It seemed like a master-of-the-obvious move to we citizenry in the Metro East. But GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka's quick stop in Edwardsville last week represented a seminal moment in Illinois politics.
Lawsuit abuse has finally become a key plank in somebody's statewide campaign platform.
For years, the problem festered in the regional dusk, relegated to our corner of the state and essentially ignored by the big-picture decision makers in Springfield. Heck, our very own elected senators and representatives weren't complaining about it, so why should those from Chicago, Schaumburg, Joliet, or Champaign give a care?
The people of Edwardsville and Belleville should clean up their own courts. Why should the rest of Illinois have to do it for them?
The here-and-now answer is a microeconomic one, framed by Honda's decision not to come here, by that of the many manufacturers who've chosen not to expand in Illinois or, when they get the chance, to simply leave.
Illinois cares about Madison and St. Clair Counties today because when it comes to business, our reputation now precedes all of them, too.
It bears repeating that we're not in 1970 anymore. This is a global economy-- mobile, hyper-competitive and disrespectful of tradition for tradition's sake. No longer will Illinois attract job growth tomorrow just because it had it yesterday. We have to be better for business than the next state, because they want it as bad as we do.
Topinka's emphasis here was on the negative impact of venue shopping, to which Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis responded that progress is, indeed, being made.
We don't disagree. But we have to wonder-- why didn't she or anybody else say something six years ago? When Randy Bono and John Simmons were systematically drowning our county in asbestos lawsuits, when Brad Lakin was leading the league in class action filings, when Stephen Tillery and Judge Byron were teeing-up Corporate America-- why didn't anybody speak up then?
Because they didn't, the genie is officially out of this bottle. Fueled by years of cooperating greed and ambivalence, our woeful business reputation is steadfast and was hard-earned.
The road back won't be easy. But if we wish our state to be recognizable 25 years from now, it had better be worth taking.