Chicago Writer Lacks Confidence in Political Reform | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Chicago Writer Lacks Confidence in Political Reform

Chicago writer Ron Litke is skeptical about this latest attempt at reform actually taking root.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an obscure German clergyman and theologian, wrote: “To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things…”

For example: those of us who think we understand reality don't know it like most politicians in Chicago and Illinois. The major newspapers and good government advocates these days are keen to pass any of the recommendations proposed in the recent 95-page report from the Illinois Reform Commission. It's a clearly honest work of ninety civic-minded folks who circumnavigated the state for more than three months, following the debut of the Rod Blagojevich surrealism show last December. They talked to thousands of folks with ideas for an exorcism for Illinois politics, and arrived at some eminently reasonable reform legislation. Such as:

-prohibiting politicians' campaign funds from accepting contributions from state employees under their control;
-reforming purchasing practices;
-or even a basic code of ethics and principles for elected officials, appointees, and employees.

Are they kidding?

You see, reporters and editorial writers may think they know what's happening -- but they don't think as a politician does. The critical error journalists make is to interpret government policies and practices as they affect the citizenry.

As this radio station reported last week this is what Mayor Richard Daley said in response to why government reform was not included in his recent Illinois law wish list.

DALEY: “What? Yes, we've done everything here. We're leading the way with our inspector general, office of compliance, all the things we've done. We're more transparent than any other government. Look at it. We're doing a tremendous job here. We lead by example.”

For goodness sake, the major's middle name is reform, or recycling, or TIF – depending on the day. Sure, you and I think the Inspector General's office, which was originally charged with identifying and prosecuting corruption, has been neutered by the Office of Compliance – which, by the way must have been nomenclature chosen by Daley himself. A stroke of genius. And none of us can recall if the Office of Compliance has done anything significant since it was created last year. And Chicago must have the most transparent government, as the mayor says, since every time U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald turns his eyes on it, someone is convicted of something. Even so, the mayor never knows anything about it -- even if the person who did it is somehow related to him, or has an office not far from him, or just happens to come from Bridgeport. That's leading by example.

The mayor knows what Dietrich Bonhoeffer knows: “The wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”

So – whatever you may think about government reform – get real. Consider the Tao-te-Ching: “To know, yet to think that one does not know, is best; not to know, yet to think that one knows, will lead to difficulty.”

So much for reform.

Music Button: Bettye Lavette, "You'll Never Change", from the CD Souvenirs, (Body and Soul records) 

Additional voices:  Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners, Donald Rumsfeld

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