Investigations Get Results
Since 1957, BGA investigations have uncovered corruption and unfair practices throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois. A recent investigation of police shootings in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Cook County found that of 113 shootings over seven years, none led to disciplinary action. After the findings were published, a state law was enacted requiring an investigation each time a police officer discharges their weapon. BGA also investigated and exposed the corruption of Alderman Burke in the 14th Ward of Chicago, who is now under federal indictment on multiple charges. When governments are faced with evidence of corruption they must — and usually do — act quickly to correct it.
Advocacy for good governance goes well beyond exposing corruption. The BGA’s policy team recommends public policies for more transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Marie Dillon, the Policy Director, participated in the mayoral transition to help newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot transition into office and to help her staff develop ethics reform goals. The BGA is also tracking how the new mayor’s actions measure up against BGA’s agenda. The combination of advocacy for sound public policy and government oversight through investigative journalism makes it possible for BGA to push for effective government reform.
Voting is still the ultimate tool of accountability. To that end, a big part of BGA’s civic engagement effort is to empower citizens to participate in their democracy. The way that government treats its citizens is one of the most important factors in the daily quality of life, from the safety of the roads to the quality of public schools. When citizens have little faith in their government, or see their government as unresponsive to their needs, the social contract breaks down. In the last city-wide election, BGA published stories and candidate profiles, as well as where to vote and how to vote. Good governance helps people see their investment in voting, in paying taxes, and participating in their communities as worthwhile, and become even more engaged.
David Greising is the President and CEO of the Better Government Association. Greising spent 25 years as a high-profile local and national journalist, and served as the Chicago Tribune’s business columnist for more than a decade. He also recently served as the Midwest bureau chief for Reuters.
The Better Government Association was founded in 1923 as a voter advocacy and election reform group. Their mission evolved in the 1950s to include investigative journalism. Since then, they have produced hundreds of investigative reports outlining corruption and other government shortcomings, resulting in lasting legislative change in the state of Illinois and city of Chicago.
You can follow David on Twitter @dgreising and the BGA @bettergov.