I shook my head in agreement while reading the Chicago Tribune's editorial today titled "Illinois, policing itself." The editorial discussed why Illinois residents are responsible for the mess with Rod Blagojevich, for the most part. We voted for him. Well, not everyone did. I didn't. Actually, 1,750,452 didn't. Blago won re-election in 2006 with less than 50% of the vote (okay, it was 49.8%, but that's still less). But be that as it may, he was still re-elected. So we, the voters, are responsible. Now, I'll admit between Blago and Judy Baar Topinka, there wasn't much of a choice. Topinka wasn't a saint, being tied to former Gov. George Ryan. But in reading one of the comments to the editorial, I was reminded of an issue I have with elections, whether state or federal. The comment by "tired of it" said, in part: "Seriously, what were our options in the last gubernatorial election? An off-putting woman less appealing than a t-rex or Blago--is that a real choice??? I voted green, thank you (BTW, a little more press on the green party might help us stupid citizens understand our options)."
I voted the Green Party as well, but it's true that there wasn't much press on any other party, as is the norm in elections. I had to find my own information about the Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney. We have very few choices in politics. I'm not saying having more parties and candidates in elections would mean less corruption, but at least we'd have options. At least the Democratic and Republican candidates would know they had more than just one other candidate to beat out, and we would have more of a choice if the Democratic or Republican candidates were corrupt losers. And voters wouldn't get a sense that they were "wasting" their votes if they voted for someone other than a Republican or a Democrat.
And this goes for city elections too. How long has Mayor Daley been in office? I think I might have been in diapers when he was first elected. No, that's an exaggeration. I believe I was 14, so a good 20 years. I have two words -- term limits. Daley is re-elected because no viable candidate runs against him. Again, we don't have enough choices, and many voters just choose the usual, even if they know the usual isn't working anymore. But term limits would be nice. I don't have a huge beef with Daley, but I'm starting to get annoyed. The increase in the Cook County portion of the sales tax pissed me off, but I'm close enough to the suburbs that I can avoid the city taxes, at least. Then he decided not to plow the side streets right away when we started getting some serious snowfalls last month. That was his way of saving money. Of course, when my side streets are one huge sheet of ice and people are falling and breaking hips and legs, lawsuits are bound to follow. Don't think the city is going to save money that way. Daley must have realized it too, because a few weeks after he made that announcement, he changed his mind. Perhaps a few of those lawsuits started rolling in. Or perhaps he remembered that Jane Byrne was elected mayor when when the current mayor, Michael Bilandic, couldn't handle the snow. Then today, it's reported that Ron Huberman will be selected as head of the Chicago Public Schools.
For those of you not from Chicago and unfamiliar with Ron Huberman, he has been the head of the Chicago Transit Authority. And what a wonderful job he's done of managing that agency. Train cars that are so dirty the blue fabric on the seats look black and the floor is covered in dirt and garbage. Oh and the smell of piss! Fantastic. Then there are the people who beg for change on the train, or try to sell things. Or the muggings or assaults that happen on or around the train platforms, even though security guards man the stations at night (I once saw a guard sleeping in the booth at the Red Line Sheridan stop -- so glad she was getting paid to nap). The buses are just as bad, and if they show up, you usually get four buses at a time after waiting 30 minutes. And for all this, the CTA just raised fares. It now costs $86 a month to ride the train, up from $75. Yes, for $11 more a month you can ride in filth, elbow to elbow with your fellow Chicagoans, smelling the body odor and bad breath. For all Huberman's great work with the CTA, he now gets the job at CPS. Problem is, not only has he not shown himself to be a good manager but he has no educational background. So a guy who has been a Chicago police officer and been head of two Chicago agencies -- neither of which were education-related -- will now be running one of the most important agencies any city can have. I wonder how long it will be before Chicago students' test scores start going down again? Is this the best Daley could do? I know Huberman is his main man, but that doesn't mean he's qualified.
But when Daley is up for election again, who will run against him? Will that person be "serious" enough for voters? I do hope so. We need more choices. We need more than Daley and Blagojevich. Oh and Todd Stroger, don't even get me started on him. He's the reason our sales tax is the highest in the nation. And he ended up in office because his father, John, was too sick to run, even though his father's name appeared on the primary election ballot. People voted for John Stroger because they always had, not taking into account that John was in a hospital bed at that very moment and might not be able to serve. They didn't realize Todd would take over, but they should have. It's Chicago. It's obvious. I voted for Forrest Claypool, but John Stroger won. And sure enough, Todd Stroger replaced him in the general election. The Republican candidate, sadly, was Tony Peraica, who was too severe for me. So I didn't vote for anyone in that race, which I guess wasn't any better than voting for Todd Stroger. He won the election, and the rest is sad history. Hello, 10.25% sales tax so Toddy can hire his friends and relatives and have a private elevator in the City Hall building.
People can say this is just Chicago politics, but that is not an excuse. That doesn't make it right. And the Tribune's editorial is right on -- we, the voters, are at fault for this. We didn't police ourselves.