Rural Affairs Council adopts strategic plan

SPRINGFIELD - October 17, 2012. The Governor's Rural Affairs Council, led by Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, adopted a strategic plan on Wednesday that aims to improve state services for rural residents and builds on the Council's work to strengthen the local food system in Illinois.

"We have taken a comprehensive look at the priorities of rural residents in our state and are outlining ways to better ensure that all Illinoisans have access to services, regardless of geographic location," said Simon. "Moving forward, we have identified key issues that must be addressed to promote a higher quality of life for our rural residents."

The Vision for Rural Illinois was compiled and developed by Simon's office and the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs using surveys to rural residents and stakeholders along with a series of rural listening posts hosted by Simon.

The plan recommends that strategies be developed to enhance access to services in rural areas, empower rural Illinois for the future and strengthen access to rural emergency medical services. The strategies could include ensuring a greater emphasis is placed on determining impact to rural areas that new laws and regulations will have and working with the Illinois House EMS Task Force to make legislative recommendations that will ensure rural residents have access to necessary emergency medical services.

The Vision for Rural Illinois builds on the Council's reputation as an advocacy group for local food systems. In the past two years, the Council has advocated for a new law that removes barriers to food entrepreneurship, such as the requirement that vendors can only sell foods made in commercial kitchens.

In addition, two Council member agencies joined to launch the Illinois EBT Wireless Project. The program will provide $1,200 grants to farmers' markets across Illinois to purchase wireless electronic benefits transfer machines that accept Link, debit and credit cards. The project is jointly administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Human Services with assistance from Simon's office.


??Volunteer members advocate for military base retention, economic development

SPRINGFIELD - October 17, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon appointed two residents with job creation experience to her Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development committee today with unanimous support from the committee's members.

The two new volunteers, who hail from southwest suburban Chicago and the Quad Cities region, will join the committee in advocating for the retention and reuse of Illinois' military bases and working to strengthen the regional economies near military installations.

"These new members represent a wealth of economic development experience that will bring new perspectives to our work," said Simon, chairwoman of the military base committee, during its quarterly meeting in Springfield. "I'm pleased to welcome Rick Kawsneski and Paul Rumler to our team."

Kwasneski, of Lemont, and Rumler, of Coal Valley, join six other public members, representatives from various state agencies and four members of the General Assembly on the committee. The committee's public members draw upon their experiences from an array of career fields - including economic development, education, government and the military - to serve the state.

Kwasneski is a former village trustee and mayor of Lemont, who is the executive director of the Joliet Arsenal Development Authority. The Authority is responsible for overseeing the development of 3,000 acres at the former Joliet Arsenal into two industrial parks. In his role as executive director, Kwasneski is responsible for implementing policies and directives of the Authority. Kwasneski is also involved with the Will County Center for Economic Development, the Association of Defense Communities and the Council for Urban Economic Development

Rumler attended Black Hawk College in Moline before graduating from Georgia State University and working in Washington for the federal government. More recently Rumler has served on the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce, helping implement the Chamber's strategic plan and advocating for policy decisions. Rumler was the executive director for the Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition which secured federal, state, and local funds to complete Chicago to Quad Cities passenger rail by 2015. Rumler is currently the executive vice president for the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Rock Island Arsenal Alliance.


Summits to follow at Illinois State, Western and SIUE


CARBONDALE - Advocating for affordable and accessible higher education for all students, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will host College Affordability Summits in Carbondale, Normal, Macomb and Edwardsville in the coming week.


Simon will call on state, federal and higher education leaders to increase transparency, target state aid and support a federal tax credit for middle class families in order to make college affordable for Illinois students. The average costs for a public university education have outpaced family incomes and available aid, increasing 128 percent since 1980 when adjusted for inflation.


"Our state has set a goal to increase the proportion of working-age adults to 60 percent, from 41 percent, by 2025. The only way we can achieve this goal is if college is affordable," said Simon, a former Southern Illinois University law professor. "We must work together to rein in costs of a higher education."


The Governor's point person on education reform, Simon supports legislation for College Choice Reports, a standardized report for all degree-granting institutions that would help students analyze cost, debt and graduation rates across institutions. Simon also serves on the state's MAP Eligibility Task Force, which is reviewing ways to better target the need-based assistance to students. A task force report is due to the General Assembly January 1, 2013.


The College Affordability Summits are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 15 at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; Thursday, Oct. 18 at Illinois State University and Western Illinois University; and Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville on Friday, Oct. 19. Additional dates and locations will follow.


EVENT: Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Affordability Summit

TIME: 1:15 p.m.

DATE: Monday, October 15

PLACE: Trueblood Dining Hall, 1175 S. Washington St., Carbondale

NOTE: Simon will hold a media availability in the dining hall before shadowing a work study student. The job shadow is for photo and video spray only.



CHICAGO - To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will rally Saturday with Chicago Ald. Deborah Graham, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, State Reps. Karen Yarbrough and Camille Lilly and other female community leaders to end domestic violence. Simon will call on churches, schools and community organizations to stand up to violence throughout Chicagoland.

Simon, a former prosecutor and founder of a domestic violence legal clinic at Southern Illinois University, is doing her part to help survivors by conducting a second annual cell phone drive. For each phone collected by Simon's office through Friday, October 12, Verizon Wireless will donate $10 to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The proceeds will benefit the Virtual Legal Clinic, which aims to connect Chicago attorneys with survivors in underserved areas across the state for free, web-based legal consultations.

In Chicago, used phones can be donated at the rally; at the Lt. Governor's office, 100 W. Randolph St., Suite 15-200; or at the Chicago Bar Association front desk, 321 S. Plymouth Court. Springfield donations will be accepted at Simon's capitol office or the Illinois State Bar Association, 424. South Second St. Phones can also be donated at Simon's Carbondale office or a local Verizon Wireless store.

"We need to raise the awareness of domestic violence in our communities and rally together to end the violence," Simon said. "Each of us has a role to play in making sure survivors' voices are heard and their lives are protected."

DATE: Saturday, October 6

TIME: 10 a.m.

LOCATION: Hope Community Church, 5900 West Iowa, Chicago


Donated cell phones to be wiped clean; proceeds support domestic violence victims

SPRINGFIELD - October 1, 2012. Marking the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon launched her annual cell phone drive today. For each phone donated during the drive, Verizon Wireless will contribute $10 to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), up to $10,000.

In many instances a survivor may arrive at a shelter with no access to a phone to contact other loved ones, or will not use their current phone as it might be kept under the abuser's name.

Collected phones will be donated to Verizon's HopeLine program. Phones will be refurbished and sold, with the proceeds going to support local domestic violence shelters and programs. The program also provides domestic violence agencies with wireless phones and airtime for use by domestic violence victims. If a phone can't be refurbished, it will be recycled in an environmentally sound way.

"We have a chance to partner with private and non-profit groups to directly impact the lives of our neighbors," said Simon, a former Jackson county prosecutor and founder of a domestic violence legal clinic at Southern Illinois University School of Law. "These phones could be a lifeline for domestic violence survivors, and the matching funds will help support response and prevention statewide."

Thanks to the generous support of individuals, private entities and state agencies, Simon received more than 1,000 cell phones during her donation drive last year. Through matching funds from Verizon, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network and ICADV each received a $5,000 donation.

The $10 matching donation this year will fund further growth and expansion of ICADV's Virtual Legal Clinic consultation program launched by Simon and her staff. The Virtual Legal Clinics connect domestic violence survivors in underserved areas with an attorney concentrating in family law for a free legal consultation.

"On behalf of ICADV, I am very grateful to Lt. Governor Simon for her emphasis on this very important project," said Vickie Smith, ICADV Executive Director. "Not only does it bring in funds for expanding the Virtual Legal Clinic, each phone will in turn help another domestic violence victim reach life-saving assistance when needed."

Since its recycling program was launched in 2001, HopeLine has collected more than 9 million wireless phones and has awarded more than $14.2 million in cash grants to domestic violence organizations throughout the country. More than 123,000 HopeLine phones with the equivalent of more than 406 million minutes of airtime have been provided to victims, survivors and domestic violence organizations since the program's inception.

"Verizon Wireless is committed to supporting those affected by domestic violence," said T.J. Fox, Verizon Wireless region president. "We recognize the role we can play in helping organizations right here in Illinois work to put an end to this destructive force and to provide assistance to victims of domestic abuse."

Cell phones can be donated through October 12 at the following locations. Donations are also accepted year-round at Verizon Wireless stores:


·         Lt. Governor's Chicago office - James R. Thompson Center 15th floor

·         Lt. Governor's Springfield office - 214 State Capitol

·         Lt. Governor's Carbondale office - IDOT Facility, 2801 W. Murphysboro Rd.

·         Chicago Bar Association bookstore - 321 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago

·         Illinois State Bar Association - 424 S. Second St., Springfield

CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will launch a statewide cell phone drive in conjunction with Verizon Wireless' HopeLine campaign on Monday in Springfield. Each donated phone will be entirely erased, and could be given to a domestic violence victim for emergency use.

For each phone donated, Verizon will donate $10 to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Phones can be donated at the following locations:

·         Lt. Governor's Chicago office - James R. Thompson Center 15th floor

·         Lt. Governor's Springfield office - 214 State Capitol

·         Lt. Governor's Carbondale office - IDOT Facility, 2801 W. Murphysboro Rd.

·         Chicago Bar Association bookstore - 321 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago

·         Illinois State Bar Association - 424 S. Second St., Springfield

"We have the ability to refurbish old technology in a safe and sensible way," Simon said. "Instead of tossing an old cell phone in your junk drawer or the trash, donate it to someone where one emergency call could save their life."

DATE: Monday, October 1

TIME: 11 a.m.

LOCATION: Governor's Mansion, 410 East Jackson Street, Springfield


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will join Illinois higher education leaders tomorrow to support a pledge committing schools to implement policies that provide support for Illinois' 30,000 student veterans.

Leaders from more than 20 Illinois community colleges and universities, including City Colleges of Chicago, National-Louis University, Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois will be in attendance at the University Club in Chicago and asked to sign the Valuing Veterans Pledge. The pledge declares a school's support for enhancing student veteran outreach and recognition, providing transition services, and establishing support policies and procedures. Simon said pledging to invest in Illinois' student veterans should be a priority of every citizen.

"As a state, we must ensure that our veterans, those who put their lives on the line to serve us, have access to the tools they need to succeed in school," said Simon, who is Governor Quinn's point person on education reform. "An investment in student veterans is an investment in the future of our economy."

The Valuing Veterans event is co-hosted by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Student Veterans of America. Simon will be joined by David Hiller, the president and CEO of McCormick Foundation, Col. David Sutherland, a former Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

DATE: September 27, 2012

TIME: 8:30 a.m. event start; 9:30 a.m. Lt. Governor's remarks

PLACE: University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe, Chicago



CHICAGO - Participating in a social media town hall, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will field questions this evening on government, leadership, and the importance of female mentorship. Simon's discussion, "Policies That Help Women and Girls - and the Consequences When They Don't," is the third in a series of social media town halls hosted by the Chicago Foundation for Women.


"There is no shortage of women and girls looking to take the next step and lead," said Simon, a mother of two and former professor and prosecutor. "It's our responsibility to reach out and help the next generation find its path to success."


This is the third and final town hall presented by the Chicago Foundation for Women leading up to its 27th Annual Luncheon on Thursday. Attendees of the luncheon will include all three town hall guests: Simon, Katrina Markoff, CEO and founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and Cheryle Jackson, vice president of government affairs and corporate development of AAR Corp. Anita Hill, professor of law, social policy and women's studies at Brandeis University, will serve as the luncheon's keynote speaker.


Social Media Town Hall

DATE: Tuesday, September 25

TIME: 6:30 p.m.

PLACE: Social media users can submit questions at or on Twitter using the #27ALCFW hashtag.


27th Annual Chicago Foundation for Women luncheon 

DATE: Thursday, September 27

TIME: 11:30 a.m.

PLACE: Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago



CARBONDALE - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will celebrate Constitution Week on Friday by delivering a "Courtroom in the Classroom" presentation to students at Carbondale Community High School, one of a series of presentations sponsored by the Illinois Judges Association across the state.

Simon, along with Judge Carolyn Smoot, Judge Christy Solverson and Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, will mark the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution by discussing U.S. Supreme Court case New Jersey v. T.L.O. with Carbondale students.

The 1985 case involved a female student caught smoking in the school bathroom. The principal searched her purse and found marijuana, paraphernalia and money, implicating the student in drug dealing. The student claimed the search violated her 4th Amendment rights, but the court held that the search was reasonable.

"Civic engagement is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is important for students to see how the judicial and executive branches of government impact their lives," said Simon, a former Jackson County prosecutor.

DATE: Friday, September 21

TIME: 8:15 a.m.

PLACE: Carbondale Community High School auditorium, 1301 East Walnut Street, Carbondale



Simon signs "It Can Wait" pledge on national "No Text on Board" day

CHAMPAIGN - September 19, 2012. In her campaign to end texting while driving, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today urged Parkland College students to take the "It Can Wait" pledge to practice safe texting.

As the Governor's point person on education reform and an advocate for community college students, Simon urged the Champaign undergraduates to log onto Facebook and take the pledge as part of a national "No Text on Board" event sponsored by AT&T and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Nationwide, drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident if they text while driving. In the first half of 2011 in Illinois, cell phone distractions were the cause of more than 500 crashes.

"Most community college students commute to class on a daily basis and need to understand the grave danger of texting while driving," said Simon, who signed the pledge with students at John A. Logan College in Carterville last week. "I've taken the pledge to never text and drive, and I encourage students everywhere to join me. When you are driving, put down your phone - it can wait."

AT&T hosted 11 events throughout Illinois on the "No Text on Board" pledge day. Other supporters included Governor Pat Quinn, Secretary of State Jesse White, and officials of the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Tollway and IDOT. AT&T also premiered a new public service announcement from Chicago basketball star Derrick Rose that will appear on the AT&T website, Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

To take the pledge, you can log on to

"Our goal is to save lives," said John Quinn, External Affairs Director, AT&T Illinois. "Too many lives have been forever changed by a texting-while-driving accident, and together, we want to spread the word about how deadly a single text can be. We're challenging everyone to take the pledge to never text and drive and to make it a lifelong commitment."

Parkland College Vice President for Student Services Dr. Linda Moore said that to promote safe driving among students, the college will provide an informational posting on its student intranet, as well as promoting the initiative through social media and its website.

"We want to ensure our students are safe and understand the message that texting and driving can have serious consequences. We want our students to stay on the path to a brighter future, and part of that path is traveling responsibly when driving," Moore said.

"We believe community colleges are uniquely positioned to help in the effort against texting and driving and we fully support the initiative from Lt. Governor Simon and AT&T," said Geoff Obrzut, president and CEO, Illinois Community College Board.

"I am confident that my colleagues from the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents join with me and Lt. Governor Simon in enthusiastically supporting the 'It Can Wait' anti-texting while driving campaign," said Margaret B. "Peg" Lee, Oakton Community College President and President of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents.