Democratic candidate for Illinois House (25th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
Illinois is one of only a few states that still have a flat income tax, which makes it increasingly difficult to create a balanced budget. I believe that Illinois needs to be more progressive and innovative in the ways they create revenue for the state in order to address growing gaps in the budget.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
We can no longer operate or balance a budget with a flat income tax. I also believe that Illinois should create new revenue through progressive means.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
A progressive/graduated income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and legalizing recreational marijuana will go a long way to close current budget gaps.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
If a graduated income tax is utilized by the Federal government, it should be a utilized scale/model for the state of Illinois, so, yes, I support this.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
- Stream-lining the procurement process to create efficiencies;
- A statewide consolidation of occupied space through leasing and an assessment of where partnerships with other local jurisdictions can reduce costs of leased space though the sharing of space;
- Creating a robust state salvage program to aggregate our capital equipment that is being phased out/retired and put it up for sale to the public. This could create a little revenue, reduce our overall waste, and ensure that our electronics that cannot be reused are being disposed of appropriately;
- We should really be focused on jobs creation to bolster our state's economic fabric, not trying to cut from vital services; and
- Lastly, we will not cut our way to a balanced budget€”Illinois needs progressive revenues to balance a budget and I am committed to fighting for these sorts of revenues.
Since the Illinois Supreme Court's 2015 decision tossing bipartisan pension reform, what can and should the legislature do to control pension costs, if anything?
With the roll-out and pending implementation of tier 3 for new employees, the projected savings are there — modest, but there. In conjunction with re-amortizing liabilities, which I preliminarily support as a means to move closer to solvency, I think we are on the right track towards modulating costs year-to-year. What Illinois really needs, however, are progressive revenues with which to pay down debt more quickly and to be able to create balanced budgets.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
Until I have read more about the feasibility, efficacy and projected benefits to the state that such a plan might have, I will not take a defined position on this type of plan. I will, however, agree that any new tiers or contribution plans should only apply to new employees and not foisted upon existing employees against their will (and against their collectively bargained contracts).
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
As I am not running for Governor, I do not want to presume or postulate what the Governor ought to do, here. As a State Rep, I plan to organize and advocate for progressive revenues for the state of Illinois so that we can meet all our obligations and fund all our vital services and public schools.
Illinois lost more residents than any other state in 2016 and the trend appears to be holding for 2017. What is the No. 1 reason, in your opinion, for the exodus?
Disparity is the reason for this exodus. Disparity in access to resources and opportunity; disparity in access to fully-funded public education; disparity in the safety of communities; and disparity in the way Illinois has invested in the people of Illinois. If we want to keep people in Illinois, we need to invest in all our communities.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Illinois needs a progressive income tax. This will give millions of poor, working, and middle class families the tax breaks they need to re-focus their resources on saving, owning a home, and/or engaging in the kinds of commerce that will act as an engine to create jobs. We can also target infrastructure investments in communities of greatest need to serve as an injection of jobs, but also to create a sense of place for residents and appealing commercial areas where businesses want to locate.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
- Invest in our crumbling infrastructure;
- Focusing on making Illinois a state that exports more than coal and college students. If we fund resources that will grow our small and medium-sized businesses, we can create more jobs;
- Commit to green and clean energy; and
- Legalize recreational marijuana. The recreational marijuana industry created roughly 18,000 full time jobs in Colorado, and Illinois has more than twice the population of Colorado — a conservative estimate would be the creation of about 36,000 new, full-time jobs.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
SB 0001 is/was a good piece of legislation that I supported.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
The legislature should do everything in its power to ensure all our public schools are fully funded and thriving, which includes Chicago Public Schools.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
Forcing a tax loophole into a bill meant to fairly fund our public schools was not something I agreed with. Nor do I agree with the diversion of $75M from our already diminished revenues in Illinois.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
The creation of a public fund for elections would be a great step towards fair elections and fall in line with the will of the people.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
I have received the endorsement of my Alderwoman, Leslie Hairston, who is also the 5th Ward Democratic Committeeperson.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
I am not an incumbent.
If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.
I am not an incumbent.
Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?
If an elected official does a great job of representing the interests of the people and upholds the integrity of the office, I do not believe that term limits are necessarily going to achieve better democracy.
Do you support changes to the redistricting process? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?
I am in support of a transparent and equitable redistricting process. Right now two gerrymandering cases will be heard by the Supreme Court, so, in advance of that ruling, I think it is premature to consider changes to our Illinois Constitution.
Tell us a little about your family.
My family currently has four living generations on Chicago's South Side. My grandmother came to Chicago with her family, from Nashville, Tennessee, in the late 1920s as part of the first wave of the Great Migration. There are a lot of accomplished, passionate women in my family who raised me with a strong sense of community —my grandmother and cousin (who is also my godmother) were teachers and then school administrators for Chicago Public Schools and my mother, Perri Irmer, is an architect and attorney who has worked in many public sector roles and currently serves as President of the DuSable Museum. These examples in my life have motivated me towards roles that make a positive impact in the community.
Outside of my hometown roots, I have had the opportunity to live on the East and West Coasts in college and grad school; I also had the opportunity to live overseas, in the Netherlands, when my father took a job that relocated my family for two years (I was there for a year in 12th grade and returned to the U.S. for college at MIT). This unique set of experiences helped mold my worldview and has informed my desire to remain a life-long student and both a local and global thinker.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I am a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, Chicago Local, and have been in two national TV commercials as well as a national web commercial. I have also done some voice over work and stage acting. I am a creative person and enjoy the performing and visual arts — Chicago is a great city for this!