October 17, 2019
Illinois Human Services: We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet – Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Andrea Durbin, and Lauren Wright
Hon. Susana Mendoza
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza serves as the state’s chief fiscal and accountability officer.The “Transparency Revolution” she launched upon taking office three years ago has opened the state’s books in unprecedented ways.
Her Debt Transparency Act gives legislators up-to-date numbers to work with as they craft the state budget, as well as giving taxpayers the latest numbers on how much the state owes.
Mendoza first took office amid the state’s unprecedented two-year budget impasse. The state was not taking in enough money to pay all its vendors and Mendoza had to make hard choices over who got paid and who had to wait. She prioritized payments to the state’s most vulnerable; to debt service, pension payments and education. She serves as a calming force with rating agencies, pledging that state payments to bond-holders would remain paramount.
Mendoza was first elected during a special election in 2016 to fill out the remaining two years of the term won by her friend, the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. She was re-elected in 2018 to a full four-year term. Following Topinka’s example of offering candid assessments of State finances regardless of whether or not they ruffled feathers in either party, Mendoza quickly began delivering on a promise to be a truth-telling fiscal watchdog.
This year she revived the Comptroller’s Fiscal Focus magazine, which began publication under Comptroller Loleta Didrickson but had lapsed in recent years. The September issue focuses on mending Illinois’ social safety net, which suffered so badly during the budget impasse.
With this year’s budget, the state has taken a major step toward resuming adequate funding of social services. But the state has a long way to go.
Andrea is the Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Collaboration on Youth. A passionate and life-long advocate for young people, she leads ICOY’s work to improve the lives of children, youth, and their families. Prior to becoming CEO, Andi served as policy and advocacy director for ICOY and led the agency’s federally-funded capacity building initiative for youth service agencies in Chicago.
Andi serves on several high-level committees and workgroups, representing the needs of at-risk youth and the agencies that serve them.
Before joining ICOY, Andi worked for seven years in education and for eight years at Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center, where she led efforts to design and develop programs for high-risk youth, as well as primary and preventive health services for medically underserved communities. She has a master’s degree in social work administration from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Andi lives in Chicago with her husband and their three school-aged children. She is active in her local community as a volunteer board member for All Day Montessori and as treasurer for a natural foods cooperative.
Lauren Wright recently joined Illinois Partners for Human Service as their Executive Director. Illinois Partners is a coalition of more than 800 human service organizations in every legislative district in Illinois, who provide vital services in mental health, disability rights, childcare, youth advocacy, workforce development, immigration services and many other areas. Lauren holds a Master of International Policy and Practice from George Washington University, and a Master of Arts in Sustainable Development from SIT Graduate Institute. With a background in coalition building and grassroots advocacy, Lauren is committed to amplifying the platforms of community organizations, and advocating for the people they serve.