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Burke picks preserving ‘iron man’ Council attendance record over papal audience

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) hasn't missed a Chicago City Council meeting since 1970, and he doesn't want to start now. | Sun-Times file photo

What’s more important for a devout Roman Catholic: a special audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican or preserving your attendance record as the Lou Gehrig of the Chicago City Council?

For Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the answer is the iron man record.

Burke disclosed Monday that he has decided not to accompany his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, to Wednesday’s private papal audience to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics because he doesn’t want to miss Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“I’m not going to spoil my perfect attendance record and absent myself from the City Council chamber,” Burke said Monday after chairing another Finance Committee meeting.

Asked whether he was in danger of snubbing the pope, Burke said: “Well, I figured that, having not missed a meeting since 1970 that I shouldn’t start now.”

The alderman noted that the “better half of the family will be there.”

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported last week that Anne Burke was among a delegation of eight invited to Rome for the special audience to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, which began on July 20, 1968 at Soldier Field.

Anne Burke told Sneed that Eunice Shriver, sister of former President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were both assassinated, “helped me rewrite and expand my original proposal for a citywide track event in order to take the Special Olympics project national.

Shriver also “attended the games – which she loved — barely a month after her brother was assassinated,” Anne Burke said.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke will have an audience with Pope Francis . in Rome on Wednesday, but her husband, Ald. Ed Burke, will stay in Chicago. In March, Anne Burke attended a groundbreaking ceremony at Soldier Field for a monument comm
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke will have an audience with Pope Francis . in Rome on Wednesday, but her husband, Ald. Ed Burke, will stay in Chicago. In March, Anne Burke attended a groundbreaking ceremony at Soldier Field for a monument commemorating the first Special Olympics, which were held at the stadium. She is shown here with with athletes who competed in those first Games, Amelia Hernandez and Frank Olivio. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Edward Burke has a political bull’s-eye on his back after his brother, state Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), was defeated by 26-year political newcomer Aaron Ortiz in a March 20 primary race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for the riverfront hotel and condominium tower that bears the name of President Donald Trump.

Burke has since cited “irreconcilable differences” for his decision to stop representing Trump.

The alderman who celebrated 50 years in politics earlier this year told reporters in mid-April that he intends to run for re-election and does not believe his brother’s defeat is a prelude to his own political demise.

“He carried the 14th Ward. Not by enough to overcome the other areas. But fortunately, the people in the 14th Ward did vote for him,” Burke has said.

When a reporter said he was “wondering” whether Burke would choose to run again, the alderman said, “Why would you wonder?”

Before Burke divorced himself from Trump, Democratic Congressional nominee Jesus “Chuy” Garcia accused the City Council dean of “disrespecting” the residents of his predominantly Hispanic ward by doing property tax reduction work for Trump Tower.

“The fact that he has been Trump’s lawyer on reducing his property taxes and has been part of the property tax system in Chicago that has affected working people more than anybody else in a regressive manner are issues that have to be taken into account,” Garcia said.

“It was highly offensive to the community. Anyone who isn’t representing the community’s interests should be worried.”

Garcia said then that he was stunned Burke would have the “audacity” to continue to represent Trump when he knows what a red flag that is to his constituents.

“Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency attacking the Mexican-American community. The overwhelming number of residents of the 14th Ward are of Mexican-American heritage. It is highly disrespectful to put that aside and simply respond to self interest,” Garcia said.

“It shows that he’s out of touch with the community and that the community’s concern was nowhere on his radar screen.”