Democracy's Shining Lamp | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Democracy's Shining Lamp 

Alderman Edward Burke introduced a laudatory death resolution for a former Illinois state treasurer who was convicted of bank fraud for a multimillion dollar check-kiting scheme. No one noticed. It passed.

Burke's paean to Jerry Cosentino was reminiscent of his speeches on behalf of Richard Nixon, whose troubles are too well-known to need repeating, and former alderman Thomas Keane, convicted in federal court of mail fraud and conspiracy. Cosentino wrote millions of dollars in bad checks while in office to keep his trucking company afloat. To be fair, Burke did note that Cosentino's later years "were marked with not only serious health problems but serious financial problems."

That is not, however, the way most people would describe avoiding prison due to poor health.


Alderman Burton Natarus is rather defensive about his crusade to purge dog waste from Chicago. This is how he introduced an ordinance to raise the maximum fine for failing to clean up after dogs from $25 to $500: "I am not here today to cause the press to giggle and laugh at the ordinance I'm introducing! But I know the press will giggle and laugh!"

There's nothing funny about dog excrement to anyone who's stepped in it. Most Chicagoans would support raising the fine much higher than $500--to, say, the kind of punishment found in strict Islamic states. What was amusing about the ordinance was the committee it was sent to.

"Now I don't want anyone to question the jurisdiction," Natarus warned. "I'm being very selfish. I'm sending it to my committee because I know I'm gonna give it a hearing." Natarus heads the traffic committee, which normally handles stop signs and such. "I've sent it to many many committees of the City Council, and it's sat there for years....Now I hope that I have given the press a wonderful wonderful story to write tomorrow in terms of humorous dialogue on behalf of Alderman Natarus and his antics. Thank you."

Later, Alderman Ray Suarez congratulated city clerk James Laski on outfitting his staff with blue blazers, replacing the maroon coats that made them look like large English schoolboys scurrying about the council floor.

"Now they blend in, and I'm sure that [Laski] will borrow them once in a while so he can go out to parties," said Suarez.

"All right. Congratulations to the city clerk. Alderman Buchanan?" said Alderman Lorraine Dixon, presiding for the absent Mayor Daley.

"I just think that uh when the subject was discussed there was a choice between green and blue?" queried Alderman John Buchanan. "I was uh advised that there was to be a green one in the offing. We got the red--we satisfied the Saint Joseph's program. The blue satisfies whatever it does. But I think if he's going to stay and continue to do the right thing, the next one should be a green one."

"Uh, it is duly noted for the record," nodded Dixon.

"Does that, Madam President, mean that Tiger Woods is going to have to give up his new green jacket?" wondered Burke.

"I don't think so," said Dixon. "Alderman Natarus."

"No, what it means is Alderman Buchanan is getting funnier by the minute," said Natarus.

"When I reach Alderman Natarus's level of comedy, I promise I will retire," Buchanan jovially shot back. "Because there's the master of comedy."

"You're absolutely correct!" boomed Natarus. "I don't know if you heard my latest ebonics joke--"

"No!" interupted an alarmed Dixon. "Don't, don't. We don't want to hear your ebonics joke now!"

--Cate Plys

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Popular Stories