OCCUPATION: Social worker at Shapiro Developmental Center
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts in social work from Olivet Nazarene University and Master of Arts in social work from Governors State University
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I am not a politician. I am a social worker and community activist. I decided to run to serve the people in our community. Our area has great natural resources and good people, but I see lots of needs. I believe state government can do a lot better job of bringing more opportunities to all the people of this district. I intend to listen to the concerns of all our citizens and work with the Pritzker administration and legislature to bring creative solutions to the district.
What is the biggest challenge facing the 79th District?
Bringing our area its fair share of economic development and infrastructure improvements to create opportunities for good paying jobs for all our citizens.
Our area has not seen the state investments of other areas especially under the previous state administration.
The I-57 interchange at exit 312 needs to be fast tracked to spur development on the east side of Kankakee.
Pembroke has received promises from both political parties for decades for bringing basic services, the time for empty promises is over.
The river and Kankakee State Park are great resources and tourist attractions — funding for the river and full funding for the park need to be on the front burner.
And yes, the South Suburban Airport needs to become a reality.
What is the biggest challenge facing Illinois as a whole?
Over the past several years there has been a lack of financial stability and budgets that has hurt economic growth and resulted in the loss of basic state services to many of our citizens in need.
The state needs to hold up its responsibility in funding education to help relieve the pressure on local homeowners facing rising property taxes.
The state needs to fund needed services for mental health and drug addiction.
Our community has seen too many drug overdoses and suicides.
I am pleased the state has finally passed an infrastructure bill, and I will fight to make sure the 79th district is not overlooked. For these reasons I support the fair tax amendment so that the wealthy will pay their fair share, and the tax burden will not continue in Illinois to fall on the middle class and homeowners.
How should the state address the pension crisis in Illinois?
First, this issue was not created by public employees. They paid into the fund. It was created by the state, and other units of government haven’t been making full scheduled payments over the last 30 years.
What can legally be done to benefits has been done — employees hired starting 1/1/11 are in a Tier 2 system with less benefits.
There is an option for employees to forego some of the COLA which has reduced the state’s liability.
Recently, the Governor signed legislation to reduce administration costs by combining funds.
The final thing to do is reamortize the unrealistic funding ramp, so pension payments do not crowd out spending for needed services. This issue took decades to create and will take time to solve.
What do you believe is causing the resident exodus from Illinois?
People have moved out of Illinois for decades.
People also move into Illinois every year for jobs and opportunities in this state.
Retirees often move because of weather or health issues.
The way the state can stay attractive to business and workers is stability, having balanced budgets and less partisan bickering, investing in our schools (including colleges) and infrastructure. I believe Illinois’ best days are ahead.