Former Chicago Alderman and current Head of the UIC Political Science Department Dick Simpson shed some light on just how corrupt Chicago is recently. On Feb. 15, Simpson, his colleagues and students published a comprehensive report on the lengthy conviction history of Chicago and Illinois.
The research was presented before the City Council, and could be used to assess and repair what many residents feel is a broken political system. The research indicated that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country, and that Illinois is the third most corrupt state in America. This information made the news circles locally, and it didn't surprise many.
However, from a real estate perspective, one of the most interesting calculations in the report is the cost of corruption. Using data that includes the cost of prosecuting politicians, waste from patronage and other costs to state and city taxpayers, the report states that corruption costs Illinois residents about $500 million each year. Broken down per resident, based on U.S. Census 2011 data, that’s $38.85.
It’s not bad, all things considered. But that figure is likely much higher.
“We’re still trying to add to our team a couple of technical experts to make the number exact,” Simpson said. “The $500 million is still educated work based on the scandals we’ve studied and the testimony before committees like the governor’s commission on ethics reform. We’re still trying to tie that down and it’s very difficult. We think within the year we’ll be able to state pretty definitively, just like we can how many people are convicted, we’ll be able to say how much corruption is costing. And that cost is much higher than just the prosecution.”
Indeed, prosecuting high-profile figures, with expensive attorneys, is taxing. But one of the hardest figures to calculate is the loss of better opportunity. For instance, let’s say that the parking meter deal was short-sighted at best and the product of side dealing at worst, like some have suggested (then-Mayor Richard M. Daley was hired by the law firm that handled the transaction shortly after he left office).
Broken down, you have the actual costs to residents of the city: the higher fees to park, which quadrupled in most areas of the city. Next you have the built-in costs to make the deal happen, like attorney’s fees and labor hours spent going over the contract (even the cost of printing a 500-page contract that by most accounts was given to council members only shortly before the vote was held). Lastly, the duration of the contract that prevents the city from negotiating a better deal.
When the more accurate estimate is prepared by Simpson’s group, my guess is that we’ll wish it was only $38.85 per resident.
(Note: Below is the full interview with Dick Simpson)