Kadner: Reality is not the U.S. Congress
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org November 28, 2012 4:30PM
Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (pictured in 2011) announced last month that she's running for the 2nd Congressional District seat to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last month. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:45PM
Who will replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress?
Maybe the question should be, “Does it really matter?”
Most folks have never met their congressman.
Heck, my guess is that most people don’t know who represents them in Congress.
Given a choice between a really good congressman or an all-pro offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, I think voters would opt for the lineman.
With all of the blathering about Jackson’s long absence and the need to replace him, you could get the impression it’s really important.
It’s not. Not in the everyday lives of ordinary people.
Heck, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has been out of action with a stroke for nearly a year and, you know, I’ve hardly noticed the difference in my life.
In Washington, D.C., the politicians keep playing games, regardless of the consequences to their constituents because it’s all about them, not about us.
As far as I can tell, being a member of Congress seems important mostly to the people who are in Congress.
Don’t get me wrong — in theory there are lots of important things a member of Congress could do.
And sometimes, on rare occasions, one vote can really matter.
But Debbie Halvorson and Mel Reynolds, who once were members of Congress, have announced they are now candidates in the 2nd Congressional District, even though no one has missed them.
Current and former state legislators are also considering a run in the special election caused by the resignation of Jackson.
They include state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), former state Rep. David Miller (D-Lynwood), and former state Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson), who has also served in the state treasurer’s office and is currently chief of staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Haven’t they all done enough for the people of this state while serving in Springfield?
We’re on the verge of financial collapse. Illinois is last in the nation in its support for public education. The income tax just went up 67 percent, raising $7 billion in new revenue, and the state is still short of cash.
Yes, let’s send those state legislators to Washington so they can bring some sanity to that federal budget process.
Napoleon Harris, who just got done telling voters he really wanted to represent them in the state Senate, has apparently decided he would rather be in Washington.
Shouldn’t a first-time elected official at least spend 90 days as a senator before he decides he’s now qualified for higher office?
Harris, elected in November, has yet to be sworn in.
I’ve been told that suburban mayors are getting phone calls from most of the characters I’ve mentioned asking for their support.
One mayor told me Kelly is going to call a news conference on Sunday to announce her candidacy.
Another mayor told me he’s already agreed to support Kelly.
“When she was down in the state Legislature, she always called the mayors to tell them when there was a bill pending that they might be interested in,” the mayor said.
The bar seems set pretty low when that’s the criterion for an endorsement.
Big projects and great accomplishments are hard to find in the south suburbs.
For nearly two decades, communities have been trying to get a Southeast Service Line from Metra.
The Interstate 57/294 interchange project has been on the books for nearly that long and is finally happening, only it’s just half an interchange.
The south suburban airport? People laugh when you mention the idea, which has been talked about for 30 years.
In the meantime, jobs and residents’ tax dollars have poured across the Indiana border.
Trotter might run for the Jackson seat in Congress, but the last time I talked to him he was mostly concerned about Chicago.
It’s unfair for Chicago residents to pay into the teachers retirement fund, which provides pensions to downstate and suburban teachers, Trotter told me.
Why should suburban residents care?
“Because it’s unfair to Chicago,” Trotter said.
Chicago has been sticking it to the south suburbs for decades, and I don’t recall Trotter ever saying that was unfair.
I don’t think he ever said it was unfair when Chicago grabbed $5 billion in federal funds to expand O’Hare International Airport while blocking construction and funding for the south suburban airport.
Ask Trotter or anyone else who has held elected office how things got so bad and you’ll get the same answer: It’s not his fault.
So maybe he is perfectly suited for Congress.
It will be interesting to hear the candidates discuss these issues and all the others facing the district.
But I don’t expect any of them to say, “Of course, I won’t be able to do anything about them.”
It can take a decade or more for a congressman to obtain a leadership position and gain influence in that legislative body.
I doubt any of the candidates will tell the voters that during this special election.
But maybe it doesn’t matter.
I recall a phone call from a Park Forest woman in November who said she had been given two presidential election ballots.
“Didn’t either of them have the candidates for Congress listed?” I asked.
“I can’t remember,” the woman said.
And there you have it. The congressional election didn’t even register with her.
By the way, when’s the last time anyone in Tinley Park or Orland Park saw Bobby Rush?