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Alderman Week

Friday, January 27, 2012

Aldermanic rap sheet

Posted By on 01.27.12 at 01:00 PM

I posted earlier today about crooked aldermen—and some honorable ones—I have known of. Here's a handy cheat sheet, published in 2009 by the political science department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, of corrupt aldermen in Chicago from 1973 through 2008. Thirty were convicted during that time, and two more were indicted but died before trial. In most instances, the corrupt acts began while they were aldermen.

You'll find them listed here in Appendix 1 of this report (page 14). There also are bios of each offender. Twenty-five of those convicted were products of the Democratic machine, three were Republicans, and only two were independents—Lawrence Bloom of the Fifth Ward, and Fred Hubbard of the Second Ward, who defected to the machine shortly after his election.

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My mixed luck with aldermen

Posted By on 01.27.12 at 08:00 AM

David Orr
  • David Orr
In my youth I developed a poor impression of aldermen, and not only from reading Mike Royko.

I grew up in the 23rd Ward, west of Midway Airport. My first alderman, or the first I can remember, was named Frank Kuta. I was 13 when he was elected, in 1967. He went to prison in 1974 for taking a bribe to fix a zoning matter, and for tax evasion. He'd accepted a $1,500 check from a builder in return for not opposing a zoning change—a check he'd neglected to report in his tax returns. "I consider myself guilty only of the sin of being a politician," he told the judge who sentenced him. He got six months.

In the 1971 election, before Kuta's extortion had been discovered, Joseph Potempa unseated him as our alderman. Potempa also went to prison in 1974—for taking a $3,000 bribe to fix a zoning matter, and for tax evasion. He told the sentencing judge he'd been naive and stupid. He got a year. The federal bureau of prisons was probably considering opening a wing for 23rd Ward aldermen.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Alderman Ed Burke acknowledges the existence of a mere mortal

Posted By on 01.26.12 at 08:00 AM

Alderman Ed Burke
  • Alderman Ed Burke
Not long before aldermen approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new protest regulations last week, Burt Natarus was wandering the hallways behind council chambers in search of someone interested in a little political history.

"Sometimes I don't think anyone gives a shit," he said.

Natarus served as alderman of the 42nd Ward from 1971 to 2007. Natarus has always been a sociable, creative soul, and on this occasion he was bearded and wearing heavy boots and a wooly acrylic jacket, as if he could have arrived straight from a hunting expedition in the north woods.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chicago's 50 wards—the jigsaw version

Posted By on 01.25.12 at 08:00 AM

Who knows how current these things are anymore?
  • Who knows how current these things are anymore?
If I know Chicagoans—and I've been studying the breed for years—I figure most probably just shook their heads in dismay at the new ward map, adopted last week by the City Council.

Like—what the hell can we do?

But Andrew Bayley—a graduate student of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology—actually did something about the new map.

He took the 50 newly created and peculiarly shaped wards and turned them into a jigsaw puzzle. It's pretty funny to look at it, and it's probably a blast to assemble. You can find it on his website.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good old Joe

Posted By on 01.24.12 at 08:00 AM

Alderman Joe Moore
  • Alderman Joe Moore
The first lesson I learned about Chicago politics after moving here in 2000: a prerequisite for running for office is to be able to go gloveless while shaking hands at an el stop in the bitter cold of winter. Never having lived in a place with aldermen before and curious about the whole thing, I'd volunteered for Joe Moore up in the 49th Ward and was freezing my ass off at the Morse Red Line stop, handing out leaflets in ridiculous fishnet stockings and a faux leather coat. Afterward Joe and his campaign manager took me out to breakfast at the Heartland Cafe, where over oatmeal with bananas I finally warmed up. We talked baseball, and he subsequently invited me to a Sox game.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Oh, to have those fighting independents back

Posted By on 01.23.12 at 08:00 AM

I miss the old days, when a small, gallant band of Chicago aldermen put up a fight against their mayor. They didn't get anything done, either, but it was much more entertaining.

Take, for example, the city council meeting of April 6, 1973. "Squabbles disrupt Council," the front-page headline screamed in the Tribune the next day. "Daley, foes swap barbs."

That Daley, of course, was Richard J. Daley, Richard M.'s father. Like the son, old-man Daley always got his way—but unlike the son, or his son's successor, he often had to shout down a half-dozen independents. Or cut off their mikes.

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Starting today on the Bleader: Alderman Week

Posted By on 01.23.12 at 07:00 AM

Walter Burnett Jr.
Today begins a new edition of our blog feature "Variations on a Theme," in which we devote digital ink to a topic that fascinates us. This week, it's aldermen.

This week's theme ties into Mick Dumke's cover story on Walter Burnett Jr., the 27th Ward alderman.

And in case you missed it, here's last week's "Variations on a Theme," Fiction Week—an extension of our Pure Fiction issue—featuring Craig Champlin's five-part serial "The Ernie Bedlam Stories."

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