It’s official: I’ve seen the Chicago Marathon.
Not the race–I’m talking about this week’s ungodly three-and-a-half hour council meeting.
I sure hope city clerk Susana Mendoza did major vocal warm ups, because her first task was to read the names of 110 children–for five straight minutes–getting scholarships in Chicago.
“We, the mayor and members of the city council, do hereby congratulate the following students,” she began, before rattling off the list like a pro: rolling her R’s and punching up the vowels in those tricky Latino names.
But this mini-graduation did not stop there. One by one, TWENTY-SEVEN of the city’s aldermen stood up to congratulate each student in their ward–and, more often than not, massacre their names.
Alderman Carrie Austin squinted at her notes. “I know I’m gonna butcher their names,” she muttered. And she did, awkwardly shrugging, “or…sounds something like that.”
Finally, after half an hour of speeches…it was time to congratulate MORE students.
“Whereas the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program–” the clerk began.
From the gallery, a protester began screaming. “NO CHECK FOR RENT!” over and over.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel banged his gavel. “Hold on, we’ll start over.”
The man was hauled off and the clerk hit rewind. “Whereas the Junior–”
“NO. CHECK. FOR RENT.” a group of people resumed the chant. One guy began free styling over the chanters: “MONEY FOR SCHOOLS! NOT RICH DEVELOPERS!”
After they were escorted out, the mayor turned to the chamber. “We’re gonna try to do this [resolution] for the kids, but if anyone has another protest, let me know right now.” The aldermen laughed and the city clerk resumed her reading…until for the third time she was forced to stop.
“BACK ROW,” the mayor icily addressed the chatty council members in the rear. “These kids have studied hard. Their parents are here. Their teachers are here. Please just hush your voices.”
At blessed last, the clerk finished the resolution. Alderman Austin rose again to speak. “I remember when I was in high school–gosh, that would’ve been a hundred years ago–I wanted to be in the ROTC. One, I wanted the uniform. Two, I wanted to tell people what to do.”
“Well,” cut in Mayor Emanuel, “you’ve mastered one out of two.” The whole chamber erupted in laughter.
An hour of speeches had passed, but, dear reader, don’t think everyone was tired of talking: beloved water commissioner Tom Powers was retiring, which gave all 50 alderman an excuse to slowly eulogize him.
Their remarks included the kind–
(“I’m giving you permission to enjoy yourself!” –Alderman Michelle Harris)
(“I was the one that he was out seeing at 7:30 on Saturday mornings.” –Alderman Michael Zalewski)
(“I would have picked you up by the collar, put you up against the wall, and said you could not go.” –Alderman Pat Dowell)
Luckily, the commissioner took it in stride. “Somebody once told me, you’re gonna miss the circus but you’re not gonna miss the clowns,” he remarked. There was a slow roll of cackling and applause by said clowns. He quickly added, “I am gonna miss all of you.”
Final thoughts: 50 city council members are waaaaay toooooo many. Chicago, I’ll tune in again when you get it below 25.