Chicago Magazine Asks Why Illinois is So Corrupt

Chicago Magazine has an interesting article on the sore subject of Illinois corruption. The article was written by Shane Tritsch who interviews several experts on Illinois political history. There’s no “good old days” of clean government in the Land of Lincoln. Tritsch explains a major reason for Illinois’ historical graft:

Owing to historical factors, Illinois developed a labyrinthine governmental structure that offered fertile ground in which corruption could sprout. The Illinois constitution of 1870, in effect until 1970, limited the amount of debt counties and municipalities could carry and taxes they could levy. When cities needed to fund improvements, they got around those constraints by creating new units of government with the capacity to borrow—a library district, for example, would be created to build and administer a new library. “The 1870 constitution almost forced you into multiple units of government if you were going to deliver services beyond your municipality or modernize your municipality,” says Redfield. Today the state contains almost 7,000 separate governmental fiefs—far more than any other state—ranging from counties, towns, and school and fire districts to water reclamation and mosquito abatement districts. Most have budgets to protect and authority to wield. “It’s very hard to stay on top of it all, and it creates many more opportunities for patronage,” says Cindi Canary. “It creates ways for small islands of graft and corruption to stay hidden.”

It appears that Illinois’ luck is running out. According to Forbes, Illinois is number two on the list of states Americans are fleeing behind New York:

at No. 2. Illinois is expected to lose 27,000 people this year, consistent with its average annual loss over the last five years. The losses are likely linked to the state's economy and tax structure. Job losses in manufacturing and industrial machinery are likely pushing people out of the state

The bond market has taken notice of Illinois’ debt problem. While Illinois can’t go legally bankrupt, creditors can refuse to extend credit. Illinois faces massive public pension crisis in the coming years. Unfunded liabilities will make Illinois a less desirable place to invest.

The Illinois economic situation was born in Illinois’ history of corruption. Shane Tritsch’s article is a decent history on Barack Obama’s home state. The Chicago segment of Illinois corruption is certainly unique. Below is an excellent segment from a National Geographic TV special on how Chicago was taken over by the Mob.


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As a former Illinois resident, I know all too well these different tax districts that are everywhere there.

My south suburb of Chicago had a park district police department. Yes, its own separate police department just for the parks! That in addition to the regular village police department. (population 25,000) No need for two departments by any means.

Yep, both departments were corrupt. The village one still is a huge problem I hear. It took years to disband the park district department. The powers that be, fought for keeping it all the way (on the taxpayer dime of course).

I remember the sleeping "on duty" park district police officer parked on my block, no where near a park.

Not only are corrupt police department bad for a village, they are costly. Not just because of the scams that drain money, but the lawsuits that result from bad policing.

Like the over $2 million the town wasted defending the cop who violated my dad's and two of my neighbors civil rights. This cop had made illegal arrests (the two neighbors), which my dad saw. Being a former MP he knew it was a bad arrest, so he attempted to stop it (thinking he was doing the cop a favor by stopping a costly mistake).

Never the less, about 30 neighbors witnessed the cop continue to break he law. He finally took off when he saw one of the other witnesses, a county judge walking quickly towards him when he heard the commotion and came out of his house. '

The judge was furious and sent the county police to arrest the village cop. It lead to a showdown between the departments (there was bad blood already as it was). It wasn't the first time or last time. The same thing happened when the state police and the FBI had to arrest village cops.

It took years to get the cop (and his chief)fired. Many tax dollars were lost having to have to clean up our former village police department. The only winners, a bunch of lawyers.

How did it all start, a stupid little fight between kids!!!