Every evening on my way to the train station I cross a bridge over the Chicago River. And almost every evening on the bridge come rain or shine, sleet or snow there is a man banging away on a homemade set of drums. He's pretty good, this man with his drumsticks and plastic buckets. He always does his best to get the passersby involved by chanting "Go! Go! Go! Go!" or shouting something topical at a pause, like "Cubs win!" or "It's the weekend!" (on Fridays). Today it was "Blagojevich sucks!" Pretty fitting on the day when our governor was hauled into court by the feds. See, he's topical.
For any of you who did not catch any portion of any news segment today, Illinois' governor Rod Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff John Harris were arrested at their homes around 6:15 a.m. on fraud and conspiracy charges for things like.... well, oh, you know nothing too big he thinks. Well except the gov he a huge fan of bribery. He then well he tried to get dissenting editors of the Chicago Tribune fired in exchange for help with the sale of Wrigley Field (owned by the Tribune) to the state. He also threatened to rescind state funds to a children's hospital because he didn't get the $50,000 in campaign contributions he wanted
The worst by far though was his attempted sale of the president-elect's vacant senate seat - a seat he and he alone can fill via appointment. His pay to play agenda for this seat was the straw that broke the camel's back. The feds had been investigating the gov for more than three years and his comments regarding this seat were what sent the feds to his home. According to Blagojevich, this seat was his golden goose. In his words, "(It's) a f*cking valuable thing. You just don't give it away. ... I've got this thing, and it's f*cking golden." Aside from a corrupt moral character, he's also got a bit of a potty mouth.
As a Chicagoan, it's embarrassing. I am incredibly proud to live where I live. Nov. 4 was an amazing day for this city and the state of Illinois. To have our image tarnished a little more than month later makes me angry. My mother called me tonight to talk about pretty boy Rod's arrest. My Michigander mom, fresh off Detroit's coverage of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's obstruction of justice conviction, pointed out that at least Michigan's corrupt politics stay at the city level. We're big time here in Chicago though. Our corrupt politics are statewide!
But the really embarrassing part is that Blagojevich ran on a election platform of cleaning up corrupt Illinois politics. This was a winning slogan because his predecessor, former Illinois governor, George Ryan, is barely into the second year of his 6.5 year jail sentence on federal corruption charges. It cannot be proven that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the U.S but as Robert Grant, special agent at the FBI Chicago office said today, "If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor."
As I listened to NPR today, coverage of the governor's arrest was thorough. It was the second story on the BBC's 10 a.m. new hour, for Pete's sake. This overabundance of coverage left me a bit peeved as I walked home, so that's why as I passed over the Chicago River on my way to the train I couldn't help but shout out "Blagojevich sucks!" during the drummer man's pause. I still think this is an amazing city in a wonderful state. Most days I will talk up its attributes to anyone who'll listen but today it was easier to scream that in fact our governor does sucks.