At the September 1st meeting of the Naperville City Council meeting, first term Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan proposed a rather modest strengthening of the current ethics standard for the Mayor and City Council: If a petitioner or a petitioner’s representative donated more than $500 to your campaign, recuse yourself. Pretty straightforward.
No change to the amount of money a candidate could accept. If a petitioner comes before you asking to approve something who gave you a noticeable amount of cash, don’t vote on what they want you to approve. Worth pointing out is that that you don’t need to go before Council for approval of a proposal that is within current Code. It’s the variances to Code that need approval.
Councilwoman Sullivan’s proposal:
Seems to us like somewhat of a motherhood and apple pie type proposal. If a major campaign contributor comes before you asking for something, don’t vote on the proposal. Who could be against that?
Well, Mayor Chirico, for one.
We understand campaigns cost money. The proposal wasn’t suggesting any sort of limitation on contributions, so it has nothing to do with only the wealthy being able to run. It was, again, pretty simple. If you take a campaign contribution above a certain level, don’t vote on an issue which that donor may bring before you. You can take a million dollars if someone’s willing to give it to you. Just don’t vote on the project when the donor which gave you the million dollars is before you.
More than one Council member pointed out some of the ways to get around the proposal. There’s an old saying: don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.
Mayor Chirico, who has been so vocal about Naperville being a leader on other issues, believes Springfield should lead the way on ethics:
(The Mayors full statement can be seen here. It's about 4 and 1/2 minutes long. )
Absorb that for a few seconds: defer to Springfield to strengthen ethics.
Has the Mayor spoken to Speaker Madigan about possible ethics reforms?
Mayor Chirico also pointed out changes the state may eventually be looking at “are not sort of aligned with what Councilwoman Sullivan spoke to, in terms of, you know, influence through campaign contributions, they’re really corruption related.”
So defer to Springfield, those renowned ethical warriors, on an issue you believe they’re not going to address, and isn’t ‘aligned’ with the proposal? (As an aside, during discussions regarding the proposed humane ordinance, the Mayor suggested deferring to Springfield on that topic. Council would still be waiting.)
The dialogue on Council moving forward on this proposal should be interesting. We’re looking forward to it, as well as who may voice support for the proposal but try to derail it by adding conditions which would make the proposal unworkable.
It’s been said that the most important elections are local. The next municipal election is in April of 2021. If you believe that our local elected officials should not be voting on a proposal from a petitioner which gave him or her large amounts of campaign contributions, consider letting the mayor and Council know your feelings (contact information below). Strengthening ethics is not something elected officials are inclined to do on their own.
Of course, you can also believe our elected officials can’t be influenced by campaign contributions. After all, this is Illinois.
Mayor and entire Council in one email:
Written by Mike Marek, with assistance.