My feeling about this new year differs from the last few, when January 1 meant little more than waking up for another day. I sense more urgency, but maybe it's just personal. I mention two items on my own wish list:
May we get a great new chancellor for the University of Illinois at Springfield. To some, this may sound like an internal bureaucratic yawner, but it's not. This person will replace Naomi Lynn, who came to Springfield as president of Sangamon State University, then became chancellor in 1995 when SSU merged with the University of Illinois. Our campus grew in stature and strength under her leadership, and will join the ranks of four-year undergraduate schools with the addition of freshmen and sophomores next year. That alone will have an enormous impact for years to come. The announcement of our new chancellor is expected in the near future.
May the Illinois Civic Engagement Project, which we are co-sponsoring with the United Way of Illinois, bear fruit in all parts of Illinois. Scholars have been debating for the past five years whether America's civil society is on the decline. If it is, that's bad for all of us. But others think society is just changing, not declining, and people are finding new ways to participate in their communities.
We're co-hosting a conference March 6 in Chicago with the hope that people from three sectors - government, nonprofits and business - can learn something about enhancing civic engagement in their communities. More information will be available next month.
One reason I appreciate Kent Redfield's new book, Money Counts, is that Redfield, the state's leading scholar on campaign finance, has gone public with a summary of his recommendations about reforming Illinois' system. His list is deliberately modest. He says Illinois is not ready for radical reform, but a few changes to our laws would result in improvements. That may disappoint some reformers, but his book should enlighten the public debate in Illinois, where people often stop talking about reform because they fear this state is never going to change.
Redfield's analysis is so reasonable that his ideas are worthy of discussion. Excerpts from his book begin on page 26. For an order form, see the tear-out in this issue.