October 12, 2010

Dear Friend of LSSI:

I sometimes wonder if in election years there's a full moon during the whole month of October. In the midst of all of the rhetoric, accusations and counter attacks that are part of political campaigns, I hear little discussion of the fundamental questions facing our state and our country.

For me, the most important questions are: What kind of state or country do we want to be? And how will we care for people in our communities who are most vulnerable?

Through generations of leaders — from governors to state representatives — we the people of Illinois have created a complex public-private safety net designed to insure that no one is left on his or her own to overcome disabilities and other barriers to productive work and participation in our free society.

I believe there is very little public will to unravel that safety net, which is built on a sense of shared values and responsibility to care for people who cannot care for themselves. We all seem to agree that services for people in need in our state — whether they are low-income seniors or children in foster care — are part of the bedrock of our communities.

What we seem to disagree on is how we will pay for the services we value so highly. Some people think private charities and churches should pay for these services. Others think our state taxes should.

But many believe that the public-private partnership currently in place is the best of both worlds: it provides uniform standards of care throughout our state and taps into the tremendous mission-driven energy of charitable organizations like Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

But if that public-private partnership is to thrive, both the public and the private parts of the partnership must be strong. Because of decades of under-funding of human services PLUS our current economic stagnation, our state is in a much weakened position and is dragging the voluntary sector down with it.

On October 7, the Donor's Forum released the results of an important study, "Human Service Nonprofits and Government Collaboration." The Chicago Tribune reported that, according to this study, Illinois has the worst ranking of 50 states in terms of late payments to agencies that care for people in need, including LSSI.

I would like to talk about how we can make Illinois better. On the last three Saturdays this month, LSSI, along with Lutheran Advocacy-Illinois and other organizations, will present regional Community Forums on Tax and Budget Reform. These forums are designed to share information about the way the public-private safety net currently operates in Illinois, why that model is breaking down, and how proposed tax and budget reform would strengthen our state's safety net for our neighbors in need.

An important note: our Community Forums are strictly non-partisan and are not an endorsement of any party or candidate(s). They are about informing ourselves as voters before we go to the polls on November 2 to choose our new state leaders.

I hope you will join us at one of the forums and be part of this important discussion.


Pr. Denver Bitner

P.S. On October 6, the Chicago Tribune published a letter to the editor I wrote on behalf of LSSI and the people we serve, in response to an earlier article on the state's fiscal crisis and how it's affecting agencies that serve people in need like LSSI.

OUR MISSION: Responding to the Gospel, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois brings healing, justice and wholeness to people and communities.

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Des Plaines, IL 60018

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