Last week's City Council meeting started on a solemn note, as the aldermen and Mayor Daley expressed condolences to Alderman Robert Shaw, whose son had just been killed over a dice game. Alderman after alderman decried the level of violence, immorality, and incivility in today's society.
Then they went on to regular business and locked their jaws on each other's throats like inbred pit bulls.
Alderman Burton Natarus actually picked a fight with Mayor Daley. Natarus blocked an ordinance to build four new police district headquarters because one district, the 18th, will be moving out of his ward. He claimed Daley hadn't consulted him.
Daley's floor leader, Alderman Patrick Huels, hollered at Natarus in a copier room outside the chambers. Natarus changed his mind. That apparently left him, as someone in the helping professions might say, with a big case of transference.
Alderman Edward Burke reintroduced the police station ordinance and commented on the condition of the buildings. "And indeed, if the 18th District serves the Gold Coast, then the 18th District police station should look like it belongs on the Gold Coast," Burke was saying when Natarus interrupted.
"I don't think the chairman of finance is an expert on the 18th District," boomed Natarus. "Now we withdrew a request--"
"I wasn't trying to be--" started Burke.
"Well that's all right, you know, be funny," snapped Natarus. "I'll come down to your ward and we'll talk about all your police stations and motorcycles and all that sort of thing. Why don't you just let it go and let us work it out by ourselves, and stay on the south side."
"Hunh! Hehehehe," said a surprised Daley as a low, ominous "Whooooooo!" rose from the other aldermen.
"Let me just say--" Burke tried again.
"What, you want to continue the battle? Just let it alone!" yelled Natarus.
"Let me say that if I've offended the distinguished gentleman from the 42nd Ward, I tender an apology," said Burke carefully. "There was no intention of offending him. My only point was that the 18th District station is a mess."
"You can come up north and eat in our restaurants now," grumbled Natarus. "You've apologized now. You can come up north and eat in our restaurants."
Later, Natarus was attacking Alderman John Buchanan during Alderman Patrick Levar's aviation committee report. Levar was standing by quietly, waiting to finish his report, when Natarus snarled, "Am I bothering you?"
Alderman Terry Gabinski stepped in. Gabinski had taken over the gavel when Mayor Daley left the meeting. "The chair is going to make an observation," he said, pausing. "I don't know what's in the coffee. I don't know what's in the orange juice or the doughnuts or the Eggbeaters we're all eating this morning, but this is certainly not what I've witnessed the last four, five, six years....I hope this isn't a strange year, because so far it's been rather strange."