Dear Chicago Tribune: Personnel Matters

One of the continuing themes here at this website is the importance of the quality of the personnel in politics and government. Ideology and vision count – but so does character and competence. Illinois is not in the mess it’s in today by accident. There has been a bipartisan failure to address the growing problems for at least twenty years.

As simple as the concept of personnel is, there still seems to be an intellectual disconnect on the part of some. One big example of the “disconnect” is found on the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board.

As the Chicago Tribune Company continues to work out its financial problems through the bankruptcy courts, the company might want to also spend some time getting its thinking straight when it comes to the type of people they endorse for public office. Anyone who has paid attention to who the Trib has endorsed in campaigns during the past twenty years probably shares my confusion over the editorials like the one they posted the other day titled “The Illinois spiral.”

Hundreds of Chicago Tribune endorsed elected officials have contributes to the very mess the Trib describes when writing about Illinois being in a “downward spiral.”

“We are losing employers,” the Trib notes. Here are some other revelations the Trib editorial included:

  • Nearly half a million of our jobs are gone.
  • We export many of our educated young people to futures out of state.
  • Our governance infrastructure has become overgrown and overpriced.
  • We have 7,000 often redundant governments, far more than any other state.
  • We populate those governments with armies of employees, and give them duties – some essential, some make-work.
  • Many politicians of both parties enlist these workers as their allies in a cozy paradigm: If you help us win re-election, we will reward you with adequate salaries today – and fabulous retirement benefits tomorrow.

Some of us have been warning about the wrong direction state government has travelled for a very long time. Every now and then during the past twenty years the Chicago Tribune would weigh in with a lovely (and right thinking) editorial. Then, just before Election Day, the board would issue endorsements of politicians who were putting their foot down on the accelerator without changing direction.

Now, the Trib wants the leopards they endorsed to change their spots. The editorial says:

We can wait, paralyzed, and hope that economic recovery eventually means full employment recovery. Or we can make structural changes now that would welcome the makers of jobs.

The financial state of the state, its debt, unpaid bills, and unaffordable and unfunded liabilities have evidently reached such a critical mass that miracles can happen. Can the very politicians who created the mess now reverse course?

This should be a time of tremendous opportunity for leaders who, rather than hiding from recession, exploit it to reinvent Illinois. To radically reshape the state’s present and its future. To capitalize on employers’ problems in other high-cost states by making Illinois their low-cost place to do business. To grow jobs.

Instead, our Statehouse brims with defensive, small-think pols hoping to survive another election.

“Illinois needs a new paradigm,” the Trib says. Well, duh.

Let’s see how well the Trib covers the candidates, their records, and their platforms during this election year. The Chicago Tribune’s newsroom needs to be aware of the same facts the editorial board has recently decided are so important.

And then let’s remember this editorial when it comes time for them to issue endorsements.