Since my state representative (elected last November) has accepted an appointment in the new governor’s administration, it occurred to me that all three of my local representatives were appointed shortly after an election. So why did I bother to vote? I attempted to contact my Committeeman, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, to ask about the process but I was unsuccessful. The voicemail on the Democratic Party website had a full mailbox and the contact given was her mayoral candidacy website (and there was a contact form for volunteering, but no email). I even tweeted her directly. So after no response I joined some of my neighbors when we discovered a hastily called meeting on a Sunday afternoon – one hour before a championship Bears game – to replace our state senator, who will leave office to become the new Attorney General. I’m reprinting here a letter to the editor I wrote that was co-signed by a dozen people in the community.

To the editor

As residents of the Thirteenth Illinois Senate District, we are writing to express our concerns over the lack of transparency in appointing Senator Kwame Raoul’s replacement in Springfield. While state law requires a committee of elected officials select a replacement, we feel the process as mandated overlooks the electorate at large and thus nullifies our vote. The call for candidates ran in the Herald on a Friday with a Saturday deadline, and the vote took place on a Sunday. This allowed for no time to review potential candidates, much less give input to the elected officials making this decision. Questions were raised about whether the chosen candidate met the residency requirements; however, there was no time to fully explore this issue, casting an unfortunate shadow as the new senator takes his seat. This hurts all of us.

While we elect the committeemen to represent us in this process, in a democracy, we expect those who represent us cast their votes after careful deliberation with their constituents. While a Sunday afternoon decision behind closed doors may not violate the letter of the law, we believe our elected representatives should adhere to the spirit of the law, which suggests that democracy is served best by dialogue with their constituents. Further, many Hyde Parkers live in the Twenty-Sixth Illinois Representative District, which will also be vacated when Rep. Christian Mitchell takes up an appointment in the new governor’s administration, and the Fourth Ward where Alderman Will Burns resigned just two months after being elected in 2015. (While there eventually was a special election in the Fourth Ward, an incumbent has a tremendous
advantage. Hence even a temporary appointment carries great weight.) As voters, we call on the fourth and fifth ward committeemen to ensure the process for future appointments is open to dialogue and public scrutiny. These seats are the most local representation we have, and accountability and accessibility are crucial issues to many voters. To keep this process closed and under cover, yet claim the mantle of a “progressive” is nothing short of hypocrisy.

Since my state representative (elected last November) has accepted an appointment in the new governor’s administration, it occurred to me that all three of my local representatives were appointed shortly after an election. So why did I bother to vote? I attempted to contact my Committeeman, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, to ask about the process but I was unsuccessful. The voicemail on the Democratic Party website had a full mailbox and the contact given was her mayoral candidacy website (and there was a contact form for volunteering, but no email). I even tweeted her directly. So after no response I joined some of my neighbors when we discovered a hastily called meeting on a Sunday afternoon – one hour before a championship Bears game – to replace our state senator, who will leave office to become the new Attorney General. I’m reprinting here a letter to the editor I wrote that was co-signed by a dozen people in the community.