Crime – Jobs – Education – Government Accountability – Rock River Flooding – Fiscal Responsibility – Rockford Casino – Health Care – Bipartisanship – Infrastructure – Empowering Women – Property Tax Relief
Crime: Commonsense Approach Needed
It’s no secret the Rockford area has had issues with crime for a long time. Progress has been made in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. Everyone in our community deserves to feel and be safe whether they are in their homes or out in public. I propose the following to address crime in the Rockford area:
- Family Peace Center: I will secure state support for the proposed Family Peace Center. Domestic violence is a pervasive threat to our safety. This center will be a safe haven for survivors to go when they are the most vulnerable. It will give them centralized access to support and services that will empower survivors and protect those that are in the most need. This is the most comprehensive plan I have seen in my 20 years working in the criminal justice system.
- Problem Solving Courts: I want to increase state support for Problem Solving Courts. These are courts that specialize in particular groups of people. Right now in Winnebago County there are Problem Solving Courts for veterans, people with mental health issues, and people who suffer from drug addiction. Each one of these groups is able to receive specialized support that saves taxpayer dollars, and reduces the likelihood of them reoffending. I also want to secure resources to expand these courts to cover more groups. The groups are as follows:
- Community Courts, which would work with low level, nonviolent offenders
- Domestic Violence Courts, which would work with the Family Peace Center to provide streamlined and effective services to survivors
- Homelessness Courts, which would help homeless people access services and get them off the streets
- Strong Economy: Having a strong local economy is a significant factor in crime reduction. Data shows that having a job and being able to provide for their family significantly reduces the likelihood of someone committing a crime. You can read about my economic proposals here.
Employment: Creating Real Jobs That Pay a Living Wage
A strong economy is an essential part of every successful community. While there are bright spots in our local economy, we need to do more to attract and keep businesses and jobs. Working toward a stronger economy will encourage families to stay and new people to relocate. It will also strengthen our education system and help to reduce poverty and crime. That’s why I propose the following:
- Educate for the Future: We have to educate our kids in practical and marketable skills while they’re in high school. Going to college is a goal for so many young people, but it isn’t for everyone. Young people should be able to enter the local economy right after high school if that’s what they want to do. I want to secure state funding for local school programs that will teach our kids marketable trades and skills. I also would want to facilitate an annual update to the curriculum based on input from business leaders, labor unions, and other economic stakeholders. This way we can ensure our kids are always receiving the best possible education and are ready for life after highschool.
- Market Our Strengths: We need to market the Rockford area better than we are. We have a capable workforce, and the training programs I describe above will only amplify that. We also benefit from being in the middle of the Midwest, along a major highway, and less than two hours from three major cities. We should be selling companies with our location and our workforce. With a proper sales pitch there’s no reason a company wouldn’t want to set up here.
- Grow Local Business: I will work with local leaders, business partners, and economic development groups to set up a local small business incubator. This incubator would help fund local entrepreneurs who are in the process of getting their businesses started. As a small business owner myself, I’m a big believer in small businesses and the positive impact they have on our community. I also have some small business specific COVID-19 recovery points that you can read about here.
- New Economy Jobs: We need to invest in our community with an eye toward the future and the new economy. Right now there’s a lot of local growth potential with clean energy jobs, marijuana jobs, and casino jobs. I will work with local leaders to identify other industry sectors with high growth potential and work to bring them to the Rockford area. By working with our high schools and local colleges and universities we can make sure that new and current workers are able to get the training necessary to work in these industries.
Education: Giving Children a Positive Start in Life
The K-12 years are the most important learning years in our lives. A good school district, and more importantly, good teachers can make a world of difference in our children’s future. As a defense attorney, I have unfortunately seen too many kids end up in jail or worse without the proper support. While we certainly can’t prevent every child from being led astray, with the right educational support, we can increase every child’s chance of success. In order to do that we need to do the following:
- Teach for the Future: Going to college isn’t for everyone, and it’s important for us to recognize that locally. Children need education to be engaging. We all learn in different ways. Some learn from books, some need a hands-on component. If we are going to get our kids engaged in their education, we need to commit to a dual program in our K-12 schools. We must continue to teach a college prep curriculum but our kids should also be able to learn a skill they can use right out of high school. When we do this, our kids will have greater opportunity and we will have a stronger workforce.
- This is how we do it: There is already a framework for this under the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act. This is a law already on the books that values alternative education. I will go through the various state statutes and mirror this idea, making sure that we put value where it belongs, and making sure our kids are ready for life after highschool. By also partnering with labor unions, local businesses, and others we can significantly enhance the quality of education our children receive, while also providing them with an engaging experience.
- This is how we pay for it: Illinois has the most administrators per student of any state. I want to work locally and down in Springfield to make sustainable reductions in school administrators. The money saved not paying for administrator salaries can be used to support the programs I’ve been talking about here, to increase teacher pay, and to hire more teachers. All of these will improve education in our community. I also want to work with local districts to apply for grants and other aid to help us better fund our education system.
I want to end this section on a personal note. My son Ryan grew up in a house with two attorneys who spent most of their early years in school and the next several years paying off debt. He graduated from high school and went to college, but it wasn’t for him. He tried for a few years, but he was never able to find his place. After he moved back home, he found a training program and now he’s a CNC operator. He is happy and proud of himself because he has a good job that he earned with his hard work, and he makes good money. I’m incredibly 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
In my work as a defense attorney I have two primary responsibilities: make sure my clients are given a fair trial, and hold the government accountable if the trial is not fair. I think the job of State Representative is similar: make sure that 68th District residents are being treated fairly and well by the state, and to hold the state accountable when it’s not treating our community the way it should be treated. To that end, I have the following proposals:
- Attack Corruption: I want to reform the way lobbying is conducted in Illinois. The thin line between lobbying and legislating is too often a source of scandal in Springfield, and does nothing except harm public confidence in our government. I want to prohibit legislators from simultaneously being lobbyists, make it a rule that former legislators have to wait 5 years before they can become lobbyists, and strengthen disclosure rules for lobbyists. These are all steps toward being more ethical, accountable, and trustworthy in the eyes of Illinois residents.
- Always be there when you need me: I want to have a community centered approach to constituent services. My staff and I will be visible in our community in a way that the Rockford area hasn’t seen in a long time. Beyond just having a district office, I want to be present at Neighborhood Association meetings, block parties, and other community events so that I am always learning about the issues my neighbors are facing. I want as many people as possible to know how to contact me or my staff so that we can help them.
Rock River Flooding: Real Solutions are Needed
Flooding along the Rock River has become more and more severe in recent years. Flooding along the river is expected, but the frequency and amount of flooding has become a hazard to the whole region. To address a problem like this, we need to be incredibly proactive. That’s why I want to do the following:
- Fund Prevention: I would have my office work with local governments on securing FEMA grants and other aid for the purposes of constructing flood control infrastructure. Examples of this are levees, self-closing barriers, and containment pools.
- Collaborate: I also want to reach out to representatives and other officials in Wisconsin to see if we can work together to better manage the flooding. Through a joint partnership we might be able to figure out a better way to manage the flooding then we can on our own.
- Help You: In the short term, I want to reach out to affected residents to hear how flooding is impacting them personally. Through a strong community dialogue we should be able to identify short term measures to relieve the burden of flooding while we work toward a permanent solution.
Fiscal Responsibility: A Fiscal Watchdog
The state of Illinois has not had a truly balanced budget since 2001. We have trouble paying our bills, our credit rating is shot, and our pensions are massively underfunded. This has hurt growth and has caused people to leave the Rockford area and Illinois as a whole. Things have not gotten noticeably better, and it’s time for a change.
- Balanced Budget: During my service as a Rockford Township Trustee, I am incredibly proud of two things: I have always voted for a balanced budget, and I have never voted to raise taxes. My ethos when it comes to budgeting is to provide the highest quality services while wisely spending taxpayer dollars. Anything else is unacceptable.
Health Care: Must Be Affordable
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we need to make significant improvements to how we manage our healthcare. I believe that healthcare is a right, and that we need to make sure everyone is covered. Here are a few things we can we can do here in Illinois:
- Make sure we are all covered: The first thing we can do is make sure that our healthcare exchange is as robust as possible, especially during emergencies like the pandemic. If people are losing their jobs, that means most are also losing their health insurance. We owe it to residents to be able to efficiently and effectively provide them with health insurance in a crisis.
- Assure Medicaid Coverage: We need to do everything we can to get Medicaid payments on a regular, reliable schedule. This will increase insurer, provider, and patient confidence in the program and make it easier for the state to negotiate with providers and insurers. Thousands of 68th District residents rely on Medicaid in some form, so it’s imperative that our local providers accept Medicaid coverage. I recently signed on to a letter urging Mercyhealth to reverse their decision to not accept Medicaid at their Rockton Ave campus. You can read it here.
- Implement Workplace Sick Leave: One of the most important conversations that needs to happen in the context of this pandemic is about worker benefits. The two most important I think are hazard pay and paid sick leave. If a worker is declared essential and has to report to work, they should be compensated for the extra personal risk they are taking in order to keep our community functioning. Even without a pandemic, workplaces are a hot spot for the flu, colds, and other diseases. Paid sick leave would reduce the spread of diseases by allowing workers to stay home instead of coming to work sick because they’re worried about their next paycheck. These are good, commonsense policies.
Bipartisanship: Putting People Before Politics
My Grandpa Zeke told me something when I was young that really stuck with me. He said “Everyone is the same. We all want our families and our neighbors to have a good life. We just have different ideas on how to get there. If you keep that in mind, you can work with anyone.”
In my law practice, I have represented republicans, democrats, and independents. I have worked with police officers, states attorneys, and case workers who have all come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Part of my job as an attorney is to forge agreements between all these divergent groups to move my cases forward. I will use these skills in Springfield to bring disparate groups together and enact meaningful legislation. I am not going to waste your tax dollars playing partisan games. My job in Springfield is to pass laws that will help improve my community. I don’t care if it’s a republican or democrat idea. I only care that it’s a good idea.
Infrastructure: Doing What Needs to be Done
Growth in the 68th District and the Rockford area as a whole is tied to our infrastructure and local development projects. Like I mentioned in the Jobs and Economy section, the Rockford area is in a prime location, but our roads and other infrastructure have to be able to handle the increase in traffic that comes with attracting new businesses. Here are my ideas:
- Expand the Airport: We have to continue expanding our capacity at the airport. The airport is one our best engines for economic growth and we need to support it however we can. I want to secure additional funding for expansion of our airport facilities. This would include hangars, repair facilities, and any other relevant infrastructure. Expanding our cargo capacity will create permanent jobs and the construction work will support temporary but good paying jobs. It’s a common sense goal for our community.
- Finally Make Commuter Rail a Reality: I want to continue to secure money for a commuter rail line to Chicago. Last year money was allocated for a feasibility study to locate potential routes and to estimate the cost of the project. Once this is done, and provided that the study determines that such a route is economically viable, I would work to get additional money from the state to help support the project. I would also want to explore grants and other aid to help offset some of the costs. Beyond the construction jobs, this opens up new suburban and Chicago markets for our residents to potentially work in. More economic connectivity is good for our community.
- Support our Casino: I fully support the Rockford casino. It will bring much needed jobs and revenue to the area that will help support our local infrastructure and initiatives. If it has not been approved by the time I am elected, I will do everything I can to get the project approved by the state gambling board.
- Fix our Roads: The final point here is that our local roads need to be able to handle any economic growth that we experience. I want to work with IDOT and any other relevant agencies to make sure our state roads here are well maintained. I also want to explore additional resources to help with local road maintenance. Roads are expensive, and if I can save taxpayer dollars I am going to do it.
Empowering Women: Equal Pay & Respect
I grew up surrounded by strong and capable women who had to work harder than I did to get ahead. My mom spent much of her life being told she couldn’t be an attorney. She got a law degree anyway, and is one of the best attorneys I know. My daughter is about to leave home and chart her own path. I want her to have a fair playing field as she pursues her goals.
- A Level Playing Field for Women: I strongly support laws and policies to empower women in the 68th District and across the state. Three of the most important are implementing paid family leave, codifying equal pay for equal work, and protecting a woman’s right to choose.
Property Tax Relief
High property taxes are an issue for communities all over Illinois, and especially here in the Rockford area. High property taxes hinder growth, hurt home values, and make it difficult for people with low and fixed incomes to stay in their homes. We have to restructure our tax code. This is what I will do:
- A Better Way to Fund Schools: The vast majority of the money gained from property taxes goes towards local schools. I want our schools to have as much money as possible, but it has to be done in a sustainable way. I want to continue the work that has been done down in Springfield to restructure how Illinois supports local school districts. It will be a long process, but the goal is that the state will be able to use its much larger tax base to support local school districts more effectively than we can right now with only local property taxes.
- New Tax Plan: At the state and local level, we need to reorient how our taxes are levied. Property taxes are levied only on residents, whereas if the primary source of tax dollars was a sales tax, that would spread the burden out beyond residents to include anyone shopping in our community. I am not committed to that as a solution, but I think it should be on the table as we begin these tough discussions on how to reduce our tax burden while securing sustainable funding for local schools, the State of Illinois, etc.
- Property Tax Relief: Finally, I want to work with local Township Assessors, Winnebago County, and the State of Illinois to create a Long Time Homeowner Property Tax Exemption. This would reward longtime Winnebago County residents for staying in and contributing to our community for an extended period of time.
In the meantime, I encourage 68th District residents to check if they qualify for any of the Property Tax Exemptions listed on the Winnebago County website. This is the web address: https://wincoil.us/departments/supervisor-of-assessments/exemption-forms-information/
These are especially helpful if you are a senior, veteran, or disabled person. You can also call the Winnebago County Supervisor of Assessments Office at 815-319-4460, or email them at email@example.com. Please be aware that their office might have different hours due to COVID.