Sen. Don Harmon’s One View in the July 8 Wednesday Journal was to “try to set the record straight on reform, the state budget and local issues.” And it did just that. [Reform legislation passed, budget challenges remain, Viewpoints, July 8]

Possibly, he was addressing the reporting of criticism of the Illinois General Assembly in the New York Times [For Some in Illinois, Talk of Reform Was Just That, June 16] or the apparent criticism of his performance in the state Legislature from Dennis Roarty in his One View of June 9, “Where are Senator Harmon’s priorities?” Accordingly, “too little is being cleaned up” by the Illinois Legislature and Sen. Harmon’s first priority seems to be “his own re-election.”

Too little? The senator recounts the highlights on reform of last year’s General Assembly:

  • The impeachment of former governor Rod Blagojevich
  • The overhaul of the Freedom of Information Act
  • The restructuring of the state’s procuring of goods and services
  • An overhaul of campaign financing laws
  • Sweeping reforms targeting the state’s retirement boards
  • New punishments for politicians who breach the public trust
  • Creation of a new Senate Redistricting Committee
  • Rewriting of Senate rules to empower rank-and-file legislators

Concerning the state budget, the General Assembly is working to resolve the interests both of those who want to see waste cut and those who believe we need to increase taxes. The Senate and the senator voted to approve an income-tax increase, but with expectation of cuts in the state government. On local issues, the senator succeeded in passing an overhaul of the elevator safety laws, and he continues to work for the legal recognition of civil unions for gays and lesbians.

The senator and the General Assembly need criticism, as that is a hallmark of a healthy democracy. But we should realize that self rule in a democracy such as ours is difficult, and considering other countries, is not a given. We need to appreciate what the General Assembly faces in its struggle to legislate for all residents of the state. This is a precious thing we have: our democratic institutions. Let us, then, value the accomplishments of our government.

The senator writes, “I’m proud of my legislative record and my service to the district.” He should be. I support Sen. Harmon because I feel he has respect for, and a commitment to, the institutions of our democracy – these institutions that are essential for an ordered and civilized society. This democracy, I believe, is the senator’s “first priority.”

Jim Dickert, an Oak Park resident since 1992, is a member of the Democratic Party of Oak Park and a long-time supporter of Sen. Don Harmon.

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