OCCUPATION: Executive Director of Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation (on leave)
EDUCATION: MA in Communication and Training from Governors State University and BA in Journalism from Northern Illinois University
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I lived in Chicago Heights — with additional time spent in the Kankakee, Springfield and University Park areas — before establishing residence in Flossmoor in 2011. Working with the Legislative Black Caucus Foundation has exposed me to the state’s priority issues and need for responsive governance. As a territory manager in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, I broadened my perspective on equal access to quality healthcare. I have dealt with public policy from many angles — analysis and budgeting, through strategizing workable resolutions and doing extensive outreach through a variety of vehicles, among the diverse constituents I seek to represent.
What is the biggest challenge facing the 40th District?
Economic development. Regionally, I vigorously advocate completion of the South Suburban Airport. It is projected to generate $170 million in new state taxes, generate an annual $2.6 billion in economic benefit to the region and create good paying jobs at all skill levels.
More locally, Pembroke Township is considered one of the poorest communities in Illinois, but ecologists consider it rich for encompassing the greatest concentrations of black oak savannas in the United States, serving as home to a diversity of endangered species of flowers, birds and small animals. In addition to an opportunity for ecotourism, Pembroke is poised to take advantage of the state’s industrial hemp bill that passed last year, anticipated to spur a $1 billion industry for Illinois.
The Kankakee Riverwalk project is moving forward with a recent grant of $96,000 awarded by the National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration. It’s estimated the project, set to receive Tax Increment Financing, will generate $2 million of new annual Kankakee property tax revenue and $13 million in recurring economic impact, as well as attract more visitors to the area.
Another project that has support from 40th District residents is a proposed solar farm in Chicago Heights. As municipalities urge their constituents to retrain and retool for a green economy, elected officials are looking at renewable energy opportunities for residents and businesses to create new jobs.
What is the biggest challenge facing Illinois as a whole?
The vision to address economic disparities comprehensively. Long neglected southern region communities, in particular, and low-middle income residents generally have lost out to deep-pocket interests, from taxation to investment in major progressive projects. Springfield seems willing to accept the deterioration of some parts of the state, including the South Side of Chicago, with little consideration for the impact on the reputation or attractiveness of Illinois as a whole. Tolerance for such disparities is at the root of our nationally unique population decline, loss of potential jobs, internationally reported social ills and money-mishandling scandals involving our elected officials.
The best example is foot dragging on completion of the South Suburban Airport. The FAA predicted 30 years ago we would need a third airport. Extensive related studies documented how it would restore our role as the nation’s transportation hub, serving as a catalyst for improving the lives of residents and businesses throughout Illinois. Instead, we have funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the two at-capacity current airports because of parties with financial or political investment in the status quo. This pattern is repeated elsewhere, when funding flows to already stable areas.
I advocate prioritizing how we generate and spend funds, to ensure we address populations whose decline — both literally and figuratively — can drag down the rest of the state.
How should the state address the pension crisis in Illinois?
I wholeheartedly agree with most constituents who prefer a resolution that punishes neither taxpayers nor current/future public employees. I would work toward progressive, creative ways to accomplish those goals, including:
Reamortization: The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has shown how restructuring the pension plan, by spreading payment of the debt over a longer period of time, could “save $45 billion in service payments through FY2045, while still getting the pension systems 72 percent funded.” In recognition of the state’s poor fiscal condition, the Center’s strategy includes issuing a series of annual pension obligation bonds totaling $9.8 billion over nine years.
“LaSalle Street Tax:” Sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, HB23 “Imposes a tax on the privilege of engaging in financial transactions” on Chicago’s four major exchanges and boards of trade, at the rate of $1 per specified transaction. Buyers and sellers would pay the tax. Proponents say the tax is a pittance considering the well over $900 trillion value of products traded, not worth the cost and market disruptions of the institutions relocating to avoid the tax. The bill was scheduled for hearing in the Revenue & Finance Committee Feb. 27, to be effective January 2020. Its passage could raise at least $5 billion annually, targeting the pension debt in particular.
What do you believe is causing the resident exodus from Illinois?
According to recent studies/polls, nearly half those wanting to relocate cite taxes, ineffective/corrupt local government, a lack of middle-class jobs and weather. Studies attribute “long-standing economic discrimination against black residents” as the reason this demographic makes up a large percentage of the residents who leave — over 75,000 between 2010 to 2018 from Cook County alone.
I believe we should also pay attention to a couple of less reported trends. Illinois ranks second nationally in losing college students to other states. In large part because they perceive a weak local job market. Second, despite pioneering technical achievements (e.g., PLATO, the cellphone, lasers, steel plow), Illinois ranks 26th on a state innovation index that considers both human capital and innovation.
Of the many reasons I advocate for completion of the South Suburban Airport, I see the potential for it to help our “brain drain,” particularly from communities traditionally left out of development plans. SSA’s multilevel and multidimensional opportunities can stimulate excitement about local futures among many generations of diverse residents who would love a good reason to stay in Illinois.
Several institutions throughout the state offer aviation, engineering, managerial and other degrees of direct value to airports. For those not seeking professional degrees or office work, aviation industry experts estimate the need for about 190,000 more airline mechanics, since about 30 percent of current ones will probably retire in the next few years. Completing and expanding SSA will require construction, maintenance and a variety of trades workers, as well as consultants and entrepreneurs.
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Region: Northern,Region: Kankakee,Feeds,News,City: Kankakee
February 29, 2020 at 01:31AM