I’m always happy to hear from readers, whether they agree or disagree with what I’ve said. It’s that ongoing conversation that makes writing this blog such a rewarding experience.
Yesterday I heard from Chuck, who commented on my post about the alderman’s private email account and Web site. He wrote:
“You sound like a very bitter organization. You also sound like a an organization trying to oust Democratic elected officials. Alderman Silverstein is all over the 50th Ward map attending events, parties, funerals, business openings, business forums, CAPS meetings, etc.. She hosts countless information gatherings for her constituents, and is constantly doing her best to take care of peoples issues within the Ward. Her husband Senator Silverstein also attends most of events as well. From my experience, her office has helped me on multiple issues of which I’m thankful. Alderman Silverstein is an open book regarding her activities because she works tirelessly and is continuously out and about in the 50th Ward. I suggest you stop your baseless fear mongering. It’s tiresome, tedious and provides no value to the 50th Ward. Thank you for allowing my input.”
I appreciate that Chuck took the time to write, and think I understand his POV, but I respectfully disagree. My response follows:
I’m glad you’ve had positive interactions with the alderman. I do think, though, that you rely too much on the weekly photos of her attending events throughout the ward as evidence that she’s doing a good job. I don’t fault you for that. I’ve always said she excels at the ceremonial aspects of being alderman. There’s nobody better at ribbon-cutting, posing with smiling children, or standing behind a lectern introducing guest speakers at seminars that attract only a handful of residents. It’s the more substantive work—leadership—that is clearly beyond her abilities or interest. It can’t be measured by photo ops.
The point of my post is that there is no reason for any alderman to have a private email account or Web site to transact the people’s business. The real issue is transparency: The City-provided systems are subject to FOIA requests, the private systems are not. You may not care how government works as long as you get what you need in city services when you need it. But it’s precisely because people don’t care about the mechanisms of government that our political system is so corrupt.
When those mechanisms are fully accessible to the public, voters get the facts about how the system really works. We can see how elected officials arrive at the decisions that affect our daily lives, something we can’t do when officials use private emails and Web sites that may collect, track, and store our private information without our knowledge or consent.
Overtaxed citizens are already paying for secure email and Web sites via the taxpayer-funded City system. It’s outrageous that we’re also paying through expense account reimbursements for private systems designed to keep the public’s business hidden.
There’s no hope for political reform in Illinois if people remember the pictures but don’t care about the stories behind those photo-ops. Our political system counts on voters to do just that.