An open letter to J.B. Pritzker, governor, state of Illinois.

Dear sir:

Thank you for your Restore Illinois plan. In my opinion, the state needs to get back to as close to the old normal as possible. The new normal jeopardizes our basic freedoms of choice, assembly, religion, speech, work for a fair wage, availability of elective surgeries to improve our health and the ability to stand on our own and not rely on government for a handout. 

Please remove Kankakee County from the Chicago region in the Restore Illinois plan. The purpose of this letter is to protest the inclusion of Kankakee County into the Chicago region as indicated by your plan. Why is Kankakee County grouped with the most populated area in Illinois?

There are three reasons for removing Kankakee County from the Chicago region: First, we are not a collar county. Second, our citizens are spread out more as evidenced by our population density. Finally, some heavily populated downstate counties that will reopen before us are more congested than us.

First, an argument to keep Chicago all by itself could be made, but I agree you should include the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry because many of their residents work in Cook County and Chicago. In fact, parts of several counties are located within the Chicago city limits.

Kankakee County is not a collar county. Yes, some of our residents work in the city, but it is a very low percentage. Our northern most point is 50 miles from the Chicago loop. All of our economic indicators show we are not in the same class as the Chicagoland area.

Next, according to the U.S, Census Bureau, Kankakee county has a population as of July 1, 2019, of 109,862 people. The Census Bureau states our county contains 681 square miles. This calculates into a population density of 161.32 persons for every square mile. Cook County and its collar counties mentioned above had a total population in July 2019 of 7,474,633 people. The area of the same counties is 4,474 square miles for a population density of 16,646 people per square mile. It is abundantly clear the citizens of Kankakee County are more spread out than those in Cook County and its collar counties.

Finally, as stated above, the population density of Kankakee County is 161.32 people for every square mile. The counties of Madison, Winnebago and Rock Island are located in regions where they should reopen before the Chicago region according to your plan. However, their population densities are evidenced by Madison County (354.87/square mile), Winnebago County (544.5/square mile), and Rock Island County (314.58/square mile) are more congested than Kankakee County. Again, it is abundantly clear the citizens of Kankakee County are more spread out than those in counties that will reopen before us.

I ask again, why is Kankakee County included with the city of Chicago, Cook County and the collar counties? In my opinion, you can't use death rates as the reason. I recognize that Kankakee County has more deaths per square mile than some of those counties, but the death rates still hover around 0.01 to 0.02 percent based on population figures. You have stated in several press briefings you look at the number of hospital beds available. Kankakee County has two hospitals and 504 fully staffed beds, and during the course of this pandemic, Kankakee County has had a total of 415 cases.

The only reason I can see that might explain your decision is our gerrymandered legislative districts branch out from Chicago to Kankakee County. If that's the correct answer, that's wrong.

Please consider putting our county in with other counties that can reopen earlier.

David Nelson


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