Real estate developer Robert Maldonado won't have a problem getting an appointment with his alderman to talk about, say, zoning changes for the 10 parcels he owns in the 26th Ward. That's because he is the alderman.
The newest member to the aldermanic club - appointed by the mayor last month - has just been dubbed The Real Estate King of the Chicago City Council by the Chicago Reader, which nosed around tax bills, property records and Maldonado's own economic disclosure statement to find that he owns more real estate than any other councilmember.
More than Ed Burke, more than Dick Mell, more than Bill Banks.
Robert Maldonado, Rookie of the Year!
Of course, Maldonado isn't new to the game; he was in his fourth term as a Cook County commissioner when the mayor came calling.
And he's been the 26th Ward committeeman since 2000.
Still, Maldonado's relatively extensive real estate holdings - which include at least six other properties in different wards - have been virtually ignored until now. But as the Reader reports, those extensive holdings come wrapped in extensive conflicts of interest.
Aldermen generally have the final say over land-use matters in their wards, the Reader notes. But in a strange and blatantly unfair twist Maldonado now must go through himself to enact any zoning changes he'll want.
Maldonado says he'll take all the usual measures to resolve those conflicts, like recusing himself on certain votes. But aldermen tend to show other aldermen deference when it comes to their private interests. Recusals don't eliminate back-scratching.
"I'm not sure you have much of a story," Maldonado told the Reader.
If news is defined as something unusual or out of the ordinary, Maldonado is right.
This is business as usual.
Every alderman games the system in their own way and my guess is that this will be a story for years to come.