For the record, Mike Jacobs, a state senator from the Quad Cities, has been aware of me zero times in his life.
I say that to set the record straight, so that he -- or anybody else -- doesn't mistakenly think that I come to this debate with any high and mighty sense of self.
I've never written any laws, sponsored any bills or voted on anything in Springfield, never stood in the public eye in the way any of our 177 state legislators have. And I realize that.
But I do vote. And I am a citizen of this state. So I have a say.
Now let's consider Jacobs. I've been aware of him three times in my life.
First was when he replaced his father, Denny, in the Senate. Jacobs pere was a credible, if somewhat excessively partisan, lawmaker, but it was back in the days when the state needed strong Democrats to offset the strong Republican machinery of the Jims, Thompson and Edgar. When I saw fils following pere, I was worried. I'm always leery of elected office as a birthright, just as I am leery of it as a sinecure. But I'm also willing to be proved wrong.
I thought I was proved wrong a year or two ago, when I was aware of Mike Jacobs a second time. The senator made news by storming into the Blue Room, as I recall, straight from a confrontation in the governor's office. He recounted for Capitol reporters and the rest of Illinois how Gov. Rod Blagojevich had threatened to punch Jacobs to get him to support a project the governor cared about. In addition to the knuckle sandwich as means of persuasion, the governor threatened to eviscerate Jacobs' career and gut funding for things in Jacobs' district.
I was outraged at Blagojevich's actions and thrilled that -- at last! -- someone in the legislature was going to stand up to the charlatan governor in a baldly concrete way.
It took a while longer for the pathetic Blagojevich to collapse, but I was heartened to see a legislature finally doing what was right, with no senators voting against impeachment on the day Illinois started to have a chance to breathe fresh air again.
And now we have time three, with Jacobs the other day mocking former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins for Collins' anger over a legislative panel cutting him off at the knees by ignoring reform recommendations Collins has been pushing.
Jacobs imitated a crying baby in ridiculing Collins, instructing him on the ways of legislative horse-trading, saying something along the lines of "that's how it works down here."
I am so angry with Jacobs as I type this that for the first time in my life I think I can begin to understand Rod Blagojevich.
How can the man who was so outraged at Blagojevich physically threatening him forget that moment and mock Collins?
I'd like to remind Jacobs that if there's anyone not in need of instruction in "how it works" in Springfield, it's the man who spent several years working to put former Gov. George Ryan in jail.
Collins knows how it works, Sen. Jacobs. All too well. That's probably why he was visibly angry after being sold out by a bunch of arrogant lawmakers who think they know better how it works than Collins and fellow members of his Illinois Reform Commission, who spent weeks aggressively studying the culture of corruption in this state and how to end it.
What Jacobs and the rest of the bunch in Springfield had better realize is that there are a lot more people lined up with Collins and commission patron Gov. Pat Quinn and federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald than there are with the political status quo.
Sure, Jacobs and the crew he fronts for may win this one. They control the machinery, after all. That's how it, y'know, works.
But they won't win the war. It will be a hollow and short-celebrated victory. The people of Illinois need to contact their senators and representatives on this, today.
Collins and the earnest, diligent commission members worked hard and thoughtfully to examine what went wrong -- what has been going wrong -- and to come up with ways to set it right.
Illinois, inexplicably, has tolerated a certain level of corruption from its public officials. We can thank Blagojevich for being so brazen in pushing the limits that we have reached the end of our toleration.
The reform recommendations put forth by Collins' commission may not be perfect, but with Jacobs running around making baby sounds and with Roland Burris on tape disgustingly trying out a little extortion of his own in coyly telling the governor's brother that if his firm didn't get a big client before the end of the year that he'd be forced to rake in his cash as counsel to a law firm, they deserve an up-or-down vote, unfiltered and untrammeled by the folks who know the way it's done in Springfield.
That's a long sentence, but I'll make it short: Up-or-down vote on the Collins Commission recommendations, Springfield. Then we'll have clearly drawn lines for when we pick the next legislature. We're sick of this.
The horses are out of the barn. No more trading, folks.