Rep. Hare knows how it feels to lose home
The mortgage crisis is personal for U.S. Rep. PHIL HARE, D-Rock Island. That’s because when Hare was 10 or 11, his family was evicted from their home.
His father, LOUIS, a machinist who had factory jobs, had been ill and couldn’t work, and his mother, ANITA, had taken a job in a store for $1 an hour.
But the family had moved to a larger house to accommodate a grandmother, and Hare, whose parents have both passed on, said his father took the eviction hard.
“He just felt … that it was his fault,” Hare said in a recent visit to The State Journal-Register editorial board.
Because of the personal experience, as well as what is happening across the country, Hare advocates a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, which he sees as an opportunity for people to try to work out a fixed interest rate that they can pay and stay in their homes.
“Nobody benefits when we evict people,” he said. “My father died at 67, and he drank himself to death because he felt he did something wrong, and he didn’t. He just got caught up in something he couldn’t control.”
Hare has lots of things on his plate, including a strong feeling that the United States needs to get out of the war in Iraq soon. He said he plans to visit Iraq, probably in June.
And after being contacted by HOLLY ROOS of Canton, who with her husband, SCOTT, has children ages 8 and 5 with a disease called Fragile X, Hare has been taking up the cause of getting more information out about it. Fragile X is the most common inherited cause of mental impairment and the most common known genetic cause of autism, according to a statement from his office.
Most people displaying the characteristics of Fragile X are not tested due to lack of awareness about the syndrome, and Hare is working to change that. He said he’s forming a “Fragile X caucus” in Congress.
Hare said he’s told his married son and daughter — both of whom want children — to get tested to find if they are carriers.
“These little kids are just so beautiful,” Hare said. “And the parents feel like it was their fault. … They had no idea that it even existed.”
Meanwhile, Hare is also doing some self-improvement. Not disclosing a weight, he said he’s trying to work out six days a week. He said he lost 75 pounds on Weight Watchers a few years ago, but, “It’s all back and more. It brought friends.”
He said he’s now lost 10 pounds and hopes to lose 80 or 90 more.
“Next time you see me, I hopefully will be a shell of my current self,” he said.
So if Hare talks at your gathering, please be understanding if he goes easy on the goodies.
Sharing some thoughts
Sangamon County Board Chairman ANDY VAN METER has a folksy style of writing that exhibits a lot of personality and wit.
Many residents might think that their own county board representative — even if it is not Van Meter — is the witty one. That’s because Republicans on the board who chose to do so sent out four-page newsletters before the February primary election, with most of the words written by Van Meter, according to one of those members.
“Andy is the one that writes the body of the letter,” said board member JOHN FULGENZI, R-District 17. To cut costs, he said, the members who want to use that letter adopt the body, adding only an introduction and a postscript. Van Meter’s name is not in the body of the letter, which is signed by the board member.
I have copies of letters from Van Meter, Fulgenzi and ABE FORSYTH of District 27. They appear to be identical (unless I missed a word here or there), except for the name on the front and the short openings and closings and the signatures.
The newsletters state that they are paid for by the Sangamon County Board Republican Election Committee. Fulgenzi said the total cost of each mailing was about $1,000, with the member asked to pay about half. So the issue is not the use of county funds. At first blush, it seemed like a form of plagiarism.
But Van Meter said the newsletter is developed through a meeting of GOP members to discuss what they want to say. Van Meter takes the outline and drafts the first version. The draft is circulated, “and then we meet again, as a group, to discuss the specific language and draft the final wording.” He said he got clearance from the state’s attorney’s office, and the meeting was “permitted under the Open Meetings Act because it is for the purpose of discussing campaign/political issues/materials.”
In the second meeting, he said, “members are expected to make a preliminary indication if they are comfortable with the wording and will participate in the newsletter.” He said he then prepared a second draft and distributed it by e-mail.
All participants then make final changes; he said Fulgenzi is the one making the most changes.
“I send out the final version incorporating the final changes, and those who participate sign the letter and submit the customized sections to the printer,” Van Meter said.
“If this is plagiarism, then the president’s State of the Union speech is plagiarism.”
Some examples from the nearly identical letters:
The section headlined “Jail” addresses recent deaths at the county’s lockup.
“I’ve toured the jail and I can tell you that as jails go, it is a pretty decent operation,” it states.
“In my time on the county board I’ve learned that there are a few important aspects about that jail that are good to keep in mind:”
There is then a numbered list of eight items. Fulgenzi said he thought at least one of them — No. 3 — “seemed kind of harsh” by painting staff with a broad brush.
“There is something about human nature that when one person is given power over another that power can quickly become abusive,” that point states.
“We have a dedicated staff at the county jail who must instantaneously make difficult decisions and we have a serious internal affairs system for identifying and eliminating jailers who slip from control to abuse,” says another.
Fulgenzi said he spoke to Van Meter about his concern, but ended up agreeing with the chairman that “We may have some problems there” and “power corrupts,” so he used the letter.
On the issue of taxes, the newsletter states, “I know that it is hard to realize, but the county portion of the property tax bill you paid last June and September actually went down. (Yes, that’s down.)”
And just before the signature, the letters state, “It is really an honor to represent our neighborhood on the board. I hope you will allow me to continue to serve.”
Fulgenzi said he understands it’s hard for “somebody else’s thoughts to be what your thoughts are,” and he never thought about the letter as plagiarism because “I basically concur with what was said.” He said it might be good to identify the main part of the letter as being from the chairman, but also said later he doesn’t think the issue is “that big a deal” as long as he agrees with the content.
The issue of copy-cat newsletters was raised back in 2004, when a sitting member of the board was challenged by another Republican in a primary who, in his losing battle, wondered why the incumbent had the same letter as other incumbents. At the time, Van Meter said he did the main drafting of the letter, but called it a “collaborative effort.”
My opinion is that staff-written talking points on brief brochures are understandable, and I know many politicians have speech- and letter-writers. But the unique style that I see in these letters presents a personality and a point of view to constituents, and I think it’s very questionable for those members to claim those words and that personality as their own. How about some originality?
Van Meter, with whom I communicated by e-mail, said 13 board members sent out the letters, and as far as he knows, they all toured the jail.
And he showed his usual wit in dismissing concerns about the newsletter.
“I don’t think most people are duped by newsletters from politicians,” he said. “Most people read politicians’ newsletters for the information they contain and then slip them under the kitty litter where they can do some good.”
Friends of Mann
Condolences to those who knew former state Rep. ROBERT MANN, an independent Democrat from the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago who was in the Illinois House for 16 years, ending in the late 1970s.
Mann died of pneumonia March 26 in Chicago’s Provident Hospital, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“He was portrayed as a very liberal, progressive, independent legislator,” said former state Sen. ART BERMAN, D-Chicago, who was more aligned with Chicago’s Democratic organization at the time but served with Mann, was his friend, and shared his liberal ideology.
“In addition, he was very thoughtful, he was very concerned, he was very responsive to the needs of the people that needed government help most,” Berman said.
When Mann received a American Civil Liberties Union award in the 1970s, the leader of the state ACLU at the time said he was “a consistent advocate of civil rights for minorities and women as well as a steadfast foe of capital punishment.”
Mann tried to pass Illinois legislation that would have allowed servicemen from the state to refuse to serve in undeclared wars such as the Vietnam conflict.
“I had great respect for him,” Berman said. “We never had any confrontations or difficulties, and it was a pleasure to serve with him.”
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.