We have a cynical view of Springfield. When the fourth governor in recent memory is headed to the hoosegow, it’s hard to splash 4th of July colors over the failure and the self-serving and the dysfunction.
Spend 90 minutes with Sen. Don Harmon, as Journal editors did on Friday, and the doubts and the contempt actually lessen a bit. It is impressive that in seven short years, Oak Park’s own Harmon has risen to become one of the state’s most important political leaders, as assistant majority leader in the state senate. And over those years he has only become more thoughtful, more articulate, and, yes, more optimistic about the possibilities of state government even while acknowledging forthrightly the horror show of recent years and the astounding economic mess of the current moment.
Asked how he avoids total frustration with the politics and policy failures of state government, he lays out a continuum and assesses his place on it. At one extreme, he says, are the pure play politicians in Springfield who plainly get off on the game of accumulating power and wielding it. For them Springfield is always entertaining because there is always political gamesmanship. The other extreme are the policy-only folks who have good ideas but lack the political acumen and muscle to ever accomplish their worthy goals. As for himself, he says he is slightly left of center toward the policy end of the continuum. He has issues he wants to push but he also appreciates and is getting better at the politics that steam the ship.
To us, that seems a fair assessment as Harmon ascends into the leadership structure but is still eager to talk in detail about transit policy, social service funding, pension obligations. Illinois could use more Don Harmon’s in the state legislature and Oak Park, and the other communities in his district, should be proud to have sent him there.
A generation after Oak Park’s Phil Rock filled the State Senate President’s post with common sense and political savvy, we have another favorite son on that same path.
Stories to get worked up over
Imagine the nerve of the guy. The President of the United States wants to exhort the nation’s kids to study harder, to take responsibility for their actions. How dare he? say a few on the lunatic fringe.
It’s one of the those happy moments to live in Oak Park and River Forest where the schools report no angry parents suggesting the president is a socialist, fascist or Nazi for wanting to tell kids to buckle down and do their work.
Through a quirk in scheduling, the first night football game ever played at Oak Park and River Forest High School will be on Rosh Hashanah. Seems the game was scheduled two years ago for a Saturday afternoon – that would have been way back when an OK to install lights at the school was a strange, unthinkable illusion.
Unfortunate? Yes. Anti-Semitism? Seems unlikely.
Oak Park does not have a good reputation for working with business. Looking back over a number of years, that reputation is pretty much deserved.
So word last week that village government is opening a Business Service Center with the expressed purpose of streamlining the process of opening a new business is good news. We worry a bit that the task is a tall order and that resources devoted to it are skimpy. But we, and the business community, have faith in the person chosen to head the effort: Loretta Daly.