Thursday, July 16, 2009

Matteson Moves in Wrong Direction

The SouthtownStar reports that the wife of Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore has been promoted and given a raise by the village of Matteson.

The mayor claims that "We have nothing to hide," but this promotion of a spouse is still an embarrassment for Matteson and the South Suburbs. It signals that politics as usual is still alive and casts a pall over Ashmore's leadership. This single act demonstrates that the corrosive system of patronage and reserving jobs for family members has spread from Chicago, infecting the Southland and poisoning our politics.

Mayor Ashmore hints that his wife is qualified "and maintained he had nothing to do with his wife landing a new job." Even if this was true, it's hardly a credible claim.

So why even try to make it?

Giving a job to your spouse is never going to look legitimate. Especially not in Illinois. Toni Ashmore will forever be tainted as the woman whose husband is the mayor. And she will have to live with the whispers that, if not for her husband, she wouldn't have gotten the job. Regardless of how talented or deserving she is.

Ethics are not the standards we have in good times, but the standards we hold unto when we are tested. Both Toni and Andre have been tested here, and they have come up short. Both have exhibited a lack of sound political judgment. Both have settled for the decaying political culture that has driven Illinois to the depths where we currently reside.

The Ashmore example stands in stark contrast to the example provided by President Barack Obama. Obama's message of change is being translated into moving the country forward. Ashmore's message of nepotism harkens back to the old corrupt system of patronage that has basically ruined Illinois. And it tells us that the connection between Rod Blagojevich and the Ashmores is stronger than we realized.

This is no small matter. Trying to bring good, honest government to the South Suburbs will undoubtedly be difficult. And we have to keep our eyes upon the fresh young faces that emerge, looking for evidence that this is their intention. It appears that Mayor Ashmore is looking more to Mayor Daley as a model than to Barack Obama. And that's a shame...

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