Last week we ran a story about the village of Lyons as a print publication partner of the Better Government Association. We hope you got a chance to read it – if not, you can find it at www.RBLandmark.com.
The BGA approached us about publishing the story because it recognized the Landmark as the only newspaper in and around Lyons that might draw readers to such a piece – a well-researched, documented piece of reporting that raises serious questions about just who is benefiting from the policies being pursued by that village's current administration.
While this newspaper does not cover Lyons in any regular way, what goes on there does have some crossover effect on Riverside and Brookfield. For example, when a village government crafts a tax increment financing district that appears to benefit a generous political donor at the expense of taxpayers in neighboring towns, that's something those folks ought to know.
When a political organization seeks not only to control the coffers at village hall but also of every other taxing body in town, that should raise red flags and draw attention. When an elected official hikes his own salary, uses a rubber-stamp village board to eliminate roadblocks to perpetual power and puts family members – including one who was thrown in federal prison for bid-rigging – back on the public payroll, it's a slap in the face to hard-working taxpayers.
Many of those taxpayers, without a story such as the one reported by the BGA and published by the Landmark, might never have been aware of exactly how their town is being run.
It's an illustration of the crisis facing small towns all over this nation. The old model that sustained local journalism – heck, even big outfits like the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times – isn't going to cut it in the future.
In the past 15 years, local newspapers across the area have simply disappeared or have slashed their newsrooms so much that the publications are barely recognizable as newspapers.
Here at the Landmark, which is committed to covering Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside, we aren't immune from the pressures facing local journalism. While we'd like to cover Lyons in a deeper fashion, we just don't have the resources to do it.
Conditions like that have created opportunities for some people, including powerful local and regional politicians, to snap up legacy titles and transform them into mouthpieces where political agendas are pushed while trying to project a facade of objectivity.
Typically, the BGA pursues stories with a greater regional impact, but what it uncovered in Lyons was so alarming, they decided that a little town whose political activities would normally fly under the radar was worth a deep dive.
On behalf of the residents of Lyons and those in Brookfield and Riverside who might be affected by decisions made there, we'd like to say thanks to the BGA. We were proud to partner with you on such an important story.