Running for: State Representative - 19th District
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Vice President of local democratic organization, the 45th Ward Independent Democrats; Dean’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Social Inclusion - Jane Addams College of Social Work; Leader, Northwest Side Women’s Huddle; Delegate, Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (2018); Vice President of Hands to Help Ministries (2014-2018); Volunteer, Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation (2012-2016), Volunteer, John Howard Association (2011-2013).
Occupation: Full Time State Representative
Education: MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work; BA, Sociology, Grinnell College
Campaign website: lindseylapointe.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees 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. Lindsey LaPointe submitted the following responses:
The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.
Illinois was in a difficult fiscal place before the pandemic and we have lived through six months of plummeting revenue with an unknown floor. We must continue to pay down our debt, make our pension payments, and use a tool box of progressive revenue to incrementally inch towards fiscal stability. Although a graduated state income tax will not solve our problems, it will be an important step to provide revenue, relief to many, and an incrementally higher tax for the wealthy on par with other states.
Although the pandemic brought barriers to implementation and slowed down needed legislation, I was proud to vote yes on a new tax structure for a Chicago casino. Once built and thoughtfully located, this becomes one small step towards stability. Similar to my calls before the pandemic, we need to get a real estate transfer tax in the City of Chicago and robustly expand our growing cannabis industry. The pandemic slowed down our burgeoning cannabis industry, but sales have grown and there is revenue potential as the industry expands to “craft grow” and hospitality industry collaborations. Given the impact of the pandemic, now is the time to look hard again at local government and school district consolidation.
During our truncated spring 2020 legislative session, I was proud to pass a budget that took care of people in need and, for the most part, maintained SFY2020 levels. However the budget was crafted in anticipation of state and local aid from the federal government, which at this moment, has not arrived. In order to mitigate the harm largely out of our control, our federal government must come through for all the states and end the vilification of high profile Democratic governors and mayors. Every state is in the same pandemic suffering from plummeting revenue.
What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?
Our Governor has led the State of Illinois through a never-anticipated global pandemic with humanity, strength and grace with every hard and politically unpopular decision made. I give Governor Pritzker and his team an A - for continuing to lead through a protracted crisis with still no end date. As we near six months into the pandemic, hindsight shows us how his hard decisions kept us safer and simply alive. His steadfast communication direct to the public through daily briefings in the earlier months of the pandemic provided for consistency and transparency that put many at ease, even when hearing difficult news.
Like a true leader, Pritzker and his team took proactive and drastic steps to quickly build the capacity of our healthcare and human service system. Our field hospitals were ready to go and our testing capacity grew rapidly after initial hiccups thanks to the hard work and efficiency of the National Guard.
As a former social worker acutely aware of the potential for red tape and bureaucracy to harm people, I am most impressed with the work and flexibility of the Department of Human Services to administer basic food and housing supports. DHS immediately increased support to homeless service providers and rapidly provided maximum food stamp benefits to anyone who was eligible for the program, providing for a safety net we often lack in America. I hope we all learn from this experience that our state government, although historically bulky and bureaucratic, can and must take care of people in short order in times of immediate and ongoing crisis.
Pritzker’s areas for improvement include better communication with legislators on the true difficulties of the Illinois Department of Employment Security and more transparency about goals for release, decision making, and testing capacity within the Illinois Department of Corrections.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?
The need to take up police reform at all levels of government is much older than George Floyd. Chicago has two recent and thoughtful roadmaps - the Police AccountabilIty Taskforce Report and a federal consent decree - and we are undeniably off track. With the highest stakes, our current system serves no one well. Across our criminal justice system - from policing to prison - we have poor public safety and human outcomes at great taxpayer expense. Rehabilitative criminal justice reforms and police accountability done right, will benefit first responders, community members and taxpayers.
I represent a district filled with current and retired police officers. I have sat with many and heard how they feel unsupported, ill-equipped and frustrated. I also represent a district filled with people concerned, sad, and angry about the systemic racism and the intersection with policing. Chicago has severe financial problems and yet spent $113M on police misconduct settlements in 2018, more than the previous two years combined. Chicago is also under a federal consent decree and recently missed 70% of its benchmarks. Simply put, ignoring every single tool for police reform is a dereliction of duty.
We in the General Assembly must start a serious discussion about police reform legislation, including: police licensing, or an increase in infractions/crimes one can lose certification for; the creation of a mental/behavioral health response systems, statewide, through the Community Emergency Services and Support Act; a ban on highspeed chases with limited exceptions; a ban on chokeholds, and the elimination of felony murder liability for death that results from police conduct (including death that results from high speed chases).
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
The proliferation of body cameras statewide is a critical piece of police reform that, if implemented right, will accelerate reform to benefit police, taxpayers, and our communities most affected by poverty and violence and heavy policing. With the recognition that making every police officer wear a body camera does not automatically bring accountability or make us safer, it’s an important step and Illinois should move forward at the state level. As we look at state body camera legislation, we must ensure the parameters are spelled out in statute for consistent implementation including regulations of video storage, a declaration of cameras in use, privacy policies, public reporting, and studies on the impact.
Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?
Illinois state government and politics is in dire need of significant ethics reform to rebuild the trust of residents and to create a culture that invites people in instead of shutting out. I knew this before assuming office as I lived in Chicago for a full nine years before I touched local politics due to intimidation and questions about “reform” candidates.” For several years I would read the news, get frustrated and put my head down as a social worker. More recently, I know this because I/ve knocked on thousands of doors and heard from hundreds of constituents that there is no trust.
Although it’s unproductive for me to pinpoint blame, there is no question we need change. I was the sixth House Democrat to publicly state that Speaker Madigan should resign. The status quo has sidelined too many, and leadership change and meaningful ethics reform is the right and good thing to do for Illinois state government and politics as a whole, but also the Democratic Party, our values, and all the policies we’re fighting for, including a graduated state income tax. This is a critical moment for Illinois: for democracy, for democrats and true ethics reform.
The following reforms should be under serious consideration in the fall 2020 Veto session.
Sitting legislators should not be able to lobby other levels of government.
The legislator-lobbyist revolving door needs to slow down with at least a one-year prohibition on state legislators becoming Statehouse lobbyists.
Full disclosure of outside income should be required, with protections in place for confidentiality rules of professional conduct.
Legislative leadership term limits.
A truly independent legislative inspector general who can initiative investigations without legislative approval.
Lindsey LaPointe submitted the following responses before the March primary:
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.
Nine years in the field of social work inspired me to move into the policy world to make bigger, systemic change where for seven years, I worked to create a more rehabilitative, humane, cost-effective and safer criminal justice system. Community involvement is fundamental to who I am and underlies my approach as both a policy advocate and a legislator. In recent years in the 19th district, I have been involved in a church ministry where I served as the Vice President of the Board and I have worked with my neighbors to create more accessible housing options in the neighborhood. I lead a women’s political group that builds up women’s involvement in local and national politics and that successfully hosted four gubernatorial candidate meet and greets. I am a leader of my local democratic organization. And I have knocked on thousands of doors for democratic candidates I believe in. I see my role as a legislator as an immense opportunity to improve the communities and lives in the 19th district and across Illinois.
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.
While I do not believe these issues are necessarily unique to my district, the three issues I hear about most often when talking from constituents at events and door to door are 1. The lack of affordability and accessibility of our healthcare system, including prescription drugs and mental healthcare 2. The need to reduce taxes, in particular for residential property owners and 3. Strengthening our neighborhood public schools - especially improving special educational resources and adequately supporting our teachers.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
My other top legislative priorities are to support our city workers, including our teachers and first responders, through fair contracts, stable retirements and mental health supports; preventing and reducing gun violence through an evidence based public health approach of violence intervention and community investment, in addition to stronger gun laws; expanding access to a full array of reproductive healthcare, no matter where you live in Illinois, in particular repealing the Parental Notice of Abortion Act; and passing the Clean Jobs Energy Act.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I am in full support of the proposed graduated state income tax which would bring us in better alignment with other states and provide more of the revenue Illinois needs without further burdening low-income and middle class families. Given that Illinois is in need of a toolbox of progressive revenue, enacting a graduated tax will help avoid a tax raise on everyone and has the potential to reduce the property tax burden as more state funding goes to education, thus reducing the burden on local governments.
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?
Illinois is in need of a toolbox of progressive revenue including a graduated state income tax, full and rapid implementation of cannabis legalization, a Chicago casino with workable tax rates to attract an operator and a location for maximum revenue, and levying a graduated real estate transfer tax.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Having previously worked with struggling seniors on fixed incomes, I am strongly opposed to taxing retirement income. Introducing a tax on retirement income would jeopardize the well-being of many seniors and retirees, many of whom are already facing increases in costs of living and property taxes, and who may not be able to continue living in Illinois should they be saddled with an additional tax on their retirement income that they did not plan for. Our seniors are limited in how they can respond to additional taxes and many may not be able to adjust to a retirement income tax. Due to our current flat state income tax structure in Illinois, a tax on the wealthiest residents would be a tax on everyone.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
First and foremost, I believe Chicago needs a democratically elected school board so that those who understand the issues facing our education system - parents, educators, and students - have a real pathway to address issues and improve the public school system.
We need to improve the quality of education offered for students with learning difficulties and special needs. CPS has been slow to implement special education reforms: many students in need have been illegally denied the education services that they require and hundreds of vacancies remain open for needed special education teachers and assistants. CPS needs to speed up the process.
I am hopeful about the new changes made to the CPS/CTU contract but more work needs to be done to ensure smaller class sizes for our students and access to essential staff like nurses, social workers, and librarians.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
First, we need to pass common sense bipartisan gun laws, including banning assault rifles, closing the gun show loophole, and instituting universal background checks. We also need to make sure law enforcement has sufficient resources to seize illegal guns to prevent shootings and intervene in mass shootings.
Second, we need to treat gun violence as a public health issue and as a symptom of divestment and lack of opportunity in struggling communities. During my time as a project manager at BPI, I worked with legislators to craft the component of Illinois’ cannabis legislation that invests in communities disproportionately affected by gun violence. We need to re-invest in community violence-intervention programs, which were devastated by the budget crisis under Governor Rauner, including street intervention, cognitive-behavioral therapy, transitional jobs, trauma treatment and a robust victim services system that can mitigate the well-worn pattern of victims of crime becoming perpetrators of crime. The destruction of community-based intervention programs led to increases in violence. We need to restore these programs to restore safety to communities across the state.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
In concept, I am not opposed to term limits however study after study on other state legislatures tells us that term limits does little to curtail corruption, consolidates power within the executive branch, severely limits the choice of voters, and increases the influence of lobbyists. I trust voters to hold their elected officials accountable by retaining effective legislators and voting out legislators they decide no longer best represent them.
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?
We need to ensure we have districts that are drawn that ensure fair both fair political representation as well as minority representation.
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?
I am supportive of the Lobbyist Registration Act but I know that its effects are limited. We have to do more as legislators to prevent corruption and restore the public’s trust in their elected officials as well as our political system as a whole. We need to institute real penalties for those who betray the trust of the voters by stripping pensions from politicians found guilty of engaging in corruption. Although much more needs to be done, these ideas need to be fully vetted outside of a contracted veto session, for instance, through the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform.
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?
With an economy more and more reliant upon tech and data sharing, our state needs to institute consumer protections that safeguard users’ personal data. Businesses that collect and share data need to be held accountable for breaches of personal data and I am ready to work with consumer protection advocates to find the best way to do so.
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 budget impasse under Governor Rauner devastated enrollment and funding of our state universities. I support increasing funding for MAP Grants so high performing low-income and middle class students have the opportunity to access higher education. Far beyond the recent budget impasse, Illinois has been disinvesting in public higher education since the early 2000s and we need to reverse that.
In addition to expanding access to our public universities, I also believe that trade schools and apprenticeship programs should be more accessible. That’s why I signed on as a co-sponsor to HB3592, which provides grants to students pursuing an apprenticeship program with community college, local business or industry.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
As a cosponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, I am committed to bringing environmental advocacy, labor, and business groups together to reach a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
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.
As the first woman to ever hold the office of 19th District State Representative and having received my Master’s in Social Work from her namesake College, I see a role model in suffragette and social worker Jane Addams. The field of social work and its founder have deeply shaped me and my approach to leadership and legislation. Social work is attuned to social conditions, social justice and individual and community well-being.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
I really liked watching Parks and Recreation years ago and have been meaning to rewatch it. I think it shows, with entertaining humor, the positive impact on a community that a single dedicated public servant can have. I believe the show pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of government for many young people and young women especially who might want to follow the same path as the admirable Leslie Knope.