Anne Stava-Murray: Candidate profile
Name: Anne Stava-Murray
Office sought: Representative to the Illinois General Assembly, House District 81
Family: Husband (Sean), three children -- August (4), Millie (2), and Evelyn (born June 2018)
Occupation: Currently a full-time candidate; previously a Senior Market Research Manager for AOL (now owned by Verizon) until July 2015. I became an active community organizer after the Women's March in 2017 and started running for office full-time in the Fall of 2017.
Education: Benet Academy, Dartmouth College (A.B. English)
Civic involvement: Commissioner, Naperville Board of Fire and Police (appointed by Mayor), June 2017 -- Present
My first civic activity was volunteering as a high school board member on the Naper-Ville Board of Zoning Appeals from 2002-2004. After graduating college into a recession (2008), I was very career-focused and then focused on my growing family until after the election of 2016. Since then, I have not only volunteered as a commissioner on the Naperville BFPC, but have also organized events designed to call our elected officials and citizens to hold themselves to a higher ethical standard (Naperville March for Trump to release his tax returns, Naperville Charlottesville Vigil, Downers Grove Families Belong Together Rally).
Elected offices held: First-time candidate.
Questions & Answers
Would you vote to approve a graduated income tax? If so, what qualifiers would you impose and where would you set the brackets? What would the top tax rate be?
Our status quo, failed flat tax mandate holds Illinois back. Legislators must stop fear mongering and start serious problem solving.
As evidenced by several decades of bipartisan Springfield "cooperation," incremental changes don't solve our financial problems. The game of kick the can proceeds indefinitely while taxpayer money funnels to financiers.
We need to fix our pension debt underfunding via financial best practices. More responsible debt management (level-dollar amortization vs. backloading) & cost control practices (e.g., pension fund management expenses) need implementation.
Additional revenue is absolutely necessary to solve the pension crisis. Short-term solutions like issuing pension obligation bonds are needed alongside longer-term sources.
New revenue can work toward two goals often unnecessarily pitted against each other: economic growth and a fairer economy.
As such, I support ending the adult (age 21+) marijuana prohibition, which prevents the regulation and taxation of a widely occurring activity. With this should come responsible regulation & public health tracking.
Finally, the legislature is voting to let the voters decide whether or not they want to repeal the flat tax mandate. If this passes, the people of IL get to decide through direct democracy -on the 2020 ballot- whether or not we retain this failed policy.
Given the flat tax mandate won't be repealed until Nov 2020 at the earliest and tax brackets need to factor in whether it's a growth or recession economy, it's counterproductive to commit to specific bracket ranges.
The 2018 issue is: do we trust you to vote on this? I do.
How big a problem is the level of property taxation in Illinois? If you view it as a problem, what should be done about it?
Property taxes in Illinois are absurdly high.
To fix property taxes, we need to fix the largest driver of cost within property taxes: public education funding.
Anyone who talks about property taxes in isolation -- like when my opponent sponsored political posturing legislation to eliminate them completely -- misses the larger point of how broken our state's system of education funding has been.
The cost burden for public education has been taken on at the local level for far too long. This has a negative impact on both property taxes and consistency of quality of Illinois public schools. Some Illinois public schools haven't been able to afford basics like clean water or bus service that allows children to physically access the education that's being paid for. Overcrowded classrooms can burn out educators who want to help and make a difference, but lack the basic resources to do so.
While the 2017 funding formula begins to work on overcoming these problems, successfully accomplishing the goals it sets out requires additional sources of revenue, as outlined in the prior question- with the main increase being realized through regulation and taxation of adult usage (21+) of marijuana.
Only when we correctly fund pensions and education will we see real property tax relief.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
Gov. Rauner is highly unpopular with Illinoisans.
While high points are slim pickings, I credit him for signing legislation that respects the separation of church and state when it comes to letting women make choices about their pregnancies according to their own situation.
Abortion prohibition didn't result in fewer abortions. Access to contraceptives did.
All prohibition did was make commonplace forced sterilization and death from unsafe procedures; for that I appreciate the governor's political courage in signing HB40.
Low points include driving up debt and deficit spending via a budget standoff, which had countless human costs. Crippling spending cuts to domestic violence services, therapy providers for non-neurotypical children, and higher education hurt many.
The state was cited by a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group as operating in a way that 49 other states would never attempt, with damage that will take decades to repair (per the Civic Federation).
A slew of vetoes against bipartisan legislation were also among the lows- most notably transparency of state spending, which had a unanimous veto override.
Union busting under the guise of "workers' rights," keeping potential payouts to families of veterans who died in state care low, stalling gun dealer licensing, and paying lip service to equal pay while prioritizing "business interests" were particularly offensive as well.
Finally, the way that Gov. Rauner has participated in funneling unprecedented amounts of money to House Republican candidates has created massive conflicts of interest and lowered the ethical bar for many.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
Speaker Madigan (also chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois) remains deeply unpopular with the people of Illinois. I will under no circumstances vote for him as House Speaker if elected.
While he certainly has unparalleled knowledge and control of our state government, his results have indicated an abdication of leadership on several fronts.
He actively participated in creating our state's fiscal nightmare (alongside countless other leaders and legislators), which should result in more Democrats voting against him. He has been steering the proverbial cruise ship into this crisis for decades.
While he shares responsibility with our Gov. Rauner for the recent standoff, he also shares a greater burden of responsibility for fiscally operating in a way 49 other states would not dare to act. Further, he ignored a deeply dysfunctional work atmosphere including sexual harassment and assault going virtually unchecked for decades.
By controlling what comes to the floor for a vote, popular reforms can be stifled and revenge expected for those who speak out in earnest for a change in leadership.
However, this is no excuse for remaining silent as the cost is too great.
I invite other Illinoisans, candidates, and legislators to band together with me to say: Speaker Madigan, please step down.
Should there be term limits for legislative leaders? If so, what would you do to make that happen? What other systemic changes should be made to strengthen the voice of individual legislators, limit the control of legislative leaders, encourage bipartisanship?
Term limits for legislative leaders are necessary to avoid dangerous consolidations of power. If eight years is good enough for the president, it should be good enough for Illinois House legislative leaders.
Elections should be enforceable term limits for legislators.
Currently, several factors keep most incumbents from not having to worry about being accountable to voters on Election Day.
One of the largest barriers to competitive elections is the unfair mapping process that prioritizes making "safe" seats for each party.
These "safe" seats can be more controlled by party gatekeepers and create a perverse incentive for legislators to also remain in the good graces of party leadership if they don't want their district redrawn unfavorably.
Beyond this, we need campaign finance reform to reduce the undue influence of donors and political parties with connection to donor networks on the outcome of elections.
We need an end to voter suppression tactics in all their various forms, like the negative mailers that flood mailboxes and overwhelm media, which are often designed to get people so disgusted they won't show up to vote.
Finally, there are extreme barriers to entry to getting on the ballot that could be reduced at almost every point: from expanding the method of signature collection (a digital option is conspicuously missing in an era when people can vote with machines in-person or register to vote online) to bringing the amount of signatures needed for independent or third party candidates in alignment with the norms for established party candidates.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
How concerned people are about Illinois' population loss is often a proxy for our collective lack of confidence in the future of the state and the feeling that we are heading in the wrong direction.
This feeling of uncertainty is well founded by the state failing to pay its bills to the point of state contractors needing to seek new employment to keep a roof over their head and food on the table.
We're on the brink of a teacher shortage crisis, which has already begun downstate and may spread if not acted upon quickly.
Retirees choosing to find sunnier skies has long been a trend that's held relatively stable.
Middle income earners faced with income tax pressure are a lesser known quantity for staying or going. Some younger parents have looked but are wary of issues with education quality in places facing rapid population growth.
On the other end of the spectrum, between 2010 and 2016, Illinois ranked 47th in retraining the increasingly coveted Millennial cohort.
Many Millennials who left for college (largely due to expensive public higher ed tuition and concern about stability of its future) have not returned. The several decades of disinvestment in our public institutions and MAP grants during the budget stalemate did not help.
Strengthening public education is mission critical.
Among the top eight states for Millennial growth during this same time period, five have legalized recreational adult marijuana usage and seven of eight have legalized some form of medical marijuana.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
Conflicts of interest among elected officials are of great concern to me and I have taken steps to ensure the voters are the only people who I answer to.
While I initially vetted working with the Democratic Party of Illinois (and met with the Chair Madigan himself), I chose to run my campaign independently despite talk that mine could be a "Tier 1" race with maximum funding potential of close to $1 million.
As I did my due diligence on potentially being "their" candidate, it became clear that if I accepted the money there were multiple expectations I was not comfortable with. Several disturbing stories of bullying and harassment were also relayed to me at this time.
I also spoke with voters and determined that there was little support for his leadership in my district, which confirmed my final decision to take a public stand to ask Speaker Madigan to step down from his various roles.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Reducing gun-related violence is a critical issue. Nearly three in five gun-related deaths are self-inflicted and there are solutions we can implement to reduce this number.
Access to mental health care is a major issue as well. Currently, Medicaid recipients having a critical mental health crisis can be turned away from behavioral health centers that don't take their insurance. The shutting down of state services have left many people without the proper support they need.
Ensuring the health and safety of residents by protecting clean air and water is crucial. Not enough action is happening currently to stop Sterigenics and measure potential water pollution. Beyond this, further tragedies -- like the Veterans who died in Quincy retirement home -- can be prevented through implementation of requirements for a basic safety device that reduces the presence of Legionella.
Transportation infrastructure is in disrepair and causes commuters frustrations on a daily basis.
More needs to be done to regulate workplaces in the state of Illinois to ensure every person experiences a harassment-free environment.
Finally, we need to prepare as a state to ensure retirees are able to age in place as desired.
In addition, here a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
In my first pregnancy in 2013, planned by my husband and me, there was a random chromosomal error in the early stages of reproduction that was incompatible with life. Of course, I didn't find out such definitive and scientific detail until many months later.
I was so excited when I first found out I was pregnant (at 4 weeks), I broke all the rules and basically shouted my pregnancy from the rooftops. When I had a random fainting episode at 6 weeks, my gynecologist had me come in to make sure everything was OK. She showed me the heartbeat and I was elated, thinking everything would be smooth sailing from that point forward. She dated the pregnancy and informed me that I'd need an official OB-GYN for my 8-week appointment.
When my husband and I went to my new doctor, I had no nervousness -- I had already seen the heartbeat after all. However, from the moment the transvaginal ultrasound began, I knew this appointment had veered in a completely different direction. The ultrasound tech's face dropped and told us she needed to get the doctor.
My heart immediately sank, having seen the dramatic difference between what had happened at my 6 week appointment and then.
As it turns out, I was incredibly lucky to have fainted and have received a prior ultrasound. Once I informed her that I had previously seen a heartbeat, she let us know that this was not a viable pregnancy.
My miscarriage was one of the most straightforward scenarios I've ever heard of and the resulting decision on what to do next was the toughest in my life. I was very lucky that decision was between my doctor and me as many other mothers have faced tougher situations later on in pregnancy where maternal health risks rise dramatically.
Who is your hero?
Justice Ginsburg, who was appointed to the supreme court when I was just 7 years old, was a hero who influenced who I thought I could become. As is often said, "you can't be what you can't see."
The year after her appointment, whenever people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my reply was, "I'm going to go to Harvard Law School and then become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." I remember adults laughing dismissively at my dream, but I was able to imagine a world where it could be possible.
While my life goals and choices led me down another path I have found immensely rewarding, Justice Ginsburg's tenacity and commitment to speaking the truth as she understands it remains a guiding force in my life.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
First comes first: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition the government.
Without the ability to speak and live one's own truth, what else is there to protect?
While propertied white men were the first to enjoy these freedoms, many have worked toward them as a goal and utilized these pathways to secure additional civil rights.
Keeping these freedoms alive is an active process we must work for together, wherever we fall along the ideological or religious spectrums.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
A stitch in time saves nine: beyond being a hobbyist seamstress (this truth is real!), identifying problems as quickly as possible and solving them has saved me a whole lot of valuable time and effort.
On the opposite end, it's easy to remember this phrase once I'm feeling overwhelmed and it feels like I'm past the prevention stage.
I've learned it's always best to reframe my thinking that at every moment I have the choice to change my own course. Nine stitches is better than 99.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
While planning to run the Chicago Marathon with my sister, I set an aggressive goal for myself to complete the race around 4 hours. Just after mile 13, a nagging injury in my left leg significantly worsened so I couldn't extend my left leg fully.
At the moment that happened, I knew there was no hope of me coming anywhere close to my goal time. Instead, I looked down at my AIDS foundation of Chicago shirt and thought about my uncle in whose memory I was running the race.
With no music allowed on the course (back in 2005), the following 3½ hours were grueling, but I never gave up. I kept one foot in front of the other, hobbling all the way to the finish line.
I learned that the most important part of a marathon is to keep going, even when the odds seem stacked against you. You will eventually get to the finish line and it will be ever so worth it.