Start a fire, fan flames for a change
One year ago this past week, FBI agents called Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and told him he was under arrest.
That call opened a new chapter of embarrassment in Illinois politics. This is going to be a long chapter, not forgotten anytime soon. It should not be forgotten.
In just over a month after his arrest, Blagojevich was indicted, impeached and removed from office. Blago has entered pleas of not guilty to numerous charges and is awaiting trial.
The outcome of his downfall has been dismal. We have been stuck with Roland Burris as our junior senator. Burris, following his appointment by Blago, brought the state embarrassment as senators refused him access. Eventually, the senate gave in after Burris protested long and loud that he had done nothing wrong to gain the appointment. Burris said he made no fundraising promises in exchange for the appointment.
Then, here in Peoria, after taking office, Burris admitted he may not have been as forthright as he should have been about how he got the appointment. It turns out there was talk of quid quo pro.
Benjamin Yount, a writer with Illinois Statehouse News, reports that University of Illinois political science professor Kent Redfield said it could be a decade or more before the state is cured of its “Blagojevich hangover.”
Redfield said the “lightning rod” may be gone, but the problems with state government are not. That is an understatement.
Back in July, Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University, and a member of the Illinois Reform Commission, said he had hopes that the public would get involved — that state government could be turned around and that trust could be restored.
Perhaps, when Blago comes up for trial, public passions will become inflamed again. The fuel will be there for a fire storm of political reform. But, it is up to all of us to make sure it ignites so we can create change.