Nationally, there are several things widely known about Illinois:
1) It is last among U.S. states in fiscal health;
2) It continues to owe multi-billions of dollars to state vendors, schools, hospitals, etc. who are owed money that was properly appropriated and “earned”;
3) It stands atop an NBC News study of “Major Global Cities” on “Murders per 100,000 Population” (Chicago was at 19.4 in 2012, while second place Sao Paulo had a rate almost 18% lower (at 15.6 per 100,000). http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/The-Deadliest-Global-City-163874546.html
It is natural for Illinois taxpayers to wonder when there will be some true accountability for the financial and social “hole” that has been created by its political leaders. This is especially true in light of the virtual certainty that, after this November’s election, the state will renege in State Senate President John Cullerton’s sacred promise in 2011 that the income tax rate increase (from 3% to 5%) would be rolled back by 2015! After all, what evidence has been provided to any taxpayer that Springfield is remotely capable of running a balanced budget and spending money in ways that accomplish the essential services of state government, while minimizing waste and the (blatant) use of public funds for partisan political purposes?
One disturbing answer to this question was provided in February of this year by Illinois Auditor General, William Holland, whose thorough audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) (http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/...) program initiated by Governor Patrick Quinn in the fall of 2010 was the focus of a number or heated and tense meetings in Springfield this past week (July 14 to 18). The sad but realistic truth is that, during the entire span of those tense meetings, nothing of substance was revealed except the power of party politics to override any quest for truth, justice, or accountability. Republicans were dead set upon interviewing key witnesses related to the NRI, and for fear of what might be revealed, Democrats were dead set against that prospect.
In the midst of this chronic stalemate in Springfield, made ever so much worse by the fear of those up for election in November that they might be voted out of office, it is heartening and refreshing to find at least two Springfield political figures who have exhibited an ability to move beyond partisan politics and contribute toward providing the kind of transparency and truth-telling that Illinois tax payers deserve!
These are the two figures I want to celebrate today:
1) William Holland
Holland worked closely in the 1980’s with State Senate President, Philip Rock, a Democrat. He was a trusted staff person and advisor to Rock; and Rock was his political mentor.
Since then, Holland has moved on to a distinguished and exemplary career as Illinois Auditor General, having recently been appointed (without opposition) to an unprecedented 3rd 10-year term as Auditor General!
As you will see first hand in Part II of this article, Holland is rather unique among the political players in Springfield, since he is courageous enough to report what he finds, not what his party leaders want him to report!
2) State Representative Thaddeus Jones (D- Dolton; 29th District)
Representative Jones has proven to be a smooth, astute politician. For example, addressing the question of whether the NRI was flat out an attempt by Gov. Quinn to garner political support within the South and West sides of Chicago to ensure his re-election that November, Jones opined: "I wouldn't say it's buying votes; I could see (it as) currying favor." However, more recently, he has committed to pursuing the truth regarding the possible misuse of state funds!
Be on the lookout for Part II, when we will highlight the key findings from Holland’s report!