"Wake up!"

July 15, 2011

Who among us doesn’t think it took too long to pass into law and end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Why is our community still fighting for funding scraps to end the HIV epidemic?  How long will we wait for marriage equality?

This is why you should care about redistricting!  Uh, yes, you read that correctly.  What is this “redistricting” and how does it relate to the numerous issues outlined above?  The answer is simple.  Redistricting equals representation!  The process determines who represents us, how well they represent, what laws get passed, and ultimately, the very society we live in.



In June, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law maps that realign the boundaries of the state’s 59 Senate districts, 118 House districts and 19 Congressional districts.  This process happens every 10 years based on .  The Chicago City Council and Cook County Board are up next.

Historically, elections held after redistricting offer the greatest opportunity to replace incumbents; challengers face a more level playing field in newly drawn districts. Unhappy with your current elected officials? Get ready for 2012!

Who serves in elected offices and holds the scalpel during budget cuts matters.  It’s been said time and time again that elections have consequences.  In 2012, we will have a once-in-a-decade chance to put into office officials who share our priorities and our vision for wellness and equality. We have an opportunity to elect more officials to join the three current Illinois State reps and two Chicago city council members.

It’s time that we as citizens awaken from the self-induced silence of our daily lives and become more educated about the process and people that represent us, and how electing people that share our beliefs in equality can advance our community’s agenda.  Civic engagement fatigue and the “I have mine” mentality is destroying of the social framework that made this country great.   Fatigue is slamming shut many of the doors that allow us in marginalized communities—GLBT, African-Americans, women, Asian-Americans and Latinos—the opportunity to get an education, become homeowners, and live in safe neighborhoods.

Ending the HIV epidemic requires far more than increasing HIV prevention or treatment funding, although those are critical and under-resourced areas.  To truly make impact the course of the epidemic, elected officials need to invest in safe, affordable house, rebuild stable communities reducing imprisonment caused by the broken War on Drugs, and give everyone equal opportunity to earn a living wage, no matter what neighborhood they live in, the color of their skin, or what country they were born in.  2012 is a clean slate to elect individuals who share those priorities.

To quote Spike Lee’s character Dap in the iconic 1980’s movie School Daze, “Wake up!” I offer you all the perfect alarm clock to awaken your inner advocate.

On Thursday, July 21 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago and partner organizations will host a Webinar on the newly drawn state and federal electoral maps in Illinois and what it means for you as a voter in 2012.  To learn more and register for the event click here.

Look at the recently passed Illinois budget for fiscal year 2012. This year’s budget was balanced on the backs of the weakest in our society—we saw inhumane and hurtful cuts for state aid for public schools, early childhood education, mental health services, prenatal care programs, after-school and youth development opportunities and cuts to HIV/AIDS funding. This budget inflicts a great deal of pain on millions of Illinois residents and will increase future costs to the state.

To highlight a few of the casualties:

  • Education funding was cut; general state aid for schools (the money that benefits the poor districts the most) was cut by a whopping $152 million.
  • The assault on human services continues.  Between 2009 and 2011, funding for human services has been cut $300 million.  This year the cut is $291 million.
  • Funding for HIV programs received a %5 or $1.5 million cut.

Ramon Gardenhire
Director of Government Relations
AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Categorized under Advocacy.

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