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Burt Natarus Says: “There’s Nothing Wrong with Developers”

(Photo: A loaded question if ever there was one.)

This evening, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight welcomed 42nd Ward aldermanic candidates incumbent Burt Natarus and challenger Brendan Reilly (apparently the Internet-challenged Mike Liebert dropped out of the race). Reilly repeated his criticism that Natarus governs the Ward at the heart of downtown Chicago for the developers who build here rather than for the people who live here.

Curiously, Natarus never told him he was wrong. Instead, the obviously miffed, severely scowling alderman declared, “there’s nothing wrong with developers”, or with receiving developer contributions, but even so swore that the he and the Ward office are fully responsive to resident issues and complaints.

I suppose Natarus didn’t read my post from last Thursday that documented the back-handed treatment I and my neighbors received from him and the 42nd Ward office for months on the issue of scofflaw developer construction noise. Oddly, enough, Reilly’s campaign did read the post, and emailed me to say my story is one of hundreds that they’ve heard from unhappy downtown residents let down by Burt Natarus.

Adding insult to injury, Natarus then proceeded to deliver a rant on labor unions (yes, labor unions), including the SEIU and Local 1, and vilified Reilly for having received the endorsement of big labor. Sounds like sour grapes to me from an alderman who originally courted labor’s endorsement (as, somewhat nervously, did the entire city council in the wake of last year’s big-box wage debacle).

Outright lies and verbal attacks on labor unions? That’s not the ilk of a city council member, or at least it shouldn’t be. Natarus also let drop that his pension vested six years ago. Burt, do us all a favor and cash it in. Your style of running the Ward is outdated, you’re on autopilot, and you’re simply out of touch with the people who live here.

I’m sure there must be a nice penthouse in one of the many architecturally banal, super-tall condo towers you’ve allowed to sprout across the Ward like weeds on a sand dune to which you could retire grimacing.

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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7 replies

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  3. I especially liked where he described himself as a janitor, planting trees, filling potholes, picking up trash.

    I’m in the 2nd ward, and fear Haithcock will win easily again, for much the same reasons you have with Natarus.

  4. I love the 1950s rant against “big labor.” It’s 2007, Big Burt, Jimmy Hoffa is dead and labor leaders don’t smoke cigars and eat spaghetti.

    Miltant Mike rules!

  5. Reilly is endorsed by Unite 1? In that case, Natarus has my vote for sure. That is one union I cannot stand, and if he is going to cater to them, then I don’t want him either.

  6. Natarus has very little to do with the architectural ornamentation and building materials of a proposed development except to ensure that developers follow a prescribed order of filings and meetings. Forcing developers to use starchitects or regulating the design of buildings is not part of Natarus’ job. Lousy design is an unfortunate effect of slim economics and city requirements more concerned with creating gargantuan parking garages than the good taste usage of exterior façade materials. Actually, Mayor Daley is much more an advocate of good design, however, he seems to enforce new ideas on a whim from whatever European city he visited the previous summer; even then, such details address bad design decisions already constructed rather than overall positive design sense. Natarus does not have my vote either, but until Chicago neighborhoods create community design boards with binding authority to sign off on construction design, a la New York, those Soviet era monoliths and attached 10-floor parking structures will continue to proliferate long after O’Reilly becomes the replacement alderman.

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