A political peak, but many valleys for the Great Lakes

By Andy Guy

Despite the election of former Illinois Senator Barack Obama as President of the United States, the crisis of leadership that plagues America's heartland seems to be deepening.

Because as the nation prepares to inaugurate the man from Chicago, the State of Illinois is preparing to impeach the pay-to-play governor Rod Blagojevich.

Al Franken and Norm Coleman continue a vicious fight over a Minnesota Senate seat.

And now Gary Becker, the soon-to-be-former mayor of Racine, WI, faces as many as 114 years in prison for being a pervert.

Didn't see that one coming. I interviewed Mayor Becker several times during my years on the Great Lakes beat, and covered his speeches in Chicago and Grand Rapids, MI and his testimony in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Becker wasn't the most articulate spokesperson. But he was (still is?) a strong advocate for reasoned policies to protect the health of the Great Lakes. And the movement to restore and sustain the Great Lakes is weaker if his level of leadership on the issue is not replaced.

Becker is just the latest rising Great Lakes leader to get himself caught up in scandal.

In 2008, we saw former NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer fall from power for a call girl.

We saw the defiant and deceptive spectacle of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatick trying to cover up corruption and an affair.

We even watched with embarrassment as Michigan State Representative Kevin Greene stumbled and mumbled in front of a state trooper with puke on his sweatshirt.

So the credibility of Great Lakes politics has experienced far too many lows recently, at a time when visionary and dedicated leaders with integrity are perhaps more urgently needed now than at any other time in regional history.

But the inauguration of President Barack Obama is a tremendous high. Hopefully we continue to raise the bar.