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Council Follies/The Machine Still Works

And our aldermen couldn't be happier about that.

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Some of the aldermen trickling into the City Council meeting the day after the election looked a little ragged. Many of them are Democratic ward committeemen and had stayed up waiting for the new $50 million balloting system to spit out the final returns. "All the committeemen are tired today," said Third Ward alderman Dorothy Tillman.

Tired but pleased with themselves.

"I feel pretty good," said Seventh Ward alderman William Beavers, as other aldermen shook his hand and slapped his back. He'd been the chief sponsor of Eighth Ward alderman Todd Stroger in the race for Cook County Board president, and despite widespread public disgust with how he landed on the ballot, Stroger got almost 68 percent of the vote in the city.

The aldermen, who will be on the ballot themselves in February, also seemed relieved, even cocky. Over the past year, as federal investigators scrutinized City Hall and a court-ordered monitor started overseeing city hiring, some of them had wondered how well they'd do without Daley's political army. Now they'd seen that however diminished that army was, the candidates it supported still won.

James Balcer, alderman of the clout-heavy 11th Ward, was giddy about the outcome of the election, especially after a boy sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to start the meeting. "It's so great that you sang the national anthem right after an election," he said. "This is what makes our nation great--we can vote!"

Several other aldermen praised the young singer, prompting 42nd Ward alderman Burton Natarus to tell Daley, "You better be careful--the kid might run against your organization." The mayor didn't look worried.

The aldermen quickly moved to sign off on Daley's appointment of longtime independent Miguel del Valle to city clerk, a post that had been empty since James Laski resigned in February after being indicted for taking bribes. The choice had genuinely surprised the council, but after Daley's allies got over the idea that one of their own hadn't been picked for the job, they started touting the move as an ingenious way to appease the reformers.

Del Valle was introduced, and aldermen took turns lauding his integrity. "A true gentleman," said the 25th Ward's Danny Solis. "He is someone we can count on to do the work."

"When people talk about the office of the city clerk now they'll talk about integrity," said Ray Suarez of the 31st Ward. "He is a man who cares, a family man, a man who will do a great job."

Daley got at least as many accolades. "Mr. Mayor, I want to congratulate you on a fine appointment," said Rey Colon, who'd defeated a Daley-backed incumbent to become 35th Ward alderman in 2003.

"I too want to congratulate you on a fine appointment," chimed in the 49th Ward's Joe Moore, one of the mayor's chief adversaries.

"I thank the mayor for putting forth this great effort," said 12th Ward alderman George Cardenas.

"Mr. Mayor, what do you have up your sleeve?" asked 26th Ward alderman Billy Ocasio. "This is a great appointment. Senator del Valle is someone who has worked in all the communities--the black community, the white community, and the Hispanic community. And he still jogs in Humboldt Park every morning."

The hour of praise was interrupted only once--by the arrival of Todd Stroger. The council erupted in cheers, and then Stroger too praised del Valle. "He's not someone who took the easy road--he always did the right thing," he said. "Too bad I won't be here to work with him!"

"You know how important this appointment is," said Natarus. "Some other person who wants to run for mayor wanted to make a similar appointment and was rejected." He meant Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who'd been trying to put together his own rainbow ticket with himself in the mayoral slot. He'd talked to 22nd Ward alderman Ricardo Munoz and Cook County commissioner Mike Quigley about running for city clerk and treasurer, but neither of them would commit to the idea. Last Thursday Jackson announced he wouldn't run after all.

In the end del Valle's appointment was approved by a 47-0 vote. After the meeting Beavers was asked if he planned to recommend that Daley appoint his daughter, Darcel Beavers, to fill his aldermanic spot when he starts his new job as a county commissioner. "That might be the case," Beavers said, smiling. Asked about Jackson encouraging his wife, Sandi, to challenge Darcel in the February election, Beavers said, "He can run Mickey Mouse. He might as well bring Donald Duck down. It don't matter. The name Beavers means more than Jackson."

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