Southern Illinois residents react to town hall meeting

Local News

FAIRFIELD, Ill. (WEHT) — Illinois officials hosted a virtual town hall to answer questions about the state’s response to the coronavirus. State senators and mayors from around the state discussed the virus and the need to reopen their cities.

The first restaurant to reopen its dining room in the city hosted a group eager to see what elected officials from around the state have to say about the impact from coronavirus.

One person in the crowd at the Barb Wire Grill was State Representative Darren Bailey. He is the lawmaker who challenged Governor JB Pritzker when Pritzker extended the stay at home order.

“So I’ve said from day one that the financial pandemic that’s going to come from this is going to far outweigh the health pandemic that we were told and sold,” State Rep. Darren Bailey says.

During the town hall, some mayors were asked if they felt they were being heard in the statehouse, the answer was no. That’s the same stance many in southern Illinois have taken.

“There isn’t enough weight given to our opinion and I don’t say that to be divisive. There’s a lot of people in cook county I know in fact that agree with a lot of us down here about re-opening the state,” Dustin Hawkins says.

For the downstate folks, the big problem is the ability to reopen and many believe it should be decided region to region.

“We should be able to open up based on geographical areas. Based on it’s really bad in Cook County to keep it closed down,” Kelli Leaven explains.

Small businesses like the barb wire grill have suffered during the pandemic. The restaurant’s owners say they’ve had no choice but to break the rules and reopen early.

“I think the only way that he, the governor, has heard us is by the people that have been brave like mandy and who have decided that they’re going to open regardless,” Hawkins says.

Those who live in the area say their communities will continue to have economic blows as other states reopen.

“We’re all going to Evansville to go out to eat and go shopping. So there goes the tax revenue,” Leavens says. “I heard Pritzker say that earlier, ‘you can’t put livelihoods above lives,’ to me, it’s one in the same.”

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(This story was originally published on May 28, 2020)

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