The Metra scandal may lead to less patronage, a government reformer says. The executive director of the Chicago-area commuter rail agency got in hot water with the board of directors for ignoring patronage requests from politicians, including the Illinois House speaker, and was forced out.
“This is how it’s always been done in Illinois. A certain amount of it will probably always be with us, but I think the Metra scandal has the potential to spark some significant reforms if the people who’ve spoken up can walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” says Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association.
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Shaw says quasi-independent government agencies all over the state – those that have their own revenue sources but still must go to Springfield and beg for money – are subject to patronage requests from the very politicians who decide whether these agencies get money and how much. He says there ought to be a law against that; that any politician who has authority or influence over an agency’s budget should not be permitted to make any requests or recommendations regarding personnel or contracts.
Shaw says the political requests at Metra do not appear to be illegal, but they are what’s wrong with Illinois politics – “corruption with a small c,” he says.