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Illinois Country Living


Duane Noland

Duane Noland,President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Commentary:

Rebuilding a Culture of Integrity
We need integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community

It’s ironic that when we have so much to be proud of with the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday and the election of Barack Obama, that the lack of ethics in Illinois politics, by a few, has made our state a joke on talk shows. It has also distracted our leaders’ attention away from the serious issues facing our state.

The Touchstone Energy® cooperatives’ pledge is to live by four simple principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. These are enduring principles that will lead to success. Your co-op directors and employees espouse these core values. If only our state’s elected representatives would live by those values, Illinois political scandal and abuse would not be on the nightly news.

Cooperative is not only a business model, it is a personal quality. It’s a good thing to have a healthy debate of the issues, but partisan politics in the extreme accomplishes nothing.

Ethics is not a partisan issue. It’s not just a business or political issue. From Gov. Ryan to Gov. Blagojevich and from Enron to the Bernard Madoff Wall Street scandal, there is plenty of blame and shame to go around. This is a trust issue and it will require serious change from our leadership and real involvement from our citizens if we are going to rebuild a culture of integrity.

Illinois is a much better state than what is being portrayed and we deserve better. To that end, Governor Quinn has formed the Illinois Reform Commission and I’ve been asked to serve on this commission. We are looking at ways to restore integrity to Illinois government.

This is not a typical government-appointed task force made up of well-known political figures.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins heads the commission. The other commissioners each have great professional expertise and a wide range of experiences. They include victims of corruption and experts from business, law enforcement, government, education, military and not-for-profit community groups.

This commission’s hearings have been open to the public, and although we are wrapping up our meetings this month, you can go to www.Reform
IllinoisNow.org to learn more.

Subject areas we are discussing are transparency, campaign finance, state contracts and procurement, government structure (term limits and the redistricting process), enhanced enforcement and penalties, and codes of conduct.

There have been repeated attempts during the last 10 years at some kind of ethics reform. But they’ve nibbled around at the edges. So the public is understandably skeptical. This time I hope we will see real change.

Electric co-ops are governed democratically, just like our state and federal governments. Our co-ops and our local, state and national governments work best when citizens are involved. You need to attend your co-op’s annual meeting, read your local co-op newsletter, know who the candidates are for your co-op’s board of directors, and review the bylaw changes and financial statements. It’s your business.

This is a critical time to be both an involved co-op member and citizen. Energy and climate change legislation are high on the agenda for Congress. The upward pressure on electric rates could be huge.

The legislation being proposed will create some kind of carbon tax. The question is, will it be a direct carbon tax or a more indirect carbon cap and trade system where the market will determine the cost? Either option will increase your energy bills. The only question is how much, and that is something very few people are talking about.

This is a political decision being made in the halls of Congress right now and the time frame has been accelerated. This is why we have been asking you to get involved and make your voice heard through the Our Energy Our Future program. You can go to www.ourenergy.coop to send an e-mail to your member of Congress and U.S. Senators expressing your concerns about keeping energy affordable. Get involved.

 


Former Illinois State Senator Duane Noland is the President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, Springfield.

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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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