Welcome to the Party
The Tribune, which in my opinion has been inexplicably selective about when to call out for reforms and when to turn a blind eye, has decided that the work product of the Commission should be taken as gospel and passed as is, notwithstanding that the Commission didn't even attempt to put their ideas into draft legislation, settling instead for broad concepts that sound great at a press conference.
Don't get me wrong, I strongly support most, if not all, of the Commission's ideas. But as somebody that has put more years into working on ethics legislation as has the entire commission combined (many of those years in conjunction with Governor Quinn), I will tell you that the devil is assuredly in the details.
And while I most certainly look forward to seeing ideas that have been little more than idle chatter finally get their day in the sun and their vote on the floor, what the Tribune fails to recognize is that legislation alone, no matter how strong, will never clean up government by itself. To do that will take a bilateral combination of honest elected officials and an electorate willing to put the time in to separate the wheat from the chaff at the polling place.
And it is that precise point that Mike Lawrence hits on the head in his latest column:
But structural change cannot fully address the creeping corruption that can exploit character fault lines. No individual is perfect, nor is any administration. Honorable politicians are particularly vulnerable to the arrogance of incorruptibility.
The right kind of elected official will recognize the potential for corrosion. He or she will recruit, respect and heed aides and other associates who speak truth and integrity to power. We have had — and still have — such public officials, aides and associates. But we need more.
We also need citizens who value honest government more than a plowed street — citizens who resist the cynicism that permits them to tag all politicians as corrupt and avoid the homework that helps distinguish between the fakers and the true public servants.
Maybe the time that I have put in over the last decade working on these issues has sensitized me to Johnny-come-lately proselytizers who think that they have suddenly discovered the cure for what ails us. The answers have always been there, what has been missing has been people willing to find them.