Paul Stoddard: Candidate profile, Illinois House 70th District
Democrat Paul Stoddard of DeKalb, a DeKalb County board member, is challenging incumbent Republican Jeff Keicher of Sycamore in the race for the 70th House District, which includes western Kane County (including parts of Campton Hills, Hampshire and Elburn), as well as portions of DeKalb and Boone counties.
Q. Why are you the best person for this position?
A. We face many challenges, from COVID to social justice to the economy and we need to pull together to address them. But Illinois, like the country at large, is becoming more and more divided, along stark partisan lines. We need to change the way we govern ourselves in order to find solutions to our problems. I have several concrete proposals for doing so, perhaps the boldest being a power sharing plan that gives both parties an active role in governing. Not only do I have these proposals, but I've managed to get several enacted during my time on the DeKalb County Board. And they've worked -- the board is less partisan now than it was before we made these changes.
Q. What are the top three challenges your district is facing? What is your proposed solution to those challenges?
A. Education, taxes, and economic development. (COVID is obviously a concern, but so far, the area hasn't been hard hit.) These are not independent of each other. Obviously as we attract job-providing data centers and candy manufacturers, etc. we can start thinking about easing the tax burden, properly funding our education system, and directing resources toward correcting existing social injustices. A lot is made of Illinois losing population, but it is important to remember that many people and companies are still moving TO Illinois. We have one of the country's great economic engines and cultural and entertainment centers -- Chicago -- in our backyard. We have some of the best farmland in the world. We need to invest in the two areas shown to guarantee positive economic return -- education and infrastructure. Transportation systems, power grids, water management and the like are essential. But even more so is providing quality educational opportunities to children and adults alike. We need to ensure that our elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities are provided with the resources they need to thrive.
Q. The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A. The reductions will happen -- they've been approved by the legislature already. That said, in reality most of the reductions are minuscule, and may not even be noticed by most people. And of course, voters will need to keep an eye on the legislature regarding any future changes to the rates.
Q. What legislative changes should be implemented as a result of the COVID pandemic?
A. Procedures need to be developed to allow the legislature to hold virtual sessions. Mandates such as for masking and social distancing need to be specific to appropriate regions, and carry the weight of law.
Q. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A. The reforms currently being proposed, by both parties, are good. Distancing lobbying and legislative activities should help assure that our representatives represent common citizens, and not just special interests. But while these reforms treat symptoms, I think we need to go further and treat the underlying problem -- too much power concentrated among too few people. That is what a central plank of my platform -- both in 2018 and 2020 -- has been to make our political system fairer and distribute power across a wider base. I've called for term limits on leadership positions, a "one-hat" rule (i.e., you can't hold high office in Springfield and in you party at the same time), local funding of campaigns, and fair map redistricting, among other proposals. These are all designed to prevent a small group of people, or one individual person, from holding too much power over other representatives.
Q. Do you support calls for criminal justice reform and law enforcement changes proposed by local Black Lives Matter groups?
A. Yes. I have attended several of their marches, protests, and town hall events, and have been moved by the stories of discrimination that they have experienced, at the hands of the police and the general public. It is clear that prejudice is still too strong in our community, and when that prejudice is expressed as part of official action, we must look at changing how we do things. I think it is past time to redefine what policing should look like, assess who are best equipped to handle different types of situations, and then to redirect resources accordingly.
Q. Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A. I have advocated for a complete, transparent investigation into the ComEd affair, and any role the Speaker may have had in it. We must remember, however, that an enormously wealthy and powerful monopoly has pleaded guilty to only an attempt to influence the Speaker, not to being successful. The ComEd executives apparently escaped all charges and Mike Madigan has yet to be accused of anything. If the evidence supports charges, a trial, and conviction of the Speaker, then obviously he must resign the Speakership. Short of his being convicted, his future in the House is for his constituents to decide. As for whether I would support him for a new term as Speaker, that depends on who his competition is.
Q. How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A. I generally agree with the actions the governor has taken. Illinois had one of the best initial responses to the pandemic, as evidenced by early infection and death rates. There were two things I'd have done differently, though: 1) instead of closing many small businesses, I'd have preferred to see smaller businesses allowed to remain open if they could do so safely -- allowing for appropriate distancing and mandating masking; 2) After the initial 30-day emergency declaration (well, during those 30 days) I'd have liked for the governor to work with the legislature, or at least its leaders, on future declarations.
Q. Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A. Clearly the pandemic will cut down on revenue the state will receive, while at the same time increase the demand for services. As with any recession, this double whammy poses severe challenges. As much as it pains me to say this, it looks as though Washington is more interested in playing politics than in helping address this crisis. That puts us in a real bind. Unfortunately, short-term borrowing may be the best way out. It is wrong to raise taxes on those struggling to get by; however, there are segments of the economy that are still strong. If the progressive tax amendment passes, we will have more options on that front. Long term, the state needs to fix the structural weaknesses in our finances, and build up adequate reserves to deal with future economic downturns, regardless of cause.
Q. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A. Of course. I've seen the data. There can really be no doubt. Illinois should continue incentives for green energy such as wind and solar farms. In addition to helping to combat climate change, these facilities also provide supplemental income to the landowners (typically farmers) hosting them. I would also like to see Illinois do more to attract green energy manufacturers to the state.