In addition to residing in what I proudly consider an enlightened and progressive Oak Park community, I serve as senior vice president of Seguin Services, a multi-faceted agency serving people with developmental disabilities in the western suburbs, including many individuals in Oak Park and River Forest.

I am writing to express my outrage at the recent unenlightened and regressive decisions by Gov. Blagojevich to cuts made to the state budget, particularly related to services to people with developmental disabilities. As a brother to a person with Down Syndrome, I feel strongly that the exercise of the Governor’s line item veto power will have a very negative impact on my brother’s quality of life, and the quality of life for thousands of other individuals like him throughout Illinois.

The Governor’s actions reduced funding increases to community organizations serving people with disabilities, increases that would have at least partially made up for the many years of no cost-of-doing business increases. Community agencies depend on dedicated staff to deliver these services to Illinois’ most vulnerable population. Yet the State provides such meager funding to support these direct service workers, who are, in effect, the “working poor,” due to the continued negligence by the State’s leadership. These workers have families to support. These workers have bills to pay, while their source of income is under constant duress. While the Governor makes public pronouncements in support of the regular working people in this state, he showed that he does not put the State’s money where his mouth is.

As part of his funding cuts, he eliminated a $70,000 special project grant for Seguin, claiming this was one of the wasteful “pork barrel” projects, undeserving of State funds. In effect, he took away funding for significant renovations to Seguin’s center of day services for the people they serve. He took away space for therapy and vocational training to help people with disabilities become productive, valued members of society. He unjustly played political games with the lives of people with special needs.

On behalf of my brother, on behalf of people with disabilities throughout Illinois, and on behalf of the dedicated and hard-working individuals who deliver much-needed services to them, I implore the enlightened citizens of our communities to put pressure on our governor. Contact your state senators and representatives to override the governor’s veto, and restore these funds.

Jim Haptonstahl
Oak Park

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