LINCOLN — Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder said he got a lump in his throat Thursday afternoon while leading a procession of hundreds of people from the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce office to a rally at the downtown square.
“As I was walking down Fifth Street and we got to the top of the hill, I turned around and all I could see was this sea of red and people carrying balloons,” he said. “That was very cool and very emotional.”
Snyder was one of about a dozen speakers at a rally on the Logan County Courthouse lawn for those opposed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to shut down Logan Correctional Center and six other state facilities. Many of the marchers on the sunny day wore red T-shirts with “Save Logan” on the front.
“We have more work to do, but we can do it,” he said.
The Lincoln/Logan County Development Partnership and chamber organized the march and subsequent rally, which drew crowds estimated at 400 to 600 people.
“Today, I am proud to be a part of this community,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Andi Hake, her voice cracking with emotion. “Now, we just need our voices to be heard in Springfield.”
Closing Logan Correctional Center, which has about 2,000 inmates and about 350 employees, would cost $21.7 million in lost worker income and $73 million in total economic losses to Lincoln, according to the Chamber of Commerce. Quinn wants the closures to take effect by Dec. 31, but lawmakers could approve supplemental funding during the fall veto session later this month to keep the facilities open.
Logan County Board member Jan Schumacher said the workers, many of whom were at the rally, mean a lot to the county.
“They are the fabric of our community and if those folks have to leave, that leaves a hole in our community,” she said. “They are so much of who we are. We can’t sit idly by. We have to continue to fight and continue to be vocal.”
Chamber board President Donna Boyd said her husband is among those who would lose his job if the prison is closed.
“We would probably be OK, but not everyone else would,” she said. “This just can’t happen. Our community is what it is because of every person here and every person around this county wearing red shirts today but couldn’t be here. And it is every person who is opposing this closure.”
Snyder closed the 45-minute rally by reminding residents to attend the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s public hearing at 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at Lincoln Christian University. The commission must sign off on the proposed closures.
“This is a great crowd, today,” he said. “But at that public hearing, we need about three or four times what we have here today. We have to show the commission that we are one voice opposed to this plan.”