Yesterday's City Council meeting was originally scheduled to be the last before nine new aldermen are sworn in May 21. Even though allies of Mayor Daley ended up calling another meeting for Monday--an attempt to ram Daley's affordable-housing ordinance through before it encounters more resistance from new council members--some of the outgoing incumbents seemed in the mood to reflect. Others, however, were just ready to act out, like seniors who realize that at this point no amount of smart-assing or class skipping is going to keep them from getting a diploma.
Around 10:45 Wednesday morning, aldermen and Mayor Daley were busy praising a group of Hubbard High School athletes who'd won college scholarships when a near-panic burned through the press area. "Dorothy's coming!" a TV reporter said in a half-whisper, half-scream to his cameraman. "Look for the lady in the white hat!" said another. In an instant more than a dozen members of the media grabbed their equipment and joined what sounded like a stampede into the lounge area behind council chambers, where Third Ward alderman Dorothy Tillman was being so good as to answer a few questions.
The commotion briefly brought a stop to the effusive oratory for the Hubbard athletes, since it was hard to hear anything but talk about the Hat. This annoyed Daley.
"They've got to do their interviews and run off with their cameras," he said with disgust. "You'd think they could take five minutes for this."
A short time later Tillman herself made her regally late entrance into council chambers, wearing a cream-colored outfit and matching hat with one of the widest brims most of us have ever seen. Other members of the council were finishing their commendation of the high school athletes.
"Yeah, this is a great story," Daley said, referring to the Hubbard students. "But"--unlike Tillman--"you'll never see it in the news."
The first item before the council, once it got down to business, was a resolution naming June "Hunger Awareness Month." Passage required a roll-call vote. One by one, all the aldermen in the room called out a fairly lackadaisical "Aye"--until it was defeated 16th Ward alderman Shirley Coleman's turn. "AYE!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, causing a couple of aldermen to look up from their newspapers in alarm. Within a few minutes, as 42nd Ward alderman Burton Natarus was lecturing colleagues about a billboard that didn't have a proper permit, Coleman moved to the lounge and resumed her shouting. "I'M FREE!" she said at a volume that could be heard on the council floor. "I'M FREE!"
Before the end of the meeting, Daley offered thanks to all of the departing council members. "They know what the City Council is--a legislative body that takes care of quality of life issues and doesn't get caught on tangents," he said. "When you get caught on tangents, you become a laughingstock."