Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Will anyone look at suburb corruption?

A part of me wonders if municipal officials in the Chicago suburbs will do their best Dick Daley impersonation when it comes to Dick Simpson.
SIMPSON: Still on the outside

Simpson is the former alderman (from the 44th Ward that back in the 1970s was up around the Lincoln Park neighborhood) with a liberal sensibility who used to get his microphone turned off during City Council debate whenever Richard J. Daley got tired of hearing him speak.

NOW, SIMPSON IS in charge of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his department came out with a study that documents acts of corruption in the 263 municipalities that comprise the Chicago suburbs.

Potential conflicts of interest in more than 60 municipalities and more than 100 people who either are village officials or police officers.

Will those village presidents and police chiefs who rule like potentates within their municipal boundaries decide they don’t want to hear about it, and find a symbolic way of “turning off” Simpson’s “microphone?”

It wouldn’t surprise me if we get a few reactions the equivalent of “Mind your own business!,” before the issue fades away.

BECAUSE THOSE OFFICIALS take advantage of the fact that nobody outside of their respective towns cares about what happens there. So they do what they want.

They also take advantage of the fact that even many of the people who live within their respective villages don’t pay much attention to what their local government does. In fact, I have known suburban residents who reside in those towns because they don’t want to have to care about a local government. They want to pretend it doesn't really exist, except for when they have to buy a village sticker (or stickers) to put on their cars every year.

Such conditions make it possible for local government officials to think they can do what they want. Particularly if, like in many suburbs, there usually are few people interested in holding those elective offices.

Too many suburban government officials get to run unopposed. In some cases, village presidents get to hand-pick their trustees by appointment because not enough people could be found to actually run for election to fill the posts.

SO A PART of me is rooting for Simpson, whose study calls for an inspector general to be created specifically to investigate suburban government entities.

Although I’m sure what will make it possible to ignore this request is the fact that he doesn’t specify who would create this position – or who would pay for it. I’m pretty sure everyone is going to claim they can’t afford to do it, and that it should fall under someone else’s jurisdiction.

While $1 million might not be much to some larger-scale governmental units, that would be a big expense for some suburban governments. And I doubt that state government (which might be the most sensible entity to have such a position) will want to take on any extra expense.

I can already envision the suburban-based legislators lining up to find more practical ways to spend $1 million. Practical being anything that doesn’t focus too much attention on their hometowns, which they’d like to think are bastions of purity compared to that albatross of Chicago.

YET IT DOESN’T surprise me that Chicago gets all the attention when it comes to corruption stories, which usually get covered for their titillating factors rather than the elements that deprive the citizenry of good government.

Too many people were intrigued by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich because of his funky hair and foul mouth on tape than they were the elements of what he actually did while in office.

City officials can get a national reputation. Whereas not even the most well-known of suburban officials have anyone who has ever heard of them outside of maybe a 10-mile radius of their home towns!

So picking out an indictment against a city official can get a prosecutor some news attention. While going after a suburban official? It’s like, What’s the point?!?

IF ONLY WE could see their actions for what they are. I think we’d soon realize that some of the most honest and sincere political people in our area are on the City Council. Along with some of the most incompetent. Most boring.

And a few who are truly corrupt.

Just like any government body, regardless of location.


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