State Rep. Ann Williams and eight others early this month got Gov. J.B. Pritkzer to freeze $144 million of Rebuild Illinois projects tied to former Speaker Mike Madigan. The next day, they said never mind.

They got it right the first time.

Williams and eight others have taken some strong, right-minded steps toward cleaner government in Illinois. They have been leaders, lonely ones at that.

They were among the 19 Illinois House Democrats who turned their backs on Madigan in January 2021. They responded to public disgust over alleged misdeeds by Madigan that had surfaced in a sprawling federal investigation into public corruption. With their public refusal to extend Madigan’s reign as speaker, they helped bring his political career to an end.

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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.