[Vito Marzullo raw #7]

Raw tape #7 for Vito Marzullo documentary. Ward Office. Color bars onscreen until 11:09. A casual chat between Director Tom Weinberg and Marzullo turns into a lengthy interview covering the inner workings of the Chicago "machine." Though scattered at times, Marzulllo's responses reveal his opinions of his ward, of fellow politicians, and of corruption in local government.

00:00Copy video clip URL The video crew prepares their equipment and performs sound checks.

03:49Copy video clip URL Though the picture stays fixated on the color bars, the audio picks up a conversation between Weinberg and Marzullo inside the “captain’s room,” where the alderman and his precinct captains meet before important events. Marzullo explains the pictures adorning the room, some of which date to his time in the state legislature in the 1940s. Other famous faces decorating the walls include associates of Marzullo’s, including judges, state senators, and commissioners.

06:14Copy video clip URL Weinberg asks how the 25th Ward works. Marzullo responds, “The ward works like any other business,” comparing his political organization to churches, schools, and other businesses. He then criticizes “the intellectuals,” who he says unfairly label political organizations like his as “machines.” “Every day they call it a machine. Now what is this machine composed of? The machine is composed of human beings—men, women of all ages, all walks of life, all religious or ethnic groups. That’s what this organization is all about… How can you operate a political institution without leadership? You can’t.”

08:35  Refocusing his question, Weinberg asks how the “nuts and bolts” of the mostly Democratic ward function. Marzullo again compares the relationship between elected officials and the citizens to a business. “If you had a business, you’re going to hire people to carry on your policies, aren’t you? If you’re wrong, it’s your funeral, not the people that you hire. But if you’re going to let somebody run your business who doesn’t believe in your policies,  how do you know they mean well to run it for you?” The video feed finally begins and shows the two men conversing in the wood-paneled “captain’s room.”

11:28Copy video clip URL Marzullo continues explaining the logistics of his organization, which includes 48 precinct captains stationed throughout the ward. Some have worked under Marzullo for only a short while while others have been with him for 50 years, since Marzullo himself was a precinct captain. “No one is indispensable,” Marzullo remarks.

12:48Copy video clip URL The two men speak again about the “captain’s room.” As the camera pans over the now-visible pictures that Marzullo described earlier in the tape, the alderman begins a commentary on how “the people don’t understand.” He says, “The people are like school kids. [If] they can’t pick up the marbles, they won’t play.  The great, great disgruntled minority wants to control the great, great majority—the conservative majority.”

14:43Copy video clip URL Weinberg leads the conversation back toward the workings of the organization, about which Marzullo says, “It’s a communication and service toward the people.” He then chronicles his rise through the political system and the positions he’s held over his 59 years in government before criticizing newcomers to the scene who disrupt established political organizations. He says that these upstarts—groundhogs, as he calls them—pop up in other wards but don’t succeed. “They either beat the living hell out of them after four or eight years, or they have to quit because they get sick and they can’t stand the [heat].”

16:30Copy video clip URL Marzullo explains his personal philosophy on party politics: “Let the majority rule… It all depends on what you want to do for the good of the people, and so that you can give a good account of yourself when you run for re-election.” He also condemns politicians with selfish attitudes.

17:27Copy video clip URL Beginning another commentary, Marzullo says of Chicago, “We’ve got three minority alderman, and there’s a goddamn good reason why.” Weinberg prods him to explain, to which the alderman replies, “The reason why is because they’re not constructive legislators. They want to fight the world. They’re mad at the world.”

18:10Copy video clip URL The conversation transitions to how Chicago politics has changed. “You’ve got to move along with the times,” Marzullo says. “You can’t just criticize everybody and look for a needle in the haystack of all the mistakes that the party in power has made. Who the heck doesn’t make mistakes? The only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything.” He continues, saying that aggressive politicians are bound to make mistakes, but that while the honest officials correct their shortcomings, the “crooks” go to jail.

19:29Copy video clip URL Weinberg asks Marzullo to elaborate on “crooks” in politics and compare corruption of past years in Chicago with the present day. “There was just as many crooks, and they got caught just as many years ago, and they are today… A lot of time it’s really not exactly the public official’s fault. It’s the surrounding [officials].” As for the ethics of his own organization, Marzullo compares himself to the doubting St. Thomas, saying “I’ve got to see things with my own eyes and touch things with my own hands.” However, Weinberg teases him about some checks he had just finished writing and continues probing about the issue of corruption. The tape stops in the middle of Marzullo’s response.

 

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