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Tribune and Dennis Byrne tout “Open the Books”

Dennis Byrne wrote an insightful piece on wasteful suburban spending. He seems to have the same insight that we do regarding not only “corruption,” but the vast amount spent merely because no one is really minding the store.

With an entire class of people believing they were all going to retire millionaires off the value of their homes, too many citizens were just asleep at the switch or too silly to realize that the gravy-train has to end somewhere.

Byrne was nice enough to tout our site as well.

The real problem in the suburbs

In the Chicago area, why do 13 villages pay their managers salaries that top $200,000 a year? And why does my village, with its population of 33,000, have 23 employees making more than $100,000? Or 40 more that make between $80,000 and $100,000?

You’ll find similar numbers for local governments by going to openthebooks.com. Or by checking Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ roster of shame (cookcountytreasurer.com) for an idea why Cook County local governments are at least $140 billion in debt. Or, if you haven’t had enough, explore the Taxpayers United of America website.

Quickly, I’ll say that most local public employees are dedicated, hardworking and capable. But the first job of members of those boards and commissions is to protect their constituents. They don’t when their staffs or their local public employees unions cow them. They don’t when they treat their staffs like buddies. They don’t when they fail to post their budget in terms that everyone can understand. Or sketch the costs of their actions over the next 30 years. They don’t when they hand out nearly automatic raises to staff that exceed anything that employees get in the private sector in tough economic times.

The good professors missed the point. The problem in the suburbs isn’t so much that they’re becoming more like Chicago when it comes to corruption. It’s that their boards and commissions are becoming more like the rubber-stamp Chicago City Council.

Our data is having an impact, as are the increasing number of stories exposing this awful waste. However, even this story – and the literally 1000s of stories like it – will not be enough to bring change with out your continued support and aggressive action.

We all need to start showing up at town meeting insisting on levy reductions and steep cuts in staff and pay. If you aren’t cutting budgets by 10-15% in Illinois, you aren’t serious about local budget problems.


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