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Cook County Board Prodded to Take Stand Against Corruption

The Cook County Board passed an anti-corruption resolution Wednesday, sparked by members of Represent.Us, a national non-profit advocating for cleaner government at local and state levels and eventually in Washington.

“The resolution put forward today…serves as a model for local and state legislation, and is also a comprehensive reform plan to fix our broken elections, end secret money, and stop political bribery,” said Matthew Peterson, a member of the Illinois chapter of Represent.Us. Peterson, a Cook County native, spoke about the importance of ethics legislation during the board meeting.

Represent.Us, which has 700,000 members in 22 states, asserts that its strength is in its numbers, and intends on playing the long game to ensure that meaningful change will take place. But the grassroots have already started to grow in Illinois where five other counties have passed similar anti-corruption resolutions by ballot, each resolution passing with at least 87 percent of the vote, Peterson said.

The resolution calls for stronger ethics legislation through strengthening campaign finance laws and increased transparency for campaign financing so that the electorate is informed on the sources from which politicians are receiving funding. The Cook County Board of Commissioners also supported the barring of all elected officials from lobbying after one year of leaving public office, an infamous problem in politics known as the revolving door.

“This was a small sliver, you know, but you have to start somewhere,” said Rikky Hariman, member of the Illinois chapter of Represent.Us. “The idea is if we work at the local level, we can build a movement,” she said.

When it comes to corruption in government, Chicago and Illinois as a whole, are usually in the spotlight. However Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski(16th) said the old pillars of the Chicago political guard are falling by the wayside.

Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (16th) (Courtesy: Cook County Legislative Website)

“You look at the County Government last year and it actually did what it is supposed to do by repealing a $200 million regressive tax that stemmed from the fact that the people’s voices were heard and their commissioners responded,” Tobolski said in an interview after the board meeting. He was referring to the penny-per-ounce soda tax, which was repealed last October after a massive public outcry.

Stephanie Holt, another member of the Illinois chapter of Represent.Us, said while the country is facing massive levels of partisanship, Represent.Us is reaching out to people on all parts of the political spectrum to end corruption in the government.

“We are cross-partisan,” she said. “Meaning we embrace Republicans, Democrats, far left, far right and everybody in the middle. We are all working together for the same objective to change the broken system.”

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