Jan Schakowsky,” her website says, “was elected to represent Illinois’ 9th Congressional District on Nov. 3, 1998, after serving for eight years in the Illinois State Assembly. She is in her sixth term.” She is the Democratic nominee.
Ms. Schakowsky is running for a seventh term because it “is a great privilege to be able to shape policy that directly impacts peoples’ lives – people at every age, in every walk of life, but particularly people who really need a voice and strong representation in Congress.” She has, she says, a “tremendous interest in making sure health-care reform really works, that we can create more jobs in the district, that we can keep people in their homes, and that we can have a healthier planet and a more peaceful world.” Constituent services, run locally out of the Davis Street office she and her staff share with State and County officials, will continue to be a priority.
While Ms. Schakowsky wishes that Congress could pass a “major reauthorization of transportation legislation,” she said that the stimulus bill provided “a great deal of money for infrastructure.” She has specifically requested funding for the improvement of the CTA viaducts in Evanston. Public transportation “is a priority of mine, and it’s absolutely essential,” she said. “Illinois is going to be a hub for higher speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis and hopefully the beginning of a Midwestern hub for serious high speed rail.” The CTA will always have funding problems, and there will be threats of service cuts, she says, as long as “half the money has to come from the fare box. … Over the years I’ve been an advocate of holding on to the services and doing as much as I can to get help for the CTA to prevent those cuts.”
Transportation can also serve as a community development tool, Ms. Schakowsky says: “When you have good transportation, businesses are formed in its path.” Small businesses, such as those being fostered by the Technology Innovation Center (the Incubator), can also be a source of new jobs, says Ms. Schakowsky. Access to credit for small businesses looking to get off the ground also leads to new jobs, she says, adding, “We’re trying to help develop now on the West Side [of Evanston] what will hopefully be stimulus for job creation. Tax incentives and employee support programs are other ways to help create jobs.” The job situation, she says, could have been much worse had it not been for the federal stimulus package, which “by the end of September will have created or saved, according to the Congressional Budget Office, 3.5 million jobs.”
“During this time of a cyclical recession … the way to actually reduce the deficit is to spend and create jobs,” Ms. Schakowsky says. Greater stimulus is needed now, she adds, saying that now is not the time to worry overly about cutting spending. “Every [government] dollar resonates throughout the economy generat[ing] $1.6 in economic activity.
Ms. Schakowsky sits on the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, an 18-member body with a two-fold mission: achieving primary budget balance (everything but interest on the debt) by 2015, and then long-term, serious debt reduction thereafter. “I agree that we are on an unsustainable path, that revenues and spending need to match,” she explains. “… but what I have insisted upon … and the way I am certainly going to judge any proposal, is by a distributional analysis.”
Social security, for example, is not responsible for the debt, she says. In fact, “social security is at a surplus now of $2.4 trillion, and it is going up to $4 trillion, and the notion of going after [social security recipients], that’s not where to go.” Rather, she wants to stop subsidizing oil and gas companies and eliminate “tax entitlements” for companies that ship jobs overseas. Adjusting mortgage interest tax deductions “for properties over a certain value” should be considered as a way to generate more revenue.
Mr. Pollak has attacked Ms. Schakowsky for directing stimulus money in a way that benefited a contributor and for voting to fund state programs by cutting a scheduled increase in food-stamp funding in 2014. She calls both allegations “incredibly cynical.” Indy Energy won a competitive grant to install an innovative heating system as a demonstration of a new geothermal technology. Mr. Pollak objected not to the grant itself, but to the location of the demonstration: the Engineers’ union Hall. “I resent the [allegation that the real reason I supported this grant was that] I received support from the union hall at which this project was being done. … This is a very exciting technology. It’s different. It created over 50 jobs. … This is exactly the kind of investment that the government should be making, [not] subsidizing the oil industry.” As for the food stamps, she said she did not believe that Congress should have been forced to pay for the emergency state money for health care, but Republicans forced a “pay-for.” She has every intention of working to undo the 2014 food stamps cuts before they take effect, but calls it “incredibly cynical of [Pollak] to raise that.”
A vast gulf separates Ms. Schakowsky and Mr. Pollak on gun control. “Sensible gun safety legislation has disappeared from serious debate in Congress,” she says, frustration showing. “What has to happen before we wake up to an understanding that guns are the problem? Kids are going to get into anything else … [but] you won’t see the kind of devastation caused on our streets by the presence of guns in the hands of young people… It is very, very frustrating that we can’t pass sensible gun legislation. [This is] a major difference between me and my opponent, who does believe in conceal and carry.”
Ms. Schakowsky supports the basic goal of no Child Left behind, using standards and metrics to “set the highest standard and then measure performance against that” in our schools. So far, though, “we’ve gotten the standards wrong,” she says. “We need to incorporate a growth model and give credit for improvement.” We are moving in the right direction, though, she added.
She also wants to find ways to end the racial performance gap in Evanston schools, and looks to “federal demonstration projects” to “find best practices” to reduce “the racial performance gap that seems so hard to eliminate.”
Turning to environmental matters, Ms. Schakowsky says, “I certainly think there needs to be a major public discussion” about placing windmills in Lake Michigan. Before undertaking such a project, we need a real understanding of the benefits and environmental impact both in and around this “precious resource.” She says she believes she is the only Chicago-area member of Congress who has not signed on to the letter that seeks to keep the locks open at all costs regardless of the Asian carp threat. “I don’t think we know enough yet,’ she said. “Once it is a problem it will be too late.”