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The Ringing Bells of Liberty


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If Alderman Dorothy Tillman were a man, you might think she was the first priest in the Chicago City Council. How else to account for all the time she apparently spends on the dark side of a confessional?

At last week's meeting, Tillman declared for the third time this year that aldermen preparing to vote yes on a controversial ordinance had confessed their true desires to her. According to Tillman, whose vow of confidentiality seems partial at best, they really wanted to vote no.

This time it was an ordinance banning tobacco and alcohol advertising on billboards, with some exceptions, such as on signs located in industrial areas. The purpose is to protect children from messages enticing them to smoke and drink. It's the culmination of south-side priest Michael Pfleger's 14-year crusade against such billboards. Tillman's was the lone dissenting vote.

Tillman said she supports a ban near schools, but believes this ordinance is unconstitutional and will be overturned. That's despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an almost identical law in Baltimore earlier this year. Then came the true confessions part of her speech: "And what's so interestin' is that I think a lot of my other colleagues feel the same way, but they feel pressured. A lot of folks been callin' me."

In March, when the council passed an ordinance that Tillman opposed extending health benefits to partners of gay city employees, she condemned the aldermen who had filed through her confessional. "I heard some of 'em say, 'Well Dorothy, I really don't believe in this, I don't wanna vote for it, but you know I got those folks in my ward,'" she jeered.

In July, when the aldermen passed an ethics ordinance that Tillman opposed giving the Chicago Board of Ethics oversight over the council, she again denounced her flock. "And then you pulled me in back--that's what I don't like. 'Well Tillman, you know you right, but I, I can't vote, I can't vote against that 'cause if I do the press'll eat me alive,'" she hissed, savagely mimicking them.

You hate to think what kind of penance she gives out.

Tillman also called aldermen who smoke or drink hypocritical for voting for the billboard ban. Alderman Shirley Coleman, who really is an ordained Baptist minister, disagreed. "I stand to rise to support this. Um, I have done both, smoked and drank, and if you catch me on a good day I might be doing both."


Mayor Daley displayed his dark side when Alderman Ray Suarez introduced the Chicago Police Department's Flying Knights parachute team to the council for a round of applause.

"I told these fine police officers I have a list of people that I'd like for them to take up on their flight next time, heheheh," said Daley. "I was talkin' to Alderman [Robert] Shaw real quickly!"

"Question, your honor," interjected Alderman Edward Burke. "Is that with or without the parachutes?"

Later, Shaw congratulated the parachute team and declared that every time he sees them perform he considers joining them, except that he's concerned about who would pack his parachute.

Daley's hand shot into the air. "The mayor! Hahahahaha!"

--Cate Plys

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