Frustrated with the dominance of Chicago in Illinois politics, Republicans are proposing legislation to lop off the city from the rest of the state.
Having one city that has an inordinate influence on state politics has long prompted calls for a similar solution in New York state. The issues at stake go from money to power to a vast social gulf between city residents and rural ones.
The same gulf exists in Illinois as well, according to state Rep. Brad Halbrook, a Republican and strong supporter of jettisoning Chicago from a state where he said it is out of step with the rest of the population.
“Our traditional family values seem to be under attack at every angle,” he said, according to the State Journal-Register.
Halbrook has introduced a House resolution — Resolution 101 — asking Congress to take Chicago out of Illinois and make it a separate state. Five fellow lawmakers have signed on, but the measure is a long shot to even make it out of committee, according to the Journal-Register.
That isn’t stopping Halbrook and like-minded colleagues from trying.
“The issue of life, the issue of marriage, the school curriculum. Everything these people hold near and dear to their hearts — our hearts — is under attack by far-left legislators from the city,” Halbrook said in a March 20 speech in the southern Illinois town of Effingham, according to the Illinois Review.
“We are trying to drive the discussion to get people at the table to say, ‘these are not our values down here,’” he said in the speech.
“When you have a large population center that seems to control the agenda for the rest of the state, it just kind of creates some issues,” he added.
Gun control illustrates the cultural divide. Chicago has strict gun control laws. Several counties in southern Illinois have declared themselves sanctuary counties for gun rights to push back against state legislation that has its roots in the complexities of Chicago.
State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, another Illinois Republican, said the issue runs deeper than whether Chicago sucks up too many tax dollars.
“It’s more of a frustration of the policies than the true belief that Chicago and Illinois would be better off as separate states,” he told the Journal-Register, adding that in his perfect world, the legislation would lead to a reconciliation and not a divorce.
“I don’t want to lose Chicago. I just want to have a conversation that we have two different states here wrapped up under one policy. We have to find a way to allow downstate to thrive while Chicago has its more left-leaning policies that they can compete with other cities that have those same left-wing policies,” he told National Public Radio.
Davidsmeyer said legislators stomping their collective foot and threatening to sever Chicago has finally gotten attention to the issue plaguing Illinois.
“Everyone I have talked to, whether for or against it, understands where I am coming from. I’ve seen downstate able to work with Chicago and I think we can go back to that. It should be an adversarial thing,” he told NPR. “I think we can find a way to all work together.”
He said that the state’s Democrat-dominated policies are ill-suited to the needs of southern Illinois.
“The reality is the city of Chicago is competing with New York City and L.A. and San Francisco, and (downstate is) competing against rural Indiana and rural Missouri. The policies that come down from Chicago are actually pushing our economic opportunity away,” he said.
Creating a new state would take Congress to sign on. If New York, where citizens have railed against New York City’s influence for more than 15 years but secession has never taken place, is an example, Illinois is likely to discuss the issue rather than act on it.
“People say Chicago’s a huge economy, there’s no way you can survive without them, (but) I have people on the other side saying Chicago’s killing us with their policies, we need to separate,” Davidsmeyer told the Journal-Register.
“I’m one of the people in the middle saying, ‘let’s see both sides of it.’”
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