Let “Sub-Urban” voters vote for Chicago mayor
Or, how the Suburbs got their name. Suburban residents should have the right to vote to select Chicago’s next mayor since Chicago survives not only on the taxes it collects from its residents but from nearly 30 percent of the taxes collected from residents who live in the suburbs. Here is how the “suburbs” got its name.
By Ray Hanania
Life in Chicago wasn’t so good as many baby boomers who lived in the city might recall. Aldermen didn’t need computers to figure out which voters on which blocks were not supporting them at election time. They would have their minions raid alleys and purloin garbage can lids.
The next day, the alderman would knock on the victim’s door and offer a new garbage can lid in exchange for their vote. Or, face a certain fine under the “No Garbage Can Lid” ordinance, an expensive misdemeanor.
Starting in the late 1940s and through the 1960s, Chicago residents discovered they could escape the oppression of the old Chicago Machine for brighter, freer manure-covered pastures. So began the new “Sub-Urban” life.
Many of the new suburban homes, built in part with veteran’s benefits, were located on old abandoned pig farms. The suburbanites didn’t mind trading the odor of old Machine bully to pig stench.
Of course, the word “suburban” didn’t come from he suburbanites. It came from he angry Chicago Machine. Legend has it that the origins of “Sub-Urban” began after a beer-drinking brawl in a smoke-filled room on the seventh floor of Chicago’s City Hall in the summer of 1960, when the Chicago Outfit stumped hard for JFK for president. (“Mafia” is a New York Term, Outfit is exclusive to Chicago.)
As the mob leaders departed, the aldermen discussed how to get money to pay legal fees for eight Chicago Police officers, who were also precinct workers, who were indicted in the Summerdale scandal for operating a large-scale burglary ring. They were stealing more than garbage can lids, apparently.
One of the aldermen suggested Chicago absorb the pig farms outside of the city’s confines when an another named Louie “The Lip” blurted out his disgust with the fleeing voters from his precinct.
As quoted in the Chicago Herald-American, Louie “The Lip” declared, “De, de, de, dey is movin’ to da, da, da, da ‘sub-oyeban’ pi, pi, pi, pig farms.” The ward bosses looked at him like he was Einstein, declaring, “Dat’s poyfect! Dat’s da name. We’ll call doz areas the Suburbs”cuz they is sub-par to our urban environs.”
(You need to read that paragraph a few times to understand Chicago-ese.)
Thus became the word “Sub-Urban” or “below City Life,” the “Suburbs!”
Although many aldermen were happy to see disgruntled voters flee their precinct voting obligations to the Machine, it became painfully clear most leaving the bungalow neighborhoods were people of good financial means. They had jobs, money, but the money was fleeing to the “suburbs,” which boasted innovative things like curb-less streets, garbage cans lined up in front of the house, not in the back, and stinking, egg-smelling well-water.
The loss of money hurt the Machine, and ever since, the Machine has been conspiring in ways to force those disgruntled former “Urban” dwellers to help keep their pensions afloat.
“Who gonna pay fer da pensions?” was a common refrain at Machine Precinct meetings in 1966. Machine captains couldn’t pronounce their words, but one they knew well was “pension” which rolled off their lips and out of taxpayer pockets like honey from a beehive.
Since then, of course, the city’s despots and autocrats have conspired in many ways to grab cash from the wallets of the ancestors of those early Sub-Urban Pioneers, including back in the 1980s forcing Chicago, with the help of columnist Mike Royko, when the city demanded suburban taxpayers to pay to save the CTA.
Money collected from the suburbs goes into the state pot and is divvied up in favor of Chicago’s cash-strapped schools. In fact, every time Chicago comes up cash-short, they dip into the pocketbooks of hardworking suburbanites. Chicago has been in need of money forever, and it’s mayors eyeball suburban taxpayers like the Big Bad Wolf licking his chops after Little Red Riding Hood.
The suburbs might as well give up. Turn Cook County into “Chicago County” and erase the concept of the “suburbs.” We’re paying for Chicago. We might as well be a part of Chicago, and have a voice in whomever is going to be the next mayor.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. Hanania can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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