Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Austin and Maywood are turning into the power vortex of Illinois government. The selection last week of state Rep. Chris Welch to be Speaker of the Illinois House, replacing, at long last, Mike Madigan, fuels the local influence. Hillside’s Welch represents portions of River Forest and Forest Park in the 7th District.
Oak Park’s Don Harmon was elected state Senate President last year. It was the culmination of a steady and determined climb through senate leadership. And it mirrors the rise of Harmon’s mentor the great Phil Rock, the Austin/Oak Park native who long held that role. Harmon’s 39th District included portions of Oak Park and Austin.
State Senator Kimberly Lightford is from Maywood and represents the 4th District, including parts of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park. She was the longtime leader of the Black Caucus in the Senate and has focused to great effect on education reform. After competing unsuccessfully with Harmon for the senate’s top job, she became Senate Majority Leader.
In his earlier political career as the longtime elected head of the District 209 Proviso Township High Schools we were intensely, and correctly, critical of Welch. He ran failed schools and often with self-interest. He is, though, an able politician and has been a better state rep than we anticipated. A reformer? Doubtful.
Nonetheless, with the needs of local governments so drastic due to COVID-19, it can only be of help that we have the ear of so many, so powerful leaders of state government.