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Farewell to Our Crazy Uncle

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 2, 2007 2:50PM

This has been quite a week on the city council with a dozen aldermen headed to runoffs on April 17 in one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. Today we take a look back at a man that was as much a character of Chicago as any other, soon-to-be-former alderman of the 42nd Ward, Burt Natarus. In many ways he represented a time when being a character, when being eccentric was OK. As Eric Zorn pointed out, those days are quickly closing.

2007_3_editorial_policy.jpgNatarus was more than a wacky, wise-cracking old buffoon on the council, he had the ability to get things done and to push his ideas, even when they seemed silly to everyone else. (Dancing bans? Taking on The Donald over a sign?) Other times the issues he raised were ridiculed by people in the press, or outside of his ward (such as putting the breaks on bucket drumming, or imposing diapers on the carriage horses downtown). But some of what Natarus supported in the council was important, like getting people off of cell phones while driving, or raising questions about the impact some of the development in the downtown will have on a portion of the city that many people consider their own, even if they don't live there. But Natarus understood that being an alderman was about being a janitor in your ward, something that many aldermen in far more humble wards don't appreciate. And even though his constituents were clearly unhappy with the job he was doing, we're going to miss his shenanigans, including standing up before the city on election night in a baseball cap and a green cardigan and declaring that it isn't over yet.

Even though he was eccentric, he cared about Chicago in a way that sometimes gets taken for granted. Of course Natarus was a weirdo. He was the alderman for the downtown ward. You'd have to be nuts to want to represent that part of the city. For 38 years. We understand that change is inevitable, and in this city, that's a good thing. We've taken our shots at Natarus (boy have we), but that's an easy thing to do when the guy's a sitting alderman, and today, well, we felt just a little sad in our hearts to see the old man go. We hope he enjoys his retirement, and we're looking forward to seeing Brendan Reilly work to fix the things that the people who voted for him want to see fixed.

"Natarus as a Witch" via swanksalot.