Alexander Paterakis: Elite are keeping the state divided

This is one of a seies of essays produced in response to an invitation from the Daily Herald on the topic, "Why I Should Be Illinois' Next Governor." The two Republicans and seven Democrats who have announced bids to seek the state's top job all were invited to describe themselves and their core positions. Publication of the op-eds began with submission by incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner and will continue daily on the Opinion page. Democrat Tio Hardiman declined.

The political elite in Illinois want us divided. They divide us to push their agenda, which does not work for 95 percent of this state's residents. My name is Alex Paterakis and I am running to represent the rest of us, the people that do not want to see this state divided.

For too long, we have been met with broken promises. We need a leader who will fight for a common cause, to increase the comfort of Illinois families, increase the potential for generational wealth and provide our family members with the best education and health care in the nation. But where we are today, with our current "leadership," we are far away from these goals.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy private equity investor, ran for governor as a Republican in 2014 on a populist pledge to "shake up Springfield" and "bring back Illinois." After two years, he's done neither, leaving destruction in his path. And rather than bringing back Illinois, Rauner has torpedoed any progress. Illinois didn't pass a budget during his tenure until this summer," and then it was after the deadline. Yet, this "expert negotiator" thinks he can bully his policy through the General Assembly.

Public colleges and universities have been hard hit in the budget crisis. The schools are accordingly cutting programs, staff and days of operation. This is what Rauner wanted. He wanted cuts, and by not funding a budget, he reduced the size of government without legislation. This hurts our family members both young and old, who are now having to struggle for their basic human rights, education and health care.

But there is hope. We can defeat the most ineffective governor Illinois has ever seen, who feels making his friends rich is better than helping those less fortunate.

To make Illinois prosperous once more we need to:

• Reduce the crippling tax burden on families, freezing any property taxes increases;

• Issue a balanced budget that is fair to the middle class;

• Provide protections and opportunities for middle class, blue-collar workers through reforms to strengthen unions and an increase to the minimum wage;

• Pass criminal justice reform and refocus resources from prisons to rehabilitation programs;

• Increase funding to K-12 education and childcare;

• Spreading the wealth across the state and not only to Chicago;

•'Legalize the sale of cannabis, with tax revenues funding educational programs;

Divide and conquer, that is the strategy of the elite of this state.

The division I see is between the people who like Illinois divided and the rest of us.

I see it everywhere I go.

I see it in our schools, where they teach children we're all the same, because they're threatened by what makes us unique.

I see it in our streets, where the poor have easy access to guns, so we're too busy fighting each other to fight real injustice.

I see it in our factories, where employees work for a fraction of their boss's salary.

I see it in Washington where politicians play with women's health but have the best health care in the nation.

Illinois' problem isn't Democrats or outraged Republicans.

Illinois' true problem is the elite feeding on Illinois's death. But I've got a message for them, from the people keeping it alive, a message from the people that believe in this state to the people that don't.

You're outnumbered.

Born in 1987 in Skokie, I have been a resident of Illinois my entire life. I attended Adlai E Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire IL. A structural engineer from Purdue University, I am also an entrepreneur and small business owner. My passion for civil engineering allowed me to work for construction companies that have helped improve the Illinois highway system.

In 2011, I started two companies that I have shaped into businesses that serve the local community, support and hire veterans and create jobs in the local economy.

Alexander Paterakis, of Vernon Hills, is a civil engineer and small-business owner.

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