Editorial: Practical, immediate steps for countering Springfield's harassment culture
A three-woman state committee issued recommendations this week on ways to combat harassment and gender equity in Springfield and, guess what they're calling for, among other things -- more women in state political offices.
Guess what else. They're right.
Surely, having more women in leadership roles throughout the political party structures and into the halls of the Capitol can be an influential factor in shifting a culture that has been widely criticized as abusive and demeaning to women.
But, in truth, many of those "other things" take precedence in the Illinois Anti-Harassment, Equality and Access Panel's 36-page report. They are the steps that have the potential to immediately address the Springfield culture at its roots, and they are what standard-bearers of the political culture -- leaders of the major parties and the General Assembly -- can do something about.
Indeed, in some cases, they have. A new state law requires harassment training for lobbyists and government agencies, for example, and establishes a hotline for reporting harassment. And both parties have implemented some forms of some of the recommended measures in their standards and practices involving candidates.
But, in its recommendations on those points, the panel goes further, urging campaigns and political organizations to train candidates and political workers in anti-harassment measures and provide independent systems for reporting possible misconduct. Further, it calls for support services for harassment victims, party funding and resources for campaigns tied to their adoption of training programs, more women in campaign and political organization leadership, required diversity in applicants for every political vacancy, better control of alcohol use and even a one-ask rule that forbids individuals turned down once for a date from asking again.
It is somewhat unfortunate that the three members of the anti-harassment panel -- state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana and Comptroller Susana Mendoza -- are all members of the same party, Democrats. The panel calls itself "independent," but formed earlier this year by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan following allegations of misconduct on his staff, there is a distinct air of partisanship in its makeup that would be dispelled if the group were more politically diverse.
Even so, the panel's report provides a well-considered, substantive set of measures that political leaders at all levels in Illinois should take to heart.
The election of more women to political positions no doubt will help toward building a more respectful culture in Springfield as well as throughout more-local offices around the country. It's a reasonable goal. But we don't have to wait for all those elections. The political powers that be need to begin now implementing the harassment panel's recommendations.