Monday, July 31, 2006

Speaker Michael J. Madigan comments on McKeon's retirement

Like many, I was saddened to hear that my friend and legislative colleague, State Representative Larry McKeon, has announced his retirement from the Illinois House of Representatives. Larry’s career in the General Assembly has been the capstone to a long and distinguished career in public service.

Whether as a U.S. Army infantry officer, lieutenant in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, educator, social service manager or executive director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, Larry’s life has been defined by a dedication to serving others. His earlier work as Mayor Richard Daley’s liaison to the city’s gay, lesbian and trangendered community did much to advance the cause of equality in our city. He continued those efforts in the General Assembly and was the tenacious sponsor of landmark legislation to expand the protections of the state’s human rights act to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In addition to his work on equality issues, Larry has been a champion for legislation to increase access to affordable health care, help senior citizens to remain independent, improve education and protect the environment. As the Chairman of the Labor Committee, Larry has shepherded numerous measures into law that have improved working conditions, wages and benefits for millions of Illinois residents. While he has been broad-minded as a legislator, working in the best interests of the state, he has also remained focused on the needs of his district and secured millions of dollars in grants to benefit local community organizations and rebuild local infrastructure.

Larry has always carried himself with tremendous degrees of reserve and humility – no small feat in the world of politics and rather uncommon traits for someone who is also rightly called a trailblazer. These qualities helped him to pass legislation that would otherwise have remained stalled and earned him the respect and admiration of colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

He will be greatly missed at the state Capitol and the General Assembly will be a little bit diminished by his absence. I wish him well in his retirement and know that when he is not enjoying his well deserved leisure time, he will continue to be an active community volunteer, committed as always to doing what he can to improve life in our city, state and nation.

An outstanding candidate

Jim Snyder

For more than 20 years attorney and community advocate Jim Snyder has for fought for stronger neighborhoods and communities. Through personal and professional experiences, Jim has developed insight on community problems and the experience to produce results. Snyder is committed to building community by serving individuals, community organizations and small businesses including:

- Developing individual and family economic opportunities and neighborhood businesses,
- Enhancing consumer rights, disability rights and health care,
- Addressing the role of addiction and recovery in crime, homelessness, and as a barrier to individual and family economic opportunity,
- Fighting for personal liberty and against discrimination.

Snyder received both his Bachelor of Arts in History (1985) and Juris Doctorate (1988) from Northern Illinois University and was admitted to the Illinois bar that year. Snyder is admitted to the United District Court, Northern District of Illinois and the United States Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit.

For five years following law school, Snyder served as an attorney for the Chicago Housing Authority where he worked to evict gang bangers and drug dealers to improve the quality of life of CHA families, helped develop resident management initiatives and job skills training for residents to achieve self-sufficiency and independence. Snyder then opened a neighborhood law office in Ravenswood serving small businesses, individuals, families and not-for-profits.

As his practice developed, so did his advocacy work. As a gay man living through the 90s, Snyder saw the AIDS crisis close-up. As a founding member of the board of directors of AIDS Care, he raised money, helped build the organization and aggressively worked to build a facility to assist those living with advanced HIV/AIDS achieve a higher quality of life and independence through housing, health care and supportive services.

Recognizing that lawyers are uniquely positioned to serve, Snyder increasingly worked in pro bono advocacy and with government organizations on behalf of his clients. His work was recognized by his alma mater in 2000 as Snyder was named NIU Law Alumni of the Year. That same work led him to leave private practice and accept the position of general counsel for the Illinois Human Rights Commission, the state agency in charge of helping victims of discrimination in employment, housing, or credit and individuals and businesses unfairly accused of discrimination.

The day after joining IHRC, the Chicago Tribune ran an investigative story detailing systemic problems with the commission and its leadership. For the past five years, Snyder has devoted himself to cleaning up the agency, an effort that dramatically accelerated with the election of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Snyder was appointed co-chair of the Governor’s Civil Rights transition committee and the committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Recovery.

With a mandate to clean up the commission, he has successfully worked to improve professionalism, eliminate the backlog of administrative hearings and restore fairness to this critical agency.

While his professional life continued, Snyder had a parallel career as a volunteer advocate for numerous causes and campaigns.

For nearly a decade, he struggled to amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The revised act was finally passed and signed into law this past year.

Snyder served as campaign manager to State Representative Larry McKeon and County Commissioner Mike Quigley, and has fought to elect candidates that share his commitment to community development and civil justice.

In 2006, Snyder was honored to be appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to the Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee. He has served on numerous boards and been active with many additional organizations including Equip for Equality, Stonewall Democrats, the Illinois Federation of Human Rights (now Equality Illinois), the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence, the Chicago Bar Association Civil Rights Committee, the Illinois State Bar Association Labor and Employment Section Council and Attorney General Madigan’s Civil Rights Transition Committee.

Snyder lives in Chicago’s Buena Park with his partner of 7 years, Scott Plummer.

Well, I made a decision

Representative Larry McKeon Announces Retirement
Recommends Jim Snyder as Replacement

Chicago, IL: State Representative Larry McKeon, (D-Chicago) announced today that he will retire at the end of his current term in January, 2007 after 42 years of public service. He has recommended to the five Democratic committeemen that represent portions of the 13th representative district that attorney and community leader Jim Snyder be appointed to replace him on the November general election ballot. Snyder is currently general counsel at the Illinois Commission on Human Rights.

On July 28th McKeon notified the state Board of Elections that he is withdrawing his nomination for the General Election in November. Illinois state law requires the Democratic Committeemen representing portions of the representative district meet within 30 days of the vacancy to elect a Democratic nominee for the November general election ballot. Their nomination and candidate documents must be filed at the Illinois Board of Elections office in Springfield by August 31st.

Representative McKeon communicated his recommendation that Snyder be given strong consideration in their deliberations to elect a Democratic nominee for the November ballot. McKeon stated “I don’t have a vote; I can only make a recommendation. I feel very strongly that Jim is an outstanding candidate and that the elected Democratic Committeemen give him strong consideration. If nominated and then elected in the General Election by the voters of the district he will be an outstanding state representative.”

Representative McKeon indicated that he will begin a “working retirement” advocating for community organizations and public policies involving housing, jobs, economic development, human rights and health care. “After 42 years in public service, I am looking forward to taking some time to travel and enjoy myself” said McKeon, who added, “But for me, retirement won’t mean sitting still.”

“Serving as state representative for the last ten years has been a privilege and special honor. I hope that in some small way, I have made a difference in the lives of my constituents and for all people of Illinois. There remains much to be done; a lot of unmet needs for countless people. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last ten years is, the importance to remain teachable. Second, that for me personally, it’s often damned hard to be a politician and remain humble. I think my nature is to be somewhat shy and reserved. I truly believe that what ever people may credit me for accomplishing as a member of the General Assembly is in large part the result of the many outstanding people that I have been privileged to work with. The credit belongs to the residents of the 13th district, community leaders, the many volunteers and donors and my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly for their generous support and counsel,” McKeon added.

McKeon currently serves as the chair of the Labor Committee and vice chair of the Housing and Urban Development Committee. In addition, he is a member of the House Aging and Executive committee's, a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) and is a commissioner on the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Prior to his election to the Illinois House of Representatives he was a director at the City of Chicago's Commission on Human Relation and Mayor Richard M. Daley's liaison to the Chicago's Gay and Lesbian communities. He served as a director at Metropolitan Family Services and as a faculty and staff member at the University of Chicago, Roosevelt University, University of Southern California, and California State University at Los Angeles. For over 12 years he was a law enforcement officer and administrator in Los Angeles County serving as a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant and watch commander.

Over the years, McKeon has been active in numerous community and advocacy organizations in the 13th district and surrounding area, including the Ravenswood Community Council, Ravenswood Industrial Council, chambers of commerce including the Ravenswood, North Center, Uptown, Lincoln Square, and Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian communities. In addition he serves on the Advisory Council of Horizons Community Services (now the Center on Halsted) and has served as a board member of Horizons and the Alexia Brothers Bonaventure House. McKeon is an active member of the Association of Retired Persons, National Organization of Women, and serves on the Policy Council of Citizen Action Illinois. Larry is also a founding member of Equality Illinois (formerly the Illinois Federation for Human Rights) as well as the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence and a lifetime member of the Illinois Coalition of Persons with Disabilities. McKeon has also been active with many community-based organizations that serve people living with HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse issues.

Some of McKeon's recent legislative accomplishments include: consumer protection legislation protecting home and condo buyers from unscrupulous developers; protection of workers from unfair labor practices; Scotts Law, which provides fines up to $10,000 and driver's license suspensions up to 2 years for drivers who, by failing to yield to an emergency vehicle at an emergency scene, cause property damage or injury; chief sponsor in the House of an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act adding sexual orientation to the laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing; establishment of a 7% cap on assessed value of homeowners property in July 2004; sponsored legislation that helps keep seniors in their homes; secured more than $52 million in funds for roads, public transit and community infrastructure and services in the 13th District; sponsored legislation that made changes to the organ transplant laws in Illinois to allow for the transplantation of organs between patients who are HIV positive or living with viral hepatitis; secured a commitment from the Chicago Transit Authority of more than $45 million for the Wilson “L” Red Line station redevelopment subject to final funding; led efforts to insure transit accountability across the state; worked with several colleagues to obtain $6 million in funding for the Center on Halsted, and secured almost $15 million to build a new student/faculty center, freeing up classroom space so that Harry S. Truman College can expand course offerings and better serve its 32,000 students.