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Opinion

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Tuesday events, statements make clear who is leading reform movement

Tuesday events, statements make clear who is leading reform movement

I like to be right — and wrong.

Wednesday’s column called on state lawmakers to detail specific plans for fixing the issues spurning recent protests, while also acknowledging the possibility my words would be obsolete by the time ink dried.

That’s exactly what happened. Tuesday morning, state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, issued a statement calling for changes in the moment — such as guarding the safety of peaceful protesters as well as restoration of mass transit and COVID-19 testing sites — and promising a Wednesday release about policies to pursue in the short term and a Thursday note concerning long-term structural changes.

Later Tuesday, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus conducted a conference expanding upon its Monday statement. As this is not a new fight, members talked about accomplishments: statewide authorization of police body cameras, expanding record expungement for nonviolent crime convictions and measures aimed at decreasing unemployment.

Then there was talk of what’s to come: passing legislation that seeks to address issues like poverty, mental illness and substance abuse without funneling people into the criminal justice system. Speaking in front of a strip mall on Chicago’s South Side that was looted during weekend riots, the caucus members called for state government to invest in affected neighborhoods, making sure existing economic development incentives are available.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, the caucus chairwoman, said the General Assembly should create an Office of Inclusion and urged people to follow the cause to the Statehouse to work with lawmakers of all races and party affiliations.

On Tuesday night the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference hosted a public forum on justice. There, state Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, talked about legislation expanding the state’s power to strip pensions from police officers convicted of misconduct, and other moves like directing revenue from recreational marijuana sales into training.

State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, proposed a board to hear complaints about law enforcement officers and making sure the public could speak without being subjected to background checks. State Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, said he spoke with a business owner who hired a heavily armed security guard to patrol his neighborhood about alternative measures that could provide safety without instilling further fear in residents.

These summaries merely scratch the surface. Actual proposals deserve detailed scrutiny and debate. But no one can accuse these elected officials of making empty promises, nor of focusing too narrowly on any one issue. Clearly there is a real push for reform and with these cards on the table all of Illinois can begin to see how the movement takes shape.

We can’t end racism, but we can attack inequality. These plans may not be the best or only solutions, but it’s clear who was and is leading the charge.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at [ mailto:sholland@shawmedia.com ]sholland@shawmedia.com.

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