Chicago that Meddlin Town

The dead tree version of this collection of Chicago City Council trivia included photos, but these tidbits are still fun.

1. The council's activism on lifestyle issues has inspired The Washington Post to label Chicago “That Meddlin' Town.” But lest you think such social engineering is a modern trend, consider the Lager Beer Riot of 1855. The council, led by Mayor Levi Boone, cracked down on beer halls frequented by German and Irish immigrants, while overlooking the whiskey consumed by more established Americans. The newcomers rioted, then voted en masse in the next election, making Chicago safe again for beer drinkers.


6. In 1999, the federal prison in Oxford, Wis., was home to four aldermen, a water reclamation commissioner and a state representative. When they would pass in the halls, they would sometimes yell, “Quorum call!”

7. The only murder of a Chicago alderman occurred in 1963 when the West Side's most powerful black politician, Ald. Ben Lewis, was handcuffed and shot in the head in his ward office a day after his re-election. The killing was never solved.

8. Chicago has 50 aldermen, more than almost any other American city. New York, in a typical case of one-upmanship, has 51 council members. Los Angeles has only 15, Houston 14 and Philadelphia 17. A century ago, Chicago had 70 aldermen-- two in each of its 35 wards.

9. Aldermen are allowed to carry concealed handguns and act as “conservators of the peace” under an 1872 state law, even though handgun possession is illegal in Chicago. In 1991, Ald. Dorothy Tillman waved a nickel-plated, .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver at a raucous community meeting at Kennedy-King College on the South Side, according to witnesses. No one was hurt, and Tillman, who lost her re-election bid this spring, still refuses to discuss the incident. Ballard Powell, a supervisor at the Joliet Correctional Center who was at the meeting, told the Tribune at the time: “It's safer walking through a maximum-security prison with your eyes closed ... than being in a room with a wild alderman.”


Lords of the Last Machine: The Story of Politics in Chicago

Lords of the Last Machine

Don't Make No Waves-Don't Back No Losers: An Insider's Analysis of the Daley Machine

Don't Make No Waves -- Don't Back No Losers

Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003

Grafters and Goo Goos

and “Fabulous Chicago” by Emmett Dedmon.

Don't forget our recently un-elected Burt Natarus.

Also, last week we met the 42nd Ward Alderman-elect Brendan Reilly at his new office (which is decidedly not swank, but they were still in the process of moving in). Very nice man, apologized to us (!!) for being late after sitting at City Council orientation for 10 hours (yikes!), sifting through various protocols and procedures, and brandishing a notebook that looked like it weighed 43 pounds.

We brought a brief agenda (our Neighbor Space application, which is bogged down in various City of Chicago bureaucratic scarlet tape; Green Roofs in the West Loop; and the EPA vs. Blommers situation), and zipped through in about 25 minutes. He scribbled prodigious notes, took copies of everything we brought and placed it in his Moleskin (? or similar-style notebook), and promised to look into the matters as soon as he was able. Such a contrast to the imperious Natarus. Glad we voted for him.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 21, 2007 10:31 AM.

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