Illinois, Peoria Recent Hot Spots for Politicians
D.C. Democrats visit Central Illinois while Governor Quinn reveals a new use for shingles.
Home State Tour
Campaign 2012 is revving up across the country and Illinoisans are seeing some early signs—most notably President Barack Obama’s bus tour across the Midwest. The tour came in the middle of August but had lasting impacts on tiny agricultural communities located in Henry County, including Atkinson, a farming village of nearly 1,000 residents, and Alpha, a small community with around 700 residents.
Henry, near the Iowa border, has a history of voting Republican, although Obama won the county during the 2008 election. Freshmen Republican congressmen with territory in Henry County, Bobby Schilling of Colona and West Chicago’s Randy Hultgren, are currently up against the odds for re-election in 2012, facing Democratic-controlled redistricting that places both representatives within districts with overwhelming Democratic constituencies.
The tour, which took the President back to his home state where he served as a U.S. senator in Illinois, lasted three days and also included stops in Iowa and Minnesota. The tour took place with town hall meetings during which Obama took questions from Illinois residents regarding the detriments the weakened economy is exerting on locals. The President also fielded questions regarding the job market, the egregious national deficit and the waning real estate market. Obama discussed economic growth ideas and job creation and spoke with the towns’ local leaders on ways to help middle-class families get back on their feet. Obama left on Air Force One from Peoria’s Air National Guard Base.
Sherry Sheridan, a Henry County resident, says she “appreciated” the President’s visit. “I think it’s good that he took time to stop and visit with folks in the smaller towns. It’s good to know we’re on his radar and that he’s interested in talking with us.”
On the upside, Atkinson has been reaping the benefits of stimulus money, which has contributed to transportation infrastructure and the construction of a new fire station. Soybean and corn farming is a way of life for residents of Henry County. Like all Illinois citizens, especially farmers, people in the western county want to see change happen more quickly.
“I’d like to think the President’s visit was more than just a campaign ploy to get votes,” says Roger Simmons, a farmer and longtime resident of Henry. “All we can do is talk to him and hope he’ll listen and take our concerns to heart.”
Durbin Comes to Peoria
Obama isn’t the only high-profile politician who made his way to Central Illinois. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin played up the economy in a visit to Peoria last month in an effort to assure business leaders in the city that in spite of growing financial concerns, corporate leaders needn’t fear. During a speech at the Heartland Partnership on August 12th, Durbin told residents of the Tri-County area “America has the strongest economy in the world” and current stock market fluctuations failed to paint a realistic picture of the country’s economic ordeal.
Nevertheless, the U.S. senator referred to the country’s current credit rating, recently downgraded by Standard and Poor, as a “wake-up call” to Washington, D.C. to begin spending within its means. In an effort to do so, leaders on the Hill have formed a bi-partisan committee known as the Super Congress to come up with a plan for cutting $1.5 trillion in spending, new revenue or closed tax loopholes. Should the committee fail to accomplish its task by late November, approximately $1.2 trillion in across-the-board reductions will go into effect, a provision inherent in the nations’ nascent agreement to raise the country’s debt ceiling. These reductions will come largely from social programs and defense spending.
Durbin prodded Republican business leaders to contact their GOP representatives in Congress and encourage them to “put everything on the table—everything,” citing that in a “divided government” compromise is mandatory. Such “give and take” becomes especially necessary, the senator says, under current circumstances when Democratic leaders refuse to change Medicare and Social Security and Republicans are dead set against tax increases for their wealthy compatriots.
Shingles Not Just for Rooftops
In South Peoria, Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation granting permission to turn shingles into asphalt. The recycled product will be used by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to pave highways. Quinn called this summer “one of the busiest construction seasons in state history” and said the bill-become-law will help the state exercise eco-friendly methods for infrastructure.
Quinn signed the bill at Southwind RAS on South Darst Street in mid-August. Thanks to the new law, IDOT can now save approximately $8 million per year using specified quantities of recycled shingles as asphalt in road pavement. Each ton of asphalt counts as two tons toward each recycling facility’s quota mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Southwind, which recently opened in April, will be able to hire at least 30 employees with the goal of creating nine recycling facilities in Illinois.
The new law is a win for everyone and won’t cost the state a dime. Instead, recycling facilities will team up with roofing companies to increase the amount of shingles made from asphalt.