Thursday, Oct 22, 2009 - Posted by Rich Miller
* This is what passes for wisdom at the Pantagraph…
One painful lesson we learned over and over when Rod Blagojevich was around was that the Illinois governor has too much constitutional power. Yet, the Pantagraph would weaken the General Assembly further without touching the governor’s authority.
Are the legislative leaders too powerful? Of course. But they got that power through political muscle, not the Constitution. Because they have so few powers enumerated to them, they’ve had to build their own power base with politics. That’s one reason why they are so reluctant to give up their political powers via campaign finance reform (although they are also undoubtedly loathe to cede their grand fiefdoms to the whims of a bunch of reformers and Republicans). Take away their political leverage and the governor’s constitutional powers will only be enhanced.
The same is essentially true of the Chicago mayor. Legally, the city has a “weak mayor” form of government, so the only way mayors have been able to truly govern effectively is if they had a powerful political organization. Witness Jane Byrne’s flip-flop after she defeated the Machine for a prime example, and Harold Washington’s losses to the Machine until he elected more sympathetic aldermen.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s a fact.
What we have to decide here is what sort of government we really want, rather than just picking and choosing reforms cafeteria-style. That’s why I supported the Constitutional Convention last year. We need a thorough debate on this. Top-down.
Instead, we get endless rants from mindless editorial boards and publicity hungry politicians.