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Andy Shaw Biography

Andy Shaw is an award-winning Chicago journalist, and president and CEO of the Better Government Association . The BGA is a nonprofit and nonpartisan watchdog …Read More

 

More Columns

Readers explain why people don’t vote

Last week’s column on civic “disengagement” — my term for the millions of Illinois residents who aren’t registered to vote in Tuesday’s primary, or won’t bother to cast a ballot even if they are eligible —prompted interesting emails from readers who are definitely engaged. One …

Get ready for another miserable voter turnout

America’s first National Voter Registration Day came and went last September with the visibility and impact of a gnat on an elephant’s back. The admirable goal of the organizers was to use rallies, teach-ins and celebrity media spots and appearances to highlight the little-known fact …

Sounding alarm on Fire Department weaknesses

The Chicago Fire Department is a city agency the Better Government Association watches closely, and with good reason — emergency work saves lives when it’s done well, and imperils them when it’s not. Our latest investigation of the CFD, which looked at lengthy ambulance response …

Nail down where candidates stand

The Better Government Association doesn’t endorse or rate political candidates, participate in election campaigns or back Democrats, Republicans or any other party. As a non-partisan, non-profit watchdog organization, that’s not what we’re about, so we leave the political analysis to others. Our mission is to …

How to avoid another bad parking meter deal

This apocalyptic winter has been a painful reminder that Chicago periodically resembles the North Pole. But fortunately, when mountains of snow block our streets and alleys, we can call an alderman to demand a city plow. And when we’re tired of bone-rattling rides over pothole-riddled …

Reagan’s home town ducked disaster

Plans are underway in the town of Dixon, a hundred miles west of Chicago, for a third — yes, a third — statue of its most prominent native son, former President Ronald Reagan. This one will depict “Dutch” as a summer lifeguard, where, according to …

When government gets it right

One of the questions I fielded most often when I joined the Better Government Association in 2009 was this one: Why don’t you highlight more examples of good government — public officials and agencies that deliver services honestly, transparently and efficiently? My answer, initially, went …

Watchdog to-do list for 2014

It’s “show time” again in Springfield — Gov. Pat Quinn kicks off the new legislative session with a State of the State speech on Wednesday — and what a difference a couple of months can make. The unexpected success of the fall veto session and …

A charity donation can be hinky, too

Let’s say a trustee on the board of a public pension plan is running for political office, and solicits campaign contributions from the fund’s investment advisers — firms the trustee has the power to hire or fire. That could be viewed as blatantly unethical — …

When a teen plays cop

The teenage son of DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba was too young to vote, buy a beer or work as a deputy in his father’s cop shop. But that didn’t stop the sheriff’s department from helping Patrick Zaruba, then a 17-year-old high school student, access …

Don’t give this county crowd another buck

Dorothy Brown’s 13-year reign as Cook County’s Circuit Court Clerk gets mixed reviews, but two things are pretty evident: She’s bold, and politically connected. Bold enough to push legislation in Springfield that would raise about $13 million a year by adding $20 to the per-case …

Top Ten investigations of 2013

In the spirit of the season, here’s what we consider the Better Government Association’s “Top Ten Investigations of 2013” — not in order of importance because that’s too arbitrary, but chronologically: ◆ In February, “License to Swill” looked at police union contracts that apparently date …

Rep. Rush should face ethics probe

Some of you may have read or heard about a Better Government Association investigation of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times last weekend. It raised serious concerns about Rush’s inability to recall basic facts and justify his actions on a …

Pension reform nowhere done

Public employees, past and present, consider the financial sacrifices they’re being asked to swallow in the state’s pension deal an unconstitutional betrayal by the Illinois lawmakers who supported the bill. And on the other side of the issue, many fiscal conservatives claim the bill doesn’t …

Pensions, politics and peccadilloes

The big pension story last week was Springfield’s long-overdue passage of a comprehensive reform plan that includes a fiscal fix and some key anti-abuse provisions. That’s huge. Now it’s off to court to see if the plan is constitutional. And then to resuscitate some of …

From zero to $100k in a year

Illinois taxpayers have easy access to very few public documents with the potential to shine a light on possible conflicts of interest involving high-level state and local officials with power over jobs, contract and budgets. One is the Statement of Economic Interest they’re required to …

City Hall in for a major reform

ANDY SHAW: Good news — Chicago is actually on the verge of a very significant reform: passage of an ordinance creating the City Council Office of Financial Analysis, aka COFA. With COFA, Chicago will join San Diego, New York and Pittsburgh — and, of course, Congress and the Illinois General Assembly — in establishing an independent office to provide lawmakers with financial assessments of budgets and other big-dollar proposals. It’s about time. But the ordinance, as written, has some weaknesses.