Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Short History continued: Introducing the state rep, who will be the senator's constant companion . . .

A few weeks after Carleton and Business-Civic Council, the senator faced citizens at the Oak Park Library in a town hall gathering of his scheduling, accompanied by one of Oak Park's two state representatives, Camille Lilly.

The audience was largely but not entirely true-blue supporters of Democrat programs, about a quarter of them government-employment retirees (they raised hands at the senator's request), with heavy personal stake in pension fund solvency.

Lilly deserves some explanation. Appointed to her position in 2010 when the incumbent was appointed alderman by the Chicago mayor to replace one who'd gone to prison on a corruption conviction, she represented north and most of central Oak Park, plus parts of three other suburbs; but her base was the adjoining Austin neighborhood of the city. She was vice president for community outreach for Loretto Hospital in Austin and had been the unanimous choice of a committee of committeemen headed by the senator after an open session in the Carleton Hotel.

“I think folks are just weary of politicians and of government,” the senator said after the meeting, referring possibly to the opened-up candidate process, possibly to the choice of Lilly, who had held no public office. “That’s horribly unfortunate," he continued. "We’re trying things [at the Carleton] we’ve done in Springfield to try and restore trust in government and trust in politics, and it’s a long road."

He was presenting the acceptable sentiment, the sort of anti-politician comment from a politician that is ever suspect unless accompanied by tearful resignation and subsequent entrance into a monastery. As one effete plutocrat said to the other at poolside in a long-ago New Yorker cartoon, the two of them watching a man walking towards them on the water's surface, "It's a long time since that's been done well."

Like the alderman she was replacing, Lilly was a black woman with roots in the almost all-black Austin, but also -- and this was a nice twist -- a onetime Oak Parker, for elementary and high school, having walked for her diploma as a member of the class of 1979 of Oak Park & River Forest High School.

She had never run for public office and had no record of involvement in Oak Park. In Austin, on the other hand, beyond or as offshoot of her employment at Loretto Hospital, she helped to found and served as executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. In town hall meetings, she made repeated references to herself as newcomer to Springfield, so that one was frequently prompted to see her as a bona fide non-politician in politician's clothing.

As for clothing and general appearance, she was young-looking and attractive, tastefully groomed and caparisoned, and of an outgoing, voluble nature, exuding enthusiasm about her elective-office experience and eager to engage citizens in matters connected with it.  She did this to sometimes stunning effect in the town hall meetings.

The senator opened the Oak Park Library session with reference to "decades of underfunding” of pensions as a problem which can be solved without taking from “core government services, especially social services.” Pension problems were within reach of alleviating without pain to pensioners.

Lilly agreed, citing the budget process as “really, really, really critical" -- if (apparently) not critical enough to force program cuts this year. She urged her listeners -- a packed-house audience of a hundred or so -- to have a look at the budget itself via “the new technology of today," the state government web site.

She was letting Oak Parkers in on the latest in digital communication.

-- To be continued --