Plenty of Anger. What’s Needed is Action.
Greg Hinz’ October 19 column made some important points. As social service providers, we do need to turn up the volume about the human cost of the state’s budget fiasco. And he is right that our most powerful messengers are the actual people who are being hurt.
Yet the notion that there is a lack of outrage is not really accurate. Outcry has been a steady theme since the governor’s budget proposal in March, as seen by overflow crowds at every budget hearing and a steady stream of grassroots advocacy, including a summer day of action that drew thousands to Chicago’s Thompson Center, along with concurrent events around the state.
It is true that some media have taken longer to shift from the tired-but-true “political horserace” angle to focus on the real story – an unnecessary human crisis that directly hurts vulnerable people, has destabilized a major source of jobs, and embarrasses our state on the national stage.
Public attention is growing, and not in a way that reflects well on Illinois. Voter dissatisfaction is growing, though polls predictably point the blame in different directions. Our organizations have gotten press inquiries from as far as Australia – even the Daily Show was here last week. As the Fitch downgrade and comments by former Governors Edgar and Thompson show, this is no laughing matter. Attention like this is bad for business.
It’s true that human services providers are diplomatic to a fault, because we need to work with everyone. We serve people in the city, suburbs and rural areas. Our communities vote red, blue and purple. We’re as diverse as our state, yet unified in our concern that issues of public responsibility and human dignity are now treated as political footballs.
As leaders of large nonprofits, our priority is to protect vulnerable people who need essential state services, and help our committed but nervous employees make it through an incredibly stressful time. We’ve stayed rhetorically calm for the same reason we’ve tapped our lines of credit – people count on us.
We are not naïve. There is plenty of blame, and we certainly see who is taking constructive action, and who is not. Like the rest of Illinois, we are fed up.
We are grateful for tough-minded journalists like Greg Hinz, who challenge us all to put the real issues on the table. We’ll do our part by channeling stories about real people to any reporter who will write about them. Mr. Hinz is right – it’s time to turn up the volume.
President and CEO, Metropolitan Family Services
President and CEO, Children’s Home + Aid