I did not vote for Scott Lee Cohen for lieutenant governor. I received some nice multicolor mailings, and saw his commercial spots, and he seemed a congenial enough fellow. I knew that Illinois gutted the position of L/G years ago. This was made abundantly clear when the movers and shakers in the Democratic party slotted the very earnest and ineffective Pat Quinn there, in Blago’s armpit. They figured they could control his gadfly tendencies a bit, and he would stop harping at them- tilting at windmills, so to speak. I am only involved in local government, and I can attest that it is far easier to be the complainer or the person with the one sentence solution than it is to get inside the circle and apply good law, good financial logic, and good sense to a problem. Governor Quinn is a fine observer, but not much of a doer. With Scotty Lee as his side car, I doubt the voters of this fine state will give him a chance to evolve into action mode.
In truth, I did not vote for Scotty Lee because I am a reader of Mark Brown’s Sun Times column. I am not claiming that I remember the March 2009 column where he mentioned Cohen’s admission of a domestic violence incident. What I did read recently was Brown’s sketch of Cohen as a pawn broker who was working overtime to minimize that business while creating (though not actually operating) a “green” cleaning products company. “Green clean” was a clever way to provide the electorate with a warmer, fuzzier persona. It also intrigued me that anyone would put more than 2 million of his own money into this primary. Intrigued in a bad way. When I saw TV ads with people claiming that Cohen got them jobs, the whole mess was just too awkward and creepy. Pawn shop jobs? Cleaning jobs? It was murky. I don’t like my politics murky. It is bad enough that in Illinois, they are embarrassing.
In light of the bipartisan humiliation the state is currently enjoying- a Democratic governor indicted and a Republican governor jailed- is this the best we can do?
I guess it is obvious that no one really wants to be the face of Illinois at this moment in time. We are broke. Pension funds are remarkably underfunded. We are months behind in paying bills. Social services are receiving 50% of prior funding. Educational funding- which is constitutionally promised at 51% – is wobbling. College loans are evaporating. Our present state compromises the future of Illinois and Illinoisans.
The promise not to raise taxes cannot ring true. Even if income taxes remain at their current level, more money must be pecked from Illinois taxpayers. They can be sneaked in the back door, or they can hit us over the head. But if we want Illinois to perform its governmental obligations, some brave souls will need to stop pandering and get serious. Upstaters and downstaters need to knit together some sort of Springfield coalition that prevents Mike Madigan from being the de facto King of the state. He is like the Wizard of Oz, controlling vast power with his elusive, behind- the- curtain machinery. That machinery is well oiled with his broad coalition of corporate and municipal suitors. It is not altruistic. We could use some altruism.
I heard John Kass on WGN radio apologizing for not catching Mr. Cohen’s mess until after the election. He did not make excuses. He, too, knew that the lieutenant governor job was an apparition, therefore not as sexy a target as his Hopium/Obama drama. However, the job is part of the face of government in Illinois. It is a face that has egg on it yet again. I am the first one to rally for the importance of newspapers in a free society. An informed electorate can make good choices. I learned a lot over the pre-election weeks, and it guided my voting. (Hell- when I read David Hoffman’s academic pedigree I was bowled over. I knew he was independent, and a reformer. But when I saw he had 2 dogs and 2 cats- one of which was named Dude, I was tipped! I loved the Big Lebowski, too! Of course, Alexi won. Sometimes knowledge is not power) Now I can say to the media- where the hell were you? Google does not work…until after election day?
I am hopeful that something will encourage Mr. Cohen to tip toe out. I am grateful to Mark Brown, for helping me make an informed choice. I am confident that John Kass has learned a big lesson- that his fixation with Daley/DeLeo/Emanuel/Rezko/Blago/Ryan may have narrowed his vision too much. There are plenty of stinkers to amuse us with. Now one is running for lieutenant governor. The Illinois beat goes on.
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