Former alderman Anthony Laurino called himself an "alley-walking alderman," claiming a meticulous level of constituent service. Descriptive as that term is, a new one may be needed for the extraordinary service provided by Alderman Burton Natarus. Perhaps "parking meter alderman." But that's getting ahead of the story.
Last week the council voted overwhelmingly to allow the city to negotiate a franchise agreement with 21st Century Cable, a company whose principals have personal ties to Mayor Daley. The new company could be the first to compete with another cable franchise, challenging Chicago Cable along the lakefront.
Natarus joined the debate with an odd depiction of residents in his 42nd Ward, which includes the Loop and the Gold Coast. "You know, I represent the rich, schnitzi people," he boomed. "They're the people that can afford cable television. And they're not only people that can afford one channel, they want the real exclusive channels. The all-sports channels, the Disney channels, the, maybe the X-rated channels if such exist. I don't know if they exist or not, but I think the people that I represent if they want to get an X-rated channel they will have a mechanic come in and put it in." Residents of poorer wards presumably get a ladder, go outside, and jury-rig an illegal cable hookup.
Natarus went on to complain about Chicago Cable's "terrible service."
"And I'll tell ya the kind of company they are," he thundered. "When they come on the streets of my ward, the driver will walk up to me and say, 'Alderman, can I park here in front of a meter?' And I says fine. 'Will ya give me a quarter?' That's right. 'Will you give me a quarter so I can park here?' I'll give him a quarter. I mean, that's the kind of service you're getting."
It wasn't clear if Natarus was referring to the cable service or his own, which apparently includes hanging around waiting for the cable repairman so his constituents don't have to miss work.
Alderman Mary Ann Smith spoke next. "Thank you. First of all, my girlfriends are trying to teach me Yiddish, Alderman Natarus, but they haven't taught me 'schnitzi.' So I don't know what 'schnitzi' is. I don't know if I represent--"
"It's a German word," Natarus grumbled.
The council's "greet" calendar--a list of dead people to be honored, Eagle Scouts to be congratulated, etc--caught the attention of Alderman Edward Burke, who noticed an unusually large number of corpses from the 13th Ward. "It appears from the list that there's not going to be enough room in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery for 13th Ward residents that are going to their eternal reward," noted Burke. "Looks like the list of registered voters is going to be dropping dramatically in the 13th Ward."