Ransom Notes: Bad representation

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This is supposed to be a representative government. That means we elect people who are supposed to represent us in the government, to give voice to our concerns. That doesn’t necessarily mean that elected officials are supposed to check which way th

This is supposed to be a representative government. That means we elect people who are supposed to represent us in the government to give voice to our concerns.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that elected officials are supposed to check which way the polls are going before they make a decision, but they should remember that that the decisions they make are not just their own, and they should reflect their constituents’ concerns, not just their own.

Yeah, I’m on a rant, but when our august members of city council suggest giving themselves a raise while the city is in a $420 million hole and maybe laying off 1,000 workers, I get to ranting.

The 50 members of city council have determined that the budget deficit be damned, they deserve a raise. Our aldermen and women are working so hard at representing our interests that they didn’t see this deficit coming. It just jumped up and bit them on the butts (but not, we see, on the cheek where they keep their wallets).

A 2006 ordinance states that aldermen are entitled to a cost of living increase to keep up with inflation. In this case, it is a 6.2 percent increase in salary, which would take them to $110, 556. Considering that many of them have other jobs, it is a nice little bump, and we, the taxpayers are paying for it.

There may be some city residents who back the pay hikes, but it is unlikely that any of them are outside of the immediate families of the aldermen. Pretty sure the families of those 1,000 city workers who may be losing their jobs aren’t in favor of the aldermen getting a pay raise.

But, of course, they aren’t the only representatives who have been suffering from the gimmes lately. The state legislature rejected a hotly disputed pay raise in August but went ahead and accepted a 3.8 percent cost of living increase. The process in Springfield required that the Senate actually vote down the increase, which they did 47-0 (with Senate President Emil Jones voting “present”). But if the senate had not voted, the raise would have gone into effect anyway, even though the House rejected the raise.

Now, everyone gets to take home their cost of living increase, and Jones can retire at a high salary, which means a higher pension, and leave the legislating to his son Emil III.

But that is just pay, which, while bad enough, is not the only way that our elected representatives can stick it to the taxpayers. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger told me last year that the almost universally opposed hike in the county sales tax would pay for a lot of stuff, and he even suggested that if he were asking for too much of an increase, he would return the excess (hahaha) to the public.

But it turns out Stroger and his budget wizards did not foresee that plenty of county consumers would simply cross county lines to do a lot of their purchasing, avoiding the highest sales tax in the country. Enough of them did this that county revenues have not matched expectations (what a surprise).

Stroger has come up with another way of raising money, refinancing debt to borrow another $740 million, to be used for operating funds. His proposal was passed by the county board, which is supposed to represent county residents, even though there is very little oversight on how that money is to be used.

Finally, we have our illustrious members of the U.S. Congress, who passed an $820 billion bailout plan for the financial industry (well, maybe $140 billion of that won’t have anything to do with the financial industry), even though a majority of Americans opposed it. They wanted Wall Street executives who ran their companies into the ground with bad acquisitions and even worse loans to not be rewarded for their stupidity and risk taking with exorbitant severance packages.

This is a representative government. Those people we elect are supposed to represent us, not ignore us. They should do so at their political peril. Our system of government allows us to remove the offenders, vote out those who put themselves and their political and personal interests before the people they are elected to represent. When they don’t represent your interests, vote them out.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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