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New Rules Coming For Aldermen Who Accept Cubs Tickets: Ethics Officials

By Heather Cherone | October 20, 2016 2:46pm | Updated on October 21, 2016 10:35am
 Jim Anixter is the
Jim Anixter is the "Pink Hat Guy" who sits behind home plate at Wrigley Field during Cubs home games.
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CITY HALL — Aldermen looking forward to rooting on the Chicago Cubs as they try to get to the World Series from a coveted seat at Wrigley Field may face scrutiny from city ethics officials.

A new set of rules will be in place by the time the Cubs return from Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers Saturday in the sixth game of the seven-game series, said Steve Berlin, the executive director of the Chicago Board of Ethics.

Originally, Berlin ruled that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and any of the 50 aldermen who take advantage of the Cubs' offer to buy playoff tickets at face value could go in their official capacity. That meant the aldermen would have to use the tickets themselves and be acknowledged by the team by having their names announced or displayed on the digital billboard in center field, Berlin ruled.

However, that ruling is set to be revised and may require the elected officials to perform some "ceremonial duty or action, such as publicly welcoming the crowd or making a speech, throwing out the first pitch, marching with the color guard or with other elected officials on the field, etc.," Berlin wrote in a memo to members of the Chicago Board of Ethics.

That would bring Chicago's rules in line with those in Atlanta and New York, Berlin said.

Appearing before the City Council to discuss the 2017 budget for the Board of Ethics, Berlin found himself in a batter's box facing Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who was none too pleased that aldermen may no longer be able to take advantage of the Cubs generosity.

"I didn't appreciate that ruling," Beale said. "We are all Cubs fans here in the city of Chicago."

Beale, who noted that he did not take advantage of the opportunity to buy the tickets, then took out his phone and played the victory anthem "Go Cubs Go," causing the council chamber to erupt in laughter.

After the brief hearing — which lasted less than five minutes, while most departmental budget hearings this week have been measured in hours — Berlin declined to discuss what prompted the new policy governing the ticket purchase offer, or why he had changed his stance on the issue.

He said only that it would "speak for itself" and would be in place before the first pitch of Game Six.

Julian Green, a spokesman for the Cubs, said it was up to the city to set its own rules.

"The only tickets we're focused on are those for the greatest fans in sport who will pack Wrigley Field this weekend," Green said.

The city bans public officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50. Since the tickets to the National League Championship Series are selling for thousands of dollars, accepting the tickets at face value would violate that provision of this city's ethics code.

Violations could trigger fines between $1,000 and $5,000.

Last year, several aldermen — including Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) — bought the tickets, and auctioned them off for charity, a practice city ethics officials decided was prohibited.

Ald. John Arena (45th) took advantage of the offer to buy tickets — at face value — and attended three games during the playoffs. He also has tickets for a potential seventh game in the National League Championship Series, which would take place only if necessary.

Arena did not see his name displayed at the game, nor was he booed by other Cubs fans — many of whom paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars — for their tickets.

A lifelong, diehard Cubs fan, Arena said he saw nothing wrong with accepting the offer to purchase the tickets, and was not worried, since many of his Far Northwest Side constituents said he would have to be "nuts" to give up the chance to go to the games.

"My votes aren't transactional," Arena said. "Should I have to recuse myself because I am a fan?"

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