Mayor Lori Lightfoot is supporting a group of mostly small-town mayors in an effort to suspend their duty to respond to public records requests until Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order lifts.
The argument that they don’t have the resources to address records requests during the COVID-19 crisis was always unsteady. Then it visibly crashed to the ground Saturday when the Crawford Coal Plant smokestack fell.
The botched demolition created a cloud of industrial detritus that smothered the Little Village neighborhood. This dangerous incident illustrated the public’s vitally important right to know, our need to know, in a timely manner about the workings and failings of government.
It’s understandable that Lightfoot and other mayors find the coronavirus all-consuming. But the Crawford case is one piece of evidence that bad things keep happening, just as always. Violent crime in Chicago’s streets, the corruption of public officials and waste and mismanagement in public programs: We need answers about those problems too.
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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.
Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.
Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.
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