One citizen's take on the Dick that makes Chicago tick.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009


You may have noticed by now that I abhor all the nonsense that goes on in our city government, including the man pulling all the strings - Mayor Richard M. Daley. One thing I just cannot stand is the people in this city that say "That's just how it is in Chicago" or "If you don't like it, move."

I say, why should I have to move? Don't we all have a right to a government free from corruption? And don't we have a right to question our corrupt government? The government is supposed to serve us. You know, all that "of the people, by the people, for the people" stuff. I mean, wasn't it Abraham Lincoln that said that? Isn't Illinois the Land of Lincoln? The least our politicians could do is live up to the words of our favorite son, the principles upon which this very nation was formed.

And just because corruption is how it is - or always has been - doesn’t mean it needs to continue that way. Until people wake up and realize that the corruption is costing all of us, nothing will ever change.

Now, you may be wondering, just how much does corruption cost us? Well former Chicago Alderman and current UIC professor Dick Simpson has an answer, what he likes to call the "corruption tax." Corruption Imposes Hidden Tax on Illinoisans

It’s the “corruption tax” – the extra money Illinois residents pay because of dishonest public officials.

People pay the tax when politicians give government jobs to unqualified cronies and contracts to expense-padding donors. They pay when public employees take bribes to overlook violations, when law enforcement spends millions prosecuting crooked politicians and when people are injured because of government misconduct.
And in the Chicago area alone, this corruption tax costs taxpayers $300 million every year. (Interesting note: What is the size of the estimated budget hole in Chicago this year? Oh, that’s right. $300 million.)

If you are interested, there is a great report by Dick Simpson and others in the UIC Political Science Department - Curing Corruption in Illinois: Anti-Corruption Report Number 1

What has come to be called "The Chicago Way" of corruption has also undermined the sense of political efficacy in voters. Why apply for a city or state job if you know only patronage employees or politician's relatives will be hired anyway? Why report corrupt officials, if you know they won't be punished and they may turn the powers of the government on you? Business owners-especially vulnerable businesses like restaurants and bars give campaign contributions to the aldermen because they are afraid of the city health inspectors or they might lose their liquor license if they don't.

Voters may laugh at times at the antics of public officials but in the end they feel powerless, lose their faith in government, and vote less often because the "fix is in."

It is time to end "The Chicago Way." There are many specific reforms to be enacted. But beyond all the individual reforms is the commitment to change. After more than a hundred years of graft and corruption, it is time truly to become the land of Lincoln rather than the land of "Where's Mine."

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