown Chicago Commission, asked the Budget Committee to award the group the $20,000 as recommended by Mayor Harold Washington in his community block grant recommendations.

The Uptown Commission's application had already been reviewed and approved at three levels in the city bureaucracy.

Funding for the Uptown Commission had come yearly since 1984 with backing by former Ald. Jerry Orbach, who was defeated by Shiller in this year's ward race.

After heated debate, the Budget Committee voted 9-5 in favor of Shiller's amendment to remove the entire grant for the Uptown organization.

"I'm disappointed," said Pat Reskey, executive director of the Uptown Chicago Commission. "What we're seeing is Helen Shiller's thinking that she has an agenda that is different from ours in serving the community."

Reskey said the $20,000, which was reduced from $25,000 last year, would have been used to pay the salary of a staff person to help residents, including senior citizens, get money for home improvements.


  1. For anyone who doesn't really know the truly interesting history of political action in Uptown, this particular move was part of a sustained effort to silence and delegitimize certain voices in the community so as to make the so-called "voice of the people" the only legitimate voice in Uptown.

    Up until around the time she became alderman Uptown civil discourse involved local business and political elites, middle class and upperclass property owners, religious institutions and shifting groups of "radicals" who either "gave voice" to the poor or became that voice (depending on how you read the situation).

    Given the situation today, I think the sustained effort they mounted was successful. But, what does the future hold?

    PS-I did not send in this article but I always appreciate reading stories that I don't remember seeing.

  2. "I can prove this organization is not doing what it is supposed to," Shiller said.


    if this is the criteria, a lot of funding is in jeopardy

  3. It should be noted that UCC didn't lose their funding until ~ 20 years AFTER the article was posted.

    It should also be noted that that ~ 1999 UCC had at least 3 employees, including a "housing specialist".

    According to guidestar.org, one of UCC"s 990 forms (i believe 2005)said that UCC had only raised ~ $6400 in private donations. That's ~ $1 per anti-Shiller vote.

    i find it hard to believe that with its 50 years of existance, UCC hadn't touched enough lives to have a donor base to sustain at least 1 full time staff person. Even if just 1% of the anti Shiller vote were responsible for raising $1000 each (on average, with some being more sucessful), whether by writitng 1 grant a year, rally support through friends, family & co-workers, or personal donation (and certainly some Uptown residents can donate that kind of money to a non-profit), again, a full time person could easily be supported.

    They had at least a decade and a half to find alternate/additional funding, so UCC needs to be held partly accountable for their situation.