Chicago once appeared to be on the cusp of a new era. Back then, the monarchy had run its course and candidates for office were openly talking about reform, sometimes in complete sentences. On second thought, I’m not sure there ever was a time like that . . . but it was easier to daydream for a few minutes in 2010 after Mayor Daley announced he wasn’t running for reelection. These days Rahm Emanuel—just a year into his first term—is in total control, and a City Council elected on promises of independence has signed off on every major issue he’s put before them. This includes a 50-0 vote on Emanuel’s first budget, which raised taxes while shrinking the police ranks and closing health clinics. A few aldermen have recently murmured “Nay” here and there, but the council could use a “Hell no!” type who’s unafraid to speak up even when she has to do it alone—someone like, say, former 46th Ward alderman Helen Shiller. No, not the version who retired last year as a mayoral loyalist, because we’ve got plenty of those. I mean the one who was an unbending advocate for public health, affordable housing, and the democratic process—the Alderman Shiller who didn’t sign off on a single mayoral budget during the 1990s. True, it didn’t stop Daley from doing whatever he wanted, but at least somebody let him know he was being watched.
Best Politician We’d Like to Resurrect
1990s Helen Shiller (46th)