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Thursday, June 19, 2003 02:20 pm

Aldermania

The City Council’s triple threat

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Frank Frank Edwards

It isn't just my imagination. Cindy Cody, the local expert on the City Council, officially confirmed that, yeah, come to think of it, it is kinda weird that three of the ten council members share the same name.

Cody, deputy clerk for almost 17 years, says she can't remember a time when even two council members had the same name. And now here we are with three--Frank Edwards, Frank McNeil, and Frank Kunz.

As aldermen of Wards 1, 2, and 3, respectively, they even sit next to each other on the council dias. And while most council committees have only one Frank, on the utilities committee the three could constitute a quorum.

Kunz refers to himself and his fellow Franks as Larry, Moe, and Curly. McNeil chortles, "Oh, that's just Frank being Frank."

Personally, I like to think of them as Frank, Franker, and Frankest. Cody, who has the unparalleled track record of attendance at all but two council meetings in 17 years, instantly gets what I mean:

"Frank Kunz is frankest!"

Edwards is the newest Frank, but he has already shown himself to be something of a hotdog. He has asked more questions and raised more ruckus in five meetings than Ward 9 Alderman Tom Selinger has in four years.

McNeil, the elder statesman of the Franks, is generally the best-behaved (and best-dressed) of the three. But he says there was a time when he would've won the title of "Frankest" hands-down. "I was pretty frank in my early years," he says. "I've mellowed out--if you can believe that."

What made him mellow? The arrival of Kunz, who was elected to the council in 1999.

"I think Frank takes some of the edge off me because he says some of the things I'm thinking so that I don't have to," McNeil says.

Kunz can get away with being the frankest Frank because, he says, he has no aspiration for higher office, no kid who will grow up to need a job in this town, and no boss who might disagree with his viewpoint.

"I said when I ran that if I won I'm just going to be me," Kunz says.

Always good for a quote if you can type fast enough--my fave Kunz classic: "People who stay in politics long enough quit thinking like human beings"--he doesn't dress up his language or himself. His speech is littered with ain'ts and double negatives, and he can count only three times he has worn a tie in the past five years--at his two swearing-in ceremonies and his brother's wedding.

An air conditioning and heating technician by trade, Kunz showed up last Tuesday afternoon at the council office wearing grimy jeans and a T-shirt for his appointment with some hotshot developer named David Dickey. Dickey, who works for Sterling Development, wants to build rent-subsidized apartments on the same patch of land next to Eastview Estates where the council just rebuffed David Maulding's warehouse proposal. He gets a straight shot of Kunz at his frankest.

"We've heard all this before," Kunz cuts in, barely glancing at the glossy photos of the "100 percent brick club house" Sterling Development is promising to build. Dickey, from Indiana, claims he found this land "just driving by." But within a few hours, Kunz uncovers an application Sterling filed in April seeking federal tax credits for this project.

Obviously, Dickey didn't realize he was dealing with a man who prefers truth over pretty pictures. He should've known: the guy's name is Frank.

See, it's not just that three alderman share one name. It's the way they live up to that particular name that makes them so intriguing.

Springfield is just fortunate they weren't all named Richard.

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