More than two years after first being charged with fraud, extortion and bribery, 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran finally plead guilty at his March 21 change-of-plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso.
Cochran, who has represented the South Side ward since 2007, chose not to run again, which is especially good since several of his predecessors also succumbed to indictments for federal corruption. Cochran is the third of the last four 20th Ward aldermen to be indicted while holding office.
Outside the 20th Ward, Cochran if he pleads guilty, will become the 34th Chicago alderman convicted on corruption charges since 1972. He was served a 15-count indictment in December 2016, alleging he extorted a pair of business owners.
His decision to not run paved the way for respected candidates Jeanette Taylor and Nicole Johnson to emerge from a field of 15. They will face each other in the runoff elections on April 2.
Many question why Mayor Rahm Emanuel would stick his fingers in a process that might at last give 20th Ward residents a clean slate?
That question was asked when it was learned from a reliable source that Emanuel is considering appointing a “placeholder” for the 60 days until the new city council is seated. He is influential Emanuel ally, Reverend Byron Brazier of Apostolic Church of God.
Yes, other mayors have made such appointments, but not so shortly before the elected representative would be seated. Even now, there are other runoff elections not involving the incumbent. Why choose the 20th Ward? One would hate to think it had anything to do with real-estate ventures, like those connected to the proposed Obama Presidential Center.
Whatever, that short window could be just big enough to put something in motion that the newly elected alderman would have to deal with, like it or not.
It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t smell good. Nothing about it seems intended to respect voters over other interests.
The outgoing mayor should leave well enough alone and local leaders should not hobble the new alderman before she even gets started. Hasn’t the 20th Ward been punished enough?