Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: 23rd District Senate
Occupation: Marketing Executive
Education: St. Ignatius College Prep Northern Illinois University Kellogg School of Management, certificate
Civic involvement: Du Page PADS, Addison Township Democratic Organization, York Township Democratic Organization, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, Friendship House, Du Page County Democratic Central Committee, IVI-IPO, Northside DFA, DL21C, Illinois Democratic Women, Democratic Women of Du Page County, New Organizing Institute, Move-On, ACLU of Illinois, Americans for Marriage Equality, Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago Area Public Affairs Group, Child Nutrition Foundation, School Nutrition Association, National Restaurant Association, Democracy for America, New Leaders Council, Planned Parenthood, NOW, Chicago Battered Women's Network, Human Rights Campaign, Equality Illinois, Center for American Progress, Advance Illinois, Common Cause, The Main Street Alliance
Elected offices held: Democratic Precinct Committeeman Democratic Party of DuPage County Executive Committee Delegate
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: Candidate did not respond.
Key Issue 1
My first responsibility is ensuring that the needs of all of the 217,000 people who live here are properly and honestly represented in the Senate chamber.
I also will be responsible for making sure that the communities within the district are receiving all of the funding available from the state.
This includes the state's constitutional obligation to our schools.
To ensure that, I will need to dedicate myself to doing everything possible within my legislative role to addressing our state's multifaceted financial problems.
Without establishing a better base with more security, and building an environment that is good for attracting new business investment and the jobs that come along with it, there will not be funding available for even our basic needs.
The Governor's budget outlook for the next few years is only the tip of the iceberg.
Everyone in the General Assembly
- everyone - needs to be ready to discard the ?business as usual? approach if we are going to be able to do any of the heavy lifting we must do in the next three years to get this state back on track.
Key Issue 2
Comprehensive tax and financial reforms, along with ensuring the state is positioning itself correctly to attract and retain businesses in an increasingly competitive environment.
The problem is that there is no quick fix, simple solution to any of this.
- or I should say the General Assembly is -- particularly timid when it comes to tackling complex revenue issues.
Our legislative leadership's traditional avoidance of taking risks is firmly based on their understanding that the public -- or more precisely the electorate -- doesn't really want them to take on anything too significant.
If they do, we will most likely just see different people in Springfield in two years avoiding tough choices.
But, changing the people doesn't seem to help anyway, as some of the fundamental issues as to why Illinois doesn't appear to like paying its bills go back nearly 40 years.
However, I also know that nothing is going to change unless we start somewhere to push, pull, and force a comprehensive package of restructured revenue sources and set budget disciplines through that the GA would actually vote for and the people of Illinois would be happy with.
Key Issue 3
We need to fundamentally restructure the way schools are paid for to ensure that our obligation to provide a high quality education in an environment that promotes individual learning and personal growth for every child is honored and met regardless the ups and downs of economic cycles.
Giving teachers and parents practical tools instead of unfunded mandates and 'teach to the test' requirements needs to be our sole focus at the state level, and creating a structure that will finally bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to provide primary funding to every district in every community will help us do that.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears? For incumbents, how did you vote on the Sears plan in this fall's veto session?
As a legislator, it is required that you fight for every dollar available for your district.
It will be my responsibility to ensure that the towns, schools, and business community in the 23rd are included in every development project, infrastructure program, and educational grant they qualify for.
Too often, investment money available for local needs is left on the table
- not through intent, but simple oversight.
In Illinois, legislators are charged with the additional task of making sure that all the money that is owed to their districts is actually paid, and paid in a timely manner.
It is here where having a loud, consistent, and strong advocate makes the most difference, and where many districts need improvement in their representation.
The State of Illinois has made a common practice of artificially manipulating the discretionary budget by simply pushing bill payments that are due in one fiscal year into the following one going back to 1994.
We need people in the General Assembly who will not only put an end to this irresponsible practice, but also make sure that the municipalities, school districts, and service providers in their district are paid every last dime on time -- and who will never let go of the issue if they are not.
In a broader sense, we need to take some simple and immediate steps to help heal the general Illinois economy through increasing access to capital for the small and mid-size businesses that create most of the jobs in our state, protect the continuation of small family owned businesses and family farms through realistic and fair changes in the tax code, and guaranteeing research and development tax credits for Illinois based businesses for the future.
Tax deals like the Sears/CME bill fail to address the greater needs of our state economy while, like most TIF arrangements, just leave everyone else responsible for paying the cost.
The problem with any individual company deal tends to be in actually monitoring performance in terms of what the company agreed to, and having some kind of requirement built in for the beneficiary to live up to the terms.
Too often, states give away millions of taxpayer dollars to enterprises that never achieve what their stated purpose was and leaving the people of the state with no recourse and the company with no responsibility.
Specific deals like the cases of Navistar and Motorola can be beneficial if they are structured correctly between partners that receive equitable benefits while taking on equal responsibilities.
The Sears/CME issue just opens us up to a simple formula of economic extortion from anyone with any kind of sizeable operation in the state.
They threatened, we blinked, and even in the revised form of the bill there were not enough firm guarantees to justify supporting it.
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus' Why or why not?
The most recent 'reforms' to come out of Springfield once again failed to address fundamental problems with money and influence in Illinois.
I believe a system that incorporates all of the suggestions from the 2009 Reform Commission Report to some degree - including at least some public financing component - will not only help curb the influence money has on specific legislation and policy decisions as we just saw with the so-called ?Smart Grid? legislation but will also free elected officials to concentrate on their primary job responsibilities.
Leveling the playing field overall will also bring desperately needed change the dynamics in Springfield.
Party caucuses will unfortunately continue to hold sway over the primary process, which is where most of state elections are won or lost anyway.
As for limiting party ability to fund races for general elections, it really isn't politically practical unless we believe we could replace the current system entirely with some form of public funding or a public/private hybrid.
Even well established incumbents find it hard to raise the enormous amounts of money it takes to effectively reach an under-informed and unengaged electorate without direct party support.
I would like to see broader limits on back-door money coming in around individual limits in place to heavily influence and in some cases overwhelm specific races, but I am not sure how far we can go operating under the Citizens United ruling from the US Supreme Court.
In terms of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I have followed Senate President Cullerton for many years and find him to be a very shrewd legislator and extremely capable leader in maintaining an often difficult counterbalance to the other chamber.
He tries to serve the best interests of the people of Illinois in ways that they are usually not even aware of, which is one of the marks of a good legislative leader.
I would support him to continue to head the senate.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How have you or will you vote on future gambling bills' What is your view of slots at racetracks' Casino expansion?
Not to over simplify but to fit the requirements of this forum, the components that should be looked at would at least include:
-- Some different form of income tax
- limited flat tiers or simplified progressive -
that would include annual COLA increases in personal exemptions and adequate protections for earned income credit for the working poor -- Revision of the state portion of sales tax to reflect movement to a service economy -- Introduction of some new use-based sales taxes to provided dedicated revenue streams for related expenditures that now come out of the General Revenue Fund -- Reducing or eliminating individual income tax revenue sharing with other government units -- Property tax relief to reduce our overall dependence on a family's least liquid asset -- Eliminating the ability for the state to intentionally carry forward bills related to education, healthcare, and human services from one FY to the next to artificially -- balance -- the budget -- Restricting the issuance of new bonds or other forms of long-term borrowing to cover only the purchase/construction/maintenance of physical assets or public infrastructure with an equally long-term value
In terms of gambling, our financial problems will not be solved by reliance on gambling as a primary new source of revenue for the state's general fund.
The initial effect that the new Rivers Casino had on other existing operations clearly demonstrates that there is a limit to what the market will bear in terms of generating additional casino revenue in the Chicago metro area.
That having been said, I agree that issuing additional licenses for strategically positioned casinos on the way to other out of state gambling destinations only make sense.
If we can capture a portion of those dollars that were going to be spent elsewhere by Illinois residents, and potentially attract some additional out of state revenue, then we should definitely explore what options are available.
This would include a Chicago casino.
As a regular exhibitor in Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, and other major convention markets across the country I am very aware of the competitive nature of this business, the amount of money it can bring to a local economy, and the fact that while Chicago's facilities are among the best in the world - we're still losing business every year to other cities that are not as well equipped to handle the actual conventions themselves.
We can't do anything about the weather, and we have made significant progress on making McCormick Place more exhibitor friendly and affordable, but it isn't enough.
Adding a truly world-class casino conveniently located between downtown hotels and the South lakefront would significantly add to our competitive profile as a convention and tourist destination.
As for slot expansion, I am strongly opposed to placing machines in airports but I also believe the Governor's position on racetracks is wrong.
I am familiar with where this has been done before and done successfully, with little negative impact on either surrounding communities or other gambling venues.
The state's racing industry is most likely correct in presuming that they will continue to loose money to other options to the point that their particularly high overhead will force them out of business otherwise.
In the case of allowing video poker in bars and restaurants, once again this is not going to solve our long-term revenue issues and comes along with a host of potential problems for every community in the state.
Quite frankly, it was a terrible idea and I am still unclear why particular legislators ever voted for it in the first place.
What do you specifically support to deal with the state's pension gap? Would you vote for House Republican Leader Tom Cross's three-tier pension plan? Why or why not?
This demands thoughtful, not simple, answers.
SB512 includes a tiered structure format that appears to eventually force any participant more than a decade away from retirement eventually into the lowest tier, as maintaining full participation would eventually become cost prohibitive.
The question still remains if Article VIII of the constitution would somehow prohibit a reduction in plan benefits to current participants, and if this would fall under such a prohibition.
Unfortunately, this will ultimately be decided only after a very long and very costly battle in the courts.
It is also curious that this approach of pushing for increased contributions and potentially reduced future benefits has already been shown in some studies to, on its own, mathematically not actually solve the funding problem long term.
For these reasons, I do not support 512 in its current format.
I believe it will ultimately leave the pension problem that we created unsolved, while the plan itself remains unenforceable due to court injunctions.
Our current revenue streams are not sufficient to cover the backlog of pension payments, and there is no way to avoid that truth.
Yes, the problem wasn't caused by the pension plans themselves but through years of spending the money that should have been set-aside for meeting pension obligations on other GF items of no residual value.
Underfunding naturally lead to underperforming when the market was riding high, since you can't invest what you don't have.
The issue now is that we have a multi-billion dollar hole that we can't climb out of without changing something.
The other issue is that -- no matter what we come up with for this session, the fundamental problems with our revenue system means we are probably going to re-fight this issue nearly every year.
The real solution needs to take all the factors into account -- what we have, what and when we need to pay out, and where the difference can come from to cover any shortfalls.
I have spent a lot of time talking to participants in most of the different state plans about these issues over the last three to four years.
In incredibly broad terms, I believe we can help alleviate our problems by taking these steps:
We need to make it impossible for the state not to pay its obligations without severe, automatic penalties.
We also need to look at implementing tiered structures that DO NOT eventually force most current plan participants into untenable choices prior to retirement, while still addressing revenue requirements.
Offering a hybrid system to younger or newer members that would keep them as primary plan participants, but offer them an option of keeping a portion of their retirement savings that could be self-directed and fully portable might be incorporated into the mix.
Changing accrual and actuarial formulations to reflect real requirements, removing elected and appointed officials from pension rolls, eliminating all forms of double dip, and setting attainable goals for gradually bringing all plans/plan participants to full funding must be included in fixing the problems we made for ourselves.
Should gay marriage be legalized? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception as others have? How would you vote on a concealed carry firearm plan? Should the death penalty be reinstated?
I publically advocated for the current civil unions legislation, understanding that it did not go far enough.
In general, I would like to see the state get out of the marriage business entirely, offering only civil unions as a way of two adults contractually combining households into a single entity for tax, survivor, and other legal benefits and protections.
While I understand the common law history of government issuing marriage licenses, I find the practice personally questionable.
When the subject turns to the sanctity of marriage, it immediately removes the issue from any governmental control and places it entirely within the rights and sacraments of organized religion where such things belong free of outside influence and removed from any state control.
So long as Illinois or U.S. law continues to grant specific and exclusive legal rights and financial privileges to the civil state of marriage, then I would not just support but sponsor legislation to extend those rights to any two adults willing to join each other in marriage.
In my opinion the government actually has no right to legislate against it under the rule of equal protection.
The subject of trying to legally redefine personhood is an attempt to get around existing protections for women at the Federal level and subjugate them to individual state laws that would deny them basic rights over their own bodies and lives.
As such, these misguided efforts
do absolutely nothing to promote practical access to alternative choices for the most vulnerable, while they set themselves up to being swiftly struck-down by the courts.
It is simply political grandstanding at its worst and something I believe Illinois has more sense than to engage in.
Illinois is the only state that does not have some form of conceal/carry legislation that covers legal gun owners.
If we believe that we are already doing everything necessary to ensure that the principles and practices of responsible gun ownership are being followed by people in our state licensed to have firearms, and that sufficient protections are already in place to make sure that people who are specifically prohibited from carrying guns do not have legal access to them, and that legal ownership transfers are being properly recorded and required background checks are being performed, than I would have no objection to conceal carry legislation in concept.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court extended the Second Amendment militia clause to include an individual's right to keep AND bear arms.
The measure would however need to include specific language that would protect private property holders' rights to prohibit weapons from being carried on to their property if they so chose, as well as to specify public institutions where weapons could not be carried except for authorized law-enforcement or licensed security personnel.
Illinois proved that we are not responsible enough to have the ultimate punishment at our disposal.
The history of capital cases in this state, what type of people were sent to death row, why they ended-up there, and how many times we got it wrong -- that we are aware of -- is well established.
Just in recent months, this very paper has been full of stories where people who could have been subjected to capital punishment have been fully exonerated, sometimes after decades of incarceration and multiple trials.
If our criminal justice system has consistently demonstrated such flaws, how can people of good conscience advocate that we should be able to punish anyone in a way that has no recourse if we are again wrong in our judgements'