Tonight the Chicago Cubs will play the first World Series game held in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field since 1945. The cheapest price for a standing-room-only ticket on Stubhub is currently $1,700, and some season ticket holders are reportedly seeking upwards of $1 million for a chance to see the lovable losers take on the less-lovable historically-losing franchise known as the Cleveland Indians.
The Cubs and Wrigley are both institutions of Chicago culture, and the team’s first National League pennant in several generations is something even non-sports fans in the Windy City are understandably excited about, which is why some Chicagoans of means are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to watch a baseball game.
But spare a moment of sympathy for Chicago’s aldermen, those public servants making six figure salaries, who until very recently enjoyed the perk of being able to buy Cubs’ postseason tickets at face value, rather than on the open market, like the rest of us commoners.
The Cubs have long made a practice of providing politicians at every level the chance to buy tickets at face value, but according to Illinois Policy, the Chicago Board of Ethics ruled last week that city aldermen may only accept this perk if they are “performing a public, ceremonial duty, such as throwing out the first pitch or delivering a speech.”
Announcing the ruling, Ethics Board Chairman William Conlon said, “It is inappropriate under the circumstances for a group that has governance over Wrigley Field — everything from vendors to hot dogs to improvements to the stadium and building adjacent to the stadium — to accept preferential treatment from the Cubs,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Alderman Roderick Sawyer reportedly responded as any precious snowflake would, arguing that he and his fellow politicians “should be able to take advantage of history.” But even this tone-deaf sentiment was topped by Alderman Milly Santiago, who according to the Chicago Tribune is “a former journalist who campaigned for office on a platform of reform and anti-corruption.”
Santiago first complained that the playoff tickets she was previously able to purchase for a fraction of the price the public had to pay “were all the way in the upper deck…that’s how bad those tickets were.” Santiago added, “It’s kind of embarrassing in my part…Those of us who would like to get a chance to go to one of those games and be part of history, we should have that choice.”
But Santiago has a choice, despite her statement that she is “a poor alderman” who “cannot even afford to buy a $1,000 ticket,” despite earning a $116,208 annual salary. She could easily watch the Cubs game across the street at a Wrigleyville bar with the rest of the little people. And for a self-described reformer like herself, avoiding potential ethical entanglements should be of greater concern than whether or not she is able to attend a wildly expensive private event for pennies on the dollar. Santiago has since walked her complaint back, saying she “never intended to offend anybody” but insisted she’s not rich “compared to so many people.”
Writing for Illinois Policy, Jon Kaiser says, “Chicago aldermen aren’t used to being told ‘no.’” Kaiser adds:
Despite the city being dubbed the corruption capital of the country, aldermen have worked hard to shield themselves from any sort of oversight. They let former Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan’s contract expire without a replacement ready in 2015, thus making the office obsolete, and a group of aldermen changed a February ordinance to limit auditing powers of Inspector General Joe Ferguson.
Aldermen’s track record, though, would suggest oversight is needed. In the past 40 years, 33 of approximately 200 Chicago aldermen have been convicted of federal crimes, such as bribery, extortion, embezzlement, conspiracy, mail fraud and income-tax evasion. Telling these politicians they can’t receive a luxury not afforded to the public should not be an issue, but a level playing field with the public seems foreign to aldermen.
As if trying to make a point about how unnecessary their jobs are, two Chicago aldermen reportedly blew off budget hearings earlier this week to take a road trip to Cleveland “in an SUV with a lobbyist and fundraiser” to watch Game 1 of the World Series, according to the Tribune.
And because irony is apparently dead, 40 out of 50 Chicago city aldermen did not attend yesterday’s annual ethics board meeting, according to Chicago Now. The Board of Ethics, which reportedly receives $850,000 in annual taxpayer funding, received no questions from the few aldermen who bothered to attend, and the meeting lasted five minutes.
In a petulant display, Alderman Anthony Beale, reportedly played a “Go Cubs, Go” chime on his cellphone to protest he and his colleagues’ loss of an elite perk previously reserved only for stewards of good government like himself.