There were two big news events yesterday. The first started at 7 am when federal agents arrived at the door of Chicago Ald. Arenda Troutman and arrested her on corruption charges. The counts against her allege that she squeezed drug dealers for bribes in exchange for building permits and protection from city inspectors. Apparently Ald. Troutman didn't think her actions were all that different from what other pols do. “Well, the thing is, most aldermen, most politicians are ho’s,” she allegedly said on tape. We sincerely hope that Ald. Troutman's characterization is wrong, but events lead us to wonder.
The second event started at noon when the statewide constitutionals were sworn in. Each gave a speech outlining their goals for the next four years. And while most, including Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Comptroller Dan Hynes, talked about cleaning up Illinois government, the governor did not. The governor, who last year spent tens of millions of campaign funds, much of it raised from state contractors and bidders, board and commission applicants, and others with direct interests before his office, to broadcast TV ads alleging that his opponent was unethical, now has other priorities. Rather than fix the problems within state government he outlined in the campaign, this governor is turning his attention to other issues -- valuable though they may be -- and ignoring issues he raised to voters last fall.
Voter concerns about ethics and honesty in government aren't limited to Illinois. National Democrats know that part of why they retook both chambers of the U.S. Congress is voter concerns about how Republicans handled scandals, from Duke Cunningham to Mark Foley. Democrats aren't perfect -- they have their own William Jeffersons to deal with -- but to their credit they have moved swiftly to bring legislation to the fore to address those concerns. As USA Today reminds us in this morning's editorial, actions watch what we do, not what we say.
Illinois, too, has serious problems of credibility when it comes to proving that government is driven by the needs of the people, not just the needs of the pols. When talking about how voters see government, Ald. Troutman has a better read on the electorate than the governor. It remains to be seen who will take clear and consistent action to really fix the problem.