Running for: State Senator - 40th District
Political/civic background: Communications Secretary for the Kankakee County Democratic Party and Democratic precinct committee person.
Founding member and Vice President of the Illinois Democratic Women of Kankakee County since July 2019. Work with Southland Friends of Labor Executive Board to raise funds to support labor friendly candidates running in south suburban Cook County, Will County and Kankakee County. This summer, I helped to coordinate two political education workshops in Chicago Heights and Tinley Park to help train labor friendly local candidates to run for office. Member of the NAACP.
- Transit Campaign Organizer with Illinois Jobs to Move America. A coalition housed out of Chicago Jobs With Justice where I created a diverse coalition with local partners, including labor unions, environmental organizations, community groups, and elected officials to support manufacturing in the Chicago region.
- Metra Affairs Administrator. Performed role of liaison for Metra in areas of legislation at the Illinois state level and federal level as needed.
- Statewide Coordinator for The Illinois Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council. Provided a mechanism for policy development regarding metropolitan transportation issues through Illinois MPO Association board meetings in coordination with state and federal agencies. Coordinated training for metropolitan planning organization’s staff and member agencies, which included IDOT and FHWA.
- Research and Appropriations Analyst for the Illinois House of Representatives. Provided analysis and staffed infrastructure related House Committees including: Tollway Oversight, Mass Transit, Railroad Industry, Smart Growth & Regional Planning, and Public Safety. Appropriations analyst for the Illinois Department of Transportation and DCFS introduced budgets.
- Assistant to the Mayor at the Village of Olympia Fields. Completed economic internship where I created the framework for the revamped village website and designed/published their first Business & Village Directory.
- Information Systems Analyst at the Illinois State Police.
Occupation: Legislative and Political Consultant
Education: Bachelor’s Degree from Governor’s State University and Master’s Degree from University of Illinois at Springfield.
Campaign website: martaperales.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their districts and the state of Illinois. Marta Perales 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.
Last year, I worked part time for State Representative Riley helping to spread his message to constituents by drafting and distributing legislative updates via Constant Contact, drafting and designing End of Sessions newsletters, maintaining his legislative website for budget updates, bill summaries, etc. Helped to manage special events in coordination with district staff and volunteers. Reviewed state legislation and provided policy feedback on its potential impact to the 38th District and the Southland.
In the last two years, I committed myself into helping our local Democratic Party as well as supporting labor friendly candidates in the Chicago Southland. It has been a labor of love working with volunteers in the Southland who are frustrated at what is going on at the White House. As a campaign coordinator, I raised nearly $150,000 for the local Party, two county wide candidates and a diverse slate of nine county board candidates in the last two years. Together, we worked with labor and others to support Lisa Dugan for State Representative and JB Pritzker for Governor.
In August 2019, I coordinated an Eastern Will County Meet and Greet in Monee for the Will County District 1 Democrats Political Action Committee; special guests included the new Speaker of the Will County Board, Denise Winfrey and several county wide officials. The Will County Board elected its first woman Speaker of the Board in December 2018. I also worked with State Central Committeeman Al Riley and the Kankakee County Democratic Party to coordinate Delegate Information Sessions in Chicago Heights and Kankakee in September 2019. The presentation was done by the Democratic Party of Illinois and Committeeman Riley.
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.
I am concerned about the need for water in Kankakee County. Projects have not come to the county because of access to water. Aqua cannot guarantee to meet new businesses demands. Aqua has also impacted University Park and residents there continue to take precautionary measures for safe drinking water.
Kankakee County is growing and the next project has to be the interchange on Court Street. It is a heavy truck route. It is deplorable the under-construction sign at the proposed gas station has stood there so long, that it faded through before they decided to put another one up for prosperity.
I am concerned about our regional mobility. There have been too many unnecessary accidents, some have claimed lives on our roads. Many of these routes have heavy truck traffic. Commuters travel from: Kankakee to Joliet through Manhattan, Matteson to Bradley and Beecher to Chicago Heights. We should provide better sidewalks and transit connections in the District. The Metra Electric ends at University Park which have no bathrooms and no signage for the River Valley Metro bus. There’s an opportunity to create a transit hub, especially with its connection to Governors State University.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
Expanding the Regional Transit Authority legislation to cover Kankakee County. The 40th District is in a transit desert with limited access across the district. There is a Kankakee River Valley Metro bus to the University Park Metra Electric station and to Midway Airport. Major thorough fares such as Route 1 stop at the Cook County line. What exists is fragmented and some run on an hourly basis. Other thorough fares such as Cicero, Pulaski, Western, Route 50/Governors Highway lack bus service in the District. Often, I see individuals walking from the University Park station along Route 50/Governor’s Highway either walking north to Richton Park or south to Monee all times of the day. They can also be seen walking along Route 1 from Steger to Crete. Nearly all of these routes lack sidewalks - so many individuals are walking on the routes with a speed limit of 45 and above.
Seek state oversight for the closing of Rich East High School. Despite community outrage, the Rich Township School District 227 District voted 4-3 to close the High School. If I was Senator, I would request a legislative hearing. I believe this was a manufactured crisis with inflated deferred maintenance costs. One of the board meetings were recently in the news for refusing to let the news media inside the board room. It does appear to have been transparent and residents are still outraged. For example, one of the deferred maintenance cost is the swimming pool which is not currently in use. not detrimental to teaching students at the High School. There is an opportunity to ensure this never happens again with state legislation.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I am support of the graduated income tax. For far too long, we have unfairly put the burden on working class individuals in our State. A school teacher should not pay the same rate as a billionaire.
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 structural deficit took years to build and will take a complex approach working with both sides of the aisle to alleviate. I would lean on the recommendations from The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) for solutions to these complex issues. They have recommended reamortization of the pension debt and other policy changes.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Yes, only of its wealthiest. Those that can pay more, should.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
Introduce trades at an earlier age as a way to open students eyes to the possibility of a job in the trades. We need more tinkers and inventors. I recommend introducing these topics in elementary school with shop and trades introduced in junior high school. By freshmen year, a student should be on the academic track for a field in the trades.
I would also introduce yoga in elementary school. It appears many who act out, do so out of frustration, stress and/or poor eating habits. I think yoga would be a benefit at every age level and would provide a solace for students needing to decompress and focus on their academic goals.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Unfortunately, I do not see a state legislative solution to these occurrences. However, I see an opportunity to fund our mental health facilities and programs. Many of the individuals who have engaged in these horrific incidents have been or were battling some sort of mental health issues.
“More than a quarter of adults with serious psychological distress in the past year reported an unmet need for mental health care. A common reason for not receiving care was the inability to afford mental health treatment, especially for people who do not have health insurance.” According toThe Cost of Mental Illinois: Illinois Facts and Figures by Hanke Heun-Johnson, Michael Menchine, Dana Goldman, Seth Seabury” May 2018
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I oppose term limits because that is what elections are for. Through knowledge and experience of the legislative process, municipal operations, etc. - one can address larger issues facing their town/county/state. Structural change in our policies takes time. Some of the regional inequities I would like to address cannot be solved in two terms, for example.
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?
When the Republicans are in control, they draw the map. However, more can always be done with community outreach. It appears only a select few are drawing the map. Improving public perception in the process would go a long way to restoring trust with the electorate. However, addressing this issue at the national level could be fair to both parties.
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 think the measure is a good first step. As with any structural change, it will take some additional time and input from both sides of the aisle. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform just had their first meeting.
I would suggest an Illinois State Board of Elections report for our current Representatives and Senators which provides a summary of contributions by lobbyists or political action committee versus local individual contributions. Sort of a report card for constituents. think most voters would want to know how much money an incumbent has in their campaign committee and where those funds come from annually; not just during an election year.
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?
Not sure if this can be addressed at the state level. However, I see an opportunity to educate the public on this topic. Recently, an elected official held a identity risk seminar on this topic. I know of another retiree group who is putting something together about this topic next month in the district. What comes up more than often than not, is educating the public on how to secure their internet activity.
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?
Perhaps tap into the multitude of Fortune 500 companies in our great State and offer up some dynamic opportunities for internships and/or some sort of work program to help offset the cost of housing and food which can dramatically improve students lives and entice them to stay in our State.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
Increase recycling efforts in our towns. I would argue that we need a recycling revolution in our State. Countries abroad are embracing recycling efforts which reduce their landfill contributions and look to burning trash to help heat homes across their country; such as Sweden. We can look at a plethora of other countries to draw inspiration and best practices/policies for the district and our State.
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.
The late Aldo DeAngelis, Senate Assistant Majority Leader (R-Olympia Fields) who fought for the South Suburban Airport. I learned about him writing my masters thesis on the airport from 2002 to 2009. He was a former steel company president and represented the 40th Senate District from 1997 to 1997. DeAngelis co-sponsored legislation to create a Metropolitan Airport Authority, both attempts were defeated, the last one in 1986 which failed in the House. He argued that the 40th District suffered significant unemployment in recent years and needed the economic boom.
In 1986, he was a member of the Illinois Airport System Plan Policy Committee to select the site for the third Chicago airport. On occasion, he would coin the term ‘political pussyfooting’ when arguing for the Airport both on the Senate Floor and in interviews. For example, he was quoted in Chicago Enterprise, stating “political pussyfooting is behind the latest delay in the airport planning committee’s timetable.” --- Andreoli, Tom. Fear of Flying - Why we aren’t building a third airport – even if the numbers say we must. Chicago Enterprise. October 1989
In 1991, the committee narrowed down the selection list and DeAngelis voted against the proposed urban sites and gave an emotional speech that attacked the process and political pressure placed on the committee.
I admire his tenacity his commitment to increasing the economic vitality of our region. The Southland continues to suffer with disproportionate levels of investments in infrastructure which hinders our public safety, but it also does not create an environment for business investments and expansions, thereby putting the burden on the homeowner to fund our schools. Unfortunately, this structural disinvestment creates higher property taxes for the Southland.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Because laughter is the best medicine. He talks about race in politics, white privilege, the disparaging activities of our current president attacking our Democracy and our most vulnerable residents. But most importantly, Trevor Noah teaches us to celebrate our diversity and to love one another. We are after all, a nation of immigrants.