You could call it the irony of ironies. A state lawmaker under federal indictment is touting the fact that the Quinn administration won’t ask job applicants whether they are convicted felons.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, told me that the governor issued an executive order last week eliminating the question from job application forms.
“We want the best qualified people hired for jobs,” Ford told me. “Right now, if someone marks that they have been convicted of a felony, they won’t get a job interview. Some people feel like if they got their foot in the door, they would be identified as the best qualified, even if they have a felony conviction.”
Ford said the best thing for society is to get ex-cons into the workforce and this is one way of doing it.
“Gov. [Pat] Quinn believes ex-offenders should not face a life sentence of no job prospects and no life opportunities just because they have served time in prison,” Quinn spokesman Dave Blanchette said. “In implementing this change, the state will serve as an example for private sector employers.”
Everyone agrees that society is better off with ex-cons working. But is neglecting to ask job applicants whether they have a criminal past the best way to achieve that admirable goal?
It is almost as if government is embracing willful ignorance as a solution.
Ford said he lobbied Quinn for the executive order after having trouble passing such a measure legislatively.”
Just what affect the executive order will have on Illinois state government’s culture of corruption remains to be seen.
Corruption has been a persistent problem throughout state government – from Statehouse janitors to residents (or nonresidents) of the governor’s mansion.
It’s important that we have honest people in all areas of state government.
Yes, I know, for the most part, we aren’t talking about ex-felons applying for top state jobs.
But that misses the point.
Operation Safe Roads, which ultimately bagged George Ryan on corruption charges, began with low-level clerks in driver’s license facilities taking bribes.
In another scandal, secretary of state janitors went to prison for submitting false time cards. Their boss Cecil Turner, a honcho in the Sangamon County Democratic Party, also ended up behind bars.
So it’s not just big shots with names such as Blagojevich or Ryan who have perpetuated corruption in the Prairie State. Small fries have contributed to the problem, too.
Mercy is an admirable personal quality, but is it really something a government employer should be engaging in?
As a prosecutor friend once told me: government is about justice, not mercy.
Quinn should know more than anyone the importance of properly vetting his workforce.
You’ll remember six years ago, Quinn ended up with Scott Lee Cohen as his running mate. Unlike the folks Quinn wants to help get state jobs, Cohen never had been convicted of a crime.
But after Cohen received the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor, allegations arose of past steroid use, as well as domestic violence.
In fact, in 2005 Cohen was arrested for domestic violence involving his girlfriend at the time. She alleged Cohen held a knife to her throat. The charges were dropped later.
So if Cohen were to have applied for a state job, he wouldn’t have had to check the box. But even though the charges were dropped, Quinn called for Cohen to withdraw from the race.
The governor didn’t express any concern for Cohen’s future “job prospects” and “life opportunities.” After all, the man had no criminal convictions. But once Quinn viewed him as a political liability, that didn’t matter.
Ultimately Cohen stepped away from the ticket, despite being the chosen nominee of Democratic voters.
Was the governor exhibiting justice or mercy?
For Quinn it was political salvation. He never would have won the gubernatorial race with Cohen by his side.
Quinn would have us believe he’s all about second chances, unless, of course, it hurts him politically.
ObamaCare experiences technical difficulties
The ObamaCare health insurance exchange websites have not been fully functioning since its launch at the beginning of the month. Many want to know why, including Congress.
Members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce addressed a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking why the exchange websites weren’t functional, despite testimony by ranking members of the agency that they would be.
The letter also asks for enrollment data, which the Department of Health and Human Services has refused to reveal since the exchanges began.
Illinois’ enrollment data is among those not available.
“We’ll release enrollment data on regular, monthly intervals,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a press briefing. When asked for a date, he added that he was “not sure when that begins.”
The health care exchange was not the only website preventing ObamaCare from having a smooth start. The federal navigator training sites also have prevented many health care navigators from getting the training they need to start helping people understand the exchanges.
“Our biggest gridlock has been getting everybody through training,” said Craig Cooper, spokesperson for Genesis Health System, which operates out of the Quad Cities area. “It’s hard to get scheduled into the training; everybody’s trying to do it at the same time.”
Genesis Health System hired three navigators to operate in Illinois. They are waiting to receive their navigator licenses from the Illinois Department of Insurance.
Organizations in other parts of the state have been experiencing the same problems. Of the 19 positions opened by the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, only four had completed training and were waiting to receive their licenses by Oct. 1.
“Completing the federal online training has been a little sticky,” said Paula Brodie, spokeswoman for the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation. “The website would freeze.”