Joe Sonnefeldt: Candidate Profile
27th District Senate (Democrat)
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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.
City: Mount Prospect
Family: 2 adult children
Occupation: Musician and music instructor
Education: Bachelor of Music, American Conservatory of Music
Civic involvement: 2016 Recipient of the Village of Mount Prospect's "Shining Star" award for Youth Service.
Founder and Chairman of "District 57 Music Scholarships, N.F.P." 2011-present
Secretary of Wheeling Township Democratic Organization, 2012-2016
Board member of School District 57 Education Foundation, 2000-2002
Elected offices held: President, Mount Prospect School District 57 Board of Education 2016-present
Member, Mount Prospect SD57 BOE 2011-present
What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? Will you vote for your current legislative leader? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
I'd like to see the rules and the process for bringing bills to the floor be opened up and made more democratic.
I would vote for the current senate leader. I think he worked well with the minority leader on a budget compromise among other things last year.
I oppose term limits for elective office, but I may consider term limits for legislative leaders.
We already have term limits every 2 years. They are called "elections". If citizens are unhappy with the incumbent, it is their responsibility to show up and vote. Term limits only limit voter choices further. What gives incumbents an unfair advantage in elections is the campaign finance system. If we adopt term limits without campaign finance reform, it will only result in a gold-plated revolving door in Springfield through which the wealthy donors in this state can send their surrogates to represent their interests.
On budgeting, what should be done to ensure that the state does not again go through a period of time without a budget in place? What will you do as a legislator to help ensure that the spending priorities you espouse during your campaign are reflected in the budget?
I'm not sure what can be done to avoid repeating our recent budget impasse. I lay the blame at the feet of Gov. Rauner for his failure to negotiate in good faith. His insistence on including anti-worker items and his habit of changing his terms/demands poisoned the environment. Any competent executive would realize that he must compromise when the voters have put the opposite party in control of the legislature. The man doesn't understand that unlike business, government is a democratic process and he can't dictate terms. The voters would do well to replace him in November.
As a legislator I will work hard to form coalitions with others to push our budget priorities. I will also work across the aisle when we have shared interests.
Should the legislature approve ballot initiatives either for a constitutional amendment on legislative redistricting or one on term limits? If so, how would you recommend the issues be structure? If not, why not?
I'm open to considering a non-partisan redistricting system like the one the has been effective in California.
I oppose term limits for the reasons I stated above.
What approach do you support in fixing public employee pension systems?
I support re-amortizing the pension debt in a fashion as proposed by the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability.
The state should be required by law to make its payments just as they must pay into IMRF.
To what extent do you support or oppose legalization of marijuana for recreational use?
I support legalizing recreational marijuana as long as the distribution system is regulated and not structured as to be prone to corruption. The current system of medical marijuana has already given way to dispensaries bribing doctors to send patients to their facilities since patients are limited to one dispensary. Legalizing marijuana recreationally would stop this practice.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Property tax reform & education funding. Illinois is the only state in the nation that relies primarily on local property taxes to fund public schools. The system in unfair & unsustainable. We must identify new sources of revenue at the state level so that the state can assume more of this burden and take the pressure off homeowners. Additionally, there are some districts with a wealth of commercial/industrial real estate while others are lacking in this tax base. Commercial property taxes should be treated differently than residential taxes. While I support keeping residential taxes in the immediate community, commercial and industrial property taxes should be pooled in a larger area (township or countywide perhaps) and shared with all schools within the larger area on a per-pupil basis. This would address inequities in school funding and also remove what I believe is a major barrier to the willingness of small, "wealthy" districts to consolidate with a less wealthy neighboring district.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Senator Tammy Duckworth
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
That you can accomplish anything that you envision if you are willing to work hard and persevere.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Nothing. Life hasn't been perfect but I've learned from mistakes and they have strengthened me and (like my successes) made me the person I am.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
History/social studies. Even though I've worked in arts and education, I have stayed engaged and involved in current events and public policy.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do what makes you happy and put 110% of your effort and yourself into it.