Ethics reform, openness vital

There’s a fresh breeze blowing in Springfield.

After the embarrassing events surrounding the arrest and impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on alleged ethics violations, people are actually talking about the need for more openness in government and for shoring up the ethical standards we expect from our elected representatives.

Gov. Pat Quinn appears to be serious about changing the way the public’s business is conducted at the capitol. For example, he has issued an edict to state agencies, directing them to comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and asserting the “right of the people to transparency in government.”

Regarding that transparency, Quinn said: “The people of Illinois have the unassailable right to an efficient, effective and open state government run by officials and employees of the highest integrity, honesty and ability who conduct themselves at all times with the public good in mind. A government that shrouds itself in secrecy and shuts out the sunshine of public scrutiny is one that will neither earn nor deserve the respect and trust of the people.”

Amen.

We’re convinced that government performs best when it’s conducted in an open and up-front manner. That way, the people – and the press, which represents the people as it covers the activities of government officials – can know what is being done by our representatives in government. The demise of the Blagojevich administration was, in part, due to the governor’s penchant for doing things behind closed doors. Instead of operating in an open manner, he preferred backroom deals and secrecy. Ultimately, that lack of accountability led to brazen abuses of power and corruption that brought the governor down.

We’re glad to see ethics return to front-burner status and to hear Gov. Quinn talk about openness and accountability in government. The challenge will be to translate those lofty ideals into real change.

Somehow, we must do away with the unlimited campaign donations, back-room deals and the pay-to-play system that have come to characterize politics in our state.

The people and the press must keep up the drumbeat for such reform. If our representatives don’t sense sufficient pressure to actually change the way government works, then things will drift back to the way they’ve always been. And, clearly, we don’t need any more of that.

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