Andy Shaw Biography

Andy Shaw is an award-winning Chicago journalist, and president and CEO of the Better Government Association . The BGA is a nonprofit and nonpartisan watchdog …Read More


More Columns

It takes an army — of voters — to get good government

The best political campaigns generally have two components: A good candidate with a strong message, and a solid organization that takes the candidate and the message to the voters, hoping they’ll cast an affirming ballot. Civic campaigns, including the fight for better government, also have …

Cicero trashes good government

Cicero is back in the news, and not the famous Roman orator or the avenue in Chicago. This is another story about the west suburban town that’s been famous for being infamous since mobster Al Capone lived there in the 1920s. The Better Government Association …

  • Clout contractor got $3.1M in CPS work after City Hall ban

    THE WATCHDOGS: Two years ago, the city banned Windy City Electric Co. from getting any more business over allegations it fraudulently landed millions in contracts set aside for companies owned by women. But the ban didn’t keep the politically connected contractor from getting more than $3 million in new work from the Chicago Public Schools.

  • Quinn weatherization, jobs program falling short of goals

    THE WATCHDOGS: Illinois legislators created the Urban Weatherization Initiative in 2009, promising that as much as $425 million in taxpayer money would go to train workers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods to identify and fix energy-efficiency problems in homes. Five years later, the program has fallen far short of its goals, records and interviews show.

  • Fighting public corruption — over lunch

    Lunch is a lot more than a midday meal when you run a nonprofit watchdog organization like the Better Government Association. In our world it’s an important opportunity to explain our mission to potential supporters. And once a year, in the fall, we invite our …Read More

  • Gov’s race spirals into fantasyland

    One of television’s hottest dramas is playing out daily right here in Illinois. No, it’s not “The Good Wife,” “Shameless” or “Chicago Fire,” and “Breaking Bad” isn’t coming back with a Windy City setting. I’m talking about the rock `m sock `m, neck-and-neck race for …Read More

  • Runway flap brewing at Chicago Executive Airport in northwest suburbs

    With O’Hare Airport expansion well underway, one runway battle is over, but now another is brewing in the northwest suburbs, where a study is being done that could result in expansion at Chicago Executive Airport, the former Palwaukee Municipal Airport.

  • Time to grade mayor’s performance

    Where does the time go? It’s been more than three years since we sat down with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to review the promises and progress of his first 100 days in office in an interview that was broadcast live on the Better Government Association’s …

  • CPS hiding records from the BGA and you

    Public schools have several FOIA exemptions — certain personnel and student performance information, for example — but most of their records are also our records. And when someone submits a FOIA request, the public agency generally has five business days to comply. But CPS regularly breaks the rules.

  • Pension crisis spilling over into suburbs

    Unless you’ve been living in the Deep Tunnel, you’ve probably heard the State of Illinois is facing a daunting public employee pension crisis, and Chicago — mainly its schools and municipal government — is tiptoeing around similar fiscal land mines that could blow up in the faces of retirees and taxpayers.

    The Watchdogs: Big profits for Pritzkers, Daley pal Jack Higgins on costly Chicago FBI deal

    THE WATCHDOGS: When the government was seeking a new Chicago FBI headquarters, it gave the deal to Jack Higgins — a friend of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. Higgins brought in Penny Pritzker, who would go on to be a top campaign fund-raiser for President Barack Obama and is now his secretary of commerce. The $125 million FBI complex turned out to be a profitable venture for the Pritzker family and Higgins but not as good a deal for taxpayers.

    Straight answers from Quinn and Rauner hard to come by

    “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” That famous question, posed by Sen. Howard Baker during 1973 congressional hearings on the Nixon administration’s Watergate scandal, has been asked of political leaders embroiled in crises for the four-plus decades since then. The …

    Enough with all the Inspector Clouseaus

    Inspector General or Inspector Clouseau? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. The former is a title for a job that, done right, shines a bright enough light on a government agency and holds enough of its public officials accountable to increase honestly, efficiency, transparency …

    The hidden lessons from closing 50 schools

    The scrap heap of Illinois history is piled high with long-forgotten government reports. Many of them deserve their fade into tattered obscurity, but occasionally a research effort merits a bright spotlight. And that’s the case with an incisive, hard-hitting task force study — released in …

    Don’t let animal care go to the dogs

    We had a dog when I was growing up, a spaniel named Toby that was sweet, frisky and a little neurotic, like the rest of the family. Dogs also populated our entertainment world, including “Lassie” and “Rin Tin Tin” on their weekly TV shows, Snoopy …

    Springfield, here we come

    The Capitol in Springfield is where elected officials allocate most of our state tax dollars, make major decisions that affect our lives, and manage a government wracked with chronic fiscal and ethical problems. Springfield is also a small media market where, despite hard work and …

    We never beg — we sue

    One of my favorite TV shows in the ‘80s was the “People’s Court,” where average citizens argued small cases in front of feisty Judge Joseph Wapner. The show inspired an entire genre of quasi-real courtroom programs that continue to populate the airwaves today with the …