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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 shine a light on government and hold public officials accountable through our investigations, lawsuits, civic engagement and advocacy work.

But we do ask candidates running for office to be honest and open about where they stand on key issues — especially one that’s near and dear to our watchdog hearts: Reforming Illinois government, which has been mired for decades in a messy mix of public corruption, unethical practices, gross inefficiency and fiscal irresponsibility.

So in an effort to inform voters in advance of next month’s primary election, the BGA and Reboot Illinois, a non-partisan digital and social media firm, asked candidates for governor in the March 18 contest to respond to our questionnaire.

We posed an array of timely “reform” questions about taxes, transparency, accountability, streamlining, redistricting, term limits and more.

Here are a few highlights from the candidates’ collective responses:

◆ Redistricting. All but one of the hopefuls favors some type of legislative redistricting reform.

◆ Term limits. Every candidate supports a version of term limits, but they have different definitions of what that means.

◆ Lieutenant Governor. Despite talk in Springfield about dumping the “Light Gov” office, these candidates all envision a significant role for their running mates if they’re elected.

There are also areas of considerable disagreement, and we encourage you to visit our respective web sites — www.bettergov.org and www.rebootillinois.com — to see where they’re at odds, and read the rest of the survey.

You’ll notice we didn’t get every candidate to answer every question — two of the GOP hopefuls declined to respond to any of the 10 succinct “yes” or “no” queries — but they all completed the four short essay questions.

And as Reboot’s Chief Operating Officer Madeleine Doubek notes in a recent online post, the questionnaire, overall, “contributes to a robust exchange of ideas about the key challenges Illinoisans face and must address.”

It can also play an important role in the decision-making process by putting candidates on the record, which enables voters to know what they’re thinking, or at least willing to say publicly.

Beyond that, a questionnaire like this can serve as a benchmark for determining, at some point before the next election, if the eventual winner is keeping his word.

Case in point: The BGA’s 2011 Mayoral Election questionnaire, which nailed down then-candidate Rahm Emanuel’s position on controversial issues like privatization, strengthening the inspector general’s office, and reducing mayoral and aldermanic salaries.

Now you can go back to that survey on the BGA website to see how Mayor Emanuel answered those questions, and whether he appears to have kept his campaign promises, or gone astray.

The same is true of this BGA/Reboot questionnaire, and a subsequent one we’ll be sending out to the winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Because no matter who’s elected governor, at least we’ll have a better idea of what to expect, and an ability to determine if our expectations are being met.

That’s what shining a light and holding them accountable is all about.

Andy Shaw is president and CEO of the Better Government Association.

Email: ashaw@bettergov.org

Twitter: @andyshawbga



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