Marie Dillon, BGA policy director, appeared before the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Ethics and Good Governance on Wednesday to support a package of ethics reforms sponsored by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Dillon reminded aldermen of past failures to enact such reforms, and of recent events that underscore the need for stronger ethics laws.
The ordinance passed the committee and will be considered by the full City Council on July 24.
Here is Dillon’s testimony:
Committee on Ethics and Good Governance, Chicago City Council
July 17, 2019
My name is Marie Dillon and I’m the director of policy for the Better Government Association here in Chicago.
I’m here to urge you to vote for the ethics changes contained in this ordinance.
The BGA supports this entire package, but it is only a start. There’s a lot more to be done to eliminate conflicts of interest in city government, and to improve transparency and accountability. We’d also like to see greater penalties for serious violations. But your vote today will send a strong signal about your commitment to ethics reforms.
Many of these proposals we have all seen before. A little over three years ago, for example, the City Council came close to giving the inspector general full authority over the legislative branch, as this ordinance would do.
At the last minute the measure was watered down. I will never forget the aldermen who worried aloud that the inspector general might come after them for not filling potholes, or for skipping a block party. There was even talk about overzealous prosecutors who send innocent men to Death Row.
In the end, the measure that passed left the $100 million-a-year workers compensation fund in the hands of Finance Committee chairman Ed Burke, with no oversight. Taxpayers had no assurances that safeguards were in place to prevent waste, fraud or abuse. None.
One of the aldermen who supported that watered-down ordinance was quoted in the newspapers as saying “We have a win here.” That alderman was Danny Solis.
I don’t have to tell you how bad that vote looks in the rearview mirror. And you don’t have to tell me that you’re not all corrupt. We all know that.
But the City Council’s longstanding refusal to subject itself to meaningful oversight has enabled the bad actors to give all of you, and the city of Chicago, a bad name.
This is your chance to change that. Please support these important reforms.