Instilling transparency in Illinois is the single biggest cure for what ails our great state. Corruption can only happen in darkness; transparency is the cure for darkness. When people are participating in corruption, even they know it’s wrong, so they instinctually hide it. Removing the opportunity to hide public business is the best way to end the culture of corruption in Illinois.
The more access people have to their government, the more informed they are and the less government can hide. This is the best two-fer in the world: a more educated electorate and politicians unable to hide from the people they serve!
There are a few ways Illinois does this well. I am a huge fan of the fact that our committee hearings allow the public to come in and testify on each item, as even some of our municipalities don’t do that. Our citizens should have direct access to their government.
I am also a big supporter of sunshine laws, especially the open meetings act. When I took over as mayor, our municipal government had a 29% transparency rating. I am proud to say that I made my city fully transparent and accountable, earning a 100% transparency rating and plaudits for the fact that all of our finances are displayed online and fully searchable.
That transparency is important because decisions by public officials ought to be made in front of the people they serve, not behind closed-doors, because when politicians know they are being watched, they know they can’t away with any hanky-panky. We should be encouraging our citizens to be part of their government and give feedback, because that’s the only way we will learn what they want.
I want to see clean bills, not bills laden with pork to try to artificially generate support for an issue. I want those bills to go through the constitutionally-mandated process, which requires multiple readings and time so that the public has the opportunity to review the bill and provide feedback to their representatives. This means no shell bills, which are designed to short-circuit the process and pass things before even most of the legislators have a chance to read through the bills.
A good government, transparency initiative I wholeheartedly support is independent maps. Gerrymandering is the exact opposite of transparency, with politicians meeting in private to choose their voters and drastically limit their accountability. We need compact districts, drawn independently, by computers, based only on demographic and geographical factors.
Another important reform we need in Illinois is term limits on all politicians, including legislative leaders like Mike Madigan. The longer politicians serve in office, the more power they accumulate and the more influence they have over legislation and debate. This leads to bills being passed not because of their merits, but because of the power behind them. Imposing term limits would level the playing field.
There is nothing more annoying than having to put up with a good example, so I guess I will just have to continue being annoying! I have lived by these principles and will continue to do so. I held myself to term limits in Rolling Meadows, and will hold myself to term limits as your State Senator as well, serving a maximum of 10 years if you see fit to continue sending me to Springfield. I even tried to turn down tenure at my school, a request no one had ever made before (or since, I’m sure).