Former Ald. Shiller angling for job as aldermen’s financial analyst
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter December 12, 2013 3:20PM
Mayor Richard M. Daley with Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) in 2007. | Sun-Times library
Updated: January 14, 2014 1:03PM
Former independent Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) is lobbying her former colleagues to become the new $130,000-a-year City Council Financial Analyst.
One day after the City Council created the $485,000-a-year office to provide expert advice on mayoral spending, programs and privatization, aldermen disclosed that Shiller was angling to run it.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said he got a call from Shiller recently expressing interest in the job, which has a fixed, four-year term. The City Council must confirm the analyst by a two-thirds vote after an oversight committee recommends candidates.
If Shiller gets the job, she would be required to stop collecting her aldermanic pension, Pawar said.
“Helen’s great. Her reputation precedes her. She was sort of the budget guru in the City Council for more than 20 years,” Pawar said.
“She was a voice for independents, a thorn in Mayor Daley’s side and someone who stood up for vulnerable populations, affordable housing and social justice. People have a lot of respect for that. But by no means is anything a done deal,” he said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said Shiller was “independent for many years,” even though she “did what she had to do” and ultimately reached a political accommodation with Daley.
“She could be a good choice. She was rambunctious. You need someone who’ll bring back some of that energy. She’s going to be asked, `Are you going to be independent for the aldermen?’ I think she could do that,” Cardenas said.
Yet another aldermen, who asked to remain anonymous, said he doubts Shiller will get the job.
“The concern would be that her appointment would be a former alderman — the very people who say they need expert, outside help. We don’t want to spend $500,000 and have it appear that it is a dodge,” the alderman said.
Shiller could not be reached. She and her son are registered lobbyists. Brendan Shiller represented a strip club that reached a $2.5 million settlement with the city, used to build a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Elected to the City Council in 1987 with the backing of then-Mayor Harold Washington, whom she described as “like a father to me,” Shiller represented the North Side’s 46th Ward for 24 years.
For nearly half that time, Shiller was Daley’s most persistent critic.
She supported candidates against Daley and was the only dissenting vote against his budgets.
During budget hearings, she would pepper department heads with oral questions and submit a hundred more in writing.
Ultimately, Shiller was co-opted by Daley, became a committee chairman, supported his budgets and programs and ended up endorsing Daley for re-election in 2003.
Daley returned the favor by supporting the Shiller-backed Wilson Yard project, among others. He also stopped putting up candidates to run against her.
At the time, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote that “the last squeaky wheel in the city Council had been greased. ... The last independent voice had joined the chorus.”
He called Shiller’s endorsement of Daley “amazing” considering her political start — about “as close to Marxist as you’d ever find at City Hall” — as co-founder of the Heart of Uptown Coalition with Walter “Slim” Coleman.
At the time, Shiller explained her “attempt at a cooperative relationship” with Daley by saying, “This is a different political world than it was three years ago, eight years ago, 16 years ago, 20 years ago. The whole world has changed around us. This is just an acknowledgement of that.”