Reform Commission seeks ideas to tackle Illinois' integrity crisis
By Bill Mayeroff
The crowd was small but their ideas were big at an Illinois Reform Commission town hall meeting Thursday night at Augustana College.
About 30 people came to offer suggestions for cleaning up Illinois politics, the reason why Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn created the IRC.
"He (Quinn)believed there was an integrity crisis in Illinois, and I concurred with him," said IRC Chairman Patrick Collins, a former U.S. attorney. "Our hope is, within 100 days, to propose reforms."
He was joined Thursday night by Sheila Simon, the daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon and a professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and Brad McMillan, the former chief of staff for U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood when he was a U.S. Representative.
The trio heard several ideas, as well as a few observations of how the state has reached this point. Joshua Schipp of McHenry, a junior political science student at Augustana, suggested that state officials should be held more accountable for their actions.
"I like the idea of a recall (vote)," he said. "The people in this state seem to be very patient with our leaders."
Mr. Collins agreed, saying voters are partly to blame for Illinois' current state of political distrust because many residents did not pay attention to what was happening.
"Some of what we've gotten from our government is our own fault collectively," he said.
Campaign finance reform consumed much of the second half of the nearly two-hour meeting.
Chris Butler of Citizen Action Illinois has attended five IRC meetings where he's repeated that theme. He advocated the Lincoln Act, a bill now before a General Assembly committee, that seeks to make elections more fair by getting candidates to solicit more small donations rather than relying on fewer, large donors.
Candidates then would be eligible for state funds to help with campaigns. While much of the crowd agreed with the act, Mr. Collins estimated it could cost taxpayers more than $100 million per year.
The commission will host April town hall meetings in Champaign, East St. Louis and DeKalb before submitting proposals to Gov. Quinn. Public comments also may be submitted online at http://reformillinoisnow.org.
Enacting any recommendations, however, could be an uphill battle, according to Ms. Simon.
"I'm not under the illusion that it's going to be easy to change," she said.
On the Web Illinois Reform Commission: www.reformillinoisnow.org