Editorial: Unpopular governor not enough reason to change constitution

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Does Illinois really want to follow California’s lead?

While it may be popular to give the people of Illinois a chance to recall a beleaguered governor, we don’t think a bad governor is worth changing the Constitution.

It’s seldom a good idea to make a constitutional change as a knee-jerk reaction to a single circumstance — in this case, Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his method of governing ... or not governing.

As House Speaker Michael Madigan said, “The problem is not the Constitution. The problem is the governor of Illinois.”

Madigan, one of Blagojevich’s sharpest critics, opposes a recall.

The Illinois House, perhaps out of frustration with a governor who simply won’t cooperate, passed a measure 75-33 Tuesday to allow voters the chance to recall the governor and other state politicians. It’s the first step toward amending the Illinois Constitution to allow a recall provision. Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, and Rep. Rich Myers, R-Macomb, voted for the measure. It would have to pass the Senate and then voters would decide the issue in November (passage requires a three-fifths majority).

Some 18 states now have this provision, but only two have used it in the last century, the most famous being California and its recall of Gov. Gray Davis and election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But voters already have the authority to throw public officials out of office. In the case of the governor, the voters had their say in 2006 and they overwhelmingly decided to put him back in office. During Blogojevich’s first term, his dictatorial governing style was apparent, as was his penchant for flashy programs and overspending. Still, voters chose him. To be sure, things have deteriorated since 2006, including the 2007 budget session that wouldn’t end and the current corruption trial of Tony Rezko, one of Blagojevich’s closest advisers.

If the governor is convicted of a felony he’s automatically removed from office. Short of that, Illinois legislators can impeach him. Impeachment uses a higher threshold than a recall. And we believe the threshold should be higher. We shouldn’t dump a governor mid-term on a whim.

Despite popular public support, it’s unlikely the provision will succeed. Senate President Emil Jones, a Blagojevich ally, is expected to keep the vote from reaching the Senate floor. That’s unfortunate. Senators should have a chance to vote on the measure.

Still, we don’t believe a recall provision will improve Illinois politics. And we think if voters make a mistake in the voting booth, they should be more careful next time.

Elections, while a linchpin of our democracy, often don’t bring out the best in our public officials who are already in office. Elected officials are less likely to make decisions that are right and necessary, yet unpopular, during an election year because they don’t want to lose favor with voters.

The governor and legislators need to be unencumbered by the threat of constant recall. The last thing we need is a perpetual election mentality.

Voters had a chance to oust Blagojevich in 2006, and Illinois legislators can start impeachment proceedings any day.

As much as we’d like to see a different governor in office, we’re not prepared to alter the Illinois Constitution to make that happen.

Galesburg Register-Mail