Friday, August 28, 2009

"Shiller's Miscalculated And Altogether Tardy Response"

Mike Doyle of Chicago Carless, a communications specialist, does a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of Ald. Shiller's response to Uptown's crime... and finds it lacking. Interesting stuff, and a pretty good line-by-line indictment of why Shiller failed in her statement. An excerpt:

Walking away only demonstrates contempt for the folks who hired you in the first place. Waiting ten days to speak about the matter, then reiterating to your own constituents that you felt perfectly justified in walking away from them, just makes matter worse.
And welcome to our world...

I'm sure "ensure" is meant here, unless the Alderman intends to take insurance out on various city officials. Of course, the rest of the sentence is a grammatical train wreck anyway, so why quibble? Well, maybe one quibble--minutes? You mean 46th Ward aldermanic staff doesn't attend CAPS meetings in person?
Read all about it here. (The illustration above was posted by a reader to UU's Facebook page; it's a word cloud of her statement, with the size of each word corresponding to how often it was used.)


  1. I'm glad you liked my analysis of Shiller's statement. I hazard to say, although I was on the fence before, you're probably right about her.

    But the real star right now is that word cloud. Totally fabulous! Anyone note how small the word "residents" is?

  2. Shiller seems to refuse to accept any criticism whatsoever. What could--and should--have been an opportunity to apologize to her constituents, accept responsibility, open an honest dialogue on the issues to find innovative solutions, or (ahem) promise to listen better in the future, in the end, is completely squandered.

    .... see my comment in a previous thread.

    I like this one:

    it seems to me when the people who elected you have a desire to yell at you for doing a bad job in their opinion, it's your job to stand there and suck it up, no matter what your personal opinion is of your job performance.

    Of course, the basis of her election is a curious one; but, the fact does remain, whether these people voted for her or not, she still represents them and must put herself into a position to suffer the slings and arrows of the angered, and not just the pay-back platitudes of those who seem permanently attached to her political teet.

    And, I will make one correction: it's not only her job, it's our Constitutional right.

    Something about the peoples' right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


    Thanks for the work, Mike.

    And welcome to the right side of the fence.

    It's not like we're asking her to sneeze gold dust, or anything - and regardless of whether we like her or not, she could dampen the effects of polarization if she simply did her job which, as any pesky lawyer will tell you, means you have to listen to all of your constituents; not just the friendly ones.

    Too bad she doesn't have a close relative who's a lawyer to help guide her to a more comprehensive understanding of the fundamental rights of everyone.


  3. -- "I, Alderman Helen Shiller, have absolutely no idea how to handle this situation." If I were a disgruntled Uptown voter, I'd put this paragraph on a tee-shirt. If I were Shiller's P.R. strategist, I'd be drinking right now.

    Well said Mr. Doyle.

  4. Brilliant. Thank you Mike. I think PR classes and media trainers should use this as a case study of what not to do.

  5. If I may add a bit of clarification regarding petitioning for redress:

    People have attempted to petition Helen using every available means possible:

    Going to her office: chided and ignored

    Email: ignored

    Standard post: ignored

    Town Hall meetings: ignored

    While some may be "dismayed" at the rally being held in front of the Bid Committee's meeting, it was the only available option.

    And, I highly doubt that the rally was a surprise to her.

    Helen's folks check Uptown Update regularly, and all of the planning was done online, with full transparency.

  6. What continues to amaze me is that Helen points at herself as the victim in this statement, and has no sympathy - none! - for those who live where this is an every-night occurrence. Her attitude is "So what's the big deal?"

    I'll tell you, Helen, when leafy, pretty Carmen Avenue is filled with shouts of "Send him to the hospital! Hurt that N____!" ... when your family and your neighbors are afraid to step out of their houses because of the flying glass bottles ... when baseball bats and golf clubs are used as weapons right in front of your home ...

    ... then I will do what you have not, and spare you some sympathy.

    Until that day, YOU ARE NOT THE VICTIM HERE.

  7. Tee shirts, love it. Know, too, that Rogers Park Bench did the same thing I did (I didn't stumble across their post until about an hour ago.) They also did a line-by-line of analysis of Shiller's statement. You can find it here.

  8. Nice work, Mike.

    I give you an A. It would have been an A+ if the connections Helen made between crime, housing and social services seemed less like non sequitors to you. To longtime residents and Helen-watchers the connections are very much consistent with her worldview. On the other hand, one shouldn't have to have sophisticated knowledge of her worldview to understand what she means to say. Our representatives are not here to cram their worldview down our throats but to find ways to use their perspective to achieve broadly-held goals and build consensus. After all these years, Helen shows no ability to learn that lesson.

    Anyway, Mike, I appreciate the time you took writing this analysis.

  9. After all these years, Helen shows no ability to learn that lesson.

    The word you're actually looking for is not "ability", it's "desire"

  10. Several of you state that there were "attempts" to petition Helen. You have placed an assumption that these attempts failed because you received no response. That may not be the case and, unless you work in that office and saw those petitions tossed away without a glance or even cursory notice of their existence you may not call those "attempts" but, instead, unresponded to. Listing each method as ignored shows you believe they were received and therefore not simply attempted. If a petition was truly attempted and did not make it through, that would be your fault and not the fault of the intended recipient. Please call a spade a spade.

  11. Both the ChicagoSphere and Rogers Park Bench analyses were... painfully hilarious!!! Helen can complain about being a victim...but she makes herself a prime target! (Could TARGET sue her for trademark infringement?) I can't wait for the t-shirts!!!

  12. Hmmm. Aside from framing Herself as a victim, her writers did a decent job. But as a writer for a higher-up, I understand the art of spin to promote and protect my paycheck source. Her handlers are working stiffs like the rest of us.

    That said, WHAT IN CREATION TOOK SO LONG for this statement? Slow writers? Too many consultants taking time to vet the messages? People on vacation? Malaise? Disinterest? No matter the quality of any such message, it's tardiness speaks volumes.

  13. Chuck,

    I have no idea what point you're trying to make.

    You have placed an assumption that these attempts failed because you received no response.

    That's not an assumption. That's a statement of fact. If you petition the government for a redress of grievances and the government doesn't do anything, then your petition has, in fact, failed.

    I also think you're unaware that the word petition can be used as both a noun and a verb.

    Can someone else read Chuck's statement and make any sense of it? The more I read it, the more I think Chuck wrote Shiller's statement as well.

  14. No, by reading it, it looks as though Chuck has the same proof reader as Helen... hmmm, I

  15. Chuck,


    Let me modify:

    Going to her office: chided and dismissed without any demonstrative follow up or response on the matters presented, directly.

    Email: no response received and no demonstrative follow up or response on the matters presented.

    Standard post: no response received and no demonstrative follow up or response on the matters presented.

    Town Hall meetings: did not respond to, or interact with constituents, directly - other than to state that she was in attendance.

    And I'll appeal to marathonman77 as to what sort of response he received from the open letter he'd sent in; was posted on UU and on Lake Effect News.

    Furthermore, I'll ask him his thoughts of whether his issues simply weren't responded to, or if he feels ignored.

    You can split this hair any way that you would like, and you can dabble in a game of semantics; but, the fact remains: she has not, does not, and based on historical data - will not respond to multiple appeals to issues that some find worthy of aldermanic attention.

    Now, I will ask you - why the need to put "attempts" in quotes?

    Would you have suggestions or recommendations on how better to communicate with the alderman's office?

    Cuz, if you have a technique that will provide traction on issues which do not include donating to her campaign fund, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be more than happy to hear it.

  16. Thanks to Joe for creating a word cloud analysis. For fun, I tried an analysis for my open letter to Alderman Shiller:

    You know, the one that's been ignored to date although I sent it directly to her last week and it was published on LEN, as well. Interesting to see the difference:

    I wrote a response to Alderman Shiller's recent statement. I hope it gets published on LEN. If so, I'll forward it on.

  17. Chuck? My Chuck? Is this a case of me not getting your humour?

  18. I'll stand by what I said yesterday- that this is one case where Helen might have been better off to follow her usual M.O. and remain mum. This response was inaccurate, insufficient, rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, downplayed her residents' concerns about a *riot*, and bottom line, was a day late and a dollar short.

    I really do believe that I'm more aggravated with her (eventual) response than I would have been if she'd said nothing.

  19. Very well done! I am sure she thought she could defect some criticism with this letter. But if anything she has only opened up a bigger can of worms.

    This is why she does not talk to ward residents or media. She has only been able to maintain power by avoiding questions and staying under the radar. She has no idea what to do now that her long held plan is no longer going to work. Time will tell but with some crime issues in Lakeville as well if she does not get in front of this the media is not going away anytime soon "Either are the videocameras."

  20. I've tried to support her but when I have to send her the same email every week for 5 weeks before I can get an answer that proves she's not working for the people of the neighborhood. Every interaction I have had with her office has left me feeling like it was an imposition for them to answer my questions- her and everyone on her staff I have interacted with have been rude, not only to me but I have seen them speak that way to people as I have been in the office waiting my turn. These are simple questions I ask- what is her stance on charging for lakefront parking since it will affect the awful parking situation we already have in the neighborhood and who can I contact to voice my opinion regarding this issue. NEVER EVER EVER RECEIVED AN ANSWER FROM ANYONE AT HER OFFICE!!

  21. There are a few things that I would like to share about her comments that haven't already been said.

    Uptown Then and Now

    Helen says "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."

    I have spent a lot of time on that website downloading and categorizing crime statistics but it is sort of a cumbersome process because Helen's Uptown is divided between two police districts. (If they hadn't gerrymandered her Carmen pied a terre then maybe her ward would only fall into one, but I digress...) For example, a few weeks ago I looked at aggravated batteries in the 23rd district. All of them occurred in Helen's part of the district. So, in order to get the best picture of what people are talking about you need to look at the central area of her ward where the most crime occurs. What is happening there? Every police district has its hot spots, but how are her hot spots faring against wards with similar demographics?

    As for the ward-by-ward comparisons, the 48th ward which surrounds her own home ranks 48th in index crimes and 49 for all crimes. Helen's ward ranks more than ten points higher (39th) for violent crimes and 37th for all crimes. Yet the 48th ward also contains mental health facilities, low income housing and an economically and ethnically diverse population. I could check the median income for the two wards but I would suspect that they are similar on most accounts.
    It begs the question, what is different between the 46th ward and its surrounding wards? Its not fair to compare the 46th ward to all of Chicago. A more accurate comparison would be with similarly diverse neighborhoods.

    2) Helen says "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...some of the highest infant mortality rates in Chicago...a dysfunctional grid of street lights...some of the poorest performing public schools in the city."

    While I do recognize the work that she (and others) did with clinics and legal aide, I shouldn't have to remind Helen that the people living in Uptown has changed a lot since 1987. I also shouldn't have to remind her that there was an economic boom that improved the economic situation for poorer families during her 2nd and 3rd term in office. An increase in non-poor residents + an improved situation for the poorer people who stayed = less people living out the crappiest and most unjust parts of being poor in Uptown. In time, landlords began to put more money into their buildings and miraculously, less -ehem- "lightening" struck Uptown. Overall, things got better. But it is not because she did it all. Does she really think that if no new non-poor people moved in that the infant mortality rate and lead poisoning rates would have dropped
    as much? Helen: it sucks to be poor. Its morally wrong and not fair but on some level how you frame what happened denies this brute fact. If the problem is a systemic one with capitalism (and in some ways I don't entirely disagree with you) how can you at the same time claim such vast achievements? In the end, how you treat this belittles both the experience of poverty and the things that some of your constituents are still dealing with today.

    I am reaching my word count limit. That should be a clue that I have spent too much time on this. Cluelessness must be contagious in Uptown.

  22. Helen on Crime

    3) Helen says: "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."

    Everything she says in this section is just so twisted!! She very much believes that she has the answer. For her, it is more programs. Yet she then chooses to blame the young men for not taking advantage of the programs. If these men are the victims of a society that has forgotten them, why blame them for not choosing the right path? How very warped and twisted! If Helen is right then the blame should lay squarely on "our" shoulders with her being our leader. Has there been any attempt to triage our limited economic and human capital? How about building consensus so that your constituents aren't rallying against you but rallying in City Council and at the state legislature to get the resources that our community needs? How about doing any kind of ROI studies? Is $400,000+ a unit really the best way to produce development without displacement? And what about jobs? Wouldn't some economic development + job training be the best way to get these young men to focus on productive things? While that $10 million for a green parking garage is quite an accomplishment, how about a no-excuses mentorship program and Truman College scholarships for some of these young men? Young people need real goals not "be a star or an athlete." I wanted to be a prima ballerina but at some point everyone has to deal with their own limitations and realize that even if you work an unglamorous dull-normal job you are still G-d's child and are special.

    Buddha says, "Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it."

    Contrary to her straw man argument in this section, I think Helen has a very good idea what needs to be done to ameliorate the crime problem. Programs are part of it, certainly. But another aspect is supporting the community when it feels the need to say that things have gotten out of hand. Reminding people to behave when they have stepped out of bounds is not unfair and cruel. What is unfair and cruel is creating a grab-bag of possible solutions, not evaluating your own effectiveness and then blaming the people who don't make use of what you have offered. Both the young men in the video and the neighbors in an uproar have reached the same conclusion: whatever we are doing is not working. So what do we do now?

  23. Let's face Helen thinks she can solve everything with giving free programs and free things to them. In other words us hard working folks money. And if it's a social program she has no benchmarks whether is can/is/has worked currently or elsewhere.

    When in fact sometime the only way to win against criminals is drive them from the neighborhoods.

    I get the sense Helen really is anti-police and anti laws.

  24. You know what I don't get? Helen doesn't take a page from everything other politicians playbook. Lets just say, for the sake of argument she showed up at tonight's positive loitering, jumped on a car(preferably her own) and riled up to crowd to follow her for a walk down the streets where people don't feel safe.

    Would that end the crime? Probably not.

    Would that diffuse some of the anger? Absolutely.

    In one fell swoop she'd become part of the solution and not part of the problem. She'd instantly turn back the people on the fence.

    And yet, she, and her staff, still go with the "just be happy this isn't f-ing Lawndale" mantra.

  25. It's been so long since I've read and responded I guess my remark was a little convoluted.

    I was referring to those who said they "attempted" to petition Helen with their grievences and failed. One also mentioned that this is a Constitutional Right.

    Yes, our Bill of Rights affords us the right to petition our government. It does not, however, require them to respond, especially in the way we feel they should. When Helen was elected to office (regardless of your personal vote she was elected by a majority of Uptown's registered voters) she was granted the power to act in such a manner that she feels is in the best interest of her constituents. While her lack of response to your petitions was not to your liking, and maybe not the best choice to make, it is still her choice as our elected official.

    Those of you who claim that your petitions failed because they were ignored are wrong. If a petition is brought before your elected official in the ways you specify and were ignored your petition was accepted. The response, or lack thereof, by Ms. Shiller's office does not make your petition a failure. Your inability to get it to her is what would make your petition a failure.

    So, if you are going to be pissed at her because "your attempts to petition the government failed" you have no one to blame but your self and should thus be pissed at you.

    If your successful petition was ignored and treated with disdain by your elected official than, by all means, be pissed at that official.

    But please be sure you are pissing on the correct person for the correct reason or you are simply pissing and that is silly.

    "That's not an assumption. That's a statement of fact. If you petition the government for a redress of grievances and the government doesn't do anything, then your petition has, in fact, failed."

    Mr. Eagle,

    I disagree with your statement. Her lack of response is contempt toward those who petitioned, not failure to reach her. Ms. Shiller was granted certain powers upon election. The majority of Uptown voters felt she was best suited to handle their governmental needs. And while it is in her best interest as an elected official and representative of city government to answer you out loud she is not required to do so. And, really, was her silence not loud enough for you?

    Yo, I don't know how to get through to her, either.

    Bradley, there was no humour there. Or implied sarcasm.

    The rest, I'm not sure if this is clearer and I'll shut up now.

  26. Love the analysis, Sassy!
    If only Helen and her staff would have taken the time to go though the exercise that you did...

  27. And, really, was her silence not loud enough for you?

    He shoots. He scores.

    When viewing the issue from a different angle, I see your point, Chuck.

    She did not ignore the petitions.

    Her lack of response was her response.

    And, if she has the support of the majority of ward, then so be it.

    But does she really have the support of a natural majority?

    Or, has this logical progression demonstrated that her goals in social services, specifically housing, are less about doing what's right and more about doing what's right for her?

  28. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    No duty for the government to respond to petitions.

  29. No duty for the government to respond to petitions.

    The duty is implied.

  30. (hit publish too early)

    "OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people" pretty much closes the loop on the duty of government to address aforementioned grievances.

  31. Actually Yo,

    one of my academic interests is Lincoln.

    When giving the Gettysburg Address he likely emphasized the word "People".

    "of the PEOPLE"

    "by the PEOPLE"

    "for the PEOPLE"

  32. The elected official doesn't have to reply. Your recourse mechanism is to vote them out of office or recall them if you have that privilege.

    The replies they do give is just courtesy. It maintains good discourse. It's a best practice, but by no means a requirement of the office.

  33. With regard to politicians responding to citizen concerns, times have changed. Technology is rapidly ushering in a new era of politics (as evidenced by Obama's campaign). I think Mark Pesce said it best:

    "Sharing power is not an ideal of some utopian future; it’s the ground truth of our hyperconnected world."

    Watch his recent talk here:

    My little viral video is an example of the "crashes" Mark talks about.

  34. What can I say, IP?

    I dig me some prepositions.

  35. Yo,

    you like prepositions and I like propositions.

    There I go on about hookers again.

  36. Does an Aldermanic job description exist? I'm just not buying into this notion that once Alderman Shiller was elected she was free from any obligation to do anything ever.