I wanted to share with you an email blast I sent to those who have signed up for my mailing list. If you would be interested in signing up for it, go to my homepage and fill out the form at the bottom.
I hope you, your family and your friends are safe and healthy during these challenging times. When I became a state Rep around three years ago, I knew that I would be facing plenty of tough decisions. Having just come out of a three year budget impasse, I knew walking in that our State’s finances are a mess. I watched as the pension issue was pushed off again and again. Not for a single moment did I entertain the idea that this job would be a walk in the park. Even with those expectations, I was not ready for the possibility of a months, potentially years long global pandemic changing so much in our State and in our lives.
Like many of you, my television watching has increased during this pandemic, we’ve had plenty of work to do since the shelter in place order was issued in March, but there comes a certain point in the night where constituents don’t want their phones ringing. I find myself flipping through cable news. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are all fighting for their respective places in the world. Each one offers us a different outlook. I’ve said this many times, but for-profit news is very, very dangerous. When you’re fighting for revenue, you’re fighting for ratings. Their goal is to attract an audience and their credibility gives way to sensationalism. I am not endorsing or bashing any of these networks, but using this as a segue to get to the meat and potatoes of this piece.
I remember my first trip to Springfield for Session, one of the veteran members invited me down a day earlier to show me around. Usually, on the night before Session, there will be plenty of events and receptions. I recall being taken aback when we visited a Republican event. Being a Democrat, I thought it was my job to hate Republicans and everything was a turf war. At least that is what these networks led me to believe.
That night, I met David Olsen. He was a state Rep from Downers Grove. We spent at least a half-hour just talking. Before he left the House, I was proud to sponsor some of his bills and have him as a sponsor on some of mine. To this day, I still consider him one of my closest friends and a mentor. While we always didn’t agree politically, we both respected each other enough to make it about the fact we’re just two people with some shared interests.
I make it no secret that government consolidation and reducing the property tax burden are two of my top priorities. Both of these go hand-in-hand. Republican state Rep David McSweeney from Barrington also has an interest in these areas. I found myself signing onto a lot of his legislation. We began to talk and spend time together away from sessions. David took the time to mentor me through my early years. He offered advice and made outstanding suggestions on ways to improve my legislation and my career. Last year, David ran a bill centering around Township Consolidation. It was a very tough bill that faced a lot of opposition. David worked his side of the aisle and I worked mine. Through our efforts, the bill passed with a slim, two vote margin. There are a lot of issues we don’t agree upon, but there is no one I trust or respect more than David. At the beginning of last fall, he announced he wasn’t seeking re-election to the Illinois House of Representatives. I will miss David, his mentorship and his friendship.
There’s a very towering figure in our chamber. Anyone that has met Republican state Rep Daniel Swanson from central Illinois can tell you he never fails to make an impression. He may not talk much on the House floor, but when he does, people listen. Back in 2017, Dan came up and introduced himself to me at dinner , along with a young lady suffering from Lyme Disease. He asked me if I would support his bill addressing this terrible disease. From there, Dan worked his tail off and got his bill passed. Then Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed it. Shortly thereafter, Dan got back to work and I offered to be a chief sponsor. This time, it passed and was signed by Governor Pritzker last summer along with my EpiPen coverage bill for children. The little girl hugged me at the conference and thanked me for my help. Very few dry eyes were in the audience as she told her story.
Dan is a tireless advocate for Veterans. He served in the original Gulf War and proudly wears his hat whenever he enters the chamber. I gave him a bill from a constituent creating Cold War Memorial license plates. Even though I could likely have passed this bill, I felt that a Veteran like Dan would be a more appropriate messenger. When my Chief of Staff has questions about Veterans’ issues, he calls the ILVA and Rep. Swanson’s office. Forming relationships, no, friendships like these is how we bring substantive change to the people of Illinois.
Last week, I noticed someone attacked Dan on his Facebook page for not being enough of an advocate for Vets. I commented that despite our political differences, Dan is one of the finest Representatives and people I know. His constituents responded that it was nice to see someone put politics aside and say something nice for a change. This occurrence got me to thinking, and it’s why I’ve decided to write this piece. As we approach the anniversary of our nation’s independence, let us remember the solemn vow our Founding Fathers made.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” They continued, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and sacred Honor.”
These men knew that this Declaration would lead to bloody war and the destruction of their livelihoods. That they were outnumbered and outgunned, but they pledged themselves to one another, that we are all in this together. “United we stand, divided we fall”, as the old saying goes. These men knew that they would only survive those turbulent times by overcoming their differences, and working together towards the common good.
Right now, we’re facing another crisis unlike any other in our life times. In honor of Independence Day, I say we take a moment to think about our nation’s great history. I will not pretend that we are perfect, that we haven’t made terrible mistakes that have led to horrible outcomes for many; but I know our nation is founded on a promise to one another. To work towards “a more perfect union”. Our nation’s history is one of overcoming adversity, of uniting against a common threat. There is a reason this message rings so loudly throughout our founding documents.
While it may seem like we are more divided than ever, that many of us are losing hope, we must remember that we have survived through worse in our country’s history, and we will likely face darker days than we face today. As long as we remember that we’re all in this together, and try to be a bit more understanding of those who disagree with us, we will survive those days as well. Regardless of party, I’ll work with anyone that will help me to better serve our District and the people of Illinois. This too shall pass.