The Illinois Business Roundtable (a sort of Chamber of Commerce) released some really excellent research on the 2008 question as to whether we voters should exercise our option to improve our Constitution through calling a convention.
The full report is available from their website here.
Really great stuff on the previous three constitutions and the conventions that led to their successive replacements.
Their conclusion, however, is rather tepid, which is that they aren't interested in a convention. Their reasoning is that because the legislature could be solving big picture issues (like creating good schools in poor areas, or ending the reverse Robin Hood regressive taxes we impose, or modernizing our elections), we don't need to amend the constitution. We just need the legislature and the governor to get to work.
In my view there are structural deficiencies to state government (particularly the excessive authority vested in the Office of the Governor, regardless of who happens to hold the seat) that only a constitutional amendment can solve, and thus a convention is an excellent tool to get some amendments on the 2010 ballot.
But more to the point, the notion that simply because a convention isn't absolutely required due to a clearly deficient constitution, we ought to reject the opportunity that a convention provides to create another avenue to improving Illinois government is wrong-headed.
Any chance we get to improve Illinois government we ought to take.
Those chances don't come around very often.
And when we get a chance to change our government in fundamental ways -- to let the people be heard in another venue and a different context -- that's a chance we need to embrace.
It's the politics of hope over the politics of fear and cynicism.
The position of hope is to say yes, let us take this opportunity to make things better.
The position of cynicism and fear is to say no, it will never work or the special interests won't bend or, more fundamentally, we can't ever really change anyway. So just give up and give in.
We'll never get good schools for poor children in Illinois.
We'll never give more voice to regular people in our elections and in our legislature.
We'll never have the politics that is a model for the nation instead of a political liability for presidential candidates.
I reject that defeatist thinking.
I'm sorry the Roundtable embraces it.
And I hope the people of Illinois join the next President of the United States in saying yes, we can.
And voting yes for the chance to change Illinois government.