Greising: Illinois’ patronage history endures. Illinois still needs the Shakman decree.

A recent federal court’s decision about Illinois’ Shakman compliance is a leap of faith.

Coffee for Constitutional Convention candidates in 1969. Pictured left to right are John Chico, two fellow candidate for the Constitutional Convention, Mary Lee Leahy and Mike Shakman. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library )

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

The Shakman decrees. They’ve been around longer than many of us have been alive.

Since Richard J. Daley was mayor? Yes. Chicago lawyer Michael Shakman first sued to upend the Chicago machine’s patronage hiring system in 1969. Since the year Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie lost his bid for reelection? Yes, again. The first court-sanctioned Shakman decree took effect in 1972.

At one point, Shakman decrees governed employment practices in Chicago, Cook County, state government and a handful of other jurisdictions in Illinois. They sought to wipe out political influence in the hiring, promotion, pay and firing of public employees.

The decrees governing Chicago and Cook County were vacated years ago. Last week, the state got its turn.

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