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It takes an army — of voters — to get good government

The best political campaigns generally have two components: A good candidate with a strong message; and a solid organization that takes the candidate and the message to the voters, hoping they’ll cast an affirming ballot.

Cicero trashes good government

Cicero is back in the news, and not the famous Roman orator. The Better Government Association recently reported that a suburban waste processing company has contributed big bucks to political funds controlled by the Cicero’s Town President, Larry Dominick. And the whole thing has a bad smell to it.

David Gregory, in a 2013 photo released by NBC News. (AP File Photo/NBC, William B. Plowman)

Fighting public corruption — over lunch

Lunch is a lot more than a midday meal when you run a nonprofit watchdog organization like the Better Government Association. In our world it’s an important opportunity to explain our mission to potential supporters. And once a year, in the fall, we invite our friends to break bread with us at an annual luncheon, where we recap our work over the past 12 months, spell out our goals for the next year, and thank them for contributing the dollars that make it possible. 

Bruce Rauner (left) and Gov. Pat Quinn

Governor's race spirals into fantasy land

One of television’s hottest dramas is playing out daily right here in Illinois. No, it’s not “The Good Wife,” “Shameless” or “Chicago Fire,” and “Breaking Bad” isn’t coming back with a Windy City setting. I’m talking about the rock'em sock'em, neck-and-neck race for governor, starring Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, Republican nominee Bruce Rauner, and a deluge of attack ads they’ve been bombarding us and each other with for months.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about Great Lakes water quality, pot and other topics at a news conference at the Shedd Aquarium last week. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Time to grade mayor’s performance

Where does the time go? It’s been more than three years since we sat down with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to review the promises and progress of his first 100 days in office in an interview that was broadcast live on the Better Government Association’s website. Well, this is a good time for the BGA to hold the mayor accountable on a few of his “good government” goals.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett at a Chicago Board of Education meeting last month. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

CPS hiding records from the BGA and you

So what happens when children don’t follow the rules at school — when they’re unruly, disruptive or underachieving? The response may include detentions, uncomfortable visits to the school office, or the specter of losing access to sports and other extra-curricular activities. The point is: Kids know there are consequences for bad behavior, and school officials understand their jobs include socializing children along with educating them. So it’s worth noting the disconnect and, yes, even hypocrisy, in Chicago’s public schools, where officials regularly and blatantly ignore legal requirements, including state law, when it comes to complying with document requests filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Pension crisis spills over into suburbs

Unless you’ve been living in the Deep Tunnel, you’ve probably heard the State of Illinois is facing a daunting public employee pension crisis, and Chicago — mainly its schools and municipal government — is tiptoeing around similar fiscal land mines that could blow up in the faces of retirees and taxpayers.

Parents from Ames Middle School address the Chicago Board of Education about the possible closing of their school on Dec. 18, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak / Sun-Times

The hidden lessons from closing 50 schools

The scrap heap of Illinois history is piled high with long-forgotten government reports. Many of them deserve their fade into tattered obscurity, but occasionally a research effort merits a bright spotlight. And that’s the case with an incisive, hard-hitting task force study — released in June by key members of the state’s General Assembly — on last year’s controversial, contentious and traumatic closing of 50 Chicago public schools, mostly in minority communities on the South and West Sides.