The Chicago Sun-Times article about the allegations is pretty detailed. After reading it, I'm a little sick to my stomach thinking this guy was running my state. Bits of information have been swirling around for a long time about Blagojevich and corruption, but the FBI has him on tape. I was willing to presume him innocent until proven guilty, but you don't get much guiltier than this.
The two allegations that are getting the most play are that Blagojevich was "selling" President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat and that Blagojevich tried to force the Tribune Co. to fire certain editorial board members in exchange for state assistance. Of course, now Obama knew all about the sale of the Senate seat and was in on it. But if you read the article, it's clear that Blagojevich was in his own fantasy land. He actually thought Obama might appoint him to a cabinet position. Laughable. It wasn't Obama putting his Senate seat on the market. It was Blagojevich. That needs to be made clear. While Obama has been putting together his cabinet and deciding how he's going to move forward once he takes office in January, Blagojevich was scheming on how to make the most of this vacant seat. Just like he seems to have been scheming for some time as governor.
With regard to the Tribune Co. situation, Blagojevich was upset that the Tribune editorial board was calling for his impeachment. It hurt his feelings, don't you know. So he was going to withhold state assistance in connection with the Wrigley Field sale unless certain editorial board members were fired. The article never says what came of that. The representative from the Tribune Co. supposedly told Blagojevich's chief of staff that the matter would be handled, but I don't think any editorial board members were fired, so who knows.
The man is clearly off his rocker. I didn't vote for him in the last election, because I didn't feel he had done anything for Illinois, and I was skeptical about the rumors regarding corruption (rumors at that time because no one knew what was true yet). He pissed me off when he held hostage state funding to the Chicago Transit Authority unless the CTA allowed free rides for seniors. I didn't mind free rides for seniors as a concept, but Blagojevich threw it in there at the last minute and refused to sign off on funding, which the CTA desperately needed in order to avoid severe fare hikes and reduced service, until an agreement was reached. It was a threat -- do as I say or else. He didn't care that many Chicagoans would be literally left out in the cold if the funding wasn't provided. The CTA was planning on cutting half its bus routes. Blagojevich didn't care. He wanted free rides for seniors. Now, the CTA is raising fares in January, partly as a result of the free rides for seniors. And I will now be taking Metra to save $23 a month. Yippee. Thanks, Blago.
I can't really point to anything Blagojevich has done for Illinois. We had some expressway construction that made traffic on the Dan Ryan and I-294 better, but I-88 has been torn up for years now with seemingly no end in sight. He instituted open road tolling, which I suppose makes commuting faster, but only if you have an I-PASS. I don't drive to work, but I bought an I-PASS just to make my life easier. Not everyone does. And now Blagojevich's been arrested and has embarrassed our whole state. I thought former Gov. George Ryan's conviction was bad. This is worse.
I'm disappointed. Disappointed because people everywhere seem to think Illinois is all about corrupt politics. That Chicago is about corrupt politics. This is the city and state I live in, and I take offense. But people like Blagojevich prove those people right, and it angers me. Because it does a disservice to those politicians who aren't corrupt and just trying to do right by the citizens of Chicago and Illinois. Because it's hard to climb out of the hole that's been dug by people like Blagojevich, hard to escape the notion that politics here is all about "the machine" and corruption and "pay to play."
If people who live here think Chicago is so corrupt, stop voting for the people who continue to corrupt politics. Blagojevich didn't elect himself. Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't either. Blagojevich got what was coming to him -- at least in the form of an arrest, it remains to be seen what will happen going forward. But he shouldn't have been in office to begin with.