By: Mark Glennon*
“I am exercising my moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a process that frankly victimizes taxpayers.”
Yes, Comptroller Susana Mendoza actually said that.
It’s how she began both her Monday press release and press conference announcing that her office would no longer assist in collecting red-light camera fines. The comptroller’s office helps municipalities collect many types of overdue fees and fines by subtracting them from tax refunds owed by the state, but no longer for despised red-light camera fines. A video of her press conference from ABC Chicago is here and her press release is here.
A Chicago Sun-Times editorial rightly suggested that legislation, not comptroller discretion, is the proper way to fix the red-light camera problem. Legally, Mendoza apparently is free to exercise that discretion.
But it’s her invocation of “moral authority” that taxpayers might, um, question.
As comptroller, she has essentially converted that office into a political propaganda operation funded with state resources. The most common messages of that operation are that Illinois’ financial problems are former Governor Rauner’s fault, due mostly to a budget impasse she says Rauner caused, and taking credit for things she has little to do with. A few examples:
• State resources, which she is so concerned about, were used when her office included political propaganda like the following with 2017 tax refund checks she mailed:
• The Pritzker Administration openly thanked the comptroller’s office for providing research on its political piece called “The Rauner Wreckage Report” where it, too, blames Rauner for everything. It said this:
A special thank you to the Office of the Illinois Comptroller for groundbreaking and significant research on the true costs of the budget impasse and the state’s backlog of bills; this report is built on and extends that research with additional findings.
• On election day, she used her office to blast out a press release, a snippet from which is below. The Beachwood Reporter on Twitter likened that to releasing funds to buy you a free donut and cup of coffee on your way to the polls. In truth, all she did was print the check, which the comptroller does for state spending.
Mendoza has never held a job in her adult life that wasn’t thanks to the Chicago Machine, and the Machine’s central line of business is using public resources to victimize taxpayers. Her “mentor,” she said, was now indicted Chicago Alderman Ed Burke. She was married at Burke’s home, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Burke’s wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, presided over the ceremony.
Mendoza’s particular new target is SafeSpeed, the red-light camera company. The FBI has been looking at their conduct but no charges have been filed and the company has denied any wrongdoing. If those circumstances are enough to invoke Mendoza’s moral authority, perhaps she should start withholding paychecks from her countless colleagues that the feds are also looking at.
And will Mendoza’s actions have any impact? Of course not. It just means municipalities will hire bill collectors or use some other process. But since everybody hates red-light cameras, hot air passes as moral authority.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.