Ald. Ed Burke celebrates 50 years in Chicago politics

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Ald. Ed Burke is marking 50 years in Chicago politics this year. (WLS)

Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) is marking 50 years in Chicago politics this year.

He has survived council wars, federal investigations and criticism for his law firms clients who do business with the city, but none of that was mentioned Wednesday at the City Club of Chicago, where a sold out crowd honored Ald. Ed Burke.

Burke started as a Chicago police officer, who, at the age of 24, replaced his father as Ward Committeeman and a year later became alderman.

"It's a humbling experience to reflect back on nearly half a century at city hall," said Ald. Burke.

The powerful finance committee chairman was honored by the City Club Wednesday. As one of the few alderman who offers legislation without the permission of the mayor, Burke spoke about his many accomplishments.

"It took 18 years before I was able to persuade the City Council to pass the Clean Indoor Act banning smoking in all public places," said Ald. Burke.

As the longest serving alderman in the city's history, Burke did seek higher office. He ran for state's attorney and mayor, but lost due to his vocal role in council wars as he and others politically attacked Mayor Harold Washington.

"He gained the antipathy of black community that has mellowed over time, but still enough to block him from higher office," said Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman.

Burke's long political career has been one of the most resilient in city hall. He has weathered investigations, indictments and convictions of his own staff members.

He's also been under scrutiny for a taxpayer funded security detail. In addition, Burke faced criticism for taking on clients in his personal tax law firm who do business with the city.

Despite all that, Burke's power doesn't power doesn't show any signs of fading.

"He is the gatekeeper for what has to be done to keep the city of Chicago running," said Simpson.

And Burke ran from reporters Wednesday as we tried ask questions after his city club speech. Burke also did not take any questions from the audience.

The only failure he spoke about Wednesday was trying to get Shoeless Joe Jackson exonerated from the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
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