This article appeared in the (Springfield) State Journal-Register.
I live in Chicago, but I watch government for a living, so work takes me to capital cities like Springfield and Washington D.C.
I’m also a jogger, so I begin most mornings with a run.
In Washington it’s past the White House and the monuments on the Mall. In Springfield it’s around downtown’s historic buildings.
The effect is the same in both places: My patriotic batteries are recharged, and my appreciation of our rich democratic history is refreshed.
That may sound trite but it’s actually important because close contact with today’s poisoned politics and dystopian government can cause outbreaks of anger, cynicism, demoralization and apathy.
The symptoms are painful but not life threatening and eminently treatable — reform is possible, and it does occur intermittently — but it takes hard work and a positive attitude.
That’s where I come in. I run the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based watchdog organization that shines a light on government and holds public officials accountable across Illinois.
The BGA is a non-partisan non-profit that investigates, litigates, educates and advocates for a government that’s fair, accountable, honest, transparent and efficient. That means less waste, fraud, nepotism, cronyism, patronage, conflicts and payto-play.
Check us out at www.bettergov.org. Our investigations, conducted with media partners, appear on TV and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on digital platforms.
We also share our thoughts and opinions in regular columns. The State Journal-Register is one of our partners, and this is our first of monthly SJ-R column. But several BGA investigations have already appeared in these pages, including a recent one on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s apparent contempt for a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision aimed at limiting political hiring in state government.
It’s the well-known Rutan case, named after an aggrieved state employee, Cynthia Rutan, who was represented by prominent local attorney Mary Lee Leahy.
Mary Lee, who died of cancer last year, was also our first BGA board member from Springfield, and we miss her deeply.
But we’re making new friends, including terrific media partners; and former Springfield mayor Karen Hasara, a member of our Civic Advisory Committee, who is introducing us to business and civic leaders.
We’d like to host one of our “Citizen Watchdog Training” sessions in Springfield, and a “BGA Idea Forum” — they’re both part of our commitment to civic engagement — and I’ll talk more about those plans in a future column.
As for the IDOT patronage investigation, we’re calling for corrective action, so stay tuned, and we’re looking at additional examples of state officials who care more about insiders than taxpayers.
We hope you find our work interesting, informative and worthwhile. And we invite you to share your thoughts and tips because, as local residents, you know state government better than we do.
Some of you with Chicago-area ties may remember me from my previous job as ABC 7’s political reporter before I joined the BGA in ’09. I was here for all the big stories — legislative battles, scandals, “Obamapalooza” and state fair political days where we recorded animal noises — “baas,” “moos” and “oinks” — to add local “flavor.”
Those were fun years, but it’s nice to be back in my new watchdog role. And there is certainly enough to watch.
So, Springfield: It’s nice to join you as we jog toward the better government we all deserve.
Andy Shaw is president of the Better Government Association. Email him at email@example.com or tweet him at @andyshawbga.