We're in trouble, Illinois.
With an imprisoned former governor and one, perhaps, on the way, we're the laughing stock of the world.
So current efforts underway by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins and his Illinois Reform Commission may be our best chance at redemption, but it won't come easy.
The urgency of all this was captured by Collins at a Tuesday news conference, Carol Marin wrote in the Sun-Times yesterday. Collins told the story of a father and his 9-year-old son who were looking at signs for the April 7 municipal elections. Pointing to a candidate's placard, the dad explained there was "an election for a new mayor." The kid, not missing a beat, asked: "Does that mean the old mayor went to jail?"
That's exactly what it meant in suburban Niles, the paper said. And that's pretty much what happened when Cicero town president Betty Lauren Maltese went to the big house. And it's all about "pay to play" politics -- politics as usual in much of Illinois. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Collins admitted that his commission may be a little naive.
"Naive and a little idealistic," he told Marin. "But nobody should mistake our professionalism for being weak-kneed or unable to go to battle in the appropriate way."
His intention is to straighten things out, clean up the hallowed halls and make Illinois residents proud. But, Marin said, he can't do it without a steady stream of support from those very residents.
"(The commission) needs the relentless roar of all our voices, loud enough to wipe the smirks off some legislators' faces," she wrote.
True reform will only come when the voters let the leaders know that we're "mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore."
Marin's Wednesday column calls for Illinois voters to "Demand legislators vote for real reform" before convening in May.