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McCaleb: After election, it's back to work

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In just a couple of days, it will be over.

The campaign rhetoric. The attack ads. The TV pundits spinning the facts to support the candidate they favor.

We’ll have elected the next president of the United States. A new Congress. And in Illinois, a new General Assembly.

It’s been a long, painful campaign season. But we’re almost there.

Regardless whether your candidate wins or loses, come Wednesday, we have to get back to fixing the very serious fiscal problems our country and state face.

In an election year, sadly, nothing seems to get done. Incumbents don’t want to make tough decisions for fear of alienating some voting bloc or another. They also spend so much time campaigning and bashing the other side, there’s little time or energy left to do the job we elected them to do.

And we all know there’s plenty of job to do.

Our national debt is more than $16 trillion. That’s the number “16” followed by 12 zeroes. Try writing it down on a piece of paper to see what it looks like. It ain’t pretty. And because of budget deficits totaling more than $1 trillion annually, our debt continues to grow at a frightening pace.

Far too many Americans remain out of work and reliant on taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Illinois also faces a massive budget deficit. The state owes its creditors $9 billion for work already completed. Its public pension systems are underfunded by almost $90 billion.

Yes, there’s plenty to do.

Come Wednesday, it’s time to get back to work.

• • •

Not so independent: When is an independent candidate for office not so independent? When her campaign is funded by the most powerful political figure in the state, that’s when.

Dee Beaubien is running as an independent candidate in Illinois’ 52nd state representative district. She’s trying to claim the seat once held by her late husband, Mark, who died in 2011.

Under redistricting, the 52nd District covers southeastern McHenry County, including Cary and Fox River Grove, eastern parts of Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake, and parts of Lake, Cook and Kane counties.

Dee Beaubien didn’t run in the primary as her opponent, Republican David McSweeney, did. McSweeney defeated two other candidates in the March GOP primary, including Kent Gaffney, who was appointed by Republican leaders to finish Mark Beaubien’s term.

Instead, Dee Beaubien entered the race after the primary election, gathering enough signatures to get on Tuesday’s ballot.

As I was stuck in traffic on my way to work the other day, a Beaubien campaign billboard caught my attention. It read:

“Had enough of partisan gridlock? Dee Beaubien for state representative. An independent voice. A better choice.”

What the ad doesn’t say is that it and most of Beaubien’s campaign has been paid for by Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and his minions. Madigan and the state Democratic Party have poured more than $400,000 into Beaubien’s campaign.

In her interview with the Northwest Herald’s Editorial Board, Dee Beaubien acknowledged receiving help from Madigan but said that didn’t mean she would be beholden to him. She wouldn’t commit to not voting for him for speaker, though.

“Would I vote for Michael Madigan? I’m not elected yet so I have no idea,” she said. “The fact that Michael Madigan’s party has helped my campaign has nothing to do with my position on Michael Madigan. I accepted help from the Democratic Party because it is impossible to run as an independent in this state without getting some help from someone.”

Do you think the most powerful politician in Illinois would give so much money to an “independent” candidate without expecting anything in return? I don’t either.

So the decision comes down to this: If you think Madigan is doing a fine job as speaker, vote for Dee Beaubien. If not, McSweeney is the choice.

• • •

Voting help: Video of Beaubien’s remarks on Madigan, as well as tons of other video of candidates in contested races discussing issues with our Editorial Board, can be viewed on our website’s Election Central page at NWHerald.com/election. There also are candidate responses to our questionnaires online.

Before you vote Tuesday, make sure you’re prepared.

Also, join us at Election Central Tuesday night for constant updates as results come in. You can join the conversation on our Twitter feed there by tweeting to #nwhec. That’s #nwhec as in, Northwest Herald Election Central.

• • •

Inspiring story: Tom Doepker of Bull Valley emailed me last week as Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast.

Slugged “In the Midst of Mayhem – Duty!”, the email included a short story from Yahoo News about the U.S. servicemen and women who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or Tomb of the Unknowns, is a monument built to honor U.S. servicemen and women who died without ever being identified. It is protected around the clock by guards known as sentinels, an elite position in the military.

As most everyone took shelter during the superstorm, the sentinels remained on post throughout the worst of it.

“With the great difficulty being experienced all along the East Coast, seeing moments of individual hardship and or bravery in the face of the elements, will repeat over and over again ...” Doepker wrote. “Long ago, unknown soldiers, in faraway places, died horrible deaths to secure our freedoms, even to invite and sustain in this time of difficulty, and yet, as Americans, we proudly and bravely strive to meet the continuous promise of an ‘eternal vigil’ in their honor. Knowing that our servicemen maintain and sustain, even in this natural disaster, is a source of strength for all of us as we meet the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.”

I couldn’t agree more, and thank you to Tom for sending it along.

• • •

The Rev. Jim Swarthout of McHenry has been appointed to a statewide task force studying mental health services in Illinois.

Swarthout’s résumé of community service is lengthy. Among many other things, he is the founder of the St. Paul Diaper Bank Partnership and a founding member of the board of directors of the National Diaper Bank Network. He is a former member of the Youth Service Bureau Board of Directors before YSB’s merger with Pioneer Center for Human Services, and a former member of the McHenry County Mental Health Board. He currently serves as community clergy coordinator for Rosecrance Health Systems.

Swarthout will co-chair the task force’s Children and Adolescent Committee, which is being asked to develop a five-year plan to improve access to and quality of mental health care for Illinois’ younger population.

“It’s an honor to serve,” Swarthout said. “The people’s passion and professionalism with this group is amazing.”

Given the state’s fiscal problems and cutbacks in funding to human services, the work of this task force will be vital to ensuring Illinois’ most at-risk residents don’t fall through the cracks. I wish him and other task force members the best.

• • •

Did I mention?: Don’t forget to vote. It’s our duty as American citizens.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NWHeditor.

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