DECATUR — Two Central Illinois lawmakers are seeking action to separate Cook County from the rest of the state.
State Reps. Bill Mitchell and Adam Brown said they’re introducing the resolution because they believe Chicago-based lawmakers are out of touch with the concerns of average citizens living outside the city and downstate. Both Mitchell and Brown stressed that their constituents have asked for exactly this course of action.
“Week in and week out we hear from residents, ‘Why isn’t Chicago its own state?’ ” said Brown, R-Decatur, at a Tuesday news conference. “They think very different than we do downstate, and I’ve seen it firsthand. Right now, we’ve got gridlock in Springfield. We’ve got 10 percent unemployment, a $9 billion deficit, and Chicago leadership doesn’t want to lead. We do want to lead downstate, and we’re proposing ideas for welfare reform, workers compensation reform and ideas that are going to get this state back on the right budgetary track.”
The resolution seeks a statewide referendum on the issue and asks the General Assembly to urge Congress to pass legislation that would divide Illinois into two states.
“I don’t feel this is a radical concept, as it’s been done before in the history of the country,” said Mitchell, R-Forsyth, “West Virginia, of course, was once part of Virginia; Maine was once part of Massachusetts, Vermont was once part of New York state and Kentucky was part of Virginia. There is a constitutional process under the United States constitution for existing states to divide.”
Mitchell pointed out that Cook County is larger than many states in terms of its 5 million-plus population.
“There are 29 states with a population smaller than Cook County,” he said. “There is no reason why Cook County cannot become its own state. Chicago can run its own affairs and leave the rest of Illinois to govern itself, based upon our shared downstate values.”
The road to pass such legislation would not be easy. Majority approval in the Illinois General Assembly would send the resolution onto what would likely be fierce debate in the Congress. But Mitchell insists “it can be done and it should be done” and said he would “fight the good fight.” For dramatic effect, he illustrated the move by marking a red “X” in the location of Chicago on a “Take Back Illinois” sign as he spoke.
“It’s very simple folks: We just do this and we’ll resemble Indiana more than the present, debt-ridden state of Illinois,” Mitchell said. “We can resemble Indiana, which has a lower debt, a lower unemployment rate and a lower deficit.”
Mitchell closed with one more simile.
“I propose it’s just like a divorce; there’s irreconcilable differences between the state of Illinois and Cook County,” he said. “Cook County, you go your way. Let the state of Illinois go its way and try to live like a family lives on their own budget. I think it might be in the best interest of both parties to go their own way.”