Chicago Sun-Times

The clock....ticking down on Springfield and Reform

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May 16, 2009


"There are no other cases, this is the case."

Paul Newman as attorney Frank Galvin in "The Verdict"

You readers get it, even if lawmakers in Springfield wish you didn't.

Bob O'Neil gets it. He quoted the Paul Newman line in a passionate e-mail about how fed up he is with piety-spouting politicians who balk at changing a system from which they benefit.

His argument: There are no other cases; reform is the case.

Mr. O'Neil, a senior account manager for a suburban firm, recently fired off phone calls to his state representative and senator demanding they do something right now about the corruption that plagues Illinois politics.

It wasn't the December arrest or January impeachment of Rod Blagojevich that sent him over the edge. It was, said Mr. O'Neil, the "state senators and representatives who had no shortage of words to express their outrage and their embarrassment . . . [but] when you realize all of the grandstanding they did a few months ago has resulted in nothing different, in no changes to the laws, the decision to call . . . was easy."

Politely, Mr. O'Neil warned his legislators: "If you do nothing on this issue, I will remember and I will vote for your opponent."

Right now, lawmakers in Springfield are like those trendy little fishes now popular in pedicure salons. The ones that nibble away dead skin before the nail polish goes on.

A lot of nibbling is going on around the edges of reform but, in this case, what's being attacked is the real meat: limiting not only the amount of money candidates can collect but also their leadership's ability to collect and dole out big contributions; moving the primary closer to the general election so campaigns are shorter and cost less; allowing for a recall provision, and setting limits on how long legislative leaders can stay in power.

Money and power. It's the only story in Illinois.

But as another reader, Mike Turey of Crete, laments, there is "no tangible reward or penalty for Joe/Jane Bungalow" to get all twisted in a knot about politicians who hold that money and power. There is so much else to worry about, like mortgage payments and shoes for the kids.

All true.

Then again, isn't it our money that pays lawmakers' salaries and stipends worth $77,000 a year for a part-time job, plus a great pension and first-rate medical insurance?

Lawmakers are only going to hear you if you rise up to tell them what the consequences of not listening are.

Chief among them is Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. Is he paying attention to you?

Not by e-mail, he's not.

The e-mail address provided by his staff doesn't work. It comes back as "undeliverable." That's outrageous.

And Madigan is the guy who, honestly, holds all the cards. John Cullerton, the new president of the state Senate, is making an effort on reform -- his e-mail works -- but he hasn't consolidated his power.

Madigan is the key to the kingdom. His Springfield number is (217) 782-5350.

But beyond Madigan, most of your own elected representatives are up for re-election in 2010 -- all 177 members of the House and one-third of the 59-member state Senate.

If you don't know who they are, go to That's the Web site for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. It will give you e-mail addresses and phone numbers for your elected officials.

Do not send the suggested form letter. Send something in your own words. It makes a huge difference.

And if you're in Madigan's e-mail-unfriendly district, call and demand that someone talk to you. Give them the Paul Newman line: "There are no other cases. This is the case."

And you might add: We'll remember you come election time.

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This page contains a single entry by Carol Marin published on May 16, 2009 6:55 AM.

18 days and counting...time for action was the previous entry in this blog.

Quinn at 6P on NBC5.....County Commissioners at 7P on WTTW is the next entry in this blog.

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