If you find yourself in a political funk, disappointed by the apparent difference deficit between prominent personnel in the two dominant parties, there may be a way to find relief. I have been in such a state (perhaps, in large part due to my actual state of residence) for quite some time, disgusted by the actions and character failings of too many in political power. Throwing your hands up and accepting defeat is an attractive option, especially in Illinois, where the Democrats rule and the Republicans seem to assist. It is helpful to receive an occasional reminder that all is not necessarily lost. I got such a reminder Thursday evening.
A tireless activist who displays an unbelievable amount of perseverance, Susan Petty, asked me to attend “Save Illinois” banquet hosted by For The Good of Illinois PAC in Effingham. I reluctantly agreed to attend and arrived with very little enthusiasm. I needed a reminder. It didn’t take long to get pumped up. Susan was motoring here and there, making sure everything was in order. I saw new State Representative Brad Halbrook (new IL-110, current IL-109) and recalled the victory of the people over the entrenched double-dipping tax hiker Roger Eddy. I also saw Sen. Kyle McCarter (IL-51) and was reminded of the failed attempt by the establishment to send my current Sen. John O. Jones (IL-54) to take out the wave-making McCarter.
I said hello to Chairman Adam Andrzejewski, who told me he was going to restore my faith in the political process. To which I replied, “That’ll be a tall order.” He was successful. No, this is not to say I attended this event and all my concerns, disappointments, and negative impressions were magically cleansed from my being. It did, however, serve as the much-needed reminder that there are good people paying attention, coalescing around common sense, and exposing government waste.
Brad Halbrook opened the program with a recap of his first few weeks in Springfield. One thing that was surprising, although in Illinois it shouldn’t have been, was the difficulty the bureaucracy has in letting a member of the house opt out of the pension program. Apparently it was uncommon enough that the form they began to revise in something like 1996 still hadn’t been updated. I believe Brad said he was the 9th representative in history to decline the pension. This act may not impress everyone, but it is refreshing, nonetheless.
Two awards were given out , one to Susan Petty, who had just sat down for the first time when Adam announced it. Susan received the first and perhaps heartiest standing ovation of the evening from the crowd of 350 to 375 people, most of whom were keenly aware of her dedication to saving our state. The second award went to George Mette, who has been instrumental in getting the “Open the Books” message out in the central Illinois area.
Blaine Wilhour, a local business owner, spoke of the need for citizen involvement. An important point was made about moving beyond one’s comfort zone in order to participate in what needs done. At his table, with his wife, were two symbols of the reason the average citizen should be engaged in the effort: his two small children.
Senator McCarter spoke of the pension and Medicaid mess which face all in our failing state. He provided perspective and highlighted who our children have to thank for the mess:
McCarter mentioned the possibility that we may have to travel greater distances to visit our grown children in 10 or 15 years as they may not be able to live in Illinois and prosper. We do want our children to be able to stay in Illinois when they are grown, don’t we? If so, the tough choices need to be made by us and if there are bitter pills to be swallowed, they should be taken by us, not our children and grandchildren!
Adam ended the program with an encouraging keynote address highlighting the accomplishments of For The Good of Illinois, The Open the Books campaign, and the recent primary success. He also pointed out that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been more willing to share the last 10 years of Chicago’s finances than “Republican” State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who has refused to respond to the same request on the state level.
Adam shared disgusting facts such as the following:
- Last year, 3,062 public employees earned more than the governor ($1 billion aggregate)
- In 2010 900,000 people in Illinois received a government paycheck or pension
- The school superintendent in Herron, IL (pop. 5,000) makes $178,000 a year (which is more than 49 governors)
The evening served as a good reminder that there are those who are working to reform our corrupt system. It also provided a morale boost to one who saw very little reason for optimism. Change for the better does appear to be underway, even if not at the pace desired. Small victories have been won and there is reason to remain engaged.
It really is “For The Good of Illinois.”