Columns

Eye On Illinois: Workers in public eye face scrutiny, stress

– “There are members [who] believe that the community should have nothing to say about what we do in our profession. … All sides are entitled to feel the way that they feel. But until we are able to work together in spite of our differences, we will never fully reach our potential in equitably addressing the concerns.”

– “It just made them think about maybe [retiring] quicker only because when they signed up for [work], none of us ever imagined that we’d have two years like this. It’s really nothing that you can prepare for.”

– “They see the media, proposed legislation and community commentary, and they think that this is the role that’s expected of them.”

– “I don’t think that the general public realizes the stress, as well as what is being expected.”

Those are the quotes. The speakers, in order: Mitchell Davis. Chris Tennyson. Marc Maton. Kathi Griffin.

If you’re still a little fuzzy on the details, that’s the point. Job titles would help.

Davis is police chief in Hazel Crest. Tennyson is superintendent of Lee, Ogle and Whiteside County Regional Office of Education. Maton is the Lemont police chief. Griffin is Illinois Education Association president.

While we could spend the remaining 250 words detailing the differences between education and law enforcement, the common ground between professions is notable.

Both jobs require state certification, specialized training and continuing education. They are largely public professions, with salaries and benefits paid for by tax dollars and oversight from local, state and federal bodies. Teachers and police officers have long histories of powerful labor unions, negotiating not just pay and pensions but also daily working conditions. The vocations are part of political discourse and campaign theater.

Next time you see a politician use the words “teacher” or “public education,” substitute “police officer” or “law enforcement” and see if you still agree with the sentiment. Again, there are plenty of differences between the two and room for a wide variety of personal feelings about these important government functions. But acknowledging commonalities here might help bridge sharp partisan divides that rarely serve the public good.

MAILBAG: One comment that didn’t fit in Saturday’s review of recent reader mail, from Chuck B., of McHenry: “All political parties should be disbanded and every politician should run for office on their own merits. No more redistricting – use the counties already in effect and you get one representative per so many thousand of people living in it [to be determined].”

I tend to agree our two major parties have outlived their usefulness to democracy at large, though they continue to effectively serve their own interests. Unfortunately, they now seem too far big to dismantle from the outside.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.