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Marzullo’s 66 Years in Politics Being Phased Out by Ward Remap

October 31, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ Alderman Vito Marzullo has won 23 elections, and says his constituents could always find him at wakes, weddings or rubber-chicken circuit dinners.

But now Marzullo, 88, who came to Chicago as a 12-year-old immigrant and pursued a political career that spanned two-thirds of a century, says he is not running any more.

He blames a court-ordered ward remap that would make his current ward overwhelmingly Hispanic and put his house in a ward that is predominantly black.

During the years he represented a ward on the near west side of Chicago, Marzullo said, he never depended on a single ethnic group to keep him in office.

″Politics is changed and this so-called new politics stinks. If I had to depend on (only) the Italians, I couldn’t have even been elected street cleaner,″ Marzullo, defiant and still natty, said in an interview in his City Hall office Thursday.

″But I won 23 elections, 21 of them unopposed ... and now I have to go because I don’t speak Spanish,″ he said. ″My people always knew where to find me - at weddings, wakes, the cemetery, the dinners in my ward, I was there. I was the government,″

Marzullo left school in the fourth grade, learned the machinist trade and won his first election as a Democratic precinct captain in an overwhelmingly Republican ward at the age of 22.

And Marzullo attributes that win to the same political style that endures today.

″I invited every registered Republican in the ward to my wedding reception,″ Marzullo said, chuckling at the memory, ″and I scribble across the bottom (of the invitation), ‘No gifts, please.’ Some people come up to me afterward and say, ’Vito, you pretty sharp, maybe you ought to be a Republican.‴

But Marzullo already had been tagged as an up-and-comer by the patronage- lade n Democratic organization. He was appointed ward sanitation superintendent, then slated to run for the General Assembly in 1941, when he won the first of seven terms.

The first of nine victories as alderman came in 1953. He went on to become dean of the City Council, outlasting his friend and sometimes-tutor, Mayor Richard Daley, who died in 1976, as well as the death of Daley’s iron-fisted political grip on the city’s politics.

″Mayor Daley said, ‘No man walks alone,’ and all my political life, when people come to see me with a problem, I said to myself, ’Vito, put yourself on the other side of table and treat people like you want to be treated,‴ Marzullo said.

″I don’t look to see is this guy black, or Polish or Mexican or Irish,″ added Marzullo. ″I preach Americanism, and if that’s not good enough any more, we might as well be in Russia.″

Marzullo’s term is up in 1987, and the court fight over redrawing Chicago’s wards to increase minority representation could result in a special election and put an end to it even sooner.

A redrawn map agreed upon by both parties in the long-running legal dispute, which pitted minority activists against members of the city council, was presented Thursday to U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle. The judge will decide whether the proposal complies with appellate court guidelines.

Yet to be resolved is the question of special elections and the redistricting of several Southwest Side wards. If the parties cannot reach agreement before Monday, the remaining issues will go to trial.

Marzullo says whatever the outcome, he’s ready to go when the time comes, but not without some final words.

″This is a crime committed by those intellectuals, troublemakers and know- hows,″ he said. ″When you give them a $10 bill, they can’t even get a dog out of the dog pound for you.″

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