Chesney Guest Column: Serving Northwest Illinois Continues, Thanks to Engagement and Technology

This past week, I enjoyed hosting my third TeleTownHall Meeting since the COVID pandemic set into Illinois this Spring.  Many of you may have received a call from my office asking you to hold on the line on Tuesday (8/25) to go live with me via phone for this event.

Much like my “Pizza and Politics” events hosted throughout 2019, these TeleTownHall Meetings allowed me an opportunity to provide a 20 minute legislative update and then allowed for at least 20 more minutes of direct questions and answers from participants.  COVID-19, economic recovery, unemployment issues, school re-openings and public official corruption were topics at top of mind for many.  I appreciated the genuine questions and feedback from the hundreds of participants.  I find these events are a great opportunity to hear directly from your elected official as well as get a direct opportunity to ask a question or voice a concern about state agencies or services.

While I certainly prefer in-person events, like our series of Pizza & Politics events, I understand it is important for our elected officials to remain accessible to the needs of Northwest Illinois citizens.  I expect we will soon return to in-person events and I will look forward to returning to in-person updates and Q & A’s through likely a revised format that is being worked on now.  Until then, I loved hearing from citizens in this format, as well. 

There were more questions than we could get to and I have been busily replying to additional messages and e-mailed questions and concerns sent in follow-up, but what a treat to still be able to connect, even while in-person events of this size are curtailed by Governor Pritzker for the time-being.

I heard from many a support for a regional approach to dealing with this pandemic, even though there are great differences in how residents believe the management of the pandemic should be handled.  Especially up for debate are the ways in which Illinois is encouraging, or not encouraging, a long-delayed economic recovery.  Indeed, a new report by Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business indicates Illinois lags behind the rest of the Midwest in “getting back to normal” as far as restarting economies.

There are many challenges on the horizon.  How do we fix unemployment?  How do we get government out of the way for recovery?  School reopenings or, conversely, remote learning, beg many more questions than answers for parents.  For those concerned about agriculture in our rural communities, there is concern about anemic crop prices, even though the health of the crops is looking good.  Meat producers also face continued uncertainty and stress.  Our farmers and producers, teachers and administrators, parents and students, employers and workers need our prayers and help, now more than ever. 

I’m not sure if all elected officials find the value in hearing these perspectives from the citizens they represent, but I, for one, wanted to take an opportunity and THANK YOU all for providing me your honest and forthright feedback.  This feedback allows me to represent you better, both when we disagree and when we agree.  Northwest Illinois citizens are engaged and ready to continue to fight for much needed reforms at all levels of government.