From Obama to Raoul: An Eye on the Process

An editorial statement from the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Autumn 2004 Reporter

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From Obama to Raoul: An Eye on the Process

Autumn 2004 Conference Reporter

Hyde Parkers had much to celebrate with the election of one of our own to the U.S. Senate this year and we extend our deepest wishes for success to Senator-elect Barack Obama. We at the Conference know little about his replacement, new State Senator Kwame Raoul, and we're sure that he was one of several excellent candidates for the position. The Conference wishes that we were also happy with the process that led to his selection.

State law certainly failed us. When a legislator resigns his/her seat, partisan committeemen get to chose the replacement without a special election. That's not a democratic process and certainly not up to Hyde Park standards of independent politics and thoughtful consideration.

The Conference Board also apologizes for having failed our membership on this issue. We like to think of the Conference as a "watchdog" for our neighborhoods and we were way too late recognizing the need to raise a fuss about this process. Only in the last few weeks did it occur to us that we should at least host a neighborhood forum for the candidates. Mea culpa. We'll try to do better in the future.

In practice, the choice of a replacement for Barack Obama was left to Ald. Hairston and Ald. Preckwinkle, who are the Democratic Party Committeemen for a majority of the voters of this Senate district. While they certainly had no choice about the applicable state law, it's also true that the process could have been more public. Sure, they did request public comment in the Hyde Park Herald and, knowing our aldermen, they probably paid a lot of attention to the comments they received. But, there was little opportunity for the neighborhood to get to know the candidates better, and when the Conference did offer to host a forum--admittedly very late in the process--our offer was not well-received. Perhaps, they also wish they'd handled this differently.