Four of the last eight men elected governor in the Prairie State have ended up in prison.
We also are known for politicians who hang on to power with both hands: Daley I, Daley II. Madigan I, Madigan II. Simon I, Simon II.
This tendency to hang on to power for as long as possible is what makes a proposal being pushed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner interesting. Rauner’s proposal would limit elected officials to serving no more than eight years in the General Assembly.
Rauner is the only person seeking the state’s chief executive position who does not either hold elected office or is the scion of political dynasty.
This week, I asked Rauner what he could tell me about his plan to amend the state constitution and create legislative term limits. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
RR: Why do you think Illinois is ripe for term limits?
RAUNER: We are the worst-run state in America with the most corrupt politicians in America. It’s time we dramatically shake up the system and get rid of these career politicians. We want regular, everyday people who are going into public service for the right reasons. Term limits are not the comprehensive solution to every problem we’ve got, but they are a major step in the right direction.
RR: The traditional argument against term limits is that politicians already have term limits, they’re called elections. If voters don’t like someone they can always vote them out. How would you respond?
RAUNER: I think that is fundamentally wrong. When George Washington formed this nation, he could have been president for life. He was honorable and a hero. He set the tone for public service in America. He said I’ll serve this country for eight years and that is enough and then I’ll let others serve. … The power of incumbency is huge. It’s very hard to challenge incumbents. It’s very hard to bring in fresh ideas, new ways of thinking against incumbent political office holders. And if we want fresh ideas, new leaders and real problem solving … we have got to go to term limits.
RR: You’d increase the size of the House and shrink the size of the Senate. What’s the thought behind that?
RAUNER: First it shrinks the size of the Legislature so we save on salaries, pensions and staff. But the real driver is to make it easier for a challenger to take on an incumbent. … Three House members would be elected from each Senate district. [Currently only two are elected from each Senate district.] The power of that is that each member of House doesn’t have the built-in advantage of already representing half of the district, if they run for Senate.
RR: Any concern that power in Springfield would shift from lawmakers to lobbyists, staff, reporters and other folks who are in Springfield longer than eight years and have greater institutional memory?
RAUNER: I think that is wrong. The decision makers in the end have the power. If they are there for the right reason and just want to serve the people, it weakens the lobbyists and the special interest groups.
RR: Do you think having this question on the ballot at the same time you appear on it would help you get elected?
RAUNER: I don’t know. This term limit process is separate and distinct from the governor’s race. I’m committed to term limits, no matter what happens in the governor’s race. This term limit process will have its own volunteers, its own staff and its own fundraising. I will not control it. I will not be the majority donor to it.
ºCourt strikes down Bloomington taxi cartel
After two years of legal wrangling, the city of Bloomington will allow veteran and entrepreneur Julie Crowe to operate a late night van service. Crowe’s plan was to help college students get home from downtown Bloomington’s bars.
“These girls come out of the bars inebriated in these skimpy little outfits and the last thing they want is to get in a van with some guy who they don’t know,” she said. “I want to make sure they get home safe and take them right to their doors.”
But her application for a license was shot down by Bloomington’s deputy city manager after a public hearing in which Crowe’s potential competitors claimed the vehicles-for-hire market already was saturated.
Crowe’s appeal to the Bloomington City Council later was denied, in part because “the city clerk prepared a packet of information for the council members, which consisted only of documents selected by the city manager’s office.” The documents provided to the council did not include information that favored her application.
Last week, McLean County Associate Judge Rebecca Foley struck down the provisions used to decide Crowe’s application, ruling that the law was unconstitutionally vague and arbitrary.
“A city cannot enact a law for the sole purpose of protecting a special-interest group from competition,” said Jacob Huebert, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest litigation center, which represented Crowe and is affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute.
“The judge recognized that Bloomington had no legitimate reason to exclude entrepreneurs like Ms. Crowe from competing in Bloomington’s vehicle-for-hire market and struck down the law for violating the Illinois Constitution.”
The court also ruled that Bloomington lacked fair procedures for its hearings concerning vehicle-for-hire applications and had no evidence to support its stated reasons for denying Crowe’s application.
“If the government is going to issue licenses for starting a business, the standards it applies must be clear, objective and fair,” Huebert said.
Instead of appealing the decision, Bloomington City Council will decide how to change the regulations at one of its upcoming meetings.
The ordinances that Bloomington used to exclude Crowe are by no means rare. That is why Huebert is among those hopeful the court’s decision will help set a precedent for Illinois.
“This ruling will be useful when people challenge cases like this in other parts of the state,” he said.
—Scott Reeder and Jackson Adams
Statehouse doors cost $669,608
Dave Bakke recently reported in the State Journal-Register that new doors in the west end of the Illinois state Capitol cost taxpayers $669,608.
“Just the cost of installation is $78,000,” he wrote.
Money spent on the doors would have paid for 18 first year teacher’s salary for a year — with $15,000 to spare, according to figures produced by the Illinois State Board of Education.
It could have paid a year’s base salary for 10 Illinois State Troopers — with more than $33,000 to spare, according to figures from the Illinois State Police Merit Board.
If the state had instead decided to buy pencils, it could have bought almost 3.8 million No. 2 pencils from OfficeMax, a company headquartered in Naperville, Ill.
The costs were spread over three doorways and a total of six doors. They include copper cladding which was completed by Chicago-based Albert J Wagner & Son.
By the way, the doors are on the west side of the Capitol, the entrance used primarily by lawmakers and lobbyists – but not the general public.