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John Barron Publisher Tom McNamee Editorial Page Editor


hicago loves its alley aldermen, those dedicated creatures who spend their days walking their wards, looking for every overturned garbage can. Bobby, the alley alderman barks on the phone to Streets and San. Get somebody over here! We got a fallen tree! We like those alley aldermen, too, but were more than a little weary of various other kinds. Theres the fixer alderman, who will get you a zoning change for a price, and the kickback alderman, who wants a piece of every city contract, and the nepotism alderman, who would put every last relative on his payroll, and the spineless alderman, who does whatever the mayor tells him to do. Let us not overlook the lazy alderman, who mostly likes lunch, and the dimwitted alderman, who doesnt know what hes voting on. Not for nothing have 31 Chicago aldermen been convicted of felonies in 38 years. Its hard not to welcome the news, then, that Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, in private meetings with aldermen, has been seriously raising the issue of cutting the size of Chicagos City Council in half. Its an idea Ald. Ed Burke (14th) has pushed for years and its worth taking seriously. Our view on the matter is that some reduction in the number of aldermen makes sense, though not necessary by 25. Yes, Chicagos City Council is legendary for being corrupt and ineffectual, but many aldermen also have a deserved reputation for delivering good ward services, like getting a fallen tree removed, helping to improve schools and bringing in new development. When an alderman fails to do these things, word gets around and he or she usually faces a tough re-election. That, in fact, precisely explains the problem for 10 aldermen facing serious challenges in the April 5 runoff elections, says Dick Simpson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We expect that a smaller Coun-


Don Hayner Editor in Chief Andrew Herrmann Managing Editor

Reduce City Council, but dont cut in half

cil would be more accountable, if only because the media and the people of Chicago would be more aware of who they are and would watch them more closely. A smaller City Council, given the expanded power base for each surviving alderman, might also be less of a rubber stamp for the mayor. It would help greatly, of course, if the mayor did not have the power to appoint new aldermen to fill vacancies, but thats a matter for another day. Its tough to justify the size of Chicagos Council when the citys population has dropped by 200,000 in the last decade, and when every other city in the nation save for New York has far smaller councils. The next largest is in Philadelphia, which has 17 members. Reducing the size of Chicagos City Council would save money. Not only would the city save a combined salary and expense account of $183,280 for each alderman eliminated, but some ward staff positions would be cut and government functions would be consolidated. The Better Government Association estimates that reducing the number of city wards to 25 could lead to $1 million in savings from the citys Streets and Sanitation budget, as ward offices are closed, mid-level supervisory positions are eliminated and more efficient ways of providing services such as garbage collection become possible. A small confession: It can be fun to beat up on Chicagos City Council. They usually have it coming. But as we researched and debated this issue, our initial glee at the thought of taking an ax to the Council was tempered by some pretty good arguments about what might be lost, including those alley aldermen and the sense of community they build. But its impossible to defend the status quo. Something has to give. Somewhere between 25 and 50 aldermen is a better Chicago City Council.

Koschman demands independent review

three of his friends in the early hours of an April morning. Everyone was drunk, words were exchanged, a punch was thrown, and Koschmans head hit the ground. He died 12 days later. Vanecko ran away that night. One of his friends, according to a police report, initially lied and didnt give cops Vaneckos name; then later, he did. But police neither questioned nor saw Vanecko for 25 days. Not until his lawyer brought him in for a lineup. At that lineup, police said, none of Koschmans friends could positively identify him. to ensure that we reach the truth in this case. Independent has always been a term of art in Chicago. On Thursday, when Alvarez sent that letter, Hiram Grau was working just down the hall as her No. 2 in the states attorneys investigations bureau. On Friday, Gov. Quinn made Grau the head of the Illinois State Police, the agency Alvarez had just turned to for an independent probe. The moment Graus appointment hit the news, a Chicago pol shot me a text: Let me see if I understand this: after ur follow-up on the Koschman case . . . former police officer, former states attny head of investigations is now head of state police who anita alvarez asked for independent review???did I get it right??? U did, I texted back. No matter how honorable or upstanding Hiram Grau may have been across his long career, a jaded public will not see this as an independent probe. The only way they will is if U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald or Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, a former fed, takes this on. While its too late to bring charges because the statute of limitations has run out on everything save murder and no one argues this was a murder its never too late for clarity. Or accountability. David Koschmans death demands it.

here is a natural tension between public officials and reporters. Thats the way it must be. And thats the way it was when Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak and I met with Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez on Thursday afternoon. Alvarez, whom we had been trying to interview for weeks, said she did not believe our recent reporting had been fair to her office. Im not going to sweep anything under the rug for anybody, she said, adding that she never has. But she went on to say, I think there should be an independent police investigation . . . based on whats been reported. For the past month, in an investigative series led by Novak and Chris Fusco, and joined by NBC5, weve been reporting on the 2004 death of 21-year-old David Koschman. And on the Chicago Police investigation that followed. Koschman and four buddies from Mount Prospect had gone barhopping on Division Street. They ended up in an altercation with Mayor Daleys nephew, R.J. Vanecko, and

A jaded public wont see an investigation by State Police as independent.

Absent a positive identification, Alvarez said, her office ethically could not pursue charges. Moreover, she added, police interviews established that Koschman was the aggressor. But that is not what a number of witnesses told the Sun-Times and NBC5. Its not, they insisted, what they told police seven years ago. And so, Alvarez wrote in a letter to the Illinois State Police, though she has no objective evidence to support the notion that there was any misfeasance or malfeasance on the part of investigators in this case . . . it is my belief that an independent investigation from a separate police agency is clearly warranted