By Rick Romano
State of Illinois House of Representatives incumbents in the 2nd, 10th, and 26th Districts face primary challengers on Tuesday, March 17. Winners will move on to the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Candidates weighed in on the pension crisis, crime, jobs, school funding, the new cannabis law, and term limits.
Kenneth M. Kozlar was born and raised in Chicago, where he attended school and earned a certificate in auto mechanics. He worked his entire 40-year career at the Institute of Gas Technology until his 2014 retirement. Kozlar also coached baseball for 25 years, is a longtime member of the St. Jerome Holy Name Society, and an avid, award winning gardener recognized twice in citywide contests. He and his wife, Nancy, have four children and three grandchildren.
On pensions, Kozlar said, “We need to put our minds together to solve this because I think there are ways to solve it, but I would not touch the pensions of those who already are receiving benefits.”
Concerning crime, Kozlar said, “You do the crime, you do the time.” He pointed to “all the beatings and robberies on our mass transit lines,” as a problem he would tackle. He favors expunging records for 80% of marijuana offenses.
Regarding jobs and the minimum wage, Kozlar advocates unions negotiating job retention and favors the State working with non-union companies to ensure their workers’ job retention and jobs that include health benefits. Minimum wage should be $18, with increases ten percent annually, he added.
Kozlar favors school funding without increasing property taxes and would achieve it by consolidating services and finding more revenue opportunities through sources such as the lottery and cannabis sales.
He favors strong provider tracking under the new cannabis law. Kozlar said, “We will have to do an audit. I’m sure there is something in the bill that provides for tracking this. We need to look over every provider to make sure they comply with the law. Personally, I don’t like the smell of a joint.”
Concerning term limits, he said, “I think two terms for elected officials is good because you get a fresh set of eyes and thoughts on issues” when the legislature sees a change in office holders.
For more information, log on to www.kenkozlar.com
Incumbent 2nd District State Representative Theresa Mah became the first Asian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 2016. A former college professor, she said she supports immigrants’ and seniors’ rights while focusing on education, job growth, and working families.
Regarding pension debt and benefits, Mah supports continuing to pay down debt and restructuring pensions for future pensioners as some of the police and fire pension plans across the State have done. “I feel an obligation to maintaining current pensioner benefits,” she said.
On crime, Mah supports reducing arrests for non-violent misdemeanors and expunging records where appropriate. “We have to take steps to rectify some of the harm from the war on drugs, which was unequally applied,” she said.
For jobs, Mah supports taking back any subsidies given to companies if they leave Illinois. She supports the current minimum wage. “We need to get past the point where certain groups are just getting by on minimum wage,” she said. “This should be reviewed regularly and adjusted as needed, considering the cost of living.”
Concerning school funding, Mah said the State has been able to direct more funds to the K-12 system. She said the fair tax would help relieve the burden of school funding for property taxpayers because it would bring in more revenue through a graduated income tax.
Tracking the cannabis law’s effectiveness is “built into the law,” Mah said. “There is an evaluation, and reports are required. We built a strong foundation because we started with an infrastructure that requires high standards for products and testing laboratories. This also makes it harder for kids to have access.” She said legislators earmarked tax funds for addiction, mental health, and suicide prevention services as a safeguard concurrent with increased cannabis availability.
Mah said she “is open” to term limits for those who hold the Illinois General Assembly’s legislative leadership posts but not for state representative seats, believing elections already provide the means to limit terms. “There was a lot of turnover in 2018,” she said, “So it shows that elections are built into the process. It’s working pretty well.”
For more about Mah, log onto www.theresamah.com or call (773) 540-5054.
Bobby Martinez Olson was born and raised in Bridgeport. He earned a history degree from Loyola University Chicago and a law degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has been an Illinois Bar Association. member since 2017. He previously served as clerk in the Cook County Chancery Division, a legislative assistant in Springfield, and an extern at the U.S. consulate in Milan, Italy. He currently works for a non-profit organization.
On the pension crisis, Olson said, “There needs to be other ways of funding pensions. But to take away current benefits by constitutional amendment would be like taking away someone’s 401(k). So, no, I am not in favor of that.”
Olson favors some adjustment in arrests for misdemeanor crime, but with a caveat. “I would want to look at the level of those and determine what can be done,” he said. “There needs to be some repercussion to make sure there are no repeat crimes.”
To protect jobs, he would work with companies and create more job opportunities through technical training as early as high school in a variety of disciplines including in emerging areas such as renewable energy. He offered no plans for change in the current minimum wage.
To fund schools without raising property taxes, the state should adopt fair share income taxation and allocate funds from the lottery and cannabis sales.
Tracking the new cannabis law’s effectiveness “depends on the specific pros and cons,” he said. “What is being paid in sales tax? How much is the State getting from the individual businesses? Are people getting arrested, and are those arrests coming from poorer populations? How many of those businesses are minority and women owned? It’s about the societal impact. Are all ships rising?”
Olson generally opposes term limits. “We have term limits with elections,” he said. “I do believe in term limits for committee leadership positions.”
For more information, log on to www.bobbyforchicago.com.
Gerard Moorer is deputy district director for the 7th Congressional District representative, Danny K. Davis. He is president of the district’s Young Democratic Organization and board secretary for the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Mental Health Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in black studies at Northern Illinois University, where he co-founded the Night Crawler Community Organization for retaining African American students. He and his wife, Hadiva, have two daughters.
About the pension crisis, Moorer said, “If a person worked, they should receive benefits. Moving forward, we should create a system where there is enough money set aside. I think the governor was moving to consolidate police and fire pensions. We need to protect those who are working now. I am open to the discussion.”
About misdemeanor arrests, Moorer favors a system that breaks the cycle of jail time that normalizes incarceration. “We could do more probation and community service and even include house arrest and home monitoring,” he said.
Education and training are the keys to attracting more businesses and employers and keeping workers viable in their jobs, he said. Rather than a minimum wage, Moorer said he prefers to target a living wage based on inflation. “Five years from now, $15 an hour won’t be enough,” he said.
Funding schools by means beyond property taxes should include allocations from gas taxes and cannabis sales, Moorer noted. He proposed meetings “with all stakeholders” to address the issue.
For tracking and evaluating cannabis sales, Moorer wants to educate the public on the new law’s impact “because marijuana is a gateway drug,” he said. “We need to make sure regulations are in place so this doesn’t get into the hands of our children. There will be a black market for it, which will be a lower cost, but it will be dangerous in that it is not regulated.”
Log on to www.gerardmoorer.comfor more information or call (773) 823-9343.
Jawaharial “Omar” Williams was appointed by Democratic ward committeepersons in May 2019 to fill the vacancy following Melissa Conyears-Ervin’s election as City Treasurer.
The son of 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. and former Cook County Commissioner Darlena Williams-Burnett, Williams interned as a clerk for the Cook County Courts, which led him to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to his appointment, Williams worked as a precinct captain and was president of the Young Democrats of Illinois and active in the national Young Democrats organization. He is an active member of the Laborers International Union of North America and Plumbers Local 129 United Association, having worked as a laborer in the City Department of Water Management.
On the pension crisis, Williams endorses “a fairer tax system for middle and working class families that ensures the ultra-rich pay their fair share.” Legislatively, he said, “Any future changes must be considered only with everyone at the table.”
Concerning reducing misdemeanor arrests, Williams said, “I am committed to ending the ‘school to prison’ pipeline created by failed policies of the past, reforming unfair cash bail policies, and making sure nonviolent offenders have the opportunity for a clean slate.”
To protect jobs, Williams supports “measures to ensure that Illinois invests in businesses that invest in local jobs and to encourage small business development and growth.” He supports the current $15 per hour minimum wage.
To fund schools through means beyond property taxes, Williams noted his support of $350 million in new funding. “My plan for fair taxes increases income tax credits for property tax payments and creates a property tax rebate fund for homeowners.”
To track new cannabis law’s effectiveness, Williams wants to assess whether the products are used only by adults and not children, and he supports checking to see if “more people in communities like ours are able to take advantage of social equity business licenses to provide jobs and investments in our neighborhoods.”
Williams said voters should continue to be “the ultimate term-limit deciders.”
For more on Williams, log on to www.facebook.com/ElectJawaharialWilliamsor call (312) 265-1019.
Garfield Park resident Gina Zuccaro filed her candidacy with the State Board of Elections with an address and no other contact information. She has no online presence as of this writing. Gazette Chicago was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach her.
Kambium “Kam” Buckner was appointed by Democratic ward committeepersons to his position in 2019 to fill the vacancy left when Christian Mitchell resigned to become a deputy governor of Illinois. Previously Buckner was executive director of World Sport Chicago, and before that worked in the Chicago Cubs front office and for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Buckner earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and a JD from DePaul University.
To solve the pension crisis, Buckner said he favors a constitutional amendment to alter benefits—but with the caveat that any change does not affect current pensioner benefits.
He favors lowering the amount of arrests for misdemeanors and establishing diversion programs focused on training and jobs that would help keep those who commit such infractions from moving on to more serious crimes. “More of our neighborhoods have been ‘overcharged’” when it comes to paying for crimes, Buckner said, noting, “For those situations where another individual is not harmed, I would like to look closer at the statutes” to keep offenders out of the prison system for minor offenses.
Job protection requires creating commerce in neighborhoods, Buckner said. “We don’t want to drive people out to other states,” he noted. “We need a balance of opportunities so that people have employment options and also make sure companies don’t leave the State.” He said the $15 minimum is the right thing to do, adding the State should strive for a living wage for workers.
To move beyond funding schools with property taxes, Buckner proposed tax cuts for corporations. “The property tax model for funding has created inequity,” he said. “We want to create commerce in all areas.”
As for the new cannabis law, Buckner said, “We need a snapshot of where we are today and then compare that to what happens,” he said. “We need to look at the cost to our police departments and prisons and will there be reinvestment and restoration of our communities.”
Buckner opposes term limits because “then lobbyists will be the folks with institutional knowledge,” instead of elected officials.
For more information, log on to www.facebook.com/Friendsofkambuckneror call (773) 924-1755.
Marc Loveless is the founding executive director and president of the Coalition for Justice and Respect and a member of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation. He also is the principal consultant of Loveless Consulting, a social marketing firm specializing in public policy, civil rights, and social justice. He has founded and served organizations with missions ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention and care to black, lesbian, and gay social justice, education, and business to establishing dog parks on the South Side.
On the pension crisis, Loveless said, “I look forward to reforming the current pension plan that would reduce costs but not compromise the benefits of those currently receiving benefits.”
Concerning misdemeanor arrests, Loveless said the State should evaluate them as it does marijuana laws. “What is the risk and danger to the community?” he asked, noting the risk and danger assessment is key to developing new standards for all misdemeanors.
To assure job protection and the minimum wage, Loveless said the State needs a diversified economy while encouraging entrepreneurship. “Do we really want to be an at-will state where people can be fired for cause or no cause?” he asked. While he supports the $15 minimum wage, Loveless said the State should aim for $17 within a year or two.
For school funding beyond property taxation, Loveless wants the State to make sure corporations and the rich pay their fair share. “I don’t view taxation as a negative thing,” he said, “We need to prioritize public education, even if we do not have kids in school. It’s about our quality of life.”
To evaluate the new cannabis law, he wants to look at income from taxes, how the industry employs people, and whether the law causes illegal purchases and violence.
As for term limits, Loveless said, “We have term limits. It’s the election process. We need to enact automatic voter registration and finance reform. There is a long way to go, and the State should not “turn away from the democratic process.”
Log on to www.marcforstaterep.com or call (312) 597-9188 for more information.