With the headlines focused on the full-bore ascendency of Democrats in Illinois, attention rightly turns to new Governor J.B. Pritzker and the swearing-in Monday of an all-Democratic roster of state constitutional officers.
Our headline though is on the deserved recognition of two veteran local Democratic state senators — Kimberly Lightford and Don Harmon — who have risen to the heights of influence within the senate.
Winning a dramatic and earned promotion is Lightford. The Maywood native represents all of Forest Park and River Forest, a portion of Oak Park and much of Proviso Township. She has now been appointed Senate Majority Leader, the number two post in the senate. She replaces James Clayborne Jr. who has now retired.
Certainly, it is notable that Lightford becomes the first black woman to hold this post. She is also president of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, another post of considerable influence.
Beyond that, though, is Lightford's considerable political and policy chops. She earned this post because she is a legislator with clear policy priorities that focus directly on unmet needs in her communities. She is savvy and persistent enough to make those priorities real on the ground.
We look particularly at Lightford's public education focus and the statewide impact of her legislation that forced high school districts to radically change direction on suspensions and expulsions of students. This is a restorative justice approach that makes such sense and goes straight to the inequities in how schools have dispensed discipline along racial lines.
Oak Park-based Sen. Don Harmon's role as head of the Senate Executive Committee continues and carries considerable substance in driving the progressive agenda for Illinois. For Harmon's part we look to his determined efforts to move gun safety legislation through to the incoming governor's desk after years of hard work and to the necessary shift to a progressive state income tax, Harmon's Fair Tax, about to become the next essential discussion in fixing the state's broken finances.
Our communities have offered up to the state two legislators with progressive values, deep knowledge and political skills to make genuine change happen.
Investing in D209
When a school district stops investing in its school buildings, it is a clear sign that something has gone very wrong. The district is broke. The district saw benefits in diverting money to political ends. The district had no vision of its future and did not see the percentages in anything beyond patching the roof when it leaked.
That would be a fair description of the sorry state our Proviso Township High Schools had fallen to over past decades. But new administrative and school board leadership over four years in District 209 have turned that grim scenario fully around.
As 2019 began, the school board unanimously approved spending $77 million on fundamental physical investments in its three school buildings — East, West and PMSA. That will take three years to spend, on everything from new electrical systems, upgraded athletic facilities and updated parking.
Most of that money is on hand, the result of astute financial management that goes back to the state's financial takeover of this district.
Better days ahead.
This editorial has been updated to reflect that Lightford replaces James Clayborne Jr.