Chuck Sweeny: Pros and cons of Constitutional convention
On Nov. 4, you’ll see a question on your election ballot that asks whether you want to call a convention in 2010 for the purpose of writing a new state constitution for Illinois. It’s something required every 20 years by the current (1970) constitution.
Should you vote yes or no? Don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t a clue. I don’t know how I’ll vote, either.
So, I’ve started talking to people about the issue. On Wednesday, I spoke at some length with Les Golden of Oak Park.
Golden is spokesman for “Yes for Illinois,” a statewide nonpartisan group promoting a yes vote. Golden believes that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the union. All three branches of government are rotten to the core, he insists. A new constitution is the only way to fix that, Golden said.
“The entire Legislature is run by four people. They have an external body that gives them pay raises. They refuse to put recall on the ballot. They have no term limits. They have sinecures for life. The judicial branch is ranked near the bottom. Only Mississippi, Alabama and Mississippi are worse,” he continued.
The state of the executive branch? Golden listed Illinois governors who have gone to federal prison and suggested the current one is standing on ethical quicksand.
Golden said his group also wants to reform local governments. Illinois has nearly 8,000 of them, twice as many as any other state. He said township government is obsolete, a point with which I agree wholeheartedly.
“We want a constitution to provide incentives for consolidating districts. You don’t need all these bureaucrats,” Golden said.
Golden also said Illinois’ pension debt is out of control, the state can’t pass a budget. I’ll add that we can’t seem to get a capital spending bill passed.
Golden is obviously a passionate crusader for a new constitution. And we all know Illinois’ government is the laughingstock of North America. Maybe both Americas.
But would a new charter clean things up? Or could it make things worse?
Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, isn’t high on the convention idea.
“Right now I’m still leaning against it. I’d like to see changes made in state government, but the key question is who the delegates will be to the proposed convention,” Syverson said.
Many people pushing for a yes vote, he said, are using the process to add stronger language on increased state funding of public schools and to create a higher income tax, and one that would be graduated. Currently we have a flat tax.
“Rockford schools do well under the current state funding formula. If we’re going to make changes, I’d rather the Legislature do it than a constitutional convention doing it,” he said.
If 60 percent of those voting on the convention referendum give thumbs up, we’ll elect delegates in 2009 and have the confab in 2010. Then, voters will have a chance to ratify it or vote it down.
For more information on “Yes for Illinois,” or to ask if a member will speak to your group, contact Les Golden at (708) 848-6677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chuck Sweeny can be reached at (815) 987-1372 or email@example.com.