Monday, February 26, 2007

Just when you thought the 46th ward couldn't get any stranger.

I've said it before: I don't have a dog in the 46th Ward fight. My girlfriend lives up there, so I'm in that area quite a bit. I am minus an opinion on the whole thing.

Now, that doesn't mean I can't watch it just for the purposes of watching it. I've always wanted to see how Netroots would function in Chicago on a localized race in a diverse ward. We're a town where things like that can work, after all, what we call 'The Machine' was effecitvely one of the more powerfull grassroots movements of all time. I've observed What the Helen, I've done some nice back and forth with them, and I participated in my own form of combat journalism, braving Broadway after dark, dodging the pools of vomit and the homeless. I am a true people's hero.

I kid.

Anyway, I was pretty sure that the 46th Ward race couldn't get any more odd. You've got a former anti-Daley 'independent' alderman (turned Daley toe liner) facing off against an openly gay social worker. There are rumors that Shiller's outfit pays homeless folks to do ward work for them - but even if those rumors aren't true - you've got the fact that she or her designees actively seek out the homeless to get them registered to vote. The homeless don't mind - a voter registration card is one step closer to getting a real ID.

Cappleman, who has been widly criticized for his debate skills, likened to being a 'republican' (whatever that means), and has generally failed to generate the kind of visible steam that I would expect to be easy given the sheer visibility of Uptown's problems.
It's been strange. But now it's just bizarre.

Jesus People USA (or JPUSA, pronounced 'Japoosa') is a 'church' which makes it's headquarters on Wilson Ave. I guess it's not a headquarters, so much as it's a commune where the more devout members make their home. It also provides a handfull of social services and about 2 floors of income based housing for the elderly.

For the good that they may do, they're still an oddball cloistered religious organization - and have the long tail of cult allegations to prove it. They were the subject of a 2001 Trib investigative report alledging psychological abuse and shifty financial dealings.

One of the group's more vocal members, a cat named Jon Trott, keeps a couple of blogs where he muses the usual defense of the indefensable that you would expect from this breed:

I will tell you here and now that doing so (calling JPUSA a cult) is essentially the same as calling a black person "n****."

What makes it weird is that he's apparently Shilling for Shiller.

Strange. Very strange. So we've got a left wing, anti-gay, communal living, Christian fundamentalist organization who's name couldn't be any more comical if it were "Hippys For Jesus", out on a limb making hay in a hot political race involving 2 left leaners trying to make their mark on what could only be described as ward with some mismanagement issues.

Maybe I'm becomming a little too cynical, but just what is the deal here? What interest could this kooky group have in picking Shiller? Heck, what interest could this group have in being involved in the political ongoings to begin with?

I mean sure, everybody has a voice. Everybody has a vote. But when somebody who's functioning as a 'spokesperson' for such a strange fusion of extreme Christianist thinking and at least 'cult like' behavior, is out there directly nodding a candidate, somebody has to ask the question.


Pat Hickey 9:46 AM  

What color IS the sun on that there planet? Yeow!

Not exactly, 'bring a covered dish' up there.

Dan L 9:59 AM  

I honestly don't get it. Usually it's either _obvious_ what people's interest in a particular candidate is. In this case, I can't quite come up with what their deal is. That normally wouldn't bother me too much, except for the fact that they're some sort of self-styled hippy cult.

Randall Sherman 11:09 AM  

I believe that the Jesus People have always supported Shiller, going back to her first race for Alderman back in the 1980s.

dan l 11:12 AM  

But why? What interest do they have in her?

49th is a great ward,  12:30 PM  

Randy Sherman is just an anti-Helen Shiller shill. He is anti every good government elected official on the lakefront.
The Illinois Committee for Honest Government is a paper tiger that was supposed to offset the IVI-IPO.
Sherman cries good government but is out of the convict Marty Tuchows now defunct organization. He and his wife Phyllis both have county patronage jobs. This organization was a stalking horse for Tuchow, Marty Sosin, and senators who became judges. No reform or good government here.

dan l 12:36 PM  

Oh come on 49th. Yeah. I like picking on Randy too, but it's not like he's rending some high and mighty opinion here. He's just giving us some background.

49th is a great ward,  1:02 PM  

Randy has opposed every good government elected official on the lakefront from Joe Moore, to Fagus, to Volini, to Helen Schiller.
Randy Sherman has been the shill and voice for the machine.
The Illinois Committee for Honest Government endorsed Mayor Daley in 1989 and Vrdolyak in 1987.

Randy Sherman is a anti-choice anti-abortion hack who has worked against all the reformers in the 49th ward.

The 49th ward has been a leader in important issues like Big Box which help everyone.

Craig Gernhardt 1:08 PM  

Alderman Moore, good government? Someone's had too much kool-aide.

Pat Hickey 1:58 PM  

Always said Randall was a good guy; anyone against the turnips listed above is A-OK!

Levois 2:59 PM  

IrishPirate and WhatTheHellen needs to be in here. LOL!!!

Hugh 4:14 PM  

> What interest do they have in her?

Here's a deal to sell City land to JP USA

City land to JPUSA

Anonymous,  5:41 PM  

Levois, your wish is our command!

We have no clue what JPUSA gets from the Alderbeast, other than what Hugh links to. For all their so-called anti-gentrification and anti-materialism facade, they sure don't follow their own rhetoric. JPUSA owns three building materials businesses that cater to people who...


They even admit that they took one of their buildings on Paulina and converted it to condos and sold them off. It's right there on their web site.

We wonder if their super stores would have fallen under the Big Box living wage ordinance. Their employees don't take any pay. Sort of like ultra tithing. Would they have had to pay their employees living wages?

The organization takes in millions of dollars - enough to finance their $3+ million in debt.

This is big business. Helen gets a couple hundred votes, and JPUSA gets a useful tool for their rhetoric.

Anonymous,  12:56 PM  

My prediction is Helen will win, not big, but win

Jon Trott 9:34 AM  

I found this thread long after the election was over, and as a member of JPUSA (as well as being the nefarious Jon Trott mentioned) offer a few reasons we voted for Helen.

But before I do that, let me clear the air by pointing out something fairly obvious. A potential block of voters our size would likely draw friendly attention from *any* local politician. And often does. That is, we -- working totally above board -- could and likely would ask for aldermanic help in doing what we do within Uptown. What we do locally, among other things, is to serve the poor through our Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO) Shelter programs.

Okay, so why did JPUSA pretty much vote as a block for Helen, when we don't usually do so for other candidates?

First: Helen, whether others agree with her or not, has always insisted that the poor not be squeezed out of Uptown. The Chicago Reader's March 30 edition carried a good primer article on the history of Shiller in Uptown which makes that very point -- as well as making the point that those so opposed to her are opposed to her on that basic point. Uptown, says the article, sez me, and sez most anyone who's lived here for long, is and has been involved in a class war. Blunt truth? Without Helen in office, the area would have been completely gentrified years ago.

Second there is a history between JPUSA and Helen Shiller that didn't start well. Helen was part of a social justice group known as the Heart of Uptown Coalition. When we moved into Uptown from the Ravenswood neighborhood, the H of U suspected us of being developers (perhaps because when we left Ravenswood, the six flat we'd owned we renovated and sold). We in turn were courted by pro-development forces (though we did not know their gentrification plans) and voted for their candidate, Jerry Orbach, soon after moving into our Malden address. But only a few years later, the mid-80s saw widespread evictions and price-outs of the poor, including Cambodian refugees with whom we had a very friendly relationship (including tutoring in English).

We marched with the Cambodian families, many of whom had only months before escaped the killing fields, on the developer's offices. The leaders of the march broke down in tears when we showed up, telling us they didn't think any Americans cared.

As JPUSA became more aware of what the politics of Jesus might be, Helen's people began to realize we were not who they'd thought. We met together, talking over our imagined differences and our hearts for a vision of Uptown where the poorest of the poor could coexist with middle-class and even wealthy folks to create a neighborhood for everybody.

The rest of what happened is history. We did, in the next election, prove to be the difference in the election (a fact which was blasted over the airwaves of various TV news stations election night, to our discomfort).

We voted, and continue to vote, for Helen because she is a person who has a vision we agree with, and the zeal and honesty to actively continue seeking it. Neither she, nor we, are "anti-rich, anti-'yuppie' or anti-improvement in Utpown. We are pro-community, pro-persons, pro keeping one neighborhood a place where the poorest of the poor can be included, where housing can continue to be created for them (ideally in "set asides" within the ever-expanding number of new condos and expensive rentals popping up like mushrooms here).

One last note unrelated to Helen. You find it odd I would say that using the 'c' (cult) word is akin to using the 'n' word. I say that for a simple reason, which your own post illustrates. Without knowing anything about us, really, you agree with the demeaning evaluation of us as a 'cult'. This is highly curious, since we are part of a large denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, which has its international headquarters on Foster Ave. only a few miles from our house.

It is very easy to marginalize someone -- or a group of someones -- with hate language. The 'cult' word is just such a word. It has no real content.

But that discussion will make this ridiculously long post even longer... so it will have to wait for now, unless you're very eager to continue it (at which point, I likely would be willing if we can simply maintain some sort of civility in the process).

Blessings, and thanks for listening whether or not you agree.

Jon Trott
920 W. Wilson

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