By Dan Haley
Talked on Monday afternoon with two of our elected officials. Two men in remarkably different moments in their lives. Two men filled with self-confidence. One you'd expect to be confident. The other, surprisingly, blending confidence with something approaching inner peace. Keep in mind that is a layman's diagnosis of inner peace.
Richard Boykin is the Democratic candidate for the Cook County Board from our 1st District. And while the general election is not until November and the swearing in until Dec. 1, Boykin is effectively the commissioner already. He's taking meetings. He's making introductions. And last week, without having a vote or a chair at the table, he got the county board to unanimously approve a non-binding referendum for the coming election.
That referendum will ask voters to urge Springfield to spend more on mental health issues in the state. Mental health care has been a core issue for Boykin since he announced for office and he is prepared to talk about it from many perspectives. There are the $100 million in cuts the state has made to mental health since 2009 that he wants to see restored.
There is the state task force he plans to ask Gov. Pat Quinn to appoint and then appoint him to with a goal of assessing the sorry state of mental health in this state. And then there are the approximately 3,200 inmates at Cook County Jail — that would be one-third of all prisoners — who Sheriff Tom Dart says have been diagnosed with serious mental health issues. If there is a shaming statistic about the way we govern ourselves in Cook County, this is it.
I asked Boykin how the sitting 1st District commissioner, that would be Earlean Collins, is accepting his activist ways and he smiled and said they have had lunch. I think we can safely assume that so long as the paychecks clear the bank and the pension service is still accumulating that Commissioner Collins is A-OK with someone else actually doing some work in this district.
Meanwhile state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th) is going on trial Monday in federal court, facing 17 counts of bank fraud. So why is this man confident and at peace? When we talked Monday, he said that outside of the financial strain of mounting a defense, that he is ready for the trial to start.
"I'm upbeat. This is the day. I'll be prepared on Monday to stand trial. My character has already been assassinated. Now this is about regaining my respect," he said.
Ford said he has turned down multiple offers from the feds to settle the case, because "I can never be a felon for something I did not do."
Admittedly, I am a fan of Ford's. Have been for years, long before he won elected office. I watched him build his real estate business in Austin. Watched him take on small renovation projects and bring abandoned, decrepit homes back to life. The West Side needs more people like Ford.
Now 17 counts of bank fraud sounds overwhelming and the feds don't lose many cases like this. But when you read the charges, they are, in my opinion, underwhelming. Is LaShawn Ford guilty of not paying close attention to his bookkeeping? He'd likely plead to that, as would a lot of young entrepreneurs in boom times.
Ford knows he will be called to testify and looks forward to it.
"No one can answer the questions but me," he says.