Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at a luncheon in Peoria, Ill. Wednesday, and urged those assembled there to reject the "Chicago versus downstate" divide that is all too common in Illinois politics.
"We have more in common than what pulls us apart," Emanuel said at the Peoria Civic Center, the Peoria Journal Star reports. "It doesn't serve the people of Illinois. The economy of tomorrow requires less regionalism, more cooperation."
"It's not working anymore," the mayor added, according to the Associated Press, before noting that he'll need downstate support for much of what he hopes to achieve going forward, including the improvement of public education in the state.
(Scroll down to watch the mayor's comments.)
The divide between Chicago area and downstate politicians has reared its head in a number of state policy issues, most recently in debates over state gun-control legislation, including the Emanuel-supported statewide gun registry and ammunition tax plans.
A group of downstate Democrats this week released a scathing statement about the proposals. State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Norris City) said he "can’t believe these Chicago politicians think we’re just going to roll over and let them push their ridiculous laws on Southern Illinois." He is leading a renewed push for the state to adopt a concealed carry law, a previous proposal of which narrowly failed last year.
Another downstate lawmaker, state Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) said this year that there was "no damned way" Emanuel's gun control proposals would be approved.
The purported divide between Cook County residents' philosophies on politics, society and economies and those of the rest of the state prompted state Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur) to introduce a bill last fall that would urge Congress to "enact legislation dividing Illinois and Cook County into separate states." The proposal was co-sponsored by three fellow downstate Republican representatives.
Mitchell explained last fall that when he speaks with his constituents, "one of the biggest things I hear is 'Chicago should be its own state.'" Downstate voters, he noted, were not on the same page as Chicago voters when it came to issues including taxes, LGBT rights, the death penalty and gun rights.
"Downstate families are tired of Chicago dictating its views to the rest of us," Mitchell continued. "You only have to look at the election results from last year's governor’s race to see the problem. Cook County carried Pat Quinn, while almost every downstate county supported Bill Brady. Our voters' voices were drowned out by Chicago."
Weighing in on the matter last year, Gov. Quinn said that "the idea of separating out and dividing us is a bum way to go. It's definitely not the Illinois way to go."
Meanwhile, at the Peoria event, Emanuel, facing questions concerning the Chicago G8 summit's cancellation, said that the city's hosting of the NATO will bring "opportunity, economic exposure and energy," Fox Chicago reports.
WATCH Emanuel discuss the "Chicago vs. downstate" divide and Chicago's upcoming NATO summit:
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