southtownstar
HISTORIC 
Weather Updates

Eaton: If only more public officials paid attention in Sunday School

Columnist Fran Eatsays Southlresidents should be sure vote ElectiDay so politicians cannot rely public apathy assist them their skulduggery. |

Columnist Fran Eaton says Southland residents should be sure to vote on Election Day so politicians cannot rely on public apathy to assist them in their skulduggery. | File Photo

storyidforme: 32720891
tmspicid: 3110334
fileheaderid: 1818068

Updated: July 28, 2012 6:33AM



Maybe you’re one of those idealists convinced that religion and politics don’t mix and should remain mutually exclusive.

Sorry to inform you, the opposite is true. Everything anyone ever needed to know about keeping corruption away from politics was learned in Sunday School.

After reviewing the University of Illinois at Chicago’s 2012 report, “Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs,” released Monday, it’s evident that not enough public officials spent Sundays in church. Too few learned about the Bible’s lessons and the Ten Commandments.

The UIC’s report painfully exposes any misperceptions that politicians misbehave only in Chicago.

Scanning the past four decades, “Green Grass and Graft” reminds us of the 130 suburban residents who have been convicted since the 1970s of ripping off their towns through various theft, extortion and kickback schemes and allowing illegal activities such as prostitution, drug dealing and gambling.

When you think of a corrupt suburb, the town that quickly comes to mind is Cicero, infamous for its Mob influence since the days when Al Capone ran it. The UIC report recalls several former Cicero officials — including its well-known former mayor, Betty Loren-Maltese, who was convicted in a Mob-related insurance fraud and served six years in prison. Current Mayor Larry Dominick has up to 20 relatives working on Cicero’s payroll, according to news reports.

After Cicero, Rosemont might be second. It has been run since its inception by the late Mayor Donald Stephens and his family, who have found numerous ways to fill relatives’ pockets with taxpayer-funded contracts, according to the report.

The Suburban Hall of Shame, Southland Wing, has inducted many members, including such notable former officials as Chicago Heights Mayor Charles Panici, Calumet City Mayor Jerry Genova, suburban Cook County Regional Schools Supt. Charles Flowers and Oak Forest public works director Mike Feeley.

Many have been imprisoned for their criminal activity, but their punishment does not make up for the steep price that innocent law-abiding citizens pay for public officials’ illegal conduct, known as the “corruption tax.”

Pervasive corruption, unethical behavior and moral ineptitude are very expensive and wasteful. Some experts estimate that political corruption costs Illinois taxpayers in excess of $500 million annually.

Still we hear that ethical and social issues aren’t as important as financial ones. But without an inner moral compass, our democratic system of governance is doomed.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote, “In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous.” The more illegal and corrupt activity, the more that government restrictions and law enforcement are required, limiting freedom and the ability to prosper.

The UIC report provides responses to the corruption epidemic — strengthen ethics and public transparency laws, hire local inspector generals, pass laws limiting nepotism and political patronage.

But, really, is that the answer to deterring corruption? How about electing good, guided-from-within people who know the difference between right and wrong and believe in public service?

Why shouldn’t we ask that our elected officials follow the simple guidelines contained in the Ten Commandments, or the Golden Rule itself, in their thinking and decision-making?

Maybe the religious and/or Christian aspect of the Ten Commandments makes voters and politicians uncomfortable, but imagine electing officials who believe that someday they will be judged for eternity by all they did, including as public officials. Might that make a difference in their behavior?

The first step toward combatting corruption in Chicago’s suburbs is simply the “will to act,” the report says. That includes everyday people getting more involved in their communities and local government.

Also, being sure to vote on Election Day so the crooks cannot depend on public apathy to assist them in their skulduggery.

And maybe more folks asking our officials and candidates what they learned in Sunday School.

Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.