Injured alderman seeking revenge against squirrels

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Ald. Howard Brookins in February. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Four months after suffering severe facial injuries when a squirrel jumped in front of his bike, South Side Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) is apparently seeking revenge.

Brookins wants Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams to appear before the City Council and outline “options for procuring stronger garbage carts” more resistant to squirrels.

The resolution introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting notes that 1.5 million 96-gallon garbage carts are supplied by the city to the owners of single-family homes and apartment buildings with four-units or less.

But the so-called “super-carts” are “frequently damaged by rodents and wildlife.” That has prompted aldermen across the city to be inundated with “multiple requests” from residents who need to replace carts “almost immediately damaged by local animals,” the resolution states.

“The current necessity of replacing damaged garbage carts is costly and inefficient,” the resolution states.

Brookins acknowledged that the resolution was, in part, his way of getting even.

On Nov. 13, Brookins was riding his bike along the Cal-Sag trail when he was sent flying over the handlebars by a squirrel that got caught in the spokes of his bike.

At the time, the alderman posted a picture on his Facebook page of the squirrel stuck in the wheel of his bike. He told his constituents he would be out of pocket for a while after the accident required “multiple surgeries to recover from damage to my face and upper body.”

“I’m not gonna let the squirrels get me down. The squirrel won, but now it’s time to fight back,” he said with a laugh.

Noting the rising number of cart replacement requests, he said, “This is something we need to explore, not only to save money but also for the citizens constantly complaining about damaged carts.”

Squirrels were in the alderman’s sights, even before the accident.

A month before the accident, Brookins complained during City Council budget hearings that Chicago was wasting a ton of money replacing and repairing garbage carts because “aggressive squirrels” were eating through them.

At the time, colleagues giggled at the mere mention of what amounts to squirrels on steroids, but Brookins was dead serious.

“It’s a pet peeve. It does invoke some giggles. But we are spending too much money on replacing garbage carts because the squirrels continue to eat through ’em,” he said then.

“I get calls [with residents saying], ‘I need a new garbage can.’ I just gave you a garbage can. [And the caller says], ‘Well, the squirrels ate through it in two days and nobody wants trash throughout the community. So they keep asking us for garbage cans.”

With Susan Russell, executive director of the City’s Commission on Animal Care and Control, on the hot seat at City Council budget hearings, Brookins asked what can be done about “aggressive squirrels.”

Russell appeared to be at a loss for words.

“Well, the squirrels-uh-may I get back to you on that, alderman? We’d be happy to…talk about strategies to assist residents with wildlife. [But] I’m not sure at this time what CACC might be able to do with aggressive squirrels. But let us look into it,” she said.

Brookins refused to drop the subject.

“Even if it is a recommendation to Streets and San-either about the material that these carts are made of or putting a screen in the cart. Is it mothballs? I don’t know what it is. But it just seems like a waste. I mean literally-I can have a brand new can drop and within a couple days, the squirrels have eaten a hole through it,” the alderman said.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), vice-chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, was somewhat puzzled by the discussion.

“Aggressive squirrels. That’s a new one,” Ervin said.

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