We’re Entitled To Open, Honest Government


Yesterday, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote about former Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman’s guilty plea in connection with the federal corruption charges against her for soliciting bribes from people doing business with the City of Chicago. (“What Troutman will get out of her guilty plea,” Aug. 7).

You may remember Troutman for her quote, which allegedly was recorded by the feds: ”Most politicians are hos.”  “Ho,” as in people of loose moral standards who sell themselves for money or other favors.

We’re not sure exactly how accurate Ms. Troutman’s assessment of those people who make a career out of politics might be, although we’re not inclined to strongly disagree with her.  That would be hard to do, given all of the successful criminal prosecutions of state, county and City of Chicago politicians and their henchmen over the years.

In his column, Brown went on to describe how “[b]ribes are for chumps like Troutman” because the sharpest, most experienced politicians have more subtle ways of doing business with the people who are interested in pay-to-play government, and don’t ever really have to ask for the favors they are interested in giving out:

“[P]olitician-lawyers get rich on legal fees, which of course are entirely legal, not at all like bribes, or what would be the use of having a legal degree? Or real estate business is steered to a politician’s relative, or insurance, if that’s the family’s game. Nobody ever need mention doing this for that, the quid pro quo that can get a conviction.”

We are entitled to honest, open, transparent and accountable government.  But we have to demand it – regularly, consistently and uncompromisingly – from our public officials at every level. 

So the next time our City Council, School Board or Park Board members duck into another closed session, or circulate “confidential” memos among themselves, or negotiate sweetheart deals with their friends or campaign contributors, or just do something that doesn’t make sense to us, we are entitled to ask: “Who’s getting what, and why?”

11 comments so far

Here, here!! While I am somewhat new to PR politics in comparison to most of you, I will agree that there is plenty to ask questions about.

The problem is the second part of the equation which is to vote them OUT!! If the public consistently sends a message that if there is even a tacit connection to corruption we will vote you out then there might be change. Unfortunately, we are not very good at that (again, I have to rely on you for the track record of PR in this area).

There is an article in The Trib this morning that speaks to this point. The page one headline is “Clout keeps power on”.

I lived in the city for 17 years and the general services were great as long as you lived in the right neighborhood but I mean come on!! If there were not enough “questionable activities” over the years to the Mayor to loose an election, then there never will be!

One could make the same argument at a national level as well.

I guess what I am saying is you are preaching to the choir, but it is a very small choir!

I agree. In my opinion, Howard Frimark has been unethical in his closed door sessions, dealings with his buddy developer friends, and voting on issues he should rightly recuse himself from. When a local politician is this blatant in misrepresenting the local community it is time for the local community to vote him out.

Didn’t the Mayor of Niles get into trouble by selling insurance to the businesses in Niles? He pressured the businesses into purchasing their insurance from him in order to get business licenses. I heard that when a new business comes to Park Ridge that Howard is johnny on the spot trying to sell them insurance. I wonder if any of them feel pressured?

Probably, especially the restaurants and groceries who sell liquor and who need to Howard the Liquor Commissioner happy.

Anonymous on 08.08.08 9:30 am –

YOu are dead right about voting them out, but people have to run against them. Daley gets a free ride with no opposition or some mope that doesn’t even force him to spend money. That’s what went on here for years, but for about the last five years we’ve at least had a few choices(not all good ones, granted).

And we need more choice next Spring!

Alderman Dave, are you listening?

So when did Frimark get voted in and who did he run against? And when is the next mayoral election in PR?

Also New to PR politics on 08.08.08 8:14 pm:

Frimark had been an alderman for two years when he was elected in April, 2005. He defeated Michael Tinaglia, who had been an alderman for eight years.

The next mayoral election is in April, 2009

Isn’t April, 2009, just around the corner???

Who might we expect to be running against him?

Let us hope that the person that chooses to run against Howard is not an insurance salesman or owns a businses in which he uses the position to make deals to benefit him or his friends.

We would need a one of a kind person who is dedicated to representing the community. I heard that the City of Park Ridge has a big bond debt does anyone know what our debt was before Howard took office and since he has taken office?

Anonymous 08.10.08 9:59 AM:

There’s nothing wrong with a mayor who is an insurance salesman, lawyer, business owner, or any other occupation, so long as the person is honest and not looking to make a buck – or make a buck for his/her friends or campaign contributors – off the taxpayers.

And even making money off the taxpayers is okay if it’s done after reasonable deliberation, in a fair arm’s length transaction, all the terms of which are fully-disclosed to the public in a timely fashion.

The problem with the current mayor is that he prefers secrecy to opennness, and he prefers the interests of his friends and campaign contributors over those of the average taxpayers.

As for the bond debt, we don’t recall any signficant new bonds being issued since he became mayor because no significant new projects have been approved during that time which would need bond financing – like a new police station, a library addition (or new library), Frimark’s Cumberland underpass, or similar such project.

For the 2008-09 fiscal year, the City plans to spend more than $5 million for debt service on bonded debt of more than $44 million, almost entirely related to Uptown Redevelopment.

But the Public Safety Committee is already talking about issuing $16 million or more in bonds as soon as the Public Works Building bonds get paid off this fiscal year.

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