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City Council Follies

August 2, 1995/Your Tax Dollars at Work

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Chicago aldermen are pretty uninhibited during speeches on the council floor. So much so, they may well huddle together and take truth serum before the opening roll call.

At last week's meeting, however, several aldermen were smarting over accounts of their silly remarks during the budget committee's confirmation hearings for new city budget director Diane Aigotti.

That morning's papers had reported that Alderman Burton Natarus led things off by demanding, "Are you as good as [former budget director] Paul Vallas?" Aldermen John Buchanan and Allan Streeter favorably compared Aigotti's physical appearance with Vallas's. The Sun-Times's Fran Spielman called it "a hefty dose of City Hall male chauvinism," while the Tribune's John Kass said the aldermen "acted more like schoolboys than legislators."

As a result, even Alderman Robert Shaw chose his words carefully at the council meeting, though it may be hard to tell. He spoke after Alderman Edward Burke introduced the appointment of Barbara Lumpkin as city comptroller.

"I happened not to be here the other day when Mrs. Lumpkin appeared before the Finance Committee," Shaw began.

"Ms.!" Burke interjected.

"Ms.," repeated Shaw. "All right, Ms. Lumpkin, then. Uh, I thought I knew everybody in town. I don't know Mrs. Lumpkin, and I guess because I don't go in banks too much, you know, in particular that bank. However, I'm sure Mrs. Lumpkin will do a great job as the comptroller, in the tradition of [former comptroller Walter] Knorr."

"Ms.!" Burke interjected again.

"Ms. All right! Heheheh. Can I continue please? But I'm somewhat concerned. Not that I'm against women, but I see that all the nominees comin' down are women, Mr. President. We won't have any men left around here after a while in these offices, uh, in the uh, so..."Shaw paused while the council chuckled. "This becomin' an adminstration of just women!" That roused an actual laugh out of Mayor Daley.

"But I'm for women--now I want you to know that, you people over there," Shaw finished, waving toward the press box.

Next Natarus attempted some personal damage control. "I think it's very, very fine that we're making these appointments as people, and I wanna get up and say that because I don't want Alderman Shaw to get in trouble with John Kass!" he announced in his trademark bellow.

Later Burke introduced the appointment of Ernest Wish, former city clerk, to be director of revenue. "Alderman Shaw will be happy now," said Burke, interrupted by a diabolical Daley giggle, "that we're going to approve a male."

The council also approved a $5.1 million loan with no payment for 30 years for senior citizen's housing in the South Loop, across from Daley's new house in the upscale Central Station development. The loan was controversial because the developer has ties to the Daley family, but Alderman William Beavers was pragmatic about the whole thing.

"This is a good project," said Beavers. "Hopefully one day when--well, I'm almost a senior now. Maybe I'll move down there. Heheheheh."

"Almost? Almost? You are a senior," retorted Alderman Dorothy Tillman.

"I'm a senior here, but I'm not a senior yet," said Beavers. "And I might move down there, and I'll be across the street from the mayor."

"He moving back to Bridgeport," called Alderman Robert Shaw.

"No, he ain't movin' back to Bridgeport," said Beavers confidently. "Best thing he ever did was move outta Bridgeport."

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