Today marks the first day that petitions for candidacy for office can be turned into the local or state election commissions. We want to thank all those who have agreed to run for office from Governor to Precinct Committeeman and remind you why what you are doing can TRULY affect your neighbors and why it is so important that we work for and vote for EVERY DEMOCRAT on the 2018 ballots! THANKS!
By Anthony Grammich, a DPDC summer intern
A few months ago, the Downers Grove Peer Jury program was terminated by the Republican Township Supervisor, Mark Thoman. The program was designed to give juvenile offenders a second chance. They could go through a process that would substitute jail time, and a mark on their permanent record, for community service and self-reflection, while providing a meaningful experience that significantly reduced recidivism. Yet, despite the clear value of the program as expressed by local police departments and its cost saving nature, Peer Jury was terminated.
Over these past few months, despite major efforts to bring the program back, significant progress has been blocked due to state and local decisions. Thoman cites a loss of over $100,000 in state funds as his reason for the cut, evidence of Rauner’s agenda hurting families across Illinois. However, this isn’t the only reason that the program isn’t back. Local decisions by Thoman have harmed the efforts to revive Peer Jury. At town meetings, it doesn’t appear that Thoman knows what he’s talking about, claiming that the program costs $80,000 more than the $36,000 the program director, Lori Wrzesinski, estimated. Yet, Thoman refuses to assist efforts to bring it back, signaling either a personal vendetta, incompetence, or both.
This helps to show why participation in local politics is so crucial. Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Recently, it looks like he’s been wrong. On the national stage, there are clear choices that are widely debated, discussed, and made clear to the public. Locally, battles for control of the government are often uncompetitive (or even uncontested), poorly covered by the media, and witness to low turnout. Yet, the vital functions of local government remain. Thoman cruised to election last spring, winning 61% of the vote in a low turnout election (in a township that Clinton won by 10 percentage points). He even expressed support for Peer Jury during the campaign, citing its “minimal cost to the taxpayer”. But due to the lack of coverage on local elections, it was difficult for anybody to truly know or understand the policies of Thoman and the differences between him and his opponent. Local candidates are not vetted on the same level that national ones are. More voices are needed on the local level. More ordinary people need to bring fresh ideas to replace those of bureaucrats. More voters need to get out and tell their local officials what they believe, and ensure that those officials actually believe it too. That’s how true progressive change is made, it always starts from the bottom on up.