Job creation must be the first priority of the next representative from the Southland. Although we’re one of the fastest growing parts of Chicagoland, we suffer from unemployment that is higher than the state and federal average. That unemployment rate has a significant, negative impact on our ability to create stronger, safer neighborhoods. If we can put people to work so they can put food on the table and take care of their families, we’ll see fewer of our young people turn to crime and violence.
Investing in improvements and upgrades to our transportation infrastructure is one way to put people to work right away. Projects like the Illiana Expressway and the third airport that I championed in the senate, along with the Red Line extension are critical to the future economic health of the region. We must also work to develop the vacant industrial land and shuttered storefronts that dot the south suburbs and Southside of Chicago and build our manufacturing base across Cook, Will and Kankakee.
You cannot be pro-business without being strongly pro-education. We need to invest in schools and community colleges that give young people and re-tooling adults the vital skills they need to compete in a global market. Creating a better-skilled workforce will help attract more businesses to our communities. The Southland’s biggest assets are our people who need and want jobs now, and the amazing potential of our transportation infrastructure. If we invest in those two areas—people and transportation—we can transform our future.
Medicare and Social Security
Medicare and Social Security represent cornerstone promises we have made to our seniors, and I will always fight to protect these critical programs. The fact is, before Congress considers
breaking its promise to our seniors in order to balance the budget, we need to have a serious discussion about ending the corporate welfare that Big Oil, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed for years. We should also allow Medicare to negotiate for better drug prices the way Medicaid and the Veterans’ Administration already do. And we should go back to the tax rates we had in place before 2000 for those who can most afford it. My principles are simple—restore fairness, protect the middle class, and make sure everyone pays their share.
My family just lost my grandfather. We were fortunate that, in his later years, he was able to live in his own home, and we have Medicare and veterans’ benefits to thank for that. If not for those crucial safety net programs, we would not have been able to care for him in the way he deserved. Now, my grandmother depends on Medicare and Social Security as well. For me, these issues are not merely a matter of policy—they are deeply personal.
I am a strong advocate for women’s rights. I am 100% pro-choice, and will fight for broad access to contraception and women’s health programs. Providing access to mammograms and other preventive medicine for low-income women not only supports families and communities, but also saves money in the long term. I am a committed supporter of pay equity, and will support legislation that helps women get the pay they deserve for their work.
Over the course of my time in the Senate, I have worked hard to fight domestic violence and sexual assault and support the victims that need our help. I worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make Illinois the first state in the country to mandate the testing of rape kits within 10 days of submission so that survivors of sexual assault can build their case in court. I strengthened Illinois’ stalking laws by increasing penalties for Internet stalkers. I also passed legislation that makes it easier for law enforcement to catch child predators over the internet. I will always continue the fight to prevent crimes, keep families safe and help victims rebuild their lives.
The key to a vibrant economy is a strong education that prepares our kids for the jobs of tomorrow. I am a mother of three and I’m committed to providing all Southland children the opportunities they need and deserve.
I believe the way to best prepare our children is by investing in comprehensive schooling from birth to work. That means we must expand funding for early childhood education, improve our public schools, and make sure that our universities and colleges have the resources they need to give young people the skills companies are looking for. It is especially critical that we invest in community colleges which prepare workers for good jobs and provide meaningful job retraining to those in seek of a better life for themselves and their families. And as we invest in higher education, we also have to make sure that people who want to pursue a degree have the resources and support they need. That’s why I’m such a strong advocate of Pell Grants and expanding access to low-interest loans for students.
We must also make sure we are providing a safe environment in school for kids and intervening early with those at-risk youth that need our help. I know we can do that if we provide more social workers in our schools, invest in after-school programs, anti-gang initiatives, and continuing professional education for our teachers.
People in the Southland have some of the longest commutes to get to work of any part of Chicagoland. Even though this region is among the fastest growing in the country, our transit infrastructure has not kept up. The extended commutes and associated costs that residents of the Southland must pay take money out of the pockets of families that need it. It is critical that not only do we develop jobs throughout the Southland, but we also invest in more ways for people to get to work. Investing in transit infrastructure not only integrates the region with the broader economy of Chicagoland, but it also creates the jobs we need so much right away.
Transportation is also a critical economic driver in the Southland. Chicago is a critical transit center for agricultural and manufacturing products to every part of the country. The warehouses, railways, highways, airports and distribution centers that drive this activity support thousands of jobs in the region, and have the potential to support many more.
Every project I have worked on to invest in Southland infrastructure over the past few years has included a federal component, and I’ve been frustrated to watch as Tea Party Republicans have stood in the way of commonsense investment. I was frustrated to see Republicans earlier this year, for example, fight critical measures in the highway bill that would expand and support public transportation that benefits communities like ours across the country. The key to our long term financial health is investment in projects that expand commerce, support jobs, and help people get around.
In my time in the Senate, I fought hard to invest in transportation to boost the economy of the Southland. I am the chief sponsor of legislation to build the Illiana Expressway, the first east-west highway built in this state since I-80. I am fighting hard to extend the Southeast service Metra rail line, and I’m working to bring the communities in Will and Cook together behind a unified plan to build a third airport in the south suburbs. The Southland has roadways, waterways, rail lines, intermodals and airports. There is incredible opportunity to invest in our communities. In Congress I will fight to bring transportation funding back to our critical projects; from the extension of the CTA Red Line, to the construction of the Illiana Highway project, to the connections of rail to and highways to our intermodal facilities to finally building the third airport.
For the last six months, the people of Southland didn’t have anyone fighting for them in Congress during debates over some of the most important issues of the day. Now the fiscal cliff is looming, and as middle class families worry about a $2000 tax increase and cuts to crucial programs, we still have no voice speaking out for the fairness we need and deserve.
As a mother of three, a daughter, and a community activist, I know that leaders can only lead when they have the trust of the people they represent. I firmly believe that elected officials should lead by example, and that’s why as a state senator I voted to cut my own pay and end free lifetime care for legislators. I will serve in Washington as I did in Springfield—with openness, integrity, and commitment to the Southland.
Over the past few years I have grown deeply concerned with the ever-expanding role of money in politics. The hundreds of millions of dollars provided to SuperPACs and shadow groups that don’t disclose their contributions distort our political discourse and vest power in special interests, corporations, and the extremely wealthy. The middle class, which cannot afford million dollar contributions or lobbyists in Congress, is left behind. I support tough reforms to campaign finance that would make elected officials responsible to the people, and I am committed to fighting the dangerous Citizens United decision that opened the door to SuperPACs.
Deficits and Budget
I believe we must balance the federal budget, but I won’t allow it to happen on the backs of middle class families. There’s a simple reality here—over the last several decades the middle class has been asked to make many sacrifices. Wages have frozen, hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, and programs have been cut. And while this has happened, the rich have gotten richer and now pay the lowest rates they’ve paid since World War II. This is wrong—we have to work to restore fairness.
That means we must allow the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to expire, end tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, and stop corporate welfare for Big Oil, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies that don’t need them. These are the first steps in what must be a comprehensive approach that protects families and seniors, while restoring sanity to our budget.
The tragic events in Connecticut have caused many to reevaluate their positions on gun control, and I stand with Democrats like President Obama and Senator Durbin in calling for crucial reforms to protect our neighborhoods. Chicago and the communities around it suffer from some of the worst gun violence in the country, with over 1200 shootings in the city in the first six months of this year alone. Controlling the sale of guns and ensuring that they don’t fall into the wrong hands is a first step in fighting violent crimes that hurt families and cripples communities.
We need to ban assault weapons, cop-killer bullets, high-capacity magazines, and high-caliber ammunition. We also need to take steps to close the gun-show loophole and ensure that those suffering from mental illness cannot purchase weapons.
Now that the courts have struck down Illinois’s concealed carry laws, we need to take steps that empower local communities to create gun control procedures that protect their residents and prevent an unrestricted law. That means that if Cook County needs to ban concealed carry, then I firmly believe it should be allowed to do so.
But we can’t keep addressing these challenges in silos. We must engage in all areas to get serious about reducing crime and giving our young people a reason to live. While gun safety is a critical step in cutting the cycle of violence that has plagued our communities, we must do much more to address the reasons for crime. Chicago Public Schools have an enrollment of over 400,000 students that are served by just 370 social workers. We need to hire more social workers to identify and help at-risk youth and invest in afterschool and gang intervention initiatives that give kids a constructive way to spend their time after class. In order to cut down on recidivism and create healthier communities, we must provide assistance to nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society and are looking for work. A person who is working and can take care of themselves and their family isn’t the person wreaking havoc on our communities.
It is critical that we promote the spread of democracy in the Middle East, and ensure that as more countries achieve freedom they protect the rights of minorities and pursue peace with their neighbors. As part of this, I strongly support maintaining a strong relationship with our friend Israel. We must work to promote bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in pursuit of a two- state solution that is mutually agreed upon by the parties involved.
One of the top foreign policy priorities of the United States must be preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This is a matter of profound concern not just to Israel, which could suffer a million deaths in a nuclear strike, but also to every country. Iran has access to an extensive terror network, including Hezbollah which has a global reach and is second only to Al Qaeda in American military deaths. I agree with President Obama that Iran must be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon or from closing the Straits of Hormuz.