I learned a great deal about leadership during my four years as the Vermilion County Board Chairman. I learned the best approach to tackle a problem goes like this. 1. Come up with a plan. 2. Work to sell that plan to board members from both parties while embracing positive feedback and constructive criticism. 3. Address deficiencies in my plan by implementing suggested changes. 4. Present a final plan that everyone involved could legitimately say they were involved in creating and pass the plan.
True leadership involves engaging and challenging people to be part of the solution. People have a tendency to set aside partisan differences and buy into the effort if it is plain to see the other side is serious about working together to forge a solution. I am very proud to say that in my time as the Vermilion County Board Chairman, because of this previously described approach to leadership, I was legislatively undefeated. I never lost a vote.
Most of the time, the votes were unanimous. This approach was not new or revolutionary. It was what I consider common sense leadership. Sadly, the definition of leadership must be strikingly different in the Chicago political machine or the Hyatt Hotel Empire. The Governor’s approach has completely disregarded the General Assembly and all local and municipal elected officials around the State. He issues top-down edicts, fails to follow through on his own rules, and then blames everyone else when the house of cards falls apart.
The Governor has refused to engage the General Assembly to act on his COVID-19 response even though his party has a veto-proof majority in the legislature. The Governor passed a huge list of items in his first six months as Governor. The democratic supermajorities would probably pass anything he asks for. Governor Pritzker even admitted at a recent press conference that he has the ability to call legislators into Special Session. He said he is not inclined to do that even though the legislature has met only 4 days since March when the pandemic began.
The Governor has obviously become comfortable and grown very accustomed to his role as the sole active policy-making force in the State of Illinois. I guess it is good to be King. Several Republican members of the legislature worked hard to express public support for emergency actions taken by the Governor at the start of the pandemic. I appeared on multiple radio shows saying that we should support the Governor during this difficult time and that this was not a time for politics.
I still believe that this should be the approach, but the Governor has not reached out to Republican legislators to hear their concerns or addressed a slew of legitimate problems facing the citizens we represent. Eight months into this crisis, the Unemployment System at IDES is broken and riddled by fraud. A reporter at a recent press conference asked the Governor about rampant identity fraud concerns at IDES and cited the fact that 44% of unpaid claims are currently on hold because of identity verification concerns.
The lack of resolution to fix this problem and get out of work Illinoisans the relief promised to them results from a lack of legislative participation and oversight. It also shows a certain lack of seriousness on the part of the Governor to address these issues.An overwhelming majority of members of the legislature take the health risks of COVID-19 very seriously. We know that the solutions to keeping people safe are probably going to be unpopular, but here I am asking to be a part of solving problems and serving as a strong voice for the people I represent. I have many more colleagues from both sides of the aisle that are ready to step up in a similar way.
Unfortunately, the Governor has not made convening the legislature to help manage this crisis a priority. He has failed to return any of the phone calls I have made to his office. The message I get from the Governor’s disengagement is a complete lack of regard for the people in my district. How can the Governor expect anyone to take his orders seriously when his family routinely disregards his own orders? I guess the rest of Illinois must stay home unless you have multi-million dollar second and third homes in Wisconsin or Florida.
The IHSA is mandated to cancel sporting events and young people all over the State are missing out on their last chance to play the sports they love, but it is fine for the Governor’s daughter to attend a crowded exclusive Wisconsin Horse Show? Political rallies are not ok unless you are protesting the right cause or celebrating on the streets of Chicago with supporters of Joe Biden’s campaign? The double standard is glaring.
No input was sought before the Governor issued his orders. No input was taken from the people whose lives are being destroyed. No serious attempt to adhere to the rules have been made by the person making the rules. Then, the Governor is shocked and outraged that no one is obeying his rules. I recall the adage, “You reap what you sow.” I decided it was time to say something when I saw Governor Pritzker picking on all the local elected officials in the State this week. Maybe I take special umbrage because I was one of those local officials not long ago.
I would stress to Governor Pritzker that when you are blaming others for a problem and your finger is pointing in their direction, you have three pointing back at you. The State’s COVID-19 response is a mess, the numbers are going tragically up, and people are suffering from this deadly disease. Only one person owns this mess. His name is JB Pritzker. A real leader would analyze his deficiencies, take ownership of the situation, and fix the problems in a collaborative manner.
Unfortunately, Governor Pritzker has taken input from no one else and blamed everyone else.