Friday, December 18, 2009

OMG! The Reader Flips On Shiller

The Reader’s progressive, if not left-leaning, political writer, Ben Joravsky – best known in Uptown for writing puff pieces glorifying Helen Shiller just before each of her aldermanic elections – has just suggested that "north-side voters hold aldermen Helen Shiller, Vi Daley, Tom Tunney, Mary Ann Smith, and Eugene Schulter accountable for their unswerving allegiance to this [the Mayor’s secret TIF fund] scam."  Can it be that Shiller’s flagrant waste of tax dollars, tipped toward her favored developers at Wilson Yards and her soon-to-be fish farm, has finally driven a wedge between her and ethical progressives?

We were distracted by the holidays but saw this article in the December 17, 2009 Reader.  Read it here.


  1. "If, for starters, north-side voters hold aldermen Helen Shiller, Vi Daley, Tom Tunney, Mary Ann Smith, and Eugene Schulter accountable for their unswerving allegiance to this scam"

    Lord have mercy.....Santa visited early!

  2. course, same comment applies to all Chicago voters aldermen & all Chicago aldermen...

  3. Email Alderman Allen to express your support:

  4. Tom Allen is pissed off that Daley didn't support him for States Attorney. Allen believed he had the mayoral support. The 11th ward vote totals tell a different story.

    Now perhaps Tommy Allen has had a Paul on the road to Damascus moment.

    Perhaps he is the city council version of Mary Magdalene.

    I don't know.

    I do know that he should have read his Chicago testament before he trusted Daley.

    Look at the book of Hynes the Elder Chapter 12 Verse 1987:

    .....and Daley the lesser was lukewarm in his support for his candidacy and he droppeth out 36 hours before the triumph of King Harold.

    Or perhaps the book of Hynes the Lesser Chapter 5 Verse 2009:

    .......and Daley the lesser supported Pat the reformer and there was much giggling.........

    Like Darth Vader. Daley can't be trusted to make a deal. Unless you are equally as powerful. Say the Michael of Madigan. He'll honor his deals with him.

    Now Tom Allen has been a machine hack for 30+ years. Has he changed his spots?

    Time will tell.

  5. Ben Joravsky is best known in Uptown for writing puff pieces glorifying Helen Shiller? Yeah, and Mick Dumke is best known for his cookie recipes.


  6. Suzanne-

    Are you suggesting that Joravsky doesn't treat Shiller with kid gloves in his reporting?

  7. How about:

    Ben Joravsky is best known for his exposés on TIF abuse and other shenanigans in Chicago. He is infamous in Uptown for writing puff pieces glorifying Helen Shiller, a major TIF abuser and purveyor of shenanigans.

  8. Reader archive of Joravsky's writing on the Aldercritter named Shiller.

    Joravsky seems to long for the days of yore when Shiller voted more to his liking. "Wistful" is the word I would use.

    That being said I'd hardly say he has written puff pieces regarding her current incarnation of Daley puppet.

    He seems to wish she were the Helen of old railing against the machine. Those days are long gone.

    She'll be gone soon. Not soon enough for me, but soon.

    "Can you say "election"? I knew you could".

    I was told about another potential candidate against her a few weeks back.

    I'm not even sure if he lives in da ward, but I was told Greggy Harris is eyeing the race.

    Pays better than the legislature. No months stuck in Springfield. Real power regarding local issues.

    Time will tell. I have no good idea of whether he will or not.

    Personally, if I were psychologically disturbed enough to wish to hold public office, I would rather be Aldercritter than a state legislator.

    Then again why any sane person desires office is beyond me.

    At least if I get arrested in the bottom of a pile(gaggle?) of hookers it likely won't be front page news. I couldn't say that as AlderPirate.

  9. Ben's coverage of Alderman Shiller, such that it is, is rather minimal. Search for yourself. There are two features in the archives and both are critical. You'll have to provide citations for this cream puff journalism you're referring to.

  10. I actually would not use the term puff pieces, but I would use the term bias, because shielding your favored politicians from your journalistic crusades is bias.

    Joravsky has made TIF abuse one of his signature issues, and writes about it repeatedly. Nevertheless, he refuses to address the Wilson Yard lawsuit developments or this summer's Wilson Yard TIF expansion, despite the fact that they are both characterized by organized community opposition to a TIF. The court's dismissal of the first Wilson Yard complaint involved a court ruling that the public could not stop a TIF. But Joravsky covered none of this. And his refusal to identify Shiller's role in TIF abuse has compromised his integrity.

  11. UsuallyPC, Joravsky did write about the Wilson Yard lawsuit and Helen's role. Read it here: The Right Fight

    Also, the court did not say the public could not stop a TIF (the article above cites an example, in fact, where plaintiff's attorney did just that). No, the court ruled that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file. Not the sexiest of reasons for dismissal but hardly one that you could say said anything about the TIF, the development, or the dispute. Still, the court did say plaintiffs could refile on a subsection of the complaint (and thus avoid the invocation of laches) but the case never went far enough to get to the merits.

  12. Suzanne-

    Yes, Joravksy did write about the Wilson Yard lawsuit when it was filed (when it was all about senior housing, who knew?). But when the City hit back hard, making Shiller the point-person for TIF power, he dropped the issue cold.

    And the issues raised in the lawsuit were important. Even the issue of "waiting too long" was not cut and dried, as it was related to the problem of TIF's being vaguely sketched out at inception, and taking their true shape years later. Did the court's ruling essentially encourage the creation of detail free TIF's, because they are lawsuit proof? Wouldn't that seem to be something Joravsky would be against?

    All of this was germane to the TIF debate as a whole, and Joravsky punted. It's one thing for Carol Marin or someone at the Trib to ignore the story; TIF's aren't their cause celebre. But Joravsky has been beating the TIF drumbeat steadily for years, and his refusal to touch this story (or the organic fish farm fiasco) suggests his TIF reporting overall is untrustworthy.

    I will gladly admit that I am wrong about bias if it turns out that there were numerous Chicago-resident-backed challenges to TIF's created by their alderman, and Joravsky chose not to cover any of them. But if the Wilson Yard lawsuit was the only game in town, then the issues raised during its pendency were pretty germane to the TIF debate.

    And Joravsky's refusal to cover the issue because it might cause his readership to form negative opinions about Shiller makes him no better than Fox News- another hack propagandist.

  13. Hold on. Now you’re now saying Shiller is some point person for TIF power? And Ben has stopped covering it because why? He has some investment in making Helen look good?

    Inaccurate restatements aren’t helping the credibility of your argument. I did not say that the issues raised, such that they were, were not important. I simply pointed out that the equity defense prevented the plaintiffs from getting to the merits in the courtroom. What happened in the court of public opinion is something else entirely and it was ignited long before FWY lawsuit and encompassed issues that go beyond those defined (and redefined) in the FWY lawsuit.

    More, the court's rulings did not, as you claim, encourage the creation of detail-free TIF's; Illinois statute did that, which means that bitching about this issue at the Ward level is pointless. And no, municipalities are not judgment proof on this issue either. There’s plenty of case history that disproves that claim.

    Look, your claim that Joravsky punted on the TIF issue and that his reporting has been untrustworthy seems predicated on some disappointment that he is not as inflamed about the Wilson Yards development or the FWY lawsuit as you’d like him to be.

    Finally, the conditions upon which you’ve predicated your willingness to admit error ensure you’ll never do so. You assert bias that can be negated only if some identical sets of circumstances exist elsewhere. That’s not much of a reason to throw Ben into the boards or call him a hack propagandist.

  14. Here's Joravsky's puff piece about Helen from The Reader.

  15. Thanks Holy Moly. We may disagree about what constitutes puff but what is indisputable in this instance is when the purported puff was written. This item was written AFTER the February 2007 municipal election and not, as the original post charged, before.

  16. It's not that Joravsky has to be as inflamed as I am about the Wilson Yard lawsuit, but it's inconsistent to be Chicago's TIF crusader and to ignore the significant events in the only lawsuit (to my knowledge) in Chicago brought by taxpayers against a TIF. Joravsky repeatedly wrotes articles about TIF abuse, but couldn't bring the public's attention to the one Chicago lawsuit addressing the issue?

    And once the Wilson Yard TIF entered litigation, Shiller became the significant point person on the issue, because it was her TIF. Are you telling me, Suzanne, that you believe that if Tom Tunney had engineered a TIF to expand Wrigley Field and 44th ward citizens had sued to stop it, that Joravsky would have ignored that lawsuit? He would have vilified Tunney.

    I agree the statute is very broadly drafted, but courts matter, because courts interpret statutes all the time. It's called statutory intepretation. And so the interpretations of the statute advanced by the City (as well as their non-statutory arguments, such as the application of laches) matter highly. Particularly since the potential existed for the case to be appealed and result in binding precedent from the appellate court.

    Maybe propagandist hack was a bit over the top. But the fact remains that Joravsky the TIF crusader did not cover the one ongoing lawsuit challenging a TIF, and it was a TIF engineered by an alderman that he has covered with kid gloves. There are two reasonable inferences. One, he did not cover the lawsuit to shelter Shiller from a negative spotlight. Two, Joravsky is not really opposed to TIFs, but opposed to TIFs controlled by Daley, and that if TIFs were used as a vehicle to provide social welfare benefits, he would be fine with them. Either way, his lack of coverage suggests a compromise of his integrity.

  17. UsuallyPC, it's hard not to think that I'm hearing the sound of an axe grinding. Joravsky did cover the story. He just didn’t follow it the way you would have liked him to. Going on to draw conclusions about his integrity from that seems kind of dicey, imo, though I will cop to the fact that they guy does still owe me a burrito. ;-)))

    That said, and correct me if I’m wrong, I believe Ben gave it more column inches than any other widely read reporter so why aren’t they on your naughty list too?

    Seems to me the question isn't what would happen if a similar suit was filed in Tunney's Ward (or Shulter's or Mell’s). Rather, the question is why should any reporter follow a dismissed lawsuit?

    Btw, it is a mistake to think that there aren't other TIF disputes brewing--and exploding--in other Wards. The eminent domain fight in the 47th and the North Lawndale/Ogden TIF fight come to mind, both of which are grassroots efforts with the latter largely an African American initiative. Then there’s the central loop TIF broohaahaa, which would have surely gone into orbit if the Mayor renewed that district.

    I also think it’s a mistake to weight the importance of the issue solely upon whether or not it arouses a lawsuit. Success is defined sometimes by fighting the good fight in court, true, but other times, it’s defined by negotiating a different path (which is what happened in 47, for example).

    Look, I get it that the recent amendment to the Wilson Yards development read like a Burroughs novel, a little Naked Lunch-ish, but a fish farm just isn't the craziest thing a Chicago Alderman has spent TIF dollars on. Doesn’t make it right and I’m not one to make relativity arguments when it comes to anyone’s dough, especially these days, but given the universe of crazy that Ben and other reporters have to choose from, I think the worst you could say in this instance is that there is a surprising---and, yes, disappointing---amount of crazy out there crowding the stage.