Nearly four years in office, Pritzker fails to deliver on promises to Arab Americans
Nearly four years after taking office, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has broken his only promise he made to Arab Americans and Muslims and has failed give Arabs and Muslims representation on the states 435 boards and commissions. In almost all of the cases, Pritzker waited until last year to appoint the few he has. Why vote for someone who won’t vote for you?
By Ray Hanania
Nearly four years after arguing his administration would include Arab Americans in his administration, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pretty much isolated Arab American leaders, posing for a few photos and naming only a rare few to the state’s influential boards and commissions.
Illinois has 435 boards and commissions that consist of thousands of individuals appointed by the legislature, state constitutional office and by the governor and many of those spots have been open for years.
A review of the boards and commission appointments shows that Pritzker has frozen out the Arab American community, nominating only a few to positions while focusing mostly on other ethnic, racial and religious groups.
In an expected move, after his inauguration Jan. 9, 2019, Pritzker named his campaign press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh, the former Arab American journalist who served as his campaign communications director, as his press secretary.
AbuDayyeh who is Arab was also appointed to the Local Journalism Task Force on September 2021. The task force expires January. 2024.
Ironically, an Arab American was always destined to serve in that position during Pritzker’s first election campaign battle. The campaign press secretary for Pritzker’s chief election rival at the time, Christopher Kennedy, was Hanna Jubeh. Both Abudayyeh and Jubeh are Arab American. But that never voided the campaign pledges to appoint from the community nominees to the thousands of boards and commission positions the governor controls.
Although Pritzker has submitted the names of more than 400 individuals, all are non-Arab with only a few exceptions, to fill vacancies on state boards and commissions.
Pritzker left the 21-seat Commission on Discrimination and Hate, which is most important to the Arab American community, completely vacant for the first two years of his term in office. Finally in March 2021, Pritzker filled 18 of the 21 commission seats, but included only one Arab American, Marvet Sweis.
In April 2022, Pritzker appointed 20 people to the Illinois Arts Council which oversees grants for ethnic and racial groups. Not one is Arab.
He appointed Naila Quraishi to the SHIP Implementation Coordination Council on December 2020.
He appointed Stephen Kouri II of Peoria to the Human Rights Commission in April 2021.
He named Mohammed T. Hussein, to the Abulatory Surgical Treatment Center Licensing Board in March 2021.
He named Nabila Talib to the Task Force on Campus Sexual Misconduct Climate Surveys in February 2022.
He named Ehab Kamarah to the Elevator Safety Review Board in April 2022.
Allies point to Omer Osman who has numerous board and commission posts including as Acting Executive Director of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). But Osman has been a top state official for more than 30 years and automatically is appointed to boards and commissions as an “Ex Officio” member.
Osman currently serves on nearly a dozen positions including the Environmental Justice Commission, Hispanic Employment Plan Advisory Council, Housing Task Force, Illinois River Coordinating Council, Military Economic Development, Mississippi River Coordinating Council, Move Over Task Force, and the State Workers Compensation commission. In his most recent role as Deputy Secretary for the Office of Project Implementation, Osman is responsible for guiding day-to-day program delivery and developing both short- and long-term technical policies and procedures.
Osman’s appointment and important roles has nothing to do with Pritzker.
Pritzker’s failings are pushing many Arab Americans to return to their conservative, “family values” roots that embrace more freedom on religion and less focus on extreme liberal agendas.
On the important Muslim American Advisory Council, several Arabs and Muslims have been appointed, but by other officials but not by the Governor. The Illinois House Minority Leader appointed Mohammad Nofai and Dave Shalabi in November 2017, before Pritzker became governor. The Illinois House Speaker appointed Jafer Hasnain, Bambade Shakoor-Abdullah and Itedal Shalabi to the committee. Pritzker has two appointments he can make, but he has not made them yet.
Some appointees are “Ex Officio” meaning that they already hold jobs with the State of Illinois and are automatically appointed to a spot on several commissions.
In April, Pritzker appointed 20 people to the Illinois Arts Council which oversees grants for ethnic and racial groups. Not one is Arab.
Most Arab and Muslim on the state’s boards and commissions were appointed long before Pritzker came to office.
Some of the appointments who are Arab and Muslim were appointed before Pritzker came to office.
They include (Arabs and non-Arab Muslims):
Mubarek Ali-Mirjat was appointed to the Council on Aging, in 2014, and 2018. Talat Khan was appointed in 2018. Kaizad Irani was appointed to the Agriculture Education Committee in July 2019. Nasir Jahangir was appointed in 2013 to the Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council.
Fahmy, Abdel was appointed to the Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Advisory Council by state statute. Rana Nasiurddin was appointed to the Comprehensive Health Insurance Board in 2013. Pasha, Zoubida, Developmental Disabilities was appointed in 2017. Sameer Vohra, (SIU MD) was appointed to the State Board of Health, Rural Affairs Council in 2020. Syed Abedi was appointed to the Housing Task Force in 2019. Gary Shadid, an Ex-Officio appointment by statue, and Sarah Labadie, were appointed to the Board of Education and the Community College Board in 2019 by former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.
Dr. Shami Goyal was appointed to the State Medical Disciplinary Board in May of 2019. David Maloof was appointed Real Estate Admin and Disciplinary board in 2018. Dr. Abdi Tinwalla, was appointed by the Illinois Attorney General. Subhash Sharma was appointed to the SIU Board in 2019. Mohammed Arain, was appointed to the IDPH Advisory Board in 2010. Ali Mirza was elected in July to UIUC Student body by the student body.
Arab Americans barely have any voices on the State of Illinois thanks to Gov. Pritzker’s failures. As for the few he did appoint, what have they done for Arab Americans?
When it comes to failed Governor J.B. Pritzker, why would you vote for someone who refuses to vote for you?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. A political analyst and CEO of Urban Strategies Group, Hanania’s opinion columns on mainstream issues are published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. His Middle East columns are published in the Arab News. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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