Guest Column: Closing of Freeport IDES office a blow to the region
By Rep. Jim Sacia
The anger and frustration from the unemployed, the underemployed, and employers of northwest Illinois over the closing of the Freeport, Ill., IDES office continues to swell.
Jay Rowell, the state director, insists that this is an exaggeration. After all, he states, there have only been “a few”signers on the online petition to keep it open (well more than 150). He states his recent trip to Freeport to talk with employers showed no significant concern. (I wasn’t invited.)
The meeting held at the Freeport Public Library on the evening of Nov. 1, showed exactly the opposite. Mr. Rowell, you may be the director, you may have your view from Chicago, but you absolutely have this one all wrong. I don’t want to believe what many do, that this is a political issue. Once again, the “forgotten frontier,” northwest Illinois comes up short.
Here is a huge part of the frustration. Just go online if you have computer skills; if not, call my office. Take a look at this agency bloating at the top with new high five- and six-figure salaried agency positions. It makes one want to scream. Mr. Rowell argues these new administrative positions are necessary as they consolidate offices to get more efficiency. Really!! The Freeport office has lost more than 25 percent of its personnel since 2008 that were there to be of assistance to northwest Illinois workers, want-to-be workers and employers. They efficiently help those in need as they look in their eyes. No, I do not accept Mr. Rowell’s argument that this is streamlining the IDES commitment across the state by fattening the larder with 14 new positions of the 40 directly subordinate to the director.
To his credit, Mr. Rowell has answered my phone messages each time I’ve called him. To my frustration, as I’ve stated in a recent article, is his “line in the sand,” and he refuses to budge.
This very morning, one day after the election, I specifically asked Mr.Rowell if the responses from the 52 citizens that attended our meeting at the Freeport Public Library Nov. 1, have any bearing on his decision. The response was frustrating in that he inferred that the election reinforces it. I didn’t push that response; I simply left it lie.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon lists her goals for rural affairs to “develop strategies that improve access and deployment of available rural programs/services.”
Northwest Illinois is not an urban area. We are an area that desperately needs the services of ur local IDES office. Compared to Chicago, we are very rural. To require folks from East Dubuque and Hanover to travel to Rockford for services is simply an embarrassment to our great state. No, Mr. Rowell, I will not roll over and play dead. My district deserves better.
Jim Sacia (R) is the state representative for the 89th District in Illinois.
From the Nov. 14-20, 2012, issue