It’s Time to Change Illinois, Isn’t It?

Photo of Carolyn Grisko

BY Carolyn Grisko

February 10, 2020

Public Affairs

As a political reporter back in the day I covered the trials of many a local pol headed for a prison sabbatical. Cops and judges, too. After I turned in my press pass for a communications career, the political corruption kept rolling along and two governors joined Illinois’ infamous list of high-profile felons. But still it startled me when an out-of-town lobbyist casually said, “Illinois, New Jersey and Louisiana. Always competing for the most corrupt state in the union prize.” It was the first time I thought maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.  

 

Fast forward to this time last year. Alderman Ed Burke’s office had been raided by the feds and Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot was about to emerge as one of the top-two vote getters in the primary — her call for ethical behavior and fair dealing resonating with a disgusted electorate.

Meanwhile, things are tense downstate in Springfield.  Last week former Illinois State Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded not guilty to a federal bribery charge. I guess those recordings that allegedly capture him paying a bribe to a state senator were taken out of context.

Late last month, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to accepting more than $250,000 in bribes and to tax evasion. And there’s more to come. The feds are all over the place and the players are either talking or waiting for the sound of the other shoe to drop. There’s lots of talk about reform in Springfield, but it remains to be seen whether the walk will be walked.

So…now, Illinois? If this isn’t the time for change, the time will never come.

That’s what I believe. And it’s why I’ve joined the board of CHANGE Illinois Action, which is leading the charge for more ethical, efficient governments and elections. We want conflicts disclosed, a ban on lawmakers lobbying other lawmakers (makes sense, huh?), and more efficient governance.  Illinois has almost 7,000 units of local government, more than any other state. Right, it’s expensive.

And, yes, we at CHANGE Illinois Action want Fair Maps. I struggled with this one because I do want my team to win. But not by disenfranchisement. Not by allowing our politicians to pick their voters, rather than the other way around. Back to the Chicago City Council for a minute, here’s my ward:

It happens to be an extreme example, but the Illinois legislative map is also carved up to protect, or sometimes punish incumbents. And it works! Just not for the voters.

We have until May 3, 2020 to get lawmakers to vote on the Fair Maps Amendment, our redistricting reform proposal. With the census upon us and the need for meaningful reform front and center every day—let’s do this.

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Photo of Carolyn Grisko

BY Carolyn Grisko

February 10, 2020

Public Affairs