Candidates in state races debate the issues

KANKAKEE — Four candidates in two state races squared off Tuesday evening in the first of two candidate forums for the Nov. 3 general election hosted by the Kankakee County Branch of the NAACP’s political action committee.

Tuesday’s night forum was held in two sessions. First was the Illinois House of Representatives’ 79th district race between Jackie Haas, a Republican from Bourbonnais, and Charlene Eads, a Democrat from Bradley. In the second session, candidates for state senator for the 40th district, incumbent Democrat Patrick Joyce, of Essex, faced Republican challenger Eric Wallace, of Flossmoor.

Haas, a current Kankakee County Board member, and Eads agreed on some of the issues brought up by questions from the panel and the audience, but they differed on a few principles.

Haas said the two biggest issues facing voters is the district is recovering from the COVID shutdown and taxes.

“I believe that the impact on small business and the economy are incredibly significant right now,” she said. “What we’re hearing from our constituents is the impact on taxes is extremely great. We’re losing too many people in communities going to other areas and from our state to other states.

“The impact is too great, and people are losing too much money from their paychecks. They’re being taxed too much on everything, and folks are tired of being taxed on everything.”

Eads also said that trying to recover from the COVID impact is a challenge, as well as the increase in mental health issues.

“We need to advocate for more mental health funding,” she said.

Eads said the state has done its best responding to the COVID crisis in mitigating the spread of the disease but small businesses need more support. Haas said the state’s measures have hurt some businesses.

“I recognize that protecting the public’s health is really our first priority, but there has been a significant amount of government overreach,” she said. “The continual executive orders have given the big box stores a great advantage over our small, local business which are really the backbone of our economy and the driving force behind job creation in our communities. We need to get these businesses back in operation.”

On the subject of police reform, Eads said there’s room for change and to use more community-based policing.

“Everyone needs law enforcement to protect and serve, but right now there are problems within law enforcement agencies that needs change,” she said. “As a Black person myself, law enforcement doesn’t work for Black people right now. … Most people who are Black and brown like me encounter problems and we need to address it. We can’t push it aside. … Illinois has to address police reform. We need to introduce deescalation training with law enforcement.”

Haas said local law enforcement has been proactive in partnering in developing relationships in the community and is in favor of body cams.

“Most of our public safety personnel have gone through extensive mental health training,” she said. “… Every department in our county has crisis-intervention trained personnel. People can request a crisis-intervention trained officer to respond. … I know the NAACP has been involved in advancing the 10 Principles and 8CantWait with our law enforcement personnel, and I think those are great advancements.”

Both candidates said they support the Black Lives Matter movement and that systemic racism needs to be addressed. Eads supports the Fair Tax proposal, while Haas is not in favor of the measure.

To attract an influx of people into the area, both felt improved recreation can be a driver.

“We have beautiful river that runs through Kankakee, so I will support recreational services that will help investors coming into the 79th district,” said Eads, who added infrastructure needs improvement.

“One of the things that we don’t think about when we talk about the industries here, is making sure that the folks that are working here are living here,” Haas said. “We’re losing some of the business and the taxes of the people who are commuting into work but not staying here. We need to think about attracting them back here, too. This is a great place to live and raise a family as well.”

Wallace and Joyce also agreed on some of the pressing issues, but differed on others based mostly on party platforms.

“There are tough decisions in front of us for sure, but making the correct decisions now under the cloud of a pandemic need to be thoughtful,” Joyce said.

Wallace made note how he’s hoping to be the first Black to be elected to the state senate as a Republican since 1939.

“That would shake up both parties,” he said. “It’s been 81 years. Can you imagine that? … It will signal to both that you’re tired of the status quo and will demand something different from the Republicans and from the Democrats.”

Wallace said there’s a number of issues that state needs to tackle to bring viability back to the district, including eliminating corruption, reducing property tax and promoting individuals to start new businesses. He said raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is a hindrance for small businesses on hiring young workers because it can’t afford to pay them.

“Again, we can’t allow the state to continue to stay on lock down,” he said. “We’ve got to open up and allow people, those who do have money, to go out and support the business that are still here. … There are a lot of Black businesses that are going under because they don’t have reserves and they can’t work from home.”

Joyce said businesses are hurting for sure, and educating community leaders how to attain grant money can help revitalize cities and towns.

“We have an untapped resource here in the Kankakee River that is underutilized,” he said. “… We are watching our river be choked with sand, and it has so many opportunities along the banks of it, just recreation wise.”

Both Wallace and Joyce said some hard decisions are going to have to made when it comes to cutting programs on future state budgets.

“It’s just figuring out what that is because we’re going to have to tighten our belt,” Wallace said. “We lost a lot of money through COVID, and it’s just not going to fall out of the sky. We’re going to have to cut something. What it is? I’m not down in Springfield. Other may have a better idea as to what can be cut.”

Joyce said it’s going to take a thoughtful process.

“Those department heads have a better gauge on where those monies could be possibly come from in each of their departments,” he said. “The governor has asked each agency to hold 5 percent of their current budget for FY21 and in FY22 come up with 10% cuts. It’s coming. We have to pay for COVID, but the easy way is our national leadership has to step up to the plate.”

Joyce said state education funding has been maintained from the previous year, but COVID has thrown the state a curve ball and it will take a couple of years to get out of it.

“The current administration is dedicated to increase funding to higher education as well as K through 12 for years to come,” he said.

via The Daily Journal

October 7, 2020 at 08:28PM

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