Speak Out

Unconditional

 

By Dawn DeSart, ACE Steering Committee Member

 

Tuesday Morning
“Dearest Dawn, How did the cookies and pie taste? How long did the cookies last? I love you!”

As a kid, my family moved around the country a lot. My dad worked for the same company from the time he graduated from college until his retirement, and every time Dad got promoted within his company, we had to move to a different city, a new home, a new school: Mansfield, Ohio; Poughkeepsie, New York; Orchard Park, New York; Naperville, Illinois (my senior year of high school), and other cities I was too young to remember. One constant in my life was my loving grandparents, Orville and Hazel Olson, salt-of-the-earth corn and soybean farmers whose homestead was an 80-acre farm in Hartland, Minnesota. Mom was their only child, so wherever we moved, they traveled to visit as often as they could. And when we were old enough to travel alone, my two brothers and I would fly to Minneapolis, where Grandpa and Grandma Olson would pick us up at the airport and drive us the hour and a half trip home to Hartland, where we would stay for the magical summers.

February 19, 1982
“We heard you on the radio last Saturday, but we missed you yesterday. Will try again tomorrow. You sounded real good. Keep up the great work.”

Despite the distance, Grandma was a constant in my life. We were pen pals from the time I could read until her passing. Not a week or two went by without an exchange of mail —real mail, pen-to-paper, handwritten notes, letters, and cards. Her words, advice, and wisdom were my touchstone, grounding me in my life. I credit Grandma Hazel with my future career as a journalist. From my earliest memories, all I wanted to do was to write and tell stories.

September 29, 1981
“Dearest Dawn, Thinking about you a lot. Wondering how you like school? Have you made many new friends? (Boyfriends?) Did you go to the football game?”

When I volunteered to write this month’s ACE “Speak Out” for Women’s History Month, I thought about incredible, famous women from our country’s brief history. Harriet Tubman came to mind first. I saw the inspirational movie, “Harriet,” last summer, which told of Tubman’s extraordinary bravery, freeing hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad network. Her story will stay with me forever. I thought about Ellen Martin, a lawyer and a courageous suffragette who had the remarkable audacity to be the first woman to vote in Illinois at a Lombard polling place on April 6, 1891. Then I thought of this utterly incredible woman: Hazel Violet Olson. She didn’t make history. She didn’t free slaves or earn women the right to vote. But Hazel was a cigarette-smoking, rough-handed, hard-working farm wife who lit up my world with wisdom, laughter, and unconditional love.

May 1981
“Happy Graduation, Dawny! I can’t wait til you’re in school at Mankato. We’ll get to see you all the time.”

Hazel was not an educated woman. She didn’t attend school past junior high. She didn’t even get her driver’s license until she was in her thirties or forties. But she was wise beyond wisdom, and she knew how to do lots of other essential things like how to sew a beautiful dress for Sunday morning church services; how to make pies and cookies from scratch; and how to chop off the head of a chicken with an ax, pluck off all the feathers and down, and make it into the most juicy and flavorful bird for dinner.

February 19, 1978
“Happy Birthday, Dawn, How is my cute fifteen year old granddaughter? I’ll bet you are getting cuter all the time. Grandpa and I are very proud of you.”

Summers with Grandma Hazel were spent sweating buckets in her garden, helping her weed and pick fresh snap beans for our dinner that night, which would be fried to delicious perfection with ground black pepper and bacon grease. We’d spend summer afternoons baking thousands of sugar cookies, with only a ceiling fan to whisper air into her farmhouse kitchen. We spent cooler summer evenings outside, her sitting in the freshly mown grass watching me on the wooden-seated rope swing, reaching for acorns on the giant oak tree to which the swing was tethered.

April 28, 1982
“Are you still going to work at the radio station this summer? Have they changed call numbers? After you came on at 5 after 5, we can’t get you anymore. We used to get you.”

I learned to drive when I was eight. Grandpa had an old, beat-up, rusty blue pickup truck that started and stopped with the push of a button. Around the farmyard was a worn dirt path. When Grandpa was out working in the fields, Grandma Hazel would sneak the pick-up out of the garage and let my brothers and me take turns driving around the farmyard. We couldn’t reach the accelerator, so the truck only had one speed—slow. I’d line up my dolls on the cracked leather bench seat next to me, and off I’d drive around the yard. If I veered off the path, I’d turn off the truck and race into the kitchen where Grandma Hazel was baking a fresh cherry pie. She never complained. She just followed me back to the truck, reversed it, got me back on track, and walked back to the kitchen to finish her pie. (As an adult, it isn’t lost on me that this is a perfect metaphor for the relationship I enjoyed with my grandma.) Meantime, with the truck back on the right path, I’d ramble around the farmyard, on the dirt path for hours at a time, with my dolls enjoying the ride just as much as I was.

November 17, 1982
“Our dearest Dawny, Got your new letter. Thank you. I understand that you were going to spend Thanksgiving with a friend in Owatonna. If you aren’t, you’re welcome to come here. Well sweetheart, take care of yourself. You’re very welcome to come here. We love you. You’ll have to let us know.”

The farm was home to cows, pigs, and a flock of chickens. We were schooled from the youngest age to never go into the barn without Grandpa or Grandma with us. But boys will be boys, and on one hot, dry summer day, when Grandma Hazel and I were down at the well hand-pumping water into buckets to water the garden, my older brother ran out of the big red barn screaming. I’ve never seen a woman run so fast. In no time, Grandma Hazel was in the dusty barn looking at my younger brother inside the pig pen. A fat, dirty pink pig was menacing him. He was trapped in the far corner of the pen. That day, I learned that pigs can be mean. I am convinced that Grandma Hazel saved my little brother’s life that day. In a flash, she scaled the pen fence, raced to the corner, snapped up my 10-year old brother, and bolted out of the pen with him in her arms. Grandma wasn’t angry that the boys broke the barn rule. I’ve never seen her truly angry. But she was scared and then relieved when she knew my brother was safe.

January 10, 1983
“Dearest Dawn, We’ve tried so hard to pick up your radio station, but Northfield is stronger, so it comes in on your number. Sweetheart, take care of yourself. I love you. Write.”

Summers are especially busy for farmers, so while Grandpa stayed home to work the farm, Grandma Hazel took my brothers and me to the county fair every single day of the two-week event. The Freeborn County Fair was a family affair. My mother was the Freeborn County Fair Dairy Princess as a teenager. My godfather, Howard Recknor, served on the Freeborn County Fair Board for 25 years, many of those years as fair manager. He also served on the Minnesota State Fair Board for 25 years, the last two as fair president. With Howard giving us carte blanche to every corner of the fair, my brothers and I would go on the rides from open to close. We were the luckiest kids in Freeborn County: tilt-a-whirl, roller coaster, bumper cars, vertical drop, repeat. If we needed anything, we knew to find Howard in the fair office, or better yet, Grandma Hazel in the Bingo tent, playing Bingo all day, every day with her church lady friends. And whatever our request, Grandma Hazel would only always say, “Yes.” Corn dogs? Yes! Cotton candy? Yes! Ice cream? Yes! When we got home at night, tired and full of fair fare, it was bath time, then we brushed our teeth and went off to bed so we could get up and do it all again the next day. For my brothers and me, it was paradise. What kid could ask for more?

July 7, 1982
“I was asked to be on jury duty, but I said I didn’t trust myself. I’d stand and howl.”

Eventually, I went to college at Minnesota State University, Mankato, just a 45-minute drive away from Hartland. One weekend every month, I would drive out to the farm and spend the weekend with my grandparents, doing my laundry and eating like a queen. Saturday nights were spent dancing in the living room with Grandpa when the “Lawrence Welk Show” was on the television, then laughing to Buck Owens, Roy Clark, and Grandpa Jones on “Hee Haw,” while Grandma Hazel sat watching and laughing, mending a pair of trousers or darning holey socks. There’s truly no down time when you’re a farmer’s wife. Nearly every moment of Hazel Olson’s life had to be productive, including on Saturday nights.

Wednesday
“My dearest Dawn, I love you so very much.”

Grandma Hazel would call me on Thursday evenings prior to my Hartland weekends to inform me of what she needed me to bring from town always ending with, “and don’t forget to pick up my ‘medicine’,” which was code for running to the liquor store to buy Gram a fifth of whiskey. She enjoyed a nip now and then, and she didn’t want Grandpa to know. Other than allowing himself one can of beer on an occasional Saturday night, Grandpa Orville did not drink. I never once saw him drink anything stronger than an ice cold Schell.

April 28, 1982
“Dear Dawn, How are things going with you? Studying hard? Grandpa heard that you asked for a picture of him when he was little. He’s been looking.”

A farmer’s work is never done. It’s exhausting labor, and so farmers go to bed early. Even though farmers’ wives work just as hard, Grandma Hazel relished the night time quiet and stayed up late. I loved those Saturday nights after the “Lawrence Welk Show” and “Hee Haw” ended, and Grandpa went off to bed. Grandma Hazel and I would sit at her kitchen table. She, in front of a portable mirror putting Dippity-do and hard plastic, multi-colored curlers in her hair, smoking her menthol Kools, and nipping whiskey from a brown-stained coffee cup. With Grandpa asleep, from time to time, Grandma Hazel would slip me a cigarette, but never the whiskey. We talked for hours, played Crazy Eights and other card games, and I confided in her about every college detail, like classes, boys, stresses, and successes. There was nothing I would not tell Grandma Hazel. Nothing. She was my verbal diary. She knew every last detail about me. To say this woman loved me is like saying water is wet. Hazel Olson adored me and I adored her. I literally could do no wrong. Any challenge I shared, Grandma Hazel was uplifting, always on my side of every situation, even if I was in the wrong. Every success I shared, she would act like I had won an Oscar, a Grammy, and an Emmy all at once. I wish everyone could feel that kind of unconditional love in their lifetime. While Grandpa Orville was a quiet, wise, introspective man, Grandma Hazel was loud, fun, funny, vivacious, and larger than life.

Wednesday Morning
“I hope things are good for you. I do hope to see you soon.”

My daughter, Kathryn, is the brilliant reincarnation of my Grandma Hazel. While trying to crack eggs neatly or screw legs onto a table or put together a shoe rack, I shout, “Grrrr! I’m not good at this!” Kathryn quietly, patiently, lovingly replies, “But you’re so good at so many other things.” Unconditional love and acceptance. Beautiful and full circle. A true blessing.

Friday Night
“Can’t wait to see you next weekend. Grandpa and I so look forward to your visits. We love you.”

I think sometimes when we consider honoring people during special months—like Women’s History Month—we seem to think beyond ourselves on the national or international stage, and not of the people who so deeply impacted our own lives in significant ways. This month, I’m choosing to honor a lesser-known hero: a loud, brash, outgoing, ordinary woman who touched my life and everyone around her with service, laughter, acceptance, and most of all, unconditional love. It’s been heart-wrenching to live without the sunshine that was my grandmother. The day the letters stopped arriving in my mailbox was the day it hit me the hardest; that she was really gone. My grandparents died two-and-a-half months after my son, Alexander Olson DeSart, was born. Oh, how they adored him for the short time they had with him. Hazel died on February 3rd—most likely, the menthol Kools killed her—26 years ago; and her beloved husband, quiet, introspective Orville, died just four days later. He couldn’t live without her, either.


Dawn DeSart is a member of the DuPage County Board representing District 5. She has spent her career as a journalist working in every field: newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. While at NBC5 in Chicago, Dawn earned five Emmy Awards for excellence in journalism. A graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, she has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.

Finding Redemption and Healing for Our Unfinished Nation

By Beverly George, ACE Founder

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.”
— Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb” written for and recited at the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on January 20, 2021.

That’s what Amanda Gorman said. However, this is what I heard.

“. . . and the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice.”

Just a small change in punctuation and meaning, yet that tiny difference triggered a memory for me from about 70 years ago.

I was born in 1946 and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, before it was the big cosmopolitan city it was becoming when we moved away in 1977. The first house I remember was a small red-brick home in an area called Morningside, which was mostly comprised of houses built by and for veterans just after World War II under the GI Bill. It was—and still is—a pretty residential area of the city. I had an older brother, Mike, and my parents owned one car, a 1948 Nash. We had a good life, and we lived securely in early suburban white privilege in a very southern city.

I recall going downtown on the city bus with my mother when I was very young, maybe five years old. I watched black riders get on the bus, pay their fares, and walk directly to the back of the bus to take their seats, even when empty places were available near the front. I asked my mother why they did that, and her answer was something like, “That’s just the way things are.” The Jim Crow laws had been the bedrock of southern life for decades by the time she was born, so her answer was tragically accurate.

What I heard in Amanda Gorman’s poem, “ . . . what just is,” brought back that memory so clearly. “Just” in this thought is an adverb, and it means “exactly.” What exactly is.

Looking back at Jim Crow laws in the early 1950s, “what just is” was horribly unjust.

Look again at what Amanda Gorman wrote and said:

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.

Gorman is speaking in the present about our 400-year history of justice applied so consistently and yet so unequally and inequitably—in every era—to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, and today it still ends tragically in the death of another George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Trayvon Martin. Furthermore, and too often, no one is held accountable in our criminal justice system for these deaths.

Isabel Wilkerson came to the College of DuPage (COD) several years ago to talk about her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns. It is her story of the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Jim Crow South beginning just after World War I and ending in the early 1970s. In her presentation at COD, she said something that I found jarringly clear and true. I’m paraphrasing her here, so bear with me. I remember her saying something to the effect of when “one group works so hard to hold another group ‘down in a ditch’ socially, economically, and legally, the first group has to climb down into the ditch to hold the subordinate group there.”

I’ve just finished reading Wilkerson’s second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. In it, she lays out a convincing argument that America, India, and Nazi Germany all have had distinct caste systems during their national histories, and the only country “in recovery” is Germany. The United States and India are still mired in the suffocating, toxic, lasting effects of their caste systems.

Cast: in a play, portraying characters to deliver the same story over and over.
Cast: of plaster of Paris, to heal a broken bone.
Caste: legally defined social strata we’ve seen—and still see—in societies.

Cast. Cast. Caste. They all have an unchanging quality, a stifling rigidity.

Our history from 1619 to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter—it’s exhausting, dark, and dirty living in that damned ditch, and it’s time for all of us to climb out.

Illinois HB 3653, the criminal justice reform bill, is a start, written to lift us and our criminal justice system out of this American ditch. The story of what we do today will become the history we read about and reflect on tomorrow. Let’s turn the page.


ACE Founder Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Previous Speak Out Posts

Timeline of Events Triggers Hard Questions on the Coup Attempt on January 6

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a group of Americans took control of the U.S. Capitol Building for several hours, blocking the function of our Congress as it met to certify electoral votes from the November 3, 2020 election.

I suffer from insomnia occasionally, and it came as no surprise when I tossed and turned that night. Did anyone sleep well?

I woke around 2:30 a.m. and read the news and found the daily Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College. After reading her essay, I read the early morning Washington Post article reviewing the January 6 events with time stamps. The timeline troubled me greatly, even though I had watched the TV coverage all day.

Between the two sources, here’s what I found. NOTE: All times are EST.

11:33 a.m.: President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd and lies about having won by a landslide and that the election was stolen from them. He invites supporters to walk with him to the Capitol. However, he returns to the White House at 12:59 p.m. while they make their way to the Capitol. At some time in the middle of the day, Rudy Giuliani speaks to the crowd and says “Let’s have trial by combat.”
12:05 p.m.: Congress meets in joint session to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Dozens of Republicans are present to object to counting the submitted Electoral College votes from Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and other states.
12:10 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence says he will not intervene to change the election outcome.
12:45 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warns overturning Biden’s election would put our democracy into a “death spiral.”
12:46 p.m.: GOP members object to Arizona’s electoral votes for Biden.
12:49 to 12:54 p.m.: More GOP members object and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urges the Senate to accept the electoral votes, which reflect the voters’ decision.
12:55 p.m.: Republican National Committee headquarters is evacuated over “suspicious package,” according to the Washington Post. Hours later—at 2:58 a.m. on January 7—Heather Cox Richardson reports “police found two pipe bombs near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., as well as a truck full of weapons and ammunition, and mobs gathered at statehouses across the country, including in Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota, California, and Georgia.”
1:17 p.m.: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks and defends his challenge to Biden’s win in Arizona.
1:34 p.m.: Trump lashes out at Pence while his supporters breach U.S. Capitol.
1:34 p.m.: House and Senate recess as protesters enter and roam the Capitol.
1:48 p.m.: Washington Post reports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th District) requests deployment of National Guard troops to Capitol. For two and a half hours, the White House, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security all remain silent, according to Richardson and the Washington Post. During this time, President-elect Joe Biden speaks to the country and urges President Trump to tell his supporters to go home.
4:17 p.m.: Trump issues his video from the Rose Garden, which reiterates his lies about his huge election victory having been stolen and ends with a call to supporters to “go home, we love you, you’re very special.”
5 p.m.: Heather Cox Richardson reports that “by 5 p.m., acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller issued a statement saying he had conferred with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Vice President Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and had fully activated the D.C. National Guard.” Trump was not mentioned in the statement. This was three and a half hours after the Washington Post reported Pelosi had requested help.
5:46 p.m.: Speaker Pelosi calls for Electoral College certification to continue Wednesday night.
Prior to 7:30 p.m.: custodial staff thoroughly scrubs the Capitol chambers.
7:34 p.m.: Senate reopens with message to get back to work.
8:20 p.m.: Speaker Pelosi brings House back into session.
9:17 p.m.: Senate rejects challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes.
10:15 p.m.: House rejects challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes.
11:01 p.m.: Congress resumes counting votes.
11:03 p.m.: Georgia’s electoral votes certified for Biden after Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) withdraws objection.
11:29 p.m.: House and Senate adjourn to debate objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
11:48 p.m.: Senate rejects challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
2:13 a.m.: House rejects challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
2:46 a.m.: Pence officially affirms Biden’s win.

Heather Cox Richardson reported that, at day’s end, four people had died, at least 52 perpetrators had been arrested, and 14 law enforcement officers had been injured.

Prior to yesterday’s events, the following Trump staff purges occurred.

On Nov. 13, 2020, CNN reported the Trump administration had removed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and four senior civil officials and placed loyalists in their place.

On Nov. 18, 2020, CNN reported Trump’s firing Chris Krebs, Homeland Security’s Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, after he reported there was “no evidence” any voting system had been compromised by deleting, losing, or changing votes. Matt Travis, the number 2 official, also resigned.

All of this begs several questions.

The Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed by the breach. Why was security so weak? Why weren’t the National Guard troops nearby, ready and on stand-by?

Before January 6, who in the government knew the plans, details, and the extent of this coup attempt? Was the FBI following any noise on the internet? Where was Homeland Security? Trump was tweeting and seeking the support of his followers and had invited them to D.C. for the formerly ceremonial event.

To what extent will the 52 arrested coup members be prosecuted?

What future in American politics will Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and new Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) have? Remember their names.

This was the first time in our history the Capitol was breached by American citizens. I feel both anger and sadness and the resolve that this must not happen again.

Sources


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/06/congress-electoral-college-vote-live-updates/

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/january-6-2021

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/10/politics/pentagon-policy-official-resigns/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/17/politics/chris-krebs-fired-by-trump/index.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-2020-election-results/2020/11/06/932376507/trump-dumps-3-agency-leaders-in-wake-of-election


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Ethics Reform in Local Government: a Proposed Ordinance for More Transparent Campaign Finance Disclosure

Campaign finance reform is needed at all levels of American government. This article addresses the issue by beginning in our own backyard with the Naperville City Council.

By Beverly George
ACE Leader

On Monday, November 16, 2020, the League of Women Voters-Naperville hosted Naperville Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan in a webinar to present, explain, analyze, and answer questions about her proposed “City Ordinance to Amend Chapter 13 (Conflict of Interest) of Title 1 (Administrative) of the Naperville Municipal Code.”

Simply put, the ordinance is meant to make campaign contributions to city council members more transparent to the public by opting for mandatory disclosure of any campaign donations greater than $500 by an “interested entity” prior to voting on a matter before the council to which the entity has voiced a position on said matter. This ordinance will cover all donations above $500 from the most recent election cycle and makes the disclosure immediate and on the record before the council member votes.

How will it bring greater transparency?

An “interested entity,” such as an individual, business, union, or PAC, makes a campaign contribution greater than $500 to a candidate running for mayor or city council. The candidate is elected, and the campaign donor subsequently comes before the council to speak on behalf of, or in objection to, a particular agenda item. Current ethics laws do not require the mayor or any council members to disclose that campaign contribution, nor to recuse themselves from voting on the item at hand.

Current campaign finance laws in Illinois require any candidate who spends more than $5,000 on their campaigns to file a quarterly D-2 form with the State Board of Elections (SBE). The D-2 lists donors’ names and the amount each contributed to the campaign, and this information is available to the public during and after the election. If a donor contributes $1,000 or more, that larger sum requires the candidate to report it immediately to the SBE and not wait for the quarterly report.

However, when a candidate has taken office, no current ethics laws require an elected official to disclose any campaign donation from any “interested entity” before voting on a matter relevant to that donor, nor are there any current laws requiring recusal from voting on a matter relevant to the donor.

The Naperville mayor and city council members discussed the proposed ordinance at the November 17, 2020 meeting. Mayor Steve Chirico and some council members objected to the proposed ordinance on the grounds that it is duplicative because the D-2 forms already on file with the SBE reveal this information to the voters.

Councilwoman Patty Gustin believes the ordinance will present a burden to keep up with donations over $500 made during the campaign. Gustin has proposed a second option of posting a link from the Naperville City Council website to the D-2 forms filed at the SBE for each council member.

However, Sullivan’s ordinance is designed to connect the dots between campaign contributions and votes on agenda items before the council, and I believe it does so with immediate ease and transparency to the voters. I disagree with the protestations of duplication and burden in maintaining campaign donation records. I also oppose Gustin’s proposed link to the D-2 forms as a substitute for the ordinance, although the link could be posted in addition to adopting the Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance.

Councilwoman Gustin’s proposal puts the onus for disclosure on the voter. Armed only with her proposed link to the D-2 forms, a voter who wants to find out if an “interested entity” has contributed to a mayoral or council member’s campaign would have to look up nine D-2 forms in search of that donor. Voters would have to do that for every relevant agenda item they wanted to follow.

How would the Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance work?

Here’s an example of this ordinance in action. Before a vote, an affected council member might say something like the following.

“Mr. Jones, representing ACME Widgets, Inc., has spoken in favor of building an ACME warehouse on Oak Street. Before I vote, let the record show ACME Widgets, Inc. donated $700 to my recent campaign.”

The council member then votes, in no way bound to agree with ACME Inc., nor to recuse themselves from the vote, just to be transparent and avoid any shadow of conflict of interest.

This proposed ordinance does not change state campaign finance laws. It also doesn’t change how much money a candidate can accept from an individual, a corporation, a union, or a PAC. City council members may recuse themselves from the vote if they so choose.

It does, however, raise the bar for candidates running for Naperville mayor or city council positions to be constantly open to the public about the campaign donations they have accepted and to continue this transparency for the duration of their terms in office. The proposed Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance is a simple procedural requirement, and it would build greater trust in elected officials.

I believe the eleven candidates running for city council on April 6, 2021, should be prepared to state clearly their positions on this proposed ordinance, because it will certainly be asked.

What can you do?

Please read and get informed about this proposed city ordinance change. You can watch the Nov. 17 city council meeting posted at http://naperville.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1350. Discussion on this topic by council members begins at approximately 1:17.

Initially, there were two options for this ordinance, but only the option for the Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance remains up for a vote at the December 15, 2020 city council meeting. Comments on Councilwoman Gustin’s proposal to provide a link on the city council website to the SBE and D-2 records for the mayor and city council members also will be heard then.

I urge you to support Councilwoman Sullivan’s Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance.

Please write the city council members to voice your support for the proposed ordinance for Mandatory Disclosure. Explain that a link to D-2 forms filed with the SBE is not a viable substitute and puts the onus for disclosure on the voters. That responsibility should remain with the elected officials.

You can find email addresses for city council members at https://www.naperville.il.us/government/meet-your-city-council/. Scroll down to “Contact Your City Council.” Or you can send them all the same email message at council@naperville.il.us .

Finally, once the December 15 council meeting agenda is posted, you can
enter your remarks to be read into the record on Dec. 15, or you can sign up to read your remarks yourself via Zoom at the meeting.

If you have an occasion to ask candidates for city council a question, consider asking them to state their position clearly on the recently proposed Mandatory Disclosure Ordinance to amend the Naperville Municipal Code.


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Campaigning in the Time of COVID

 

By Dawn DeSart
DuPage County Board Member
and ACE Leadership Team Member

 

Running for political office during normal times is exhausting, exhilarating work. There are doors to knock and neighbors to meet. There are forums and debates and places to go meet the voters “where they’re at.” You’re shaking hands and hugging friends who host neighborhood meet-and-greet coffees for you. You’re up in the dark hours of the morning meeting commuters at the Metra train stations. As a candidate, you are quite literally “pressing the flesh” at every opportunity.

Then a hundred-year global pandemic strikes, and you are told to stay home, avoid crowds, and keep yourself six feet away from other people. But how does a candidate campaign for political office by avoiding people? How can candidates get their message across to voters while social distancing? The challenges are great. The opportunity for creative networking must be even greater.

‘There is nothing more important right now than the election,” says Thomas Craighead of the Naperville League of Women Voters. “Whether it’s the national election, the local election, or your own personal election, this is an important moment in our history.”

Most of the local campaigns are organizing at-home phone banks to get their messages out by calling voters. “Days of Action” include lit drops by campaign volunteer workers. Gone for now are the days when volunteers walk door-to-door, ring the doorbell, hand the voter literature for their candidates, and speak to voters about their preferred candidates. In these days of COVID-19, volunteers must now just do a lit drop, dropping off candidates’ literature at the doors of voters, and hope that the voters take the time to read the literature, rather than dumping it directly into the recycle bin. Face-to-face selling a candidate is—for now—a thing of the past, in most cases.

“COVID-19 has changed how candidates reach constituents,” acknowledges Cynthia Borbas, Democratic Party of DuPage County (DPDC) chairwoman. “Previously, there was a heavy focus on conversations at people’s doors. Some candidates are still attempting to go to the doors and having conversations while socially distancing and wearing masks, but some candidates and volunteers are nervous to do that, and many neighbors are also concerned when people are at their doors during COVID.”

Ken Mejia-Beal is a candidate for Illinois state representative in District 42. Mejia-Beal is one of the few candidates still knocking on doors, despite the pandemic, “I’m wearing a mask but I’m still going door to door. Wearing a mask is challenging. In year’s past (when I’ve campaigned), during the summer months, I’d go knocking on doors no matter the heat. This year, wearing a mask makes it feel hotter, and I had to cut back on door knocking if it’s over 80-degrees. It just gets too hot. But if I can’t go door to door, I am phone banking, always trying to reach voters. And because there are still people afraid to open the door, even to someone wearing a mask, I try to stay connected (to voters) through lots of emails.”

Despite COVID-19, or more accurately, because of COVID, Mejia-Beal has re-discovered the beauty of human contact. “When I go door to door and talk especially to senior citizens, I find that a lot of people haven’t spoken anyone…no one…but maybe their mail carrier since March,” says the candidate. “A lot of people out there are so incredibly lonely. Too many have no one.”

Mejia-Beal recalled an incident that happened while he was out campaigning. “I was talking with one lady, when halfway through our conversation, she started crying. She hadn’t spoken to anyone since March,” he says. “She has no kids and her husband died last year. She was alone. Completely alone. I was the first person she had spoken to in months! It brought her to tears.”

Many other candidates are avoiding knocking on doors altogether during this period of social distancing.

“We are trying to find any silver lining possible during this pandemic,” says Lynn LaPlante, candidate for the DuPage County Board, District 4. “For example, the fact that I had the virus in March, was quite sick, but have recovered—what a thing to be grateful for! The same comes to campaigning during a pandemic—I’m looking for the silver linings and reasons to be grateful.”

 

Most candidates in this election cycle agree that campaigning ‘ain’t what it used to be.’

 

Some candidates are also facing the reality of remote learning for their school-aged children and having to be home to monitor their progress.

“I have four school-aged kids at home, and while campaigning as a Mom is definitely a challenge, I am grateful most of the work can be done remotely from home,” said LaPlante. “I can be here working on my campaign, while also helping my kids with their e-learning. I can make dinner in between zoom calls, and then, we can sit down to eat together as a family, since I am not out driving to deliver a speech. Instead, I can give a candidate speech into a camera downstairs, and just walk upstairs to read a book with my youngest as I tuck her in and be there to help the older kids with their homework. I am focusing on these silver linings while we all navigate these uncharted waters. Campaigning during these times just adds an extra layer of uniqueness.”

“The challenge for me is shifting to digital,” says Amy Chavez, candidate for the DuPage County Board, District 5. “It’s a challenge using FaceBook and the website videos, figuring out how you can make a true, personal connection with voters without seeing people face to face. Everything has shifted to digital.”

Chavez and DuPage County Forest Preserve, District 5 candidate Barb O’Meara are teaming up for many events to reach voters. On September 16th, they hosted a Zoom fundraiser together, with special guests Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois’ 11th District and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois’ 14th District. The event was a success with nearly 30 voters at the virtual fundraising event.

“I’ve been helping folks, and they are making more phone calls (this year),” says Illinois State Representative Stephanie Kifowit, of the 84th District. Kifowit does not have an opponent this election cycle, but she says that when volunteers are knocking on doors, they step back, “and are standing more than six feet away to talk to people.”

Most candidates who have run for an elected position or have walked door to door for other candidates previously say they miss the people, and the opportunities in the past that have allowed them to meet voters.

“COVID-19 has changed the campaign plan I had because I want to always put residents’ health first. Therefore, we are mostly just lit dropping and missing out on talking to people to find out their concerns or questions,” says Paula Deacon-Garcia, candidate for DuPage County Board, District 2. “I am relying on feedback on social media posts and having people share with their friends to get my name known. Also, fundraising has been tricky. (Candidates at all levels need funding) to pay for literature, and I do not want to burden people already struggling during these difficult economic times. So Zoom meetings, literature drops, and social media is 2020 campaigning.”

Jeff Jacobson, is a candidate for 18th Circuit Court Judge in DuPage County. Jacobson has been given a unique opportunity to get name recognition during his campaign for judge. He’s been invited to be an expert legal analyst at various Chicago media outlets. “I have been using webinar software to campaign,” says Jacobson. “It allows me to spend time with voters safely. Also, I have been fortunate to be a guest on air on NBC, ABC, and a couple of times on the WBBM Business Hour.”

Most candidates in this election cycle agree that campaigning “ain’t what it used to be.”

“There has been a shift in our campaigning to rely more heavily on postcards, letters, lit drop, texting, phone banking and social media,” says DPDC Chair Borbas. “All these approaches can be personalized and targeted, so while we aren’t necessarily having those face-to-face connections, we are still connecting with voters on the issues that matter with a personal touch.”

“The challenges, of course, are the limitations on direct interaction with voters,” says Bill White of Downers Grove, candidate for DuPage County Auditor. “For example, I love campaigning in the crowds that gather at Metra stations for the morning commute to work. But with COVID-19, that’s not safe, and Metra ridership has been massively reduced. Knocking on doors is more problematic. Some people are perfectly okay with talking with canvassers, but you never know if an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system is at a particular house. The last thing we want to do is inadvertently spread the virus.”

“Because of this, I am spending a lot of time dropping literature, in coordination with other candidates,” White continues. “Our literature bags typically include cards from seven, eight, or nine candidates, so we are in effect endorsing each other. Our message is simple: ‘Vote blue on the entire ballot’.”

“Because of these unprecedented times when it’s become more difficult to meet voters personally, candidates are counting on supporters to get their message out to even more people. Those involved in the democratic organization have been incredible in urging friends who vote,” says Jacobson. “The major challenge is not being able to personally meet voters. Voters want to personally meet the candidates.”

“As we head into the final weeks, I very much hope that all Democratic candidates and campaigns will support each other, especially given the challenges we all face,” says White. “Hopefully, we can all demonstrate that we take the virus seriously; we all understand the need to be creative; and we are committed to working as a team.”

 


Dawn DeSart is a member of the DuPage County Board representing District 5. She has spent her career as a journalist working in every field: newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. While at NBC5 in Chicago, Dawn earned five Emmy Awards for excellence in journalism. A graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, she has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.