Ward Room
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Bill Brady's Hoosier Envy

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Bill Brady's Hoosier Envy

If Bill Brady succeeds in making Illinois more like Indiana, I’m moving to Iowa.

“If the viewers are happy with the way Illinois is going, elect Pat Quinn,” Brady said during Wednesday night’s debate. “But if you want an Illinois that looks more like an Indiana or a Tennessee --- a state that can turn the page -- we need new leadership in Springfield.”

If you’ve ever been to Bloomington, Effingham or Cairo, you know that large parts of Illinois are already like Indiana and Tennessee. But that’s not enough for Brady. His Hoosier Envy is so deep, so intense, he wants the entire state to become a low-wage, low-education paradise.

I guess I’m so nervous about the Hoosierization of Illinois because I spent a year working in LaPorte, Ind. -- at Lake magazine, a glossy resort publication devoted the celebrating the lifestyles of the Chicagoans who vacationed in Harbor Country. We called them FIPS, for F---ing Illinois People, but the fact was, that Indiana business was entirely supported by Chicago money.

I refused to actually live in Indiana. I rented a cottage just across the state line, in Michigan, where I could buy beer on Sunday. LaPorte’s main attractions were “smoking clubs,” where you could buy cigars and bet illegally on football games and an annual demolition derby at the county fair. I did have some fun exploring the ruins of Gary, including an abandoned screw and bolt factory that was featured on the History Channel’s Life After People. It was like discovering a lost city in the jungle. During my year in Indiana, the Hoosiers issued BP a permit to dump more sludge into Lake Michigan. The state only backed down after complaints from Illinois’ congressional delegation.

So the only reason I had a job, or a lake clean enough for swimming, was because of Illinois. After a year in LaPorte, I was laid off. A year after that, Lake magazine went out of business. By then, I’d moved to Chicago, an economic refugee from Indiana. Even Oprah sold her vacation home near LaPorte.

Sen. Brady has it backwards. If he’s so enamored of Indiana, he should move there and run for governor. Maybe he can make it more like Illinois.

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