Dear Illinois Republicans: I’m just a smarty-pants newspaper columnist, but I think it’s time to talk about the shape your party’s in at the moment.
After Tuesday’s election, our Land of Lincoln is now thoroughly dominated by the party of Stephen Douglas.
We need better out of you in 2014.
I’m not a Republican partisan, but I’m not one of those gloating at the hard times that have befallen you, either. I think that our democracy needs a diversity of views and ideas to truly represent the people.
The GOP shouldn’t allow the Democrats to hold a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas. I’d say the same if things were the other way around.
Tuesday’s election gave Democrats veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate. That makes House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton about as powerful as Gov. Pat Quinn, maybe even more powerful, given that Madigan and Cullerton have considerable sway over policy but answer only to a fraction of the voters. All three are from Chicago.
They certainly don’t have to answer to your group very much, or to any of DeKalb County’s state representatives or senators, who are all Republicans.
A suggestion for next time: Can you play up the fiscal and pocketbook issues? That should be a winner for you.
Our state is one of the most heavily indebted in the union. Our schools are falling behind because the state can’t afford to help them. There is a backlog of unpaid bills in the billions. There still has been no solution to the pension crisis. And so on.
Maybe you’re thinking that all you need to do is let your many friends across the aisle bumble along for a couple of years and then things will get so bad that Illinoisans will come running back to you.
Do not make that mistake. Democrat state Rep. Derrick Smith was re-elected Tuesday despite being expelled from the House and facing federal bribery charges. Democrats slammed a 67 percent income-tax increase – which didn’t solve anything – down our throats and then gained seats on you in the next election.
What we need are some real, viable alternatives.
We need some people who will bring a calculator and a hatchet to budget hearings. We need people who can make it clear to their neighbors and fellow residents why the hole into which our state has fallen is bad for all of us. We need people with fresh ideas who can sell them to the public and improve them in concert with their fellow lawmakers.
Do you know anyone like that? They haven’t sponsored any bills to allow mass euthanasia of animals or made any comments about “legitimate rape” recently, have they? If they have, could you tell them to stay on the sidelines?
Now, I don’t want to just be kicking you when you’re down. Yes, things have been going downhill since U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald retired in 2004 and you eventually resorted to running Marylander Alan Keyes against Barack Obama. (Although Keyes did send out some funny “Obama bin lyin’ “ press releases, he was mostly a joke, and a bad one at that.)
But I know you can do better. We really do need the voices of Republicans to be louder in Springfield before this “temporary” income tax increase becomes permanent and the legislature decides to take more cues from the Chicago and Cook County tax-to-the-max playbook.
So follow the theme that’s been an undercurrent of so many of your nominees’ campaigns: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get to work.
Helping out veterans: In honor of Veterans Day, staff at Collins Dental Group in Sycamore are volunteering their services to help veterans by doing what they do best: working on teeth.
Today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Collins Dental, 2025 Aberdeen Court in Sycamore, owner and dentist Dennis J. Collins and fellow dentists Bryce Deter (himself a veteran), Mary Ann Wines, Amy Newkirk, Stephen Woodrick and Ahsan Ahmed will be performing free dental work on any veterans and their immediate families.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to give back something to veterans from our DeKalb County community that is not available to them,” Collins said.
It’s not just the dentists volunteering their services today. More than 25 Collins Dental employees, including dental hygienists, office staff and others will be volunteering their time.
Any veterans and their immediate family members can stop in for free dental care, Collins said. As the largest dental office in DeKalb County, with six dentists and seven dental hygienists, they’re hoping to see as many people as they can.
“We already have close to 100 pre-booked patients,” Collins said. “We have a waiting list for walk-ins, and things are going very well.”
The dentists and others are ready and excited to work today as a way to say thank you. If you’ve served our country and have some spare time, stop by and take them up on it. Anyone with questions about today’s event can call Collins Dental at 815-758-3666.
“This is a project that we took on because we wanted to give back,” said Martha Collins, Gary’s wife and an office administrative assistant. “We wanted to select something that was meaningful for all of us, and this is what we know how to do. This is what we do best.”
Wish granted: Zakk Carrier’s first four years of life haven’t been easy.
Zakk, who lives in Sycamore with his family, was born with most of his intestinal tract outside his body. He receives all of his nutrition through a tube, and has endured multiple surgeries and extended hospital stays, including one this week.
“He’s so strong,” said Zakk’s mother, Megan Carrier, a lifelong Sycamore resident who graduated from Sycamore High in 2004. “I think he holds it in very well for a 4-year-old.
“Unfortunately, that’s the life he’s used to, being in the hospital with the doctors and constantly being poked and things like that. Basically since he’s been born, he’s been in and out of the hospital … every month if not every other month for something.”
In 2013, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois, Zakk’s life is scheduled to include something that he’s not used to – a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with his mother, her fiancée, Ben Drake, and his two brothers, Lucas, 7, and Michael, 5.
The family learned on Zakk’s fourth birthday July 17 that the trip would happen.
“I don’t know what to say about it still,” Megan Carrier said. “You don’t think things like that will ever happen and then you get the call that you guys get to go, and … I don’t even know what to say really.”
The holidays are approaching, and Make-A-Wish is one of those organizations that will be vying for your charitable contributions. Since 1985, the foundation has granted more than 10,000 wishes for children in Illinois, adding some magic to the lives of children who are struggling with life-threatening medical conditions. It’s a worthwhile cause that makes a difference in the lives of children and their families.
For Zakk, things might be looking up in other ways, too. He received a bowel transplant this month, and doctors are watching to see how it goes.
“If everything goes well and his body continues to accept the new organs, they’ll continue to feed him through the tube until his body gets used to it,” Carrier said, “and he’ll hopefully one day be able to eat food.”
We’re pulling for you, Zakk. Here’s hoping that everything works out, you have a great time at Disney World, and soon you can eat food along with your family at dinner.
• Eric Olson is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 257, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.