By Jim Bowman
The town hall meeting about budget cuts called by Sen. Don Harmon in Elmwood Park on April 6, had words of defense for the cuts from just one person, among scores of complaints.
About an hour into the meeting, in the main meeting room of the public library just off Grand Avenue a half-mile west of Harlem, a man asked about "the elephant in the room," meaning the state's fiscal crisis. "Don't blame it all on [Gov.] Rauner," he said. The stories of being harmed by the cuts are important, he continued, but so are the state's financial problems.
When the man finished, after a slight pause Harmon announced the availability of water bottles "up here, which some might like, since it's rather warm in here." Then he gave the floor to Rep. Camille Lilly, who stood next to him in front of 100 or so people packed into the meeting room.
"It's going to take more than one thing" to solve the problem, she said. (In a later comment she put "problem" in quotes, holding fingers up and giving them a little shake.) "Where do we start?" she asked. "First, we should not have rolled back the 5% [income] tax" -- the temporary increase, allowed to expire and return to its previous 3%. "Illinois is great," she added.
Harmon said it too: "Illinois is a great state, with so much going for us." Budget problems, he said, "go back to 1917, which is when the cry was raised for the first time about funding of pensions."
A woman who said she was a retired teacher said, "We have to hear everybody's story. You feel better getting it off your chest."
There was a great deal of that in the hour I stayed, 4:45 to 5:45, of the 4-to-7 pm-scheduled meeting, much of not all of it from clients of Oak-Leyden Development Services, whose office was a block away.
One was an Oak Park woman who held up her autistic daughter, who would be denied services because of the proposed Rauner cuts.
Another said that if the cuts remain, "all will be homeless."
Another said the cuts meant losing her Oak-Leyden membership on May 31. She asked, "Where should I go? What am I supposed to do? It's unfair. This guy [the governor] should be shot." There were scattered groans at this. Neither Harmon nor Lilly said anything.
Women were crying about their plight. There was reference to heroin addicts who would lose treatment. A deaf woman signed her complaint to a sign-readerwho translated for her.
Tomorrow: What they said about Gov. Rauner
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