Crime: Commonsense Approach Needed
I want my children to feel safe in Rockford after dark. I want my daughter to be able to date without fear of being battered or abused by her partner. We all want these things. I have seen the men, women and children who have been victimized. None of them were able to be safe in our community. They want justice. They deserve justice. I want to bring justice to us all.
Rockford is now the 3rd most unsafe city in Illinois. Machesney Park and Cherry Valley also suffer from a high crime rate. Since 2012, there have been almost 100 murders, 785 Rapes, 2766 Robberies and 8779 Burglaries and more cases of domestic battery than I can count. These are all well above the national average. We have filled our jail and detention center to way beyond capacity. It has not helped. What we are doing isn’t working. All it did was drain our resources, forcing our municipalities to cut police and other vital services; leaving fewer men and women on the streets to protect us and making us unsafe.
The 68th District needs relief. The only way to get there is a new strategy to fight crime and to empower victims. More and more, those of us who work in the justice system realize that the only way to truly have any lasting effect on our crime rate is to address the core problems. Therefore, I support alternatives to the system we are using now.
I propose a two-pronged solution. We must address the needs of the victims, and we must address the root causes of the crime that plagues our streets.
First and foremost, I will make it a priority in my time down state, to support and encourage the creation of the vital Winnebago County Family Justice Center. This will serve as a beacon to all victims of domestic violence in our area and combat the most pervasive violent crime in our community. They will have a place to come for support, for services, and most importantly to break the cycle of violence. It is the best idea to empower victims that I have seen in 20 years of criminal justice work. But it is not enough just to help those affected by crime. We must also stop those causing the crimes. Again, through my extensive time in the criminal justice system, I have seen great promise in problem solving courts.
Problem solving courts are a branch of the 17th Judicial Circuit that address each individual defendant’s problems and why those problems lead to criminal activity. This pioneering work has led to great gains in understanding and treatment of the drug, mental health and related issues that are the underlying cause of much of our crime. They are drug court (to address addiction), TIP court (to address mental health problems) and veteran’s court (to address the myriad of issues that our men and women face when they come back from service).
These are not only a humane and effective way to deal with crime and its effects, but they are also the most cost effective.
The cost to house an inmate in IDOC is about $21,000, in addition to the costs of housing in the county jail and the costs of employing the court personnel. There is also an average recidivism rate of 43% after five years.
On the other hand, the problem-solving courts cost an average of $2000 per defendant with a recidivism rate of just 15%.
That means that we save taxpayer dollars and stop new crime from happening and find some justice for the victims. It is good policy and makes sense.
Employment: Creating Real Jobs That Pay a Living Wage
The unemployment rate in Rockford is one of the highest in the state of Illinois at 5.3%. We have lost almost 10,000 good paying manufacturing jobs in this region in the last 10 years. The jobs that we do have pay $1.50 an hour less than the national average. That is $3,000 a year that our people are losing. Over the last eight years the population in our area has declined. The people who are leaving are leaving looking for jobs. They want that $3,000. We need to get Rockford back to work AT GOOD PAYING JOBS. We need to give people a reason to stay. We need to give our citizens a reason to be passionate about their futures and their jobs. I firmly believe that if a person has a job that they are proud of, they are less likely to leave. My plan to do this is four-fold:
1. Educate our students in practical and marketable skills: college is a goal for many people, but not for all. When I was a young man, the now shut down VOTEC Center at Jefferson High School served the whole region as a place that high school kids could go and have a clear choice between college or a job. We can start a new VOTEC. We can partner with labor unions and private industry who are already stepping up to train some of the workforce. I can go down state to help turn this into a region wide initiative that will prepare our children for high paying jobs with good working environments in the new economy.
2. Bring new jobs to the area: our workers are a proven asset to any company. I will be advocating nonstop to convince manufacturers to open here. There are plenty of businesses and jobs out there that would be successful if they were located along the I-90 corridor. I will go get them and bring them here. We can entice them with our affordable housing, educated workforce, and parks and green space. We will show them our trained workers and our welcoming community. They will invest in our community and we will grow.
3. Small business incubator: we must give incentives and aid to small businesses in our community. I propose tax incentives and preferable treatment to those with the spirit to go on their own. Small businesses are inherently local and have strong ties to the community. I propose a tax incentive tied directly to every job they create.
4. Embrace the new economy: green energy jobs, legal marijuana jobs, gambling jobs. These are all growth areas in Illinois. The Rockford area can be a leader in all these industries with the proper vision. These aren’t jobs you can just walk into, though. They are highly technical and require training. We need to work with RVC, Rockford University, etc. to start building these programs now. We must foster relationships between these industries and these institutions.
We have the workers. We have the infrastructure. The desire and the money are out there, but we have to bring it here.
Education: Giving Children a Positive Start in Life
When I was in middle school at Eisenhower, we had great teachers who instilled the love of learning in us. I learned to love to read there. I also learned about leather working and car repair. Eisenhower use to have a wood shop, auto shop, metal shop, and a lot more. If you showed an aptitude for anything or if you chose to, you could go to the Jefferson VOTEC center and focus on a career out of high school. That was lost when it was decided that everyone must go to college, which in turn led to some people having no marketable skills and large amounts of debt. It has also led to young people in our community having few or no options. I have sat next to them in court. They are left out because their grades aren’t up to snuff or because they learn in a different way. This has resulted in a 65% graduation rate. Boys and girls alike feel like they can’t succeed and what they do doesn’t matter. They turn to drugs or to gangs to feel good about themselves and they are stuck.
It is time to realize that a four-year degree is not the only end goal. Children need to be engaged by their education, and not all kids get excited reading Shakespeare or studying biology. Some kids need hands-on learning. If we are going to get our kids engaged and help them live lives with meaning and purpose, we need to commit to a revamped Votec model for the 21st Century. We must continue to teach a college prep curriculum, but also give the option to train kids in a trade, in one of the new economy jobs like medical marijuana, or in one of the new high-tech jobs that we will be able to attract with a skilled and trained workforce.
There is already a framework under the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act and the great work the city is doing to get a facility together, but we need to include kids all the way down to middle school and make it an integral part of our education system in the 68th. We need teachers from various walks of life who can give their years of experience to the kids. We also need to partner with labor unions, many of which already have great apprenticeship programs available, and with local and emerging manufacturers who can tell us what they need.
The best part of this is that we can pay for this under the existing education budget. Illinois has the most administrators per student of any state. We can make some cuts at the administration level and use that to increase teachers’ pay to attract the best and the brightest teachers, and at the same time fund a 21st century Votec. We can also seek aid from the federal government, where funds are available through programs like the 21st Century learning center initiative.
My son grew up in a house with two lawyers who spent most of their first 25 years in school and the next 5 in debt. He graduated from high school and tried to be a traditional college kid. That wasn’t him. He struggled for a few years. Never able to find his place, he came back home. He found a training program and now he is a CNC operator. He is happy and proud of himself because he has a good job that he earned and makes good money that he deserves. It makes me proud of him. I want all the kids in the 68th to feel how he feels and to live a fulfilling happy life.
Government Accountability: Answering to You
I am a defense attorney. My job in part is to make sure that the person being accused of the crime actually committed the crime. I hold the system to account to make sure that it is fair and above board for all the people in the system.
That is the same approach that I will take when I go down to Springfield. I will make it a priority to root out all corruption that I see and hold accountable those that we have chosen to represent us down there. There is no place for corruption and graft when we are working for the people.
Not only that, but I will provide the highest quality constituent services in the whole state. If you need help, whether on an issue or navigating the state bureaucracy, I will be there to help you. The 68th District deserves an advocate and that is what I will be.
Rock River Flooding: Real Solutions are Needed
The flooding of the Rock River has become unbearable. Rivers flooding is normal, but the frequency and amount of flooding has become a hazard to the whole region. To address a structural problem like this, it needs to be tackled head on. We need someone working around the clock to come up with a solution.
When I am your representative, flood management will be a constant concern of mine. I will not allow the state of Illinois to miss out on FEMA grant funds (like in 2019) that could protect the homes and businesses of the people of the 68th.
I will make sure that all possible options are explored to address this issue. There are new technologies like self-closing flood barriers that are a viable option. There are also diplomatic means like working with Wisconsin to better manage the amount of water flowing down the Rock River.
I also will reach out to the community for input on how to best resolve flooding issues for specific properties or areas. In order to alleviate this burden from each person, we will need to understand what they are going through.
Fiscal Responsibility: A Fiscal Watchdog
The state of Illinois has not had a truly balanced budget since 2001. We cannot pay our bills, our credit rating is shot, and our pensions are massively underfunded. This in turn has hurt growth and has caused people to leave Rockford and the state. My opponent has had years to fix this problem and has been unable to come up with a creative, fiscally responsible solution. Things keep getting worse. It is time for a change.
In my time as a township trustee, I have never been part of an unbalanced budget. The hardworking, diligent men and women who work there make it a priority to do good work while protecting taxpayer money.
I will use this philosophy and all I have learned to balance the state’s books while focusing always on providing good services at a fair price. I will fix our ailing pension system by spending within our means and ensuring that any money put toward pension payments can’t be reallocated to something else.
Health Care: Must Be Affordable
We have a booming health care market in our area. The three major health providers are never a long car ride away. You would think with all these options; health prices would be going down. However, as protections erode, our health care is getting more and more expensive. On average they have risen 22.5 percent. If the current administration gets what they want the Affordable Care Act will be repealed completely and we will lose all the protections it provides, like coverage for older children and coverage for preexisting conditions.
I will make sure that there is affordable and comprehensive health coverage for all those in the 68th. Health care is non-negotiable.
Commuter Rail: Getting from Here to There
The 68th needs a commuter train to Chicago. The train will connect our economy to Chicago and the suburbs. This is endorsed not only by Transform Rockford, but by the people. The plans have been made. There is already a route planned out. It is a route that will guarantee us enough frequency and ridership to make it viable.
The table is set for the train. All we need is the political will to get the money and put the plan into motion. There are already means of paying for this that will not raise our taxes. I will make it a priority to work with Region 1 planning and get the train to the 68th
Bipartisanship: Putting People Before Politics
I am running for the Illinois House of Representatives to help all of the people of the district and that is precisely what I will do. The 68th District needs good ideas and hard work to bring us the prosperity we deserve. Good ideas can come from either side of the aisle and if a law will help our citizens and our community to move forward, I will do whatever needs to be done to get it passed. Politicians spend too much time playing partisan games. In my law practice, I have represented republicans, democrats and independents. I have worked with policemen, states attorneys, and case workers who all have different views and agendas. I have been able to forge agreements between all these divergent groups to get things accomplished. I will use these skills down in Springfield to accomplish real change for us all.
Infrastructure: Doing What Needs to be Done
The growth of the 68th District is tied to our roads and bridges. Jobs and investment flow straight to the 68th from Chicago and Wisconsin down I-90, over our bridges and through our streets. Studies have shown that investment in our infrastructure can lead to major economic development in the form of jobs and investment.
Additionally, as we all know from driving around the area after a winter freeze, our streets can be not only dangerous but also expensive. Every time that a tire blows from hitting a pothole or a car’s alignment is compromised, the people of the 68th pay for the neglect of our infrastructure. This is an additional fee that we should not have to pay.
The job of a Representative is to do what they can to help keep their constituents safe and prosperous. This problem is not being addressed That is why, as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, I will lead the fight for investment in our infrastructure.
Empowering Women: Equal Pay & Respect
I grew up surrounded by strong and capable women who had to work extra hard to make it in a world dominated by men. My mother spent much of her life told she couldn’t be what she wanted to be. With a daughter of my own about to leave home and chart her own path, it is vital that she be given the same opportunities that the men she will be competing with do.
Therefore, I strongly support laws and policies to empower women across the district and the state such as paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, and protecting a woman’s right to choose.