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Better Government Organization to focus on Lake County

Andy Shaw (left) president CEO Better Government Associatitalks candidates for Lake County States Attorney Mike Nerheim (center) Chris Kennedy (right)

Andy Shaw (left), president and CEO of the Better Government Association, talks to candidates for Lake County States Attorney Mike Nerheim (center) and Chris Kennedy (right) before moderating a conversation with them at a legislative luncheon and business forum at the Midlane Country Club in Waukegan, hosted by the Lake County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 11, 2012 2:02AM

WAUKEGAN — The Better Government Association announced Thursday it is looking to expand its influence in Lake County during Lake County Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislating the Economy in an Election Year” business forum at Midlane Golf Resort.

Andy Shaw moderated a panel discussion with some candidates at the luncheon, and also talked about becoming more involved in Lake County politics through investigations. They are also looking to expand into Springfield.

The Chicago-based organization was formed 89 years ago during the corrupt era of Al Capone. “People were tired of Scarface calling the shots at city hall,” said Shaw. “They fought for clean elections and better candidates and they investigated the behavior of public servants,” he said.

Shaw came on board in 2009 after the organization had lost its longtime director and began to stagnate. When he arrived, there were two employees and a $300,000 budget. Now there are 15 employees and a $2.2 million budget.

Shaw was an investigative and political reporter for ABC Channel 7 for 26 years and decided to take a break in January 2009 after the presidential election. He needed to recharge his batteries, but it wasn’t long before he began thinking that he could be the one to rebuild the organization because he knew all the players and processes, and politics in Illinois was in a crisis with government living beyond its means and government being run for individuals.

He said the BGA works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency. “We investigate, litigate, advocate and educate,” said Shaw, adding that they are a no partisan group.

“Bad government, corrupt government undermines business,” he said. Part of the education process is training for over 1,000 regular citizens on how to file a Freedom of Information Request and how to understand budgets and contract documents. “We cannot do it ourselves to win this war for better government,” said Shaw.

“We need tips and leads. We’ve got some now, but we could use more,” he said. “We want to make sure the residents of Lake County are getting good public officials,” he said.

Shaw said he can be reached at (312) 386-9097 or by email at The Web site is

Chamber members also heard from Elliott Richardson about the creation of an insurance cooperative under the Affordable Care Act where low interest loans are used by private non-profit groups like the Small Business Advocacy Council, which he is president of, to set up and maintain health plans for small business owners.

“Seven out of ten small business can’t afford to provide insurance to their employees,” he said and those that do see increases of 30 to 40 percent.
“We’re on the 5-yard line of actually doing this,” he said, explaining that their application is expected to be approved after some changes in the very near future offering small business a place to get insurance that doesn’t have to worry about turning a profit, just keeping the costs down.

Shaw also presided over a panel discussion with U.S. State Rep. Robert Dold, R-Kenilworth, but his opponent in the 10th congressional district, Democrat Brad Schneider, was absent because of scheduling conflict. States Attorney candidates Democrat Chris Kennedy and Mike Nerheim were on the panel, and a second panel featured 31st Senate District candidates Joe Neal, a Republican, and Melinda Willen Bush, a Democrat, and State Rep. 53rd District Sid Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove. Mathias’ opponent, Democrat Carol Sente, was also absent.

The chamber then gave a number of other candidates a chance to make a short address to its members.

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