Cheers to a decision that keeps on track the $177 million needed for a passenger rail line between Moline and Chicago. That money had been at risk as new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office reviewed the project. With just days to spare this summer,the Illinois Department of Transportation committed to providing matching funds for the project and sought an extension. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, who along with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, had lobbied the governor hard for the project, announced that the new deadline is Sept. 30, 2017.
Cheers to both lawmakers for keeping this essential Quad-Cities economic engine moving.
Federal Rail Administration administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said in announcing the development, "This would not have happened without the strong partnership FRA has with the Illinois delegation and it would not have happened without Rep. Bustos’ unwavering persistence." The decision is especially good news for Moline which has kept its commitment to building the multi-model passenger rail station and business development that will serve it. As a result, The Q could be completed as early as March or April. Hats off to Moline leaders, taxpayers, and all who are continuing to drive this transformative development.
Cheers to the Illinois State Board of Elections’ refusal this week delay a hearing on troubling questions surrounding state Auditor General Frank Mautino’s campaign spending while he was a state lawmaker. And while we’re at it, once again ...
Jeers to the embattled auditor general for his failure to resign even as twin state and federal investigations continue into that spending from his legislative days. Concerns surfaced almost immediately after he was appointed by his legislative colleagues to a 10-year term in the constitutional office created in 1970 to combat corruption. Meanwhile, Mr. Mautino has steadfastly refused to address them.
This week the state election board voted 7-1 to deny his most recent complaint that such a hearing would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in an ongoing federal investigation. As a result, Jim Tenuto, the board’s assistant executive director, said a hearing could take place in a month or so, according to a story in the Ottawa Times by David Giuliani. Mr. Mautino represented Ottawa and the Illinois Valley area from 1991 until he retired to become the state’s top fiscal watchdog.
The auditor general has a high-powered law firm to represent him. Meanwhile, the "investigator" doing the heavy lifting is a private citizen from Streator. His requests for help, including from GOP leaders who have been highly critical of the Mautino’s spending, have so far been ignored. On Monday, Mr. Giuliani reports, David Cooke picked up an ally. In written comments, Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, asked the panel to investigate Mr. Mautino’s spending. "Why are you -- the elections board -- forcing a private citizen, David Cooke, to prosecute this case on his own dime?" Mr. Andrzejewski asked.
It’s an excellent question. But whether the understaffed and underfunded election board will or even can take on the role of investigator is by no means certain. They haven’t done investigations of their own in years. Besides, Mr. Tenuto told our sister newspaper, the dual role would be inappropriate. "It’s almost like a judge prosecuting a case," he said. But can’t the board hire an independent investigator to do that work? If such spending needs legislative approval, lawmakers should give it. House Speaker Michael Madigan has reportedly said he expects his former legislative lieutenant to be vindicated. Surely an independent investigation would help to do that.
The state cannot afford to sit this one out any longer. In December, Mr. Mautino will be eligible to receive a $60,000 a year pension bump for having finished a full year as the state’s chief financial watchdog.
He must be considered innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
But his employers, the Illinois General Assembly and the Illinoisans he serves, have every right to demand the answers he has refused to provide.
In the meantime, the charges have impacted the effectiveness of this essential office and contributed to negative view of our state nationwide.