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Belleville News Democrat, Opinion Editorial by Adam Andrzejewski: Time to Apply “Broken Windows” Theory to Illinois Politicians

 

Read original column online at: http://www.bnd.com/2012/10/19/2366557/guest-view-fix-broken-windows.html#storylink=cp

It starts with a small felony — a $340 donation from a government entity to a political committee. It ends with two governors in jail based upon a corrupt sense of self-entitlement. If you don’t fix the broken window, the whole house, from foundation to shingle, rots to the core.

That’s the story of Illinois.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Broken Windows Theory, it debuted in a1982 essay in the Atlantic Monthly. The theory suggests that decline to lawlessness begins when a community tolerates minor violations of public order — vandalism of abandoned structures, turnstyle jumpers and the like — and that cracking down on small offenses discourages more serious crimes.

It’s time to aggressively apply that theory to Illinois’ public servants. It is time to crack down on the small stuff, not only looking into behaviors in the statewide offices and agencies, but burrowing down to the township and municipal level, where the mindset of waste, greed and insider dealing sets in.

Here are only a few examples of what we’ve uncovered…

* The city of Wood River cut a $340 check to the Wood River Democrat Township Precinct organization. The expenditure was approved by eight Wood River employees and elected officials.

* The Lyons Township School District treasurer hiked his own pay from $163,000 to $296,000 in one year without a contract or informing his board. He resigned but isn’t indicted.

* 40 of 48 suburban school districts spent $49 million on taxi cab services without a required contract process.

* The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the state agency that mismanaged the pre-paid college tuition program, required 76 state workers to attend an Operation PUSH-Nancy Pelosi endorsement event for Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

This goes on in some form in many of Illinois’ 6,900-plus government entities. Yet Attorney General Lisa Madigan has prosecuted only 15 public corruption cases since 2002, despite a staff of 727 employees.

Illinois’ 102 state’s attorneys can do better as well. Yet few of them seem interested in prosecuting public corruption, even though it is politically popular.

Sadly, the township/county political apparatus makes it difficult for a state’s attorney to prosecute the people whose political organizations put them in their seat. This is why we see so little prosecution of minor infractions, and this is how the mindset of corruption — legal and illegal — creeps in.

Some people use the excuse that “everybody does it” when lamenting Illinois’ brand of government malfeasance. It’s time to confront this mindset head-on.

To reverse the rapid decline of this state, we must start prosecuting these so-called minor infractions. We must call them the morally toxic destroyers of trust and integrity that they are. Wrong-doers need to feel the bite of losing jobs and benefits.

The solution is for the legislature to dramatically expand adversarial, forensic audits to specifically target corrupt practices and claw-back taxpayer dollars. Independent auditors need robust tools to go further than the pro-forma annual auditing that missed the decades-long embezzlement scheme that cost Dixon taxpayers $53 million.

We must fix the “broken windows” of Illinois corruption. Either that, or we can continue to watch talented people and dynamic companies leave this once admired state.

Adam Andrzejewski is chairman of For the Good of Illinois PAC and a 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2012/10/19/2366557/guest-view-fix-broken-windows.html#storylink=cpy

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