No Price Tag on Justice
As the trial of former Governor Rod Blagojevich enters a new chapter, I am struck by the claim that a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and the government’s resources.
As a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and as the current Inspector General for the Illinois Secretary of State, I know firsthand the importance of ferreting out corruption, unethical behavior and wrongdoing. The role of the U.S. Attorney is to charge and prosecute federal crimes and to uphold justice.
Very simply, we can’t put a price tag on justice.
While it’s always important to be mindful of spending, the fact is the costs incurred by the U.S. Attorney’s office for any case are fixed — covering mostly the salaries of employees who investigate and prosecute cases.
What’s most important, however, is that justice is served. And, in this case, justice requires a retrial.
Some have argued that since Rod Blagojevich is now a convicted felon on a single count of lying to federal agents, the U.S. Attorney’s office should walk away from the case. I believe this would send the wrong message to the people of Illinois and to all elected officials.
The charges against Blagojevich are serious and repugnant. It is the responsibility of our state’s leaders to serve the people, not their own self-interests.
The jury voted 11-1 in favor of conviction on a majority of the counts and on at least one of the scheme counts, the attempted sale of the U.S. Senate seat.
This is not the first time that a jury has been hung by one juror. Our judicial system takes this into account and allows for retrials.
We need to let the judicial system work. Conviction on the scheme counts would send a message to the public and other politicians that if government officials shake people down for contributions, even if unsuccessful, they will go to jail.
In my view, prosecutors will have to address two commonly held misconceptions during the retrial. One is that many people believe money must actually change hands, or the deal must be completed, to be guilty of a conspiracy. This is not the law.
The other misconception is that Blagojevich’s approach to raising money is believed by many to be politics as usual in Illinois. This view also is wrong.
Most elected officials were offended by the actions of our former governor. They found his words and deeds despicable.
To change the perception of the pay-to-play culture in Illinois, government officials must be accountable, transparent, and committed to fighting unethical behavior and wrongdoing. The combined efforts of strong leaders, effective prosecutors, independent Inspectors General, the media, good government “watchdog” organizations and informed voters are essential.
Over the past decade, I have served as the Inspector General for the Illinois Secretary of State. I have been the fortunate recipient of a strong and continued commitment from Secretary of State Jesse White, who has provided my office with the necessary independence and resources required to root out corruption, restore integrity and change the culture of an office that had fallen under a cloud of controversy.
I look forward to watching the retrial and am confident that, in the end, justice will be served.
–James B. Burns, Inspector General
Illinois Secretary of State
For the Sake of Human
Services, Raise Revenues
This last year has been very difficult for many here in Illinois and the North Shore area. As Justice and Peace Coordinator of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, I hear every day how people are struggling due to the economic situation and state budget crises.
- Every day we hear news about another human-services provider closing its door, programs cut, hours and services reduced because of lack of money.
We do not want more essential services to be cut. With this in mind, I am urging concerned readers to join me in calling for the responsible leadership and adequate revenue needed to fix it.
Already the state is budgeted to spend $26 billion this year – 10 percent less than two years ago. Of that money, $9 of every $10 pays for education, health care, human services and public safety. But Illinois has a shortfall of nearly half its total budget.
This is because despite being the 5th largest state in population and gross state product, Illinois ranks 45th in total tax burden as a percentage of income. In short, we are big and relatively wealthy but modestly taxed. This lack of adequate revenue forces the terrible cuts to vital services and jobs everywhere.
The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters are happy to be part of the Responsible Budget Coalition, a growing group of over 200 organizations statewide calling for lawmakers to do the right thing and raise revenue to end this disaster. More than 30 states have raised revenue to protect their schools and vital services in this recession, while Illinois falls further behind.
To learn more and quickly contact your legislators, visit www.ABetterIllinois.com.
Join us in urging lawmakers to enact a responsible budget, raise adequate revenue and save essential public services and jobs – now.
— Sr. Rose Therese Nolta, SSpS
Plea for Larimer Park
I’m writing to urge the City of Evanston (specifically the Evanston City Council and City of Evanston Parks & Recreation Division) to place Larimer Park as a priority park on the City of Evanston’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
Evanston residents are blessed with over 90 neighborhood parks that are dutifully maintained by the City’s Parks and Forestry Department. I’d like to bring attention to Larimer Park, which is in desperate need of renovation due to outdated and broken equipment.
Neighborhood families, nearly 250 YMCA children as well as Parent Day Out preschoolers heavily use Larimer Park. This park was last updated over 17 years ago (1993) and this was a minor upgrade relative to current standards. Despite the park’s current poor condition and its heavy usage by Evanston residents and their children, the park is not being targeted by City of Evanston for renovation and is not earmarked for the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (which would make it over 22 years since the last renovation). Yet, less trafficked parks and parks that have been more recently renovated are being earmarked for renovations on the CIP (Grey, Independence, Twiggs, Southwest).
I realize that during tight budgetary times the City is forced to make tough decisions, but within those limited dollars allocated to parks, I urge the City to assess park renovations on standard criteria such as age, condition and utilization rates and to please prioritize Larimer Park on the City of Evanston’s Capital Improvement Plan.
Thank you for your time and consideration.