Why I'm Stepping Down and BGA's Bright Future — A Personal Message from Andy Shaw

As I approach my 70th birthday, the time is right for someone else to take over day-to-day management of the BGA.

Time flies when you’re doing important work and having fun.

The BGA is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year and beginning the countdown to our Centennial gala in 2023. That’s right—this venerable watchdog organization goes back to the Capone era in Chicago, when a small group of courageous business, civic and religious leaders decided to fight the mob’s influence on City Hall.

That’s quite a legacy, and we’re still fighting for better government today!

Our Investigative Team has uncovered disturbing accounts of suburban police shootings of civilians, shoddy special education programs that contributed to a tragedy in Chicago’s public schools, worrisome leaks and safety concerns at local nuclear power plants, dubious graduation claims at the City Colleges of Chicago, and poor maintenance of the city’s public housing units. In every case, we found an unacceptable lack of oversight and accountability. Our investigators are also fact-checking the statements and claims of elected officials and candidates.

Our Policy Team is getting bills passed in Springfield to downsize government and make it more transparent and efficient, reform our election system, and hold public officials more accountable.

Our Legal Team is winning fights for access to public records, our Civic Engagement Team is arming regular citizens across Illinois with important information and watchdog tools, and our Digital Team is expanding our on-line and social media footprint every day.

We’re on top of our game.

2018 marks my 9th year at the BGA—it feels more like nine minutes—and I believe our watchdog work is better than ever, thanks to a strong staff of 30 full and part-time employees, freelancers and contract workers, and hundreds of generous donors who’ve enabled us to grow our annual budget to more than $3.5 million.

As proud as I am of the good government reform work we’ve done up to now, I’m even more excited about our potential going forward as we do more high-impact investigations and public policy advocacy work, continue our fight for the public records we’re entitled to, engage more citizens through our education programs and multi-media communications, sharpen our digital tools, and develop additional local, statewide and national partnerships.

Our goal is to shine an even brighter light on state and local government in Illinois, and on Illinois officials in Washington, and to hold an increasing number of public officials in both places accountable to us, the taxpayers they work for. Doing that will require an elevated round of strategic thinking, organizational fine-tuning, and increased outreach to regular citizens and potential donors.

It’s a challenge for our entire organization, and given the size of the BGA and the importance of our mission, the challenge also means that 2018 is the right time for me, as I approach my 70th birthday in June, to hand off my responsibility for running the organization.

The time is right for someone else to take over day-to-day management of the BGA while I continue to help the organization in a variety of other ways leading up to our Centennial celebration in 2023.

I enjoyed 37 wonderful years as a print and television reporter in Chicago, and it’s been an honor and a privilege to spend the past eight-plus years participating in the revitalization of this legendary and critically important watchdog organization.

I look forward to working with the leadership team on our Board of Directors and my day-to-day successor to ensure the best possible future for the BGA and the 12 million Illinois residents who depend on us to be their eyes, ears and voices—their watchdogs, unafraid to bark loudly and bite when necessary.

It’s our mission, our challenge and our pleasure.

About the Author
  • Andy Shaw

    Andy Shaw is an award-winning Chicago journalist who spent 37 years covering local, state and national politics, business, education, and day-to-day news at the City News Bureau of Chicago, Chicago Sun-Times, NBC 5 and ABC 7, before joining BGA.