when I saw the Chicago Tribune editorial on McHenry County’s former Democratic State Representative Tom Hanahan, I sent his and my former State Senator Jack Schaffer an email asking for his memories. It gave me two of the five belly laughs that everyone should have every day to keep healthy. It follows:
Sorry Cal, I don’t check my emails as often as I should.
I did have an opportunity to talk to Tommy about a week before he died. While you could tell the disease was getting to him, you could also tell that the old Tommy was still there. You are right, I do have a lot of memories of Tommy.
In 1974 when the RTA was being created, I was a little curious as to what Tom was going to do about it because the labor unions were very much for the new unit of government and Tom was first and foremost a labor guy.
He must have convinced his leaders that he had to oppose it or he wouldn’t be back (a very accurate perception), which led to a very unusual election in that primary with the four of us; Tommy, you, Bruce and I out stomping against the RTA.
I recall one meeting in Crystal Lake (at the Nature Center) at which all 4 of us took different approaches as to why the RTA was evil – Tommy said it was bad for working men and women. As the meeting broke up a proponent for the RTA, who I knew, thought the four of us had covered every negative angle he could think of against the RTA.
Another time, Tom and I were working on a piece of legislation to give homeowners property tax breaks if they improve their homes, or put an addition on.
I got wind, through a friend in the Dept. of Rev., that the Dept. was about to adopt rules that would require three inspections to qualify for the exemption.
I got hold of Tommy and we both went to see the Director of the Dept of Rev. I don’t recall that I got 5 words in during the meeting but Tom did such a war dance on his desk and threatened him and his descendents…the rule came out with a simple procedure.
During the RTA fights, we came up with the idea to send Gov. Walker petitions signed by people in the area opposing the RTA.
Governor Walker indicated he’d be happy to meet with me but refused to meet with Tom.
So we issued press release saying that opposition in McHenry County was bipartisan and if the Governor wouldn’t meet with Tommy then I wouldn’t meet with him either.
You’ve already talked about Tommy’s famous/infamous (choose your own word) opposition to the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), but one of the things that I do definitely remember the time during candidates nights when the speeches and Q & A were over;
- you would be in the corner talking about property tax assessment,
- Bruce in another corner discussing creeping socialism,
- I would be talking with a group about Mental Health and the state budget, and
- Tommy would be in the front of the room talking to every good looking woman there about the ERA with a huge grin on his face.
It’s almost impossible today to explain the cumulative voting system that allowed for a minority party member in every district, and while the system certainly had its flaws, we did see some incredible individuals elected because of it.
And Tommy Hanahan was one of those.
About the only thing Tommy and I had in common was the same constituency and because of that we worked together fairly well.
I doubt we’ll see his likes again.
Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts with you (it’s more than the local paper did!!!!!)!
The pamphlet printed on my father’s offset printing machines–180,000, maybe more–can be seen interspersed throughout the article. The little kNOw RTA clip-on button, front and back, is also shown.
Other stories about Tom Hanahan: