Pols lobby for and against con-con

October 30, 2008 4:59:08 PM PDT
Governor Rod Blagojevich says he isn't troubled by his sagging job approval ratings. A Chicago Tribune poll last week showed just 13 percent of potential voters approve of his performance. Blagojevich said that criticism comes with the territory.

"If I get bloodied up in the process, and there's some time when people aren't generally approving, I feel honored to get my a** kicked for the people," he said.

The governor has blamed his low approval ratings on the slumping economy. He says he remains optimistic about his chances for re-election in 2010.

Governor Blagojevich and corruption in Illinois have become the main arguments for those pushing for a rewrite of the Illinois constitution. A constitutional convention is being put before voters in this election.

One of the most important and controversial issues on the ballot in Illinois next Tuesday is whether to convene a con-con next year. A constitutional convention would rewrite the laws that elected officials have so much trouble dealing with, like tax reform, school funding, utility rates, legislative pay raises, ethics and the recall of unpopular politicians like Blagojevich, who is starring in a new TV ad from the proponents of con-con, including his own lieutenant governor.

"This is democracy at its best. It is the very best way for we, the people, to straighten out state government," said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.

Quinn, the leading proponent of a constitutional convention next year, is taking an unprecedented step Thursday by releasing a new TV ad that features his two-time running mate as Exhibit A in the case in favor of con-con.

Quinn says the state legislature, in its current condition of dysfunctional gridlock, is incapable of resolving tough issues. So it's time to elect delegates to a constitutional convention with a commitment to reform not protection of the status quo or beholden to lobbyists and special interests.

"The constitution of Illinois does not belong to the office holders, does not belong to the insiders, or the lobbyists, it belongs to the people of Illinois," Quinn said.

The opposition to con-con is being led by former governor Jim Edgar and former state comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch who attended the last Illinois con-con nearly 40 years ago with a rising political star named Rich Daley.

"We do not have a constitutional crisis in Springfield or in state government. We have a crisis of leadership. And that is what has to be changed," said Netsch.

"I think it would be a mistake to think you're going to rectify that problem by having a constitution convention and possibly a new constitution," said Edgar

The opposition with its deep pockets has been running TV ads for a couple weeks now. Supporters of con-con were hoping to get their ad on the air Thursday. But ABC7 is rejecting the ad because it implies that Governor Blagojevich is corrupt when he hasn't been charged with anything. We're told the ad is being modified to pass legal muster.

As for the referendum itself, if it passes next Tuesday, delegates would be elected to meet and propose changes the voters would approve or reject at the next election. The cost of con-con is between $20 and 80 million, depending on who's doing the estimating.


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