Guest commentary: Petition drive has a long way to go
By BARBARA WYSOCKI
It's time for a reporting about the Yes For Independent Maps campaign to secure a constitutional amendment redrawing legislative districts every 10 years by an independent citizens commission rather than the controlling legislative political party. Three months ago, Trent Shepherd, Diane and Ed Wilhite, Al Nudo, Steve Beckett, Theresa Michelson, Lex Tate, Sherry Steigmann and I came together to form a bipartisan group to coordinate the local petition drive. Since then, others too numerous to name have signed or sought petitions.
So far, 2,703 signatures have been collected in Champaign County — 786 signatures alone in the first two weeks of December — as committee members have been present at farmers' markets, tailgate parties and meetings of civic organizations.
The League of Women Voters supports this initiative, recognizing this change as a means to achieve greater transparency, honesty and grass-roots involvement in the legislative process. LWV is working for a second time, this time with the Yes For Independent Maps network, to obtain the necessary 298,000 signatures.
All committee members have commented on the enthusiasm for this amendment — many seeing it as an antidote for the corruption in Illinois government. People have grabbed clipboards out of our hands as we have barely begun to identify the proposal, least of all, its benefits.
The Chamber of Commerce has petitions available in its lobby at 303 W. Kirby Ave., C, for citizens to walk in and sign, pick up and/or notarize. The chamber is asking its member businesses to do the same as the petition drive period enters its second half. Beckett & Webber, 508 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana, is providing space for obtaining and notarizing petitions on the first Saturdays of January, February and March, beginning at 10 a.m.
The Champaign County League meeting on Jan. 21 will focus on this campaign with guests Michael Kolenc and Patricia Landes. Michael is the statewide campaign manager of Yes For Independent Maps; Patricia, who is from Peoria, joined the League specifically to work on this effort. Petitions will be available to sign and pick up; a notary will also be on hand to certify completed petitions. The public meeting will be held at the Champaign Public Library at 7 p.m.
On campus, a journalism class has developed a marketing plan to reach Parkland and University of Illinois students to encourage them to support this referendum. Petitions will be available at Illinois' Activity Day on Jan. 28.
With three months to go, there is still much to do to reach the 298,000 statewide signatures which are necessary to qualify for voters' consideration at the November 2014 election. What can you personally do?
1) Check out the campaign's website (http://www.IndependentMaps.org) for more information.
2) Circulate a petition (15 signatures to the page) among family, friends and/or other organizations to which you belong. Petitions can also be obtained from any committee member.
3) Encourage other organizations to invite a local speaker with Yes For Independent Maps to make the case for this referendum.
Now is the time for citizens in Champaign County to join those in other communities across the state seeking to change the way Illinois government works.
Barbara Wysocki is president of the League of Women Voters of Champaign County and a member of the local committee for Yes For Independent Maps.