Running for: Illinois HD-3
Political/civic background: Member, Blackhawk Park Advisory Committee
Latinx Caucus Member, Chicago Teachers Union
Early Childhood Committee Member, Chicago Teachers Union
Citizenship Workshop Volunteer, Mujeres Latinas en Accion
Volunteer, Northwest Side Housing Center
Occupation: Bilingual Pre-K Teacher
Education: MS in Education, Dominican University
BA, Northeastern Illinois University
Campaign website: nidiacarranza.org
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates 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 and their districts. Nidia Carranza submitted the following responses:
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
While this is my first time running for elected office, I’ve been organizing in my community for most of my life. I’ve been a member of the Chicago Teachers Union since 2015 and most recently organized Northwest side schools in the 2019 CTU/SEIU strike - ultimately going on a 7 day hunger strike to bring attention to our starving schools, helping us win smaller class sizes and increased student support. I volunteered for Citizenship Workshops under Mujeres Latinas En Accion during my undergrad years, and currently organize Know Your Right Canvasses in my neighborhood. I also sit on the Blackhawk Park Advisory Council where we advocate for more resources to fund the park’s programs, and volunteer with Northwest Side Housing Center as someone who believes in development without displacement.
Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
Accountable Government: 3rd district residents need an elected official who is accountable to them and their concerns. There has been major progress in Springfield over the last year for working families, but more needs to get done. The only way that will happen is with the backing of the community, and a Representative unwilling to compromise on important issues in order to enrich themselves or maintain power. Specifically, I will advocate for bills that get big money out of politics by establishing a small donor public matching fund, and work to pass legislation that creates more progressive revenue streams like closing loopholes for corporate taxes and carried interest.
Stable Housing: Like myself, there are a number of people in the 3rd district who moved to the area due to developments in Logan Square that displaced them from where they were born and raised. It is very important to make sure that displacement does not follow them, and that people who are from the district can remain here. Specifically, we need to ensure a fairer property tax system that doesn’t hit working families the hardest, while reducing our reliance on property taxes with the passage of other progressive revenue measures. We also need to work on stabilizing rent prices, pushing for legislation that lifts the ban on rent control and limits the percentage that rent can increase from year to year based on the Consumer Price Index.
Improving Public Education: The 3rd District has one of the highest populations of children in Chicago, and as a teacher myself I am far too aware of the inadequacies our schools face. While the 2019 teachers strike got us closer to what our students need, I am running to ensure we restore collective bargaining to the biggest school district in the state and help push for an elected Chicago school board. Both of those measures will help schools advocate for the services and resources their students need and deserve.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
Expanding Healthcare Coverage: Like so many Illinoisans and Americans, I’ve experienced first hand the broken health care system we have. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor that had to be removed or else I would go blind. Even as a teacher with good health insurance, I’m still paying off medical bills. We need to do better. That’s why I believe we need to expand medicaid coverage in Illinois, and make it more affordable for people to see their doctor and buy prescription drugs.
Improving Immigrant Protections: The 3rd district is a predominantly immigrant community, made up of both Latino and Polish families. We must do more to increase protections and services to ensure families are able to stay and contribute to their communities. This includes expanding the Affordable Care Act to DACA recipients, and exploring more legislation like SB1290 that was recently passed as a way to protect immigrant tenants.
Public Safety: One of the top issues on the minds of residents is the safety of their families and neighbors. If we want to address violence in the community, we must have a holistic approach and invest in preventative measures like increased funding for our neighborhood schools and after-school programs, better mental health services, increased funding for affordable housing and investment in the local economy and job training programs.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I support the proposed graduated income tax. For years, Illinois has had to cut funding to public services and institutions, making it impossible for working people to live in the state and contributing to one of the biggest population declines the state has ever seen. It is imperative we re-invest in those services and institutions if we want to make Illinois a place people can live and raise a family. The only way we are able to do that responsibly is through increasing progressive revenue streams through measures like the graduated income tax. For far too long Illinois has been cutting deals for corporations and the wealthy on the backs of working families. The progressive income tax is a step in the right direction as we look to address that inequity.
Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $6 billion. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?
The progressive income tax is a good first step, but the state needs to create other progressive revenue to help fill the gap. Measures like closing the corporate tax loophole and instituting a LaSalle Street Tax could generate over $14B in new income. Re-investing some of that revenue into core services like education, human services, healthcare, infrastructure and converting to green energy could all help produce more revenue through well-paid jobs that would broaden the tax base.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Yes. Illinois is only one of three states that exempt retirement income from taxes, leaving a huge amount of revenue on the table when it comes to wealthier retirees with high-income pensions. If we are going to close our budget gap, and start re-investing in our public services, Illinois must join other states and include retirement incomes using a graduated model to ensure working class retirees are not footing the bill.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
Passing the new funding formula last year was a huge step forward for public education in Illinois, but it’s not enough. We need to increase funding to address teacher and support staff shortages, create pipelines for community members to build a career in education, and create more accountability for Chicago’s school district by restoring collective bargaining rights and passing legislation for an elected school board.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
We can and should increase gun control in the state, but recognize that until federal legislation is passed, we will continue to struggle stopping the flow of guns from neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin. We must address the root cause of gun violence, and put more funding into preventative measures instead of punitive. Investing in communities with high levels of poverty and lack of economic development, bringing back funding for mental health services, initiatives like Cease Fire, and after-school programs.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
While there certainly needs to be measures put in place to create more accountability for our elected leaders, instituting term limits would create a higher turnover rate for legislators and effectively give control to non-term limited lobbyists who would have the time to build more established relationships in the State House.
Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?
Gerrymandering hurts our democracy, no matter which party is able to draw the lines. Whether it is a Red or Blue state, gerrymandered districts disenfranchise thousands of voters - predominantly people of color. I support the Fair Maps Amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative districts and ensure transparency, equity, and accountability in the process.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?
Corruption hits very close to home as a candidate running for a district seat vacated by someone who was charged with bribery. I support the Lobbyist Registration Act as a first step in addressing this systemic problem, but we must do more. I would support measures that restrict former legislators from going straight into business as a lobbyist, increased disclosure requirements for lobbyists, and conflict of interest reforms to prevent officials from using their political position for private gain. We must also reform campaign finance so we can make it easier for every-day people to run for office and focus on issues important to the community, not their own self interests.
When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?
Illinois needs to follow California’s lead and pass legislation that protects consumers from data collection by large corporations. Consumers should be able to request the information collected free of charge, businesses should be required to delete information if asked, and should supply an easy way for consumers to opt-out of having their data sold. In addition, consumers should be able to sue companies that allow personal information to be stolen, and companies should not be allowed to sell personal information for children under 16.
The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?
The 3-year budget impasse that Illinois went through profoundly impacted our state universities. Budgets were cut by over 50% for some institutions, leading to massive staff layoffs that led to a decrease in student support services. In addition, funding for MAP grants was cut, making it more expensive to attend. This past year, while there was an increase in the budget for state universities, it still falls short of the funding levels prior to the impasse. We must continue to increase funding to ensure many of the services and financial supports that make it easier to attend college are put back in place for Illinois students.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
I support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 2132/HB 3624) that would cut carbon pollution, move Illinois to 100% renewable energy, electrify the transportation sector, and ensure that everyone in the state has access to jobs and training as we transition to a clean energy economy. We also need to rebuild Illinois’ EPA. Over the last 10 years, Illinois’ EPA has reduced their size by 38% - making it harder to rein in big polluters in the state. We need to change how the agency is funded, so it doesn’t just rely on federal dollars.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
Mother Jones: One of the first women to lead organized labor in this country, Mother Jones helped make Illinois the birthplace of rank-and-file organizing. She understood that justice for working families depended on fair working conditions, and was willing to fight powerful corporate interests - often putting her body on the line - in order to bring attention to the issues. I am proud of the legacy Illinois and Chicago has built around union organizing, and we would not be where we are today without her.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Breaking Bad: The story of what happens when a teacher has poor healthcare and not a big enough salary to afford paying medical bills after an unexpected illness. A problem I can relate to, though my solution is a little less drastic - running for public office!