David Orr has been irritating mayors for 35 years

SHARE David Orr has been irritating mayors for 35 years

In honor of his 35th year as an elected official, Cook County clerk David Orr did what he does best: he irritated the hell out of a powerful mayor.

In this case, the mayor was Rahm Emanuel, though in the past it’s been Jane Byrne or Richard M. Daley.

Orr irked the mayor and his aides by daring to propose a reform to tax increment financing—that nearly $500 million-a-year slush fund that mayors love even more than I love the Bulls.

Speaking of which, is it too much to ask that some Bull, any Bull, guard the Wizards’ Nene once in awhile? Please?

To understand the context of Orr’s latest TIF proposal, you have to go back to 1979, when the clerk began his political career.

That was during the administration of Mayor Michael Bilandic, who had been ushered into office by City Council powerhouses Ed Burke and Ed Vrdolyak. The white aldermen were determined to keep an African-American, Wilson Frost, from being selected to fill the vacancy created when Mayor Richard J. Daley died in office.

Just another example of the way our city often embraces racial harmony.

At the time, Orr was a 35-year-old history professor at Mundelein College who decided to lead the independent charge against the 49th Ward Democratic Organization, headed by Neil Hartigan, the former lieutenant governor.

The incumbent alderman was stepping down, so Hartigan decided to slate a Loyola University psychology professor named Homer Johnson to run against Orr.

Apparently, Hartigan wanted to prove that the machine had eggheads too.

“That campaign was very tough,” Orr says. “They made the argument that if we elected an independent we wouldn’t get any services.”


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