As a local business owner, I was encouraged by the ad in the Journal Star on July 15, promoting the Town Hall meeting being held by AARP Illinois, NPR Illinois and the Illinois Issues Forum. According to this ad they wanted attendees to "share your story on how the fiscal crisis is impacting your community. Make sure your voice is heard! Stand up and share how Illinois' prolonged fiscal crisis is impacting your life! Find out what challenges lie ahead for all Illinois residents."
The event was well attended. It was broadcast on two radio stations, and State Rep. Dave Koehler was in attendance as well. Surprisingly, three-fourths of the panel was made up of education administrators from Peoria. At the very beginning of the forum, the moderator introduced the panel and said they would be talking about the state funding crisis in Illinois as it relates to education. Nowhere in the ad did it list who the panel members were going to be, or that there was a specific topic that would be the focus of this meeting, such as education.
Unfortunately, in a 60-minute forum, there were only three gentlemen from the audience that were able to have the floor to ask questions. There were no time limits set as to how long people could speak, nor were there time limits set for how long the responses could be from the panel. This forum focused solely on education and how the state needs to fund education in a different way.
Many of the attendees sitting around me were discouraged, upset and felt this event was poorly represented from the ad that was in the paper.
I encourage AARP Illinois to do a much better job in the future of advertising exactly what the topic of the forums will be in their print ad and social media outlets. There were many people in attendance that may have opted to spend their time somewhere else, had they known this forum was education specific and that all but three of the people that wished to speak, would go ignored.