a sight never seen: Chicago motorists pasting an
"I Love My Alderman" sticker on their
bumpers. After a decade in office, city aldermen
are invariably more despised than cherished.
Laurino, from the Northwest Side 39th Ward, is an
exception. It's as though a mammoth dose of
nitrous oxide -- the dental "laughing
gas" -- has been inhaled by everybody, and
giddiness is everywhere. "I Love Marge"
sentiment is pervasive.
column usually sniffs, scrounges and scours the
political netherworld to unearth negativity. Who
wants a "puff piece"? But, after
contacting almost a dozen 39th Ward community and
business leaders and area politicians, not one had
an on-the-record nasty comment about Laurino.
has the right attitude," said 39th Ward
Republican Committeeman Bill Miceli. "Her
office provides city services to all who ask,
doesn't think that they're doing you a favor, and
doesn't expect a future quid pro quo." Adds
Miceli: "That's not the case in other
wards," mentioning the 45th Ward.
who was appointed alderman in 1994, has done a
"pretty good job," acknowledges former
North River Commission president Scott Berman.
"She's very competent," adds Mayfair
Community Association past president Dennis
personable and political," said one community
leader who wished anonymity of Laurino. "The
ward has a vibrant commercial sector, better than
most area wards, but she still takes care of
family and friends, getting them on some public
payroll. And she's a puppet for Mayor Daley"
in the City Council.
asked why, after 16 years, she's running again,
the alderman, no shrinking violet, smoothly
replied: "I'm really good at my job. I can
access government at all levels for the benefit of
my constituents." Does she have any
ambitions? Responded Laurino, age 58: "Being
alderman is a great job. I know of no other job
where I can have such an impact on the quality of
life of my constituents."
the uninformed or forgetful, the 39th Ward has had
just two aldermen since 1965, a span of 45 years,
both Laurinos. Laurino's father, Tony, who once
was a precinct captain for Vito Marzullo,
relocated to the Northwest Side in the 1950s and
became ward secretary to Alderman Patrick Shapiro,
while also serving as a license inspector for the
Bureau of Water. When Shapiro was elected as a
judge in 1964, Laurino replaced him -- and was
reelected overwhelmingly seven times.
as the "Alley Alderman" due to his focus
on providing city services, Laurino was the
chairman of the council's Traffic Committee. He
also focused on the family business: Marge Laurino
was an aldermanic aide from 1980 to 1994, his son
Bill was a state representative from 1970 to 1996,
and nearly every other relation, by birth or
marriage, got a city job, including his daughter,
his son-in-law, his wife and his step-daughter.
Laurino also got his precinct captains on the
payroll somewhere, building and maintaining a
potent precinct organization. After Frank Annunzio,
a West Side congressman, moved to the Northwest
Side to run in 1972, Laurino was instrumental in
getting him elected and keeping him in Congress
the "Laurino Machine" nearly collapsed
after the feds indicted the alderman and a bunch
of friends and family for conspiring in a ghost
payroll scheme. Laurino died before standing
trial, his daughter was appointed by Daley to
replace him, and her father's travails are now
1995 Marge Laurino won a difficult runoff for the
succession, beating Tony Fornelli 6,882-4,982,
with 58 percent of the vote. She got 61
percent of the vote in 1999, she was unopposed in
2003, and she got 79 percent in 2007.
has reverted to normal in the 39th Ward. Laurino's
husband, Randy Barnette, is the ward Democratic
committeeman and works for the City Colleges of
Chicago system; her nephew, John D'Amico, is a
state representative; and the ward's 47 precincts
are still manned by an army of payrollers.
period to circulate nominating petitions for the
2011 election commences in mid-September. Nobody
has indicated any interest in taking on Laurino.
39th Ward runs roughly from Devon Avenue to
Waveland Avenue, in an arrow shape, between Kedzie
Avenue and Cicero Avenue. Demographically,
ethnically and economically, it is quite diverse.
It cast 13,175 votes (72.5 percent of the total)
for Barack Obama in 2008, evidencing a sizable
liberal voter base, but that base does not vote
in the northwest corner of the ward (west of
Pulaski Road and north of Bryn Mawr Avenue),
consists of 11 precincts, is decidedly upscale,
heavily Catholic and full of professionals, and is
the Laurino base. Laurino got 1,483 votes in the
area in 2007, to Obama's 2,147 in 2008, or 664
in the southwest corner of the ward (west of
Pulaski and south of Bryn Mawr), consists of 10
precincts, is largely blue collar, and is packed
with city workers. Laurino got 1,513 votes in the
area in 2007, to Obama's 2,687, or 1,174 fewer.
Park, in the southeast corner of the ward (east of
Pulaski and south of Foster Avenue to Montrose
Avenue), consists of 10 precincts and is
ethnically diverse. The area is filled with
non-citizens who occupy two- and three-flats and
multi-unit apartment buildings. According to
Berman, it is more than 25 percent Hispanic,
almost 20 percent Asian (including Koreans, Thais,
Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians), about 15
percent Indian and Pakistani, 10 percent Middle
Eastern and 10 percent East European, largely
Russians and Bosnians. Laurino got 1,220 votes in
the area in 2007, to Obama's 3,446 in 2008, or
Peterson Park/Hollywood Park/North Park Village
area, in the northeast corner of the ward (north
of Foster and east of Pulaski), consists of nine
precincts, is affluent, is filled with two-flats,
and has a significant Jewish and student
population, being near Northeastern Illinois
University and North Park University. Laurino got
1,336 votes in the area in 2007, to Obama's 2,679,
or 1,343 fewer. In the North Park Village
precinct, which is filled with seniors, Laurino
got 320 votes, to 292 for Obama.
the Portage Park/Old Irving Park area, south of
Montrose between Lawndale Avenue and the Kennedy
Expressway, consists of seven precincts and
resembles Mayfair. Laurino got 777 votes there in
2007, to Obama's 2,216, or 1,439 fewer.
was 7,924 in 2007 and 18,181 in 2008. Clearly,
against a popular, well financed liberal reformer,
Laurino would have a problem, but no Obamas are
listed her top accomplishments and goals:
The Peterson-Pulaski corridor, to which Laurino
wants to attract more high-tech companies.
"We've created thousands of jobs" in the
last decade, she said. The old CCH building is now
occupied, and Precision Plating and New World Van
Lines have relocated. "It's a great
location," she said.
is the chairman of the council's Economic and
Technological Development Committee.
The ward's three TIF districts (Cicero-Peterson,
Peterson-Pulaski and Lawrence-Pulaski), are
flourishing, according to Laurino, with $5 million
spent. The new Whole Foods Market at Cicero and
Peterson has "been enormously
successful," although the condominiums that
were planned in the second phase of the
development are stalled.
The ward has four east-west commercial strips:
Peterson, Foster, Lawrence and Montrose. Along the
latter two, particularly east of Kostner, the
incidence of Korean-owned businesses is high.
Unlike other wards to the west, people "shop
where they live," especially in Albany Park,
Laurino said. "There is a very low vacancy
rate," she added. Many of the Korean-American
business owners live in Lincolnwood and Skokie.
and Irving Park have been streetscaped recently.
North Park Village: The heating and air
conditioning system was rehabbed in the 600
existing units. Another 31 will be constructed,
starting in 2011, and an Alzheimer's day care
center will be opened.
A new police station was built in Albany Park.
Crime has "declined for two years,"
New Albany Park Multicultural Academy, Edison and
Haugan Middle schools were opened. A
"preventable care" health center at
Roosevelt High School was opened, and one soon
will be opened at Hibbard School.
A 3-mile hiking and biking recreational trail,
along the former Mayfair Cutoff line, from Foster
to Devon, is planned, supplementing the Sauganash
A Dominick's shopping center was built at Foster
and Pulaski, and a Walgreens will anchor a new
mall at Lawrence and Pulaski.
there is criticism: The former Skil site remains
unoccupied. The 60 condos north of Whole Foods are
unbuilt. There are pockets of blight along Pulaski
the 2001 ward remap, the 39th Ward lost four
Albany Park precincts to the 33rd Ward and three
Peterson Park precincts to the 50th Ward. The 2011
remap, effective in 2015, surely will slice off
more of Albany Park, making the 39th Ward whiter
and upping the owner/renter ratio, now 70-30, to
at least 80-20.
outlook: Like a typical Laurino, the alderman has
been on the city dole for 30 years. She can retire
with a gigantic pension. But there is no sense of
disconnect or outrage in the 39th Ward.
Everybody's reasonably content. Laurino, like her
father, understands that if she keeps delivering
services, nobody cares how many friends and family
pad the payrolls.
will win easily in 2011.