Ever hear of the Better Government Association (BGA)? Hope you have, but if not, read on.
The other evening at the Miramar Restaurant in Highwood, I had the pleasure of attending one of their functions hosted by BGA board member Luke Kolman together with Charlotte and Bob Don, Judy and Rick Fenton, and Torjus and Jessica Lundevill. Guests in attendance included noted investigative reporter Pam Zekman and prominent local pol Terri Olian -- a member of neighboring Highland Park's City Council who has tossed her hat into the ring for next year's mayoral contest in that tony Chicago suburb. How fitting that they, and others no doubt, were in attendance, for they highlight what it means to be a person of integrity who possesses true grit. Though featured speaker was acclaimed author Jonathan Eig (Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster), the show belonged to Andy Shaw, BGA's Executive Director and outstanding former WLS-ABC political reporter and commentator.
How fitting it was for Mr. Eig to present his new book, focusing in on the era of blatant and outward mob control of the city with big shoulders -- its politicians, prosecutors, judges, and police. For it was in the general era in which Capone arose that the BGA was first formed (1920s) to root out corruption, and the evils found festering within the bowels of Chicago's political structure. Unfortunately, those types of evils still are, and will be, with Chicago, even knowing there will be a changing of the guard on the fifth floor of city hall early next year. Times change, but political corruption seemingly does not, even if it takes new forms to go with the times. There still must be a beacon that shines on and exposes all this; the BGA is charged with the lead here -- much as it and the Chicago Sun-Times did with their sting operation at the Mirage Tavern (731 N. Wells) in the late 1970s.
With his skills, passion and background, Andy was described during the evening as taking the reigns of the second golden era of the BGA (the first was under the guidance of BGA Exec. Dir., Terry Brunner). How fitting a description for Andy, referencing the work that the BGA has undertaken for itself over the last many decades. When Andy took over a mere 18 months ago now, the BGA was a skeleton of its former self. Today, it has arisen like the Phoenix. With 13 employees -- up from a couple when Andy became its director -- the BGA is now an incredible force with which to be reckoned. Just go to its website: www.bettergov.org. And, Andy could not be better as its ringmaster. But, to do what the BGA does requires our constant help because, as was made clearly known at the Miramar, without sustaining funds on an ongoing basis coming into its coffers, the BGA will not be the presence we require to root out crime and corruption in the city, the county and even in many of the city's surrounding suburbs. Its voice is being heard, but we must ensure it bellows from the rafters. It is once more an immense force; let's keep it that way.