A community meeting held last week at a Chicago State University preceded a rally held in front of the James R. Thompson Center held this morning. This insightful and informative prelude confirmed all the stories you have been reading in the local news for the last several weeks about the budgetary crisis in Illinois. As I listened to the various speakers each proficient in describing what the public will experience a feeling of deja vu reminded me of the many rooms I have sat in over my career in human services. The difference this time was one that included millennials who are acutely aware of their fate and that of the people of Illinois. It was refreshing and exhilarating at the same time. It is clear that the proposed draconian cuts will severely affect impoverished areas as well as the working community. The response may not be televised yet the strength of social media will be one of several ways to convey the anger and disgust of a marginalized citizenry. As you are well aware wasting time, just becoming angry will not resolve the situation. Words without action do not have the same impact. It is just more rhetoric.
It seems that the new Sheriff in town made some broad stroke commitments prior to taking office. He toured the South and West side promising to govern for all the people. His idea of governing thus far has been to create a series of commercials to antagonize, embarrass and attack the Speaker of the House and his colleagues. As the Sheriff has deep pockets and friends with deeper pockets, they are orchestrating a series of budget cuts primarily in human services and health and family services. The following is a breakdown of diminished services:
Addiction & Prevention will have a loss of 1.6 million: Autism will be cut by 1 million: Teen Reach will be diminished by 3.1 million, which will affect the summer jobs programs. Criminal Justice Services will be cut by 50%. Medicaid will lose 1.47 billion. This will have a severe impact on the safety net hospitals like Roseland, Trinity, Loretta, St James, St. Bernard, Jackson Park and 12 other small hospitals who will suffer. Be mindful that the Federal government will not supplement the cuts. So the next time you riding in an ambulance because of an injury and you hear the driver being told the hospital is on bypass take out your rosary, prayer book or whatever means you use to communicate with He who sits high and looks low. If this were not enough to make your blood pressure rise consider this: Nursing homes will lose 65 million : Early Intervention Services for infants and toddlers will lose 23 million; HIV/AIDS Programs will take a 6 million dollar hit; Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening programs will lose 9.8million which is 71% of their budget. Managed care will lose 60 million even though the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as Obamacare. Child Support and Department Operations will have 12.5 million removed with the stroke of a pen. Finally, you know that LIHEAP (energy assistance) will be eliminated along with Youth Employment and Violence Prevention Programs. School has just ended and our youth are on summer break with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Epilepsy, dental and respite care along with a cadre of Mental Health services, homeless services, emergency food programs, supportive housing and teen parent programs will have contracts terminated.
If there were ever a time to holla, push back and hold elected officials accountable now is the time. This budget eliminates the safety net from people who can ill afford to have this occur. I am not attempting to analyze why this is happening although the words ego and power tripping come to mind. The good news is that the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has sounded the alarm. They are fighting the good fight however, they cannot do it alone. Their success is predicated on your support and advocacy for righteousness, fairness, and the democratic process. Even if you voted for the new Sheriff, you need to face the truth that you have just experienced sleight of hand. The callous insensitive strategy that permeates this administration in order to make right to work zones, and diminish the power of the unions and revamp voting districts is straight out of the National playbook. Let me put you on notice that the citizens of Illinois will take a stand. They understand the principle of standing for something. Our public officials cannot handle this task alone and we need to prepare to be the wind beneath their wings.
Now that you have been informed maybe for the tenth time you will understand why there was a coalition of community groups outside the James R. Thompson center today who got involved. It is clear that this is not a time for being complacent or let the other fellow fight the fight while you sit on your hands and await the outcome. The more collective voices collaborate and organize to put the Sheriff on ‘blast’ the better. This is not the time to be a house divided. Divisiveness is a losing proposition. This is one fight we cannot afford to lose. Stay tuned the State budget is still not signed and the short-term one month budget was rejected this evening. Is it just me or can you help us help ourselves?