April 4, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Power to the people. Parking meters proved that point.
Two Sundays ago, I wrote about what looked like a citizen rebellion -- boycott, even -- of Mayor Daley's newly privatized, exponentially more expensive, parking meters that now demand to be fed 24/7 in parts of the city. Your e-mails confirmed it.
Last week, what did we see?
A mayor backpedaling, proclaiming how much he loves, admires and respects the hardworking, long-suffering taxpayers.
Meanwhile, his minions and the privatized parking brigade were confessing what anyone who pulled up to a meter found out. That this privatization, which was rammed through City Council, was hideously executed and utterly infuriating.
Citizens rose up. It's time to do it again.
On Thursday, the alleged criminal enterprise known as Rod Blagojevich was indicted by the feds. Our former governor and his Gang of Five were charged with trying to bleed just about every part of state government to get kickbacks, contracts, jobs, and last but never least, campaign contributions of $25,000, $50,000, $100,000. Even $1.5 million when it came to auctioning off Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Amazing. Blagojevich, the reformer, was devising this racket while George Ryan was on trial for corruption.
Are there any teachable moments in Illinois? Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins and his Illinois Reform Commission hope, at last, there are.
On Tuesday, they began laying out urgent recommendations. Chief among them was to impose limits on campaign contributions -- our state is one of only four that doesn't have any. The commission's proposal of $2,400 per election cycle per individual mirrors the federal system.
Last week, I e-mailed Gov. Quinn, every state constitutional officer and the legislative leaders of the Senate and House. I asked a simple question: "Do you personally support the Illinois Reform Commission's limits on campaign contributions?"
Here are their replies in descending order of enthusiasm:
Gov. Quinn: Yes
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias: Yes
Secretary of State Jesse White: Yes, support the idea.
Secretary of State Lisa Madigan: Yes, but as proposed in a different bill sponsored by Rep. Harry Osterman, which allows state party political committees to kick in $125,000 vs. Collins' limit of $50,000.
State Comptroller Dan Hynes: Yes, but must be accompanied by other reforms so wealthy candidates don't have an unfair edge.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno: Yes, but "$2400 cap is too low. $10,000 more realistic."
House Speaker Tom Cross: Yes, but only with other reforms like moving the primary and banning lobbyist and labor union contributions.
Senate President John Cullerton: Not yet. "I believe contribution limits are inevitable" but have to deal with the "overwhelming influence of self-funders."
House Speaker Mike Madigan: Not yet. "Limits could spur a growth in the number of self-financed, wealthy candidates. This harms the diversity of the legislature."
They all pledge to keep an open mind.
What they need to hear are loud, clear voices.
Ours. Here's how to contact legislative leaders:
Cullerton: john@senatorculler ton.com; Radogno: cradogno@sbc global.net; Michael Madigan: mmad firstname.lastname@example.org; Cross: tom@tom cross.com.
If you live in Chicago and don't know who your representative is, go to repsheet.com and type in your voting address.
Don't let the Legislature off the hook.
They adjourn in May.
The time to act is now.
Repeat after me:
Power to the people.