Tom Kacich: Efforts vary across state for independent map petition

Tom Kacich: Efforts vary across state for independent map petition

Too bad the people promoting an independent redistricting effort in Illinois couldn't just focus on the 20,000 residents of Lake Forest and forget about the other 12.8 million folks in Illinois.

Lake Forest, it seems, is ground zero for the proposal to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 election ballot that would have an 11-member independent commission draw legislative district boundaries.

The idea is to take the map-making job away from the politicians, Republican and Democratic, who benefit from it.

But the promise of establishing a grass-roots campaign to gather the required 298,000-plus signatures on petitions by May 2014 seems to have lost whatever momentum it had.

Except in Lake Forest.

Someone has been doing some impressive fundraising on behalf of the Yes for Independent Maps group in that wealthy Lake County community. In fact, of the $102,500 in itemized contributions raised on behalf of the group, $54,500 has come from residents of the single suburb, including $20,000 from Peter Bensinger, a former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and $10,000 from Corinne Wood, a former Illinois lieutenant governor with then-Gov. George Ryan.

In the meantime, no one in Champaign County has been collecting the vitally needed signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. Both the Illinois Farm Bureau and the League of Women Voters of Illinois are supporting the effort, but local representatives of both groups said they weren't aware of anyone promoting the issue in Champaign County.

And the prime petition-passing days are quickly fading away. Farmers' markets around the state soon will be shutting down, and door-knocking volunteers are harder to find as the days grow shorter, and the weather becomes less friendly.

But Michael Kolenc, who is managing the Yes for Independent Maps campaign, said he isn't worried.

"We're in the process of organizing downstate right now," said Kolenc. "My field director sent out an email to everyone on our list from Champaign last week, and now they're coordinating a time for us to begin. We are definitely out there organizing."

The campaign is farther along in some parts of the state, he said.

"There are places where there's density, and where some of our coalition members are stronger," he said. "Peoria, for example, we have some great volunteers ... and they're out on a weekend basis, gathering signatures and talking to folks.

"We're further along in some places. Some places obviously I wish we were better organized. But we're sending out teams all over the state."

The signatures have to be submitted by May 4, which means that most of the best conditions for collecting them already are past.

"Within our capacity, of course, we've really tried to take advantage of the warm months," Kolenc said. "We have 214 days left to gather petitions. That's a lot of time, but we'll be working every day. We'll have a cold weather strategy, but we're taking advantage of the nice weather days right now."

Unions big for Frerichs. Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, Monday reported $53,000 in contributions to his all-but-announced campaign for state treasurer, including $44.500 from labor union-related groups.

Frerichs received $15,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $10,000 from the North Central Illinois Laborer's council in Peoria, $10,000 from the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, and smaller sums from plumbers and steamfitters locals in Rock Island and Peoria, from the University Professionals of Illinois in Chicago, and firefighters and operating engineers in Peoria.

Word of the labor campaign contributions follows last week's announcement that Frerichs was the only statewide candidate to receive the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO and its 1,500-affiliate members, which collectively represents 1 million active members and retirees.

"I'm proud to stand with the Illinois AFL-CIO today just as I've stood with them and working families in Springfield. As the son of two union members, the opportunities my family was able to provide to me growing up was due in no small part to organized labor fighting for my family to have decent wages, health care and stable jobs," Frerichs said. "I've never forgotten that and my personal history with labor makes today's endorsement even more special and humbling."

Rauner's campaign in Champaign. Two more Champaign residents stepped up late last month with major contributions to Republican Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial campaign: attorney Jeff Wampler donated $1,000 to Citizens for Rauner Inc., and John Edwards chipped in $5,300. They join two others for a total of $8,300 in itemized contributions to Rauner from Champaign-Urbana.

Among the other Republican gubernatorial candidates and their itemized contributions from Champaign-Urbana: Dan Rutherford has collected $8,095, Kirk Dillard has received $2,500; and Bill Brady has received $500.

Democrats dinner. Champaign County Democrats will have their annual fall dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Laborers' Local 703 Hall, 108 E Anthony Drive, U. A cash bar will open at 5 p.m.

Party Chair Al Klein said he hopes many of the party's statewide candidates will attend the gathering.

Tickets are $65 at the door, but $60 if bought at the Democrats' website, http://champaigncountydemocrats.org/.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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