Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Abandon all hope ye who sit here; Governor's seat plagued by corruption

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Union League Club of Chicago
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
Moderator: Chris Robling

Reema Ahmad, the Government Affairs Coordinator, and I recently attended an Illinois Gubernatorial candidate forum at the Union League Club of Chicago, just down the street from CAIR-Chicago’s Jackson Boulevard office. The event provided an introspective observation of several leading contenders on the campaign trail for Governor, one of the most powerful and absolutely crooked positions on the Illinois legislature. This particular presentation exclusively featured the prominent Republican candidates, namely Adam Andrzejewki, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Proft, and Bob Schillerstrom. The Democratic Party’s candidates will participate in a similar forum at the same location in a couple of weeks.

Illinois regrettably has an infamous reputation for being one of the most corrupt cities in the United States. It is no coincidence that Chicago is depicted as Batman’s Gotham city. The rampant fraudulence runs from the heart of Chicago all the way down to the capital in Springfield, infecting the entire Land of Lincoln. The current path to Governor is inundated with corruption scandals, lying, bribery, and every other foul mannerism that accompanies a high-ranking seat in the Illinois government.

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich, succeeded by interim Governor Pat Quinn, was recently removed from office amidst corruption allegations. He may soon undergo impeachment for a number of crimes, namely for attempting to auction off the vacant Senator seat left by current President Obama. As the candidates took to the podium promising a revolutionary change in Illinois politics the audience struggled to maintain a sense of objectivity due to the large elephant in the room, not the GOP mascot, but an obvious embodiment of a still fresh wound inflicted by Blagojevich and the incurable disease of corruption. The candidates faced off against one another during one of the most tumultuous eras in Illinois’ history. It was clear no one wanted to suffer another political scandal that has plagued the state of Illinois.

One of the main topics addressed in the forum and repeatedly discussed by candidates was the idea of “transparency of government” which stipulates openly displaying local and state finances for public scrutiny. This policy reform would allow Illinois taxpayers to view how their money is spent, specifically revealing how much and where the bulk of the state’s resources are being allocated. While a few of the candidates touted to having already exhibited their own finances on their campaign websites, others disagreed with the notion that their personal assets need to be publically disclosed in order to validate their candidacy.

Clearly, the most significant issue of the debate was the enormous budget deficit of Illinois, which according to provisional Governor Pat Quinn’s website currently stands at $11.6 billion for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. One of the questions during the Q/A session asked how could any of the candidates even attempt to balance the budget without raising taxes? The subsequent answers given by each candidate encompassed the several important policies in relation to balancing the state’s budget including education funding, changes in taxation, job creation and security, Medicaid and pensions.

I mistakenly may have heard that every candidate said they would never think of raising taxes, rather they would erase the debt through spending more intelligently. Also, some candidates even proposed cutting taxes which would grant businesses more incentives for coming to Illinois, and more importantly staying here to provide jobs. This topic penetrated deep into the hearts of those in attendance who have struggled to pay their bills and remain fearful of losing their jobs, if they already have not lost them. This debate would ultimately make or break an audience member’s support for a particular candidate.

The candidates ranged in terms of age and experience, and all were fairly wealthy middle-aged Caucasian males, not too unlike the audience. Also, the fact that these were Republican candidates vying for power over the Governor position in a majority Democratic administration was not left unmentioned. Every candidate proffered an obvious Republican style reformation to corruption, almost implicitly stating that those currently in power, or more importantly Democrats, were to blame for the current political humiliation and economic hardships afflicting Illinoisans.

Overall, the event provided first hand experience in political campaigning at the state level as opposed to the national arena which is more familiar to the average American. Prospective constituents obtained the insight to discern who among those candidates participating in the forum will lead the charge in most effectively alleviating their political and financial woes. More importantly, the audience aimed to be vigilant in preventing the past from repeating itself and clouding their present judgment. Republican or democrat, Illinoisans do not want to be duped and inveigled into electing another typical crony Governor like Blagojevich.


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