Deadlocked committee puts off vote on City Council budget analyst

Written By Fran Spielman Posted: 07/29/2014, 05:55pm

A $485,000-a-year independent budget office created last year to provide the City Council with expert advice on mayoral spending, programs and privatization will have to wait a while longer to get off the ground.

That much was certain Tuesday after a deadlocked selection committee put off a decision on who will become the new, $107,000-a-year City Council Financial Analyst.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), prime-mover behind the independent budget office, was waging a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to prevent former independent Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) from getting the job on grounds that she lacks the independence and policy expertise exhibited by other candidates.

On Tuesday, the seven-member selection committee convened in public and adjourned to a closed-door executive session. During the private meeting, three candidates were nominated, but no vote was taken to determine whether any of them had the four votes needed for passage.

When the public meeting resumed, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) announced that the committee had been unable to reach a concensus and would take another crack at finding what she called an “agreed candidate” in September.

Despite what she described as a 3-3 deadlock with one member apparently prepared to abstain, Austin said she has no intention of withdrawing her support for Shiller.

In fact, she’s furious about Pawar’s efforts to undermine Shiller’s candidacy and impugn her integrity by disclosing interview information that was supposed to remain confidential.

“That was unfair, and you all have been unfair to Ald. Shiller. She’s worked here 22 years, so you can’t say that she don’t know this job and whatever it is they would need outside of what [the city budget office] could give them,” Austin said.

“They want to move this item forward, but want to fight it all at the same time? I don’t quite understand that.”

Shiller spent half of her 24 years in the City Council fighting then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and the other half supporting his budgets and programs after being co-opted by Daley.

She became a committee chairman and ended up endorsing Daley’s 2003 re-election bid. Daley returned the favor by supporting the Shiller-backed Wilson Yard project, among others. He also stopped putting up candidates to run against her.

That has prompted Pawar and others to question Shiller’s independence, a charge that makes Austin’s blood boil.

“Independent of what is what I keep asking? What do you want her to be independent of?” Austin said Tuesday.

“Twenty-two years in this City Council. That’s training enough for what they’re looking for. They’re looking for expertise. This individual has that expertise . . . I’m not gonna let you all continue to denigrate her like that like she don’t have this and she don’t have that. That’s unfair.”

Shiller was not fazed by Tuesday’s deadlock and sounded as if she has no intention of withdrawing her candidacy.

“I’m interested in the process. And I’m fine with whatever happens,” said Shiller, 66.

Pawar would only say that he would keep working to “build a consensus.”

That’s a far cry from last week, when Pawar told the Sun-Times that he was determined to get the “right person” and that Shiller was not it.

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