Lamont J. Robinson Jr. is running unopposed in the general election. Before the March primary, we asked him why he’s running for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois House of Representatives 5th District:
My name is Lamont Robinson, and I am running for state representative in the 5th District. I run a nonprofit for African-American boys. It’s a college preparedness program and a mentoring program. I’ve been involved in this program for six years. I’m also a professor at Harold Washington College where I teach entrepreneurship and different business courses. I’m also a small business owner in the Bronzeville community and I have been a small business owner for 10 years. A specific cause of mine that is very, very near and dear to my heart as an educator is that we make sure we are strengthening our neighborhood schools. That we are also teaching entrepreneurship in our schools. That we are also creating trade programs. That is something that is very important to me. Again, as an educator. A district-specific priority is to bring economic development to the district that will also bring jobs that’s needed in the community that will also end violence.
The Chicago Sun-Times also sent the candidates seeking nominations for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Robinson submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
TOPIC: Top priorities
QUESTION: Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: One of the most important issues I plan on working on is economic development. Bringing jobs and investments to the south side of Chicago is something that will to help everyone living in the 5th District and its surrounding communities. As more businesses come to these neighborhoods some of the other problems we are facing, including violence, community blight and a crumbling infrastructure, will begin to be addressed through private investment and resources from the city and state. This economic development will force the Chicago Public Schools in invest in our neighborhood schools at the same level they do in other more economically wealthy parts of the school district.
Lamont J. Robinson Jr.
Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 5th district
Political/civic background: Director of the Kappa Leadership Institute based out of Kenwood High School to help prepare young men for college; member, 51st Street Business Association
Occupation: Small Business Owner / Proprietor of two Allstate Insurance Agencies, one in Bronzeville and the other Humboldt Park; Adjunct Professor for the City Colleges of Chicago (Harold Washington, Olive Harvey, and Richard M. Daley College)
Education: BA in Business Administration from Clark Atlanta University; MBA from National Louis University.
TOPIC: Top district needs
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: My top three priorities will be encouraging economic development throughout the district, reducing gun violence and crime and increasing funding for neighborhood schools.
TOPIC: Pension debt
QUESTION: In 2017, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability ballooned to at least $130 billion. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Please explain your answer. And what is your position on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability of the pension debt?
ANSWER: The state needs to find a long-term solution to its pension problems that does not burden hardworking families or unconstitutionally reduce the modest retirement benefits they have worked a lifetime to earn. I am interested in learning more about proposals that would re-amortize the state’s pension debt and want to make sure that these proposals do not hurt working families. I also believe that all parties, including organized labor and other stakeholders, need to be at the table to help us find a long-term solution to addressing the state’s pension debt.
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TOPIC: Minimum wage
QUESTION: Cook County and Chicago are on their way to paying a $13 hourly minimum wage. Many suburbs in the county, however, have opted out of the wage increase. Should Illinois raise its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour? Please explain. And if you favor an increase in the state minimum wage, what should it be?
ANSWER: I strongly favor a $15 an hour minimum wage, which is what I pay all of my entry-level employees in my company. People should be able to earn a living and provide for their family when they work a fulltime job. I would support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour across the state.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: I support a smarter approach to marijuana law, which would bring in millions of dollars of revenue into the state of Illinois that can be used to provide additional funding for health care, education and public safety programs. It would also be a major step toward stemming the stream of young people of color being incarcerated for non-violent offenses.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: The state is in need of additional revenue and one way that this can be done is through the expansion of gaming in the state. This funding could be used to provide additional money for education and vital services. I would be interested in learning more about a proposal to expand gambling in Illinois.
TOPIC: Property tax freeze
QUESTION: A property tax freeze in Illinois has been proposed frequently since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office. What’s your position? If you favor a freeze, how many years should it last? Should the freeze exclude property tax increases to service the debt, make pension payments or cover the cost of public safety? Again, please explain.
ANSWER: High property taxes put a lot of pressure homeowners in Chicago and across the state. I believe that we should freeze property taxes. We should also bring some much-needed fairness to the property tax system by expanding exemptions for the middle class, for seniors and for veterans. This would provide relief for middle-class and struggling families while making sure billionaires like Bruce Rauner who own multiple homes pay their fair share.
TOPIC: School funding
QUESTION: A revised school funding formula was approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, but a bipartisan commission has concluded that billions more dollars are needed to achieve sufficient and equitable funding. Should Illinois spend more on schools, and where would the money come from?
ANSWER: Every student in Illinois, regardless of where they live, deserves to have a world-class education. This can only happen when their schools are in good repair and the schools are fully staffed with teachers and support staff. I fully support a progressive income tax which would require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and bring additional funding for public schools.
TOPIC: Opioid abuse
QUESTION: How can the Legislature best address the problem of opioid abuse and addiction? Please cite specific laws you have supported or would support.
ANSWER: The General Assembly has taken action to try to address the growing opioid crisis, but Bruce Rauner’s budget crisis eliminated critical drug treatment services our community needs.We have to make sure we fully fund drug addiction programs, and make sure this treatment is covered by health insurance, for opioids or other drugs. We must also take action to reduce over prescribing of opioid-based pain medication. Any serious approach to drug addiction must also recognize the need to re-invest in communities that have been hit hardest, and for too long have been left behind by politicians. Rebuilding our communities, strengthening our schools and creating good-paying jobs will have a major impact on reducing drug abuse.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. In a community like mine where gunshots are heard far too often, the idea that a gunman could be shooting without anyone being able to hear them is terrifying. Proposals like this show that the National Rifle Association and their allies don’t understand issues facing Chicago, and in fact are a threat to our families.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. As an insurance agent, I have to be licensed with the Illinois Department of Insurance to work in Illinois and so do many other professions. There is no reason that individuals who deal in dangerous guns should not also have be licensed and properly regulated by the state to ensure that background checks occur and help keep guns away from dangerous individuals.
QUESTION: Should family members be empowered to petition courts for the temporary removal of guns from emotionally or mentally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Family members are often the first ones to see when something is wrong with their loved ones. If they believe that a close relative is a danger to themselves than others and believe that it is necessary to take away that person’s guns, then should be allowed to petition the courts and help keep our community safe.
QUESTION: What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
ANSWER: I would support expanding Medicaid to help every Illinois resident access affordable, high-quality health care. This is especially at a time when President Trump and Congress are still looking for ways to do away with President Obama’s health care law, and eliminate consumer protections, health care exchanges and more. However, I also want to make sure that any legislation that is passed has enough protections in place to prevent the governor’s administration from privatizing the system, like he is doing right now. Any program needs to have sufficient oversight to ensure that the benefits of the program go to the recipients, not the insurance executives.
TOPIC: College student exodus
QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
ANSWER:As a college professor, I understand that college is incredibly expensive and most students make decisions about where they should go to school based on the cost. During Gov. Rauner’s budget crisis, state universities had their budgets slashed, programs were cut, staff was laid-off and tuition rose. On top of that, financial assistance to students was greatly reduced through MAP grants. It is not surprising students elected not to go to a state university. To change this pattern, we need to increase funding for higher education to protect state institutions and ensure that students across Illinois have the skills to compete in a global economy.
TOPIC: Gov. Rauner
QUESTION: Please list three of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you agree. Also please list three of the governor’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you disagree.
ANSWER: I believe we need to focus on creating good-paying jobs, I believe we need property tax relief for middle-class families, and I believe we need to do more to ensure all children receive a world-class education. I’m running for State Representative because despite years of Bruce Rauner’s campaign promises, it’s clear that his statements on these issues are simply lip service. We can’t trust Bruce Rauner to deliver real economic growth for middle-class families—especially families of color—when his so-called solutions really would only pad the profits of huge, out-of-state businesses and further enrich his billionaire friends. While the governor says he wants property tax relief, the reality is Rauner and the Republican politicians he owns have rejected every effort to freeze property taxes. We can’t trust Bruce Rauner to invest in our schools when the education funding plan he wrote would have slashed funding for Chicago schools. He used Chicago students as a political punching bag in his campaign to pit one child against another, all so he could send more of our education dollars to the school districts he and his ultra-wealthy friends send their kids to. Rauner refused to fund schools at all until legislators agreed to a $500 million private school scholarship scheme, which is really just another special tax break for millionaires and billionaires at the expense of our students. Seeing that we can’t trust Bruce Rauner to stand up for our community, I am determined to stand up to him.