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Trio of cities advance anti-corruption measures

The government reform movement is gaining traction in some of America's biggest cities. Corruption investigations involving public officials in Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles have prompted changes, or proposed changes, to everything from campaign finance rules to the authority of individual city council members.

On Monday, Lori Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago's new mayor and immediately called for changing the culture of what has long been considered one of the most corrupt cities in the country. In her inaugural address, Lightfoot acknowledged that "putting Chicago government and integrity in the same sentence is ... well ... a little strange."

"For years, they've said Chicago ain't ready for reform," she said. "Well, get ready because reform is here."

The former federal prosecutor's first action was to sign an executive order ending the practice of aldermanic prerogative, which gave each council member control over almost every action by a city department in his or her district. Also called aldermanic privilege, the issue came to the forefront earlier this year when longtime Alderman Edward Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly trying to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King in his ward.

Lightfoot said aldermen would still have power to help people in their neighborhoods. "It simply means ending their unilateral, unchecked control over every single thing that goes on in their wards," the new mayor said. "Alderman will have a voice, not a veto."

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Here are reforms being considered in other major cities:

Baltimore: The City Council is considering a proposal to allow for removal of the mayor with the approval of three-fourths of its members. Now, the mayor can only be removed after being convicted of a crime. The proposal, which would require approval by the council and then by voters in a referendum, was prompted by the initial refusal of Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign in the wake of a growing scandal over hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of books she wrote. Pugh, who had been on leave citing health problems, resigned May 2.

Los Angeles: A City Council committee gave initial approval in April to a ban on developers contributing to local elections if they have projects pending before the city. It is thought to be the first ban of its kind in the country. The full council will take up the issue Thursday, considering a motion that would direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance and for the convening of town hall meetings on the subject. The council is responding to an FBI investigation reportedly looking into evidence of bribery, extortion and money laundering involving real estate investors, city politicians and their aides.

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Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley won the Congressional Management Foundation's Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility.

Official portraits

Some leaders don’t want to be held accountable. These two expect it.

Fitch is president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

There is probably no more important concept in the compact between elected officials and those who elect them than accountability. One of the founding principles of American democracy is that members of Congress are ultimately accountable to their constituents, both politically and morally. Most members of Congress get this, but how they demonstrate and implement that concept varies. The two winners of the Congressional Management Foundation’s Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility clearly understand and excel at this concept.

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Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda and others on stage

Donald Sutherland (left), Paul Mooney, and Jane Fonda performing in an anti-Vietnam War FTA (Free The Army) show in the Philippines in 1971.

Stuart Lutz/Gado/Getty Images

This young GI met Donald Sutherland in a bygone era. RIP to an original.

Page is an American journalist, syndicated columnist and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

News of Donald Sutherland's death at age 88 took me back to a day in 1971 when he was protesting the Vietnam War onstage with Jane Fonda and I was one of about 1,000 off-duty soldiers in their audience.

I hoped, in the spirit of John Lennon's anthem, to give peace a chance.

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Woman speaking at a microphone

Rep. Lucy McBath is the first lawmaker from Georgia to win a Democracy Awarrd.

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Surprise: Some great public servants are actually members of Congress

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

TheCongressional Management Foundation today announced the winners of the seventh annual Democracy Awards, CMF’s program recognizing non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices and by members of Congress. Two members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican, are recognized in four categories related to their work in Congress.

Americans usually only hear about Congress when something goes wrong. The Democracy Awards shines a light on Congress when it does something right. These members of Congress and their staff deserve recognition for their work to improve accountability in government, modernize their work environments and serve their constituents.

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Man climbing a set of exterior steps

The author, Miliyon Ethiopis, following a court’s decision to grant his asylum request on June 18.

U.S. immigration court ruling on statelessness could have wide impact

Ethiopis is a co-founder of United Stateless, a national organization led by stateless people.

I feel like I have been born again, after a U.S. immigration court made a remarkable ruling in my “statelessness” case in June. I hope that my case will have significant, broader implications for other stateless people in America.

Being stateless means no country will claim you as a citizen. We don't belong anywhere. Stateless people are military veterans. We are Harvard graduates. We are Holocaust survivors. There are millions of stateless people around the world, and 200,000 such people in the United States.

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two Black people wrapped in an American flag
Raul Ortin/Getty Images

July Fourth: A bittersweet reminder of a dream deferred

Juste is a researcher at the Movement Advancement Project and author of the reportFreedom Under Fire: The Far Right's Battle to Control America.”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.”
— Langston Hughes, I Too

On the Fourth of July we celebrated many things: our nation’s independence, our democracy and the opportunity to gather with loved ones who, ideally, embrace us for who we are. Yet, this same nation does not always make room for us to live freely for who we are, who we love, what we look like and how we pray. And it is this dissonance that renders the Fourth of July’s celebration a bittersweet reminder of a dream deferred for many of us.

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