City Council

  • Twilight Zoning in the 43rd Ward

    12 May 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the 43rd-27th ward boundary gerrymandered for racial purity, and more.

  • Racial Migration in the Strangest Locations

    7 April 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the different dynamics of black and Hispanic migration into wards, and more.

  • Ben Joravsky's Guide to the Aldermanic Runoffs

    31 March 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky about why Ben moderates aldermanic candidate debates, and more.

  • From the Alley to the Council

    3 March 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on what inspires Chicagoans to want to learn about their government, and more.

  • Carving Time Approaches

    24 February 2011

    Interview in which the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky looks into the back rooms where aldermen negotiate the remaps of wards, and more.

  • Aldermania!

    17 February 2011

    Interview in which the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky gives a short history of near-West-Side ward remapping, and more.

  • Sic 'Em

    3 February 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky about which takes more effort: informing candidates about outstanding debts, or contesting their eligibility, and more.

  • And the Award for Achievement in Local Politics Goes to . . .

    29 December 2010

    imagenameInterview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the awards that didn't make the cut, and more.

  • Revenue Investigator Bernell Hopkins

    7 June 2010

    “If a dog was promoted I would be unable to say anything.”


    Department: Business Affairs & Licensing

    Employed for: Twenty years, now as a revenue investigator (making sure that businesses comply with city licensing rules)

    Cred: Awarded four figures from the federal monitor. Claims that during his career he increased the city’s collection rate on bad checks from 40 to 90 percent. And a former coworker (whom Hopkins trained) says of him, "as an investigator, and as a city worker, he's one of the hardest working." Regularly has to have his regular court appearances rescheduled, because he writes so many citations that they exceed the court's allotted time.

    Background: Decorated Vietnam veteran, graduate of Roosevelt University. Actually likes his job—making sure that businesses comply with city licensing rules—but the stress of his abusive work environment, he says, "gets me so my wife can't deal with me."

    Gripe: Throughout his career the city has turned Hopkins down, in writing, for 25 promotions. In fact, he says, a guy whom a former coworker calls "one of the worst investigators in the department" got promoted over him. ("Everybody was flabbergasted," says the coworker.)

    Why cloutless: In 1996, Hopkins wrote a seven-page letter to the city’s personnel commissioner, detailing his stellar work record and the promotions of less qualified or incompetent persons. In a subsequent meeting with the commissioner's deputies, Hopkins says one of them informed him that "the administration selects and promotes individuals as it sees fit, and I have no right to challenge its authority. She said if a dog was selected or promoted I would be unable to say anything."

    Hopkins' former coworker says that Hopkins' current managers "know whom they can pick on and whom they can't. Burnell wouldn't say something" when harassed.

    Why the city's not compliant: Hopkins believes that the city continues to promote less-qualified workers based on political favoritism. These include the "worst investigator" noted above, and former revenue investigator Abd Ayesh, who received a promotion to supervisor less than two years after reaching Hopkins' rank. Last June, prosecutors charged Ayesh with stealing contraband cigarettes that his department had seized—then giving the cigarettes to convenience stores owned by his family.

    Because he’s pointed out the city's lapses in the past, the past continues to haunt him: Hopkins says that his managers persist in harassment that includes write-ups and attempted suspensions. For example, in 2006, Hopkins was charged with insubordination by a director who, says Hopkins' former coworker, "instantly became abusive with his power" when promoted. The director attempted unsuccessfully to suspend Hopkins. Then, Hopkins' supervisor denied him his last two salary increases, citing a need for "performance improvement." After complaining to his union about the first denial, Hopkins received back pay; his union grievance about the second denial is still pending.

    What now? Hopkins say the aforementioned abusive director told him "I should stop feeling sorry for myself and just quit."


    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Learning to Say No

    3 June 2010

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on when schools lower property values, and more.

  • City Council Considers Its Own Inspector General

    13 April 2010

    WBEZ's Richard Steele interviews Dave Glowacz about the city council's proposed inspector general.

  • The Untouchables

    18 March 2010

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how state Rep. Debra Mell resembles former Pres. Reagan, and more.

  • An Island in the Swamp

    3 March 2010

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how the University of Chicago inadvertently created smart political tacticians, and more.

  • It Pays To Have An Alderman In Your Pocket

    18 February 2010

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how much tax revenue the city expects the Galewood/Armitage TIF District to take in, and more.

  • Who Deserves to Be Disqualified?

    31 December 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on why the Chicago Board of Elections considers the nominating process fair, and more.

  • It Doesn't Take Much to Be a Maverick

    17 December 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how to access the City Council's live video stream, and more.

  • Shedding Light on the Shadow Budget

    10 December 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on when logic fails in figuring how the city apportions TIF revenues, and more.

  • Ben Joravsky, Tool of the Man

    17 September 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the glue that holds patronage together, and more.

  • The Real Estate King of the Chicago City Council

    20 August 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on behind the gerrymandering of the 26th Ward, and more.

  • Who'll Be the Bad Guy Now?

    13 August 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on whether all U.S. taxpayers want to pay for Olympics in Chicago, and more.