When Alderman Graham listened but kept mouth shut

The Harmon and Lilly town hall meeting in Galewood, Sept. 12, 2013, questions and complaints:

It was 7:30, 45 minutes into the meeting. A pleasant-looking young woman, Harmon’s aide, stood with a clip board, said it was time to gather written questions. She began walking the room gathering questions.

Meanwhile, questions and complaints continued from the floor — about illegal immigrants using scarce resources while not paying taxes, declining property values, lack of a public library “we can take our kids to,” a North Avenue pawn shop.

“Residents need a voice,” a woman said. “We are stuck. You have to listen.”

Ms. Graham, alderman with a history:

The airing of North Avenue problems prompted a call for comment from the alderman, Deborah Graham, who had sat quietly through it all, unannounced.

She had been a state rep for Oak Park and Austin, winning election in 2002 over an Oak Park woman after losing a mandatory coin toss that broke a tie in the primary, challenging that, and winning a manual recount of 500-plus ballots.

During the recount, more than a hundred uncounted ballots were found in an Austin polling place in sealed envelopes at the bottom of a bin. “For a bag of ballots to show up suddenly six months” after the election “is just deplorable,” the Oak Park candidate told the Tribune. Her lawyers had wanted a second election. A judge had ordered one, but an appellate court had canceled it.

She finds silence is golden:

In 2010 Graham had been chosen alderman by Mayor Richard M. Daley, who by then had appointed more than half the sitting aldermen, to replace one who had pleaded guilty to corruption charges. She won election to a full-term in the next year.

At Galewood on this occasion, she rose, said she had learned quite a bit from the meeting, and sat down.

More to come, from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters— available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

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