Ms. Linton Goes to Springfield
April 28, 2023
I had not been to Environmental Lobby Day in Springfield since just before the pandemic.
And I do mean “just.” The last Illinois Environmental Council sponsored lobby day we went to was on March 4, 2020, and within weeks all hell broke loose in New York City; Gov. Pritzker ordered a Covid shutdown in Illinois on March 21.
So on April 19, after three years away, I was ready to go down for the first in-person Lobby Day since then. I had been redistricted and wanted to meet my new reps: Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, and Rep. Margaret Croke, D-Chicago, and start to develop relationships.
I took one of the IEC buses with League of Women Voters colleague Deborah Halpern. Also on our Evanston/Loyola bus was Julie Moller, a trained Climate Reality Leader, now devoting her time to plastics reduction. When we left Chicago at 7 a.m. it was cold.
Three hours later we arrived in Springfield to summer weather. We met up with our district teams by the Lincoln statue and enjoyed an inspiring rally. There was a wide diversity of speakers, pitching the bills we were there to support. Some of them led loud and enthusiastic chants, such as, “What do we want?” “Climate justice!” When do we want it.” “Now!”
The noon sun was hot and, standing behind the speakers I put up my “Electrify Everything” sign to protect my face from sunburn. I love that sign and brought it home.
During the rally, I connected with Kevin Atchason from the brand new Central Illinois Climate Reality chapter, and Samira Hanessian, a trained leader who used to work for the City of Chicago and now directs IEC’s state energy policy development and implementation.
My team leader was David McEllis, a paid lobbyist for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, who already had relationships with our lawmakers.
Schedules were upended because Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson was there to address a joint session and meet with key legislators. But David managed to get our reps out in the hall to talk with us. We had time for a quick pitch for half a dozen bills (environmental justice, polystyrene foam ban, soil and water, electrifying transportation and coal ash, among others.) Some of our group were in Rep. Ann Williams’s district. She, Feigenholtz and Croke were already co-sponsoring the foam ban.
More than 400 activists converged from around the state. With the mayor-elect in house, things were buzzing. We saw Bulls great Joakim Noah come out of one office (not sure why he was there). And Johnson made his way upstairs to have a picture with all the IEC activists. I missed the picture but passed him on the stairs as I headed down to get the 2 p.m. bus back to Chicago.
A satisfying day for most of us, though some, like Moller and colleague Rick Stuckey, of Save Our Illinois Land, missed speaking with their reps, who were unavailable. (Stuckey is scheduled to speak about the danger of carbon capture pipelines at our May 18 chapter meeting.)
IEC Director Jen Walling says there is always a surge of support for our bills after Lobby Day, when we show our numbers and talk to lawmakers face to face.
It felt good to be there to make a difference. Hope to see you in Springfield next fall.
Cynthia Linton is retired as a journalist and professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is a long-time activist who was trained by The Climate Reality Project in 2017 and is now Communications Chair of the Chicago Metro Chapter. She is grandmother or step-grandmother to six.