• David Orr

In my youth I developed a poor impression of aldermen, and not only from reading Mike Royko.

I grew up in the 23rd Ward, west of Midway Airport. My first alderman, or the first I can remember, was named Frank Kuta. I was 13 when he was elected, in 1967. He went to prison in 1974 for taking a bribe to fix a zoning matter, and for tax evasion. He’d accepted a $1,500 check from a builder in return for not opposing a zoning change—a check he’d neglected to report in his tax returns. “I consider myself guilty only of the sin of being a politician,” he told the judge who sentenced him. He got six months.

In the 1971 election, before Kuta’s extortion had been discovered, Joseph Potempa unseated him as our alderman. Potempa also went to prison in 1974—for taking a $3,000 bribe to fix a zoning matter, and for tax evasion. He told the sentencing judge he’d been naive and stupid. He got a year. The federal bureau of prisons was probably considering opening a wing for 23rd Ward aldermen.