Sandra Schneller, Illinois House 9th District Democratic candidate profile

Her top priorities include jobs, economic development and gun violence prevention.

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Sandra Schneller, 2020 Illinois House 9th District Democratic primary election candidate

Sandra Schneller, Illinois House 9th District Democratic primary candidate.


Candidate profile

Sandra Schneller

Running for:Illinois State Representative, 9th District

Political/civic background:B.A. - Political Science; M.A. - American Politics & Public Affairs; Volunteered in political campaigns - gubernatorial, mayoral, county clerk; Mentor; Advocate for Animal Anti-cruelty; Community Safety Organization; Chicago Police Dept. - Subcommittee Against Domestic Violence

Occupation:State Clinical Practice Manager

Education: B.A. - Political Science; M.A. - American Politics & Public Affairs; MSMOB - Management & Organizational Behavior

Campaign website:

Facebook: Sandra Sandi Schneller

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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 Illinois and their districts. Sandra Schneller 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.

As a Near North Unity Program Committee Member for Community Safety, I strategize safety measures in a changed community to bring new and seasoned residents together crossing communication and habitant barriers; I am a Domestic Violence Sub-committee member with the18th District Police Dept working to strategize avenues to share domestic violence awareness with adults and teens. My work has extended to having an advocate voice for the cruelty treatment of labored horses and animals in general.

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. 

1. Low presence of job training and lack of jobs in underserved sections of the 9th District in a critical time where a sizeable number of residents will be negatively affected by a soon to be strictly enforced federal rule for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits targeting the 18-49 able-bodied adults with no dependents age group. Benefits for this population will possibly terminate without alternative resources (i.e. jobs) and many will lead a succession line to the jail system.

2. End the disproportionate distribution of equitable resources to close the age expectancy gap within communities in a 6 miles distance within the district. West Garfield Park residents have a 16 year drop in life expectancy than their counterparts on the Near Northside/Loop locations.

3. Bringing economic development to blighted areas of the 9th District to encourage business development, for example, creating jobs, improving health, and bringing value into the lives of many who have acquiesced to bleak standards of life.

What are your other top legislative priorities?

We need tighter gun control. Too many Chicagoans are caught up as victims of gun violence. Stronger policies/laws should be instituted for illegal gun owners who use weaponry to initiate violent acts.

Ensure more business development funding is allocated and distributed in underserved areas to provide jobs to resident as an avenue to decrease crime.

Create policy placing strict requirements for hard core drug user who do not enroll in treatment programs.

What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.

The governor’s proposal is a progressive stance and will provide many Illinoisans an opportunity for a slight increase in wealth. Illinois has experience a salary growth rate at 2% below the national average for a 10 year span (taking into account our recession years). Even though our minimum wage has now increased to $9.25 we continue to see individuals and families struggle. The Heartland Alliance released a 2018 Poverty Report and shared that based on the 12.5 million population in Illinois, 5.9% live in ‘extreme poverty,’ 13% live in ‘poverty,’ and 16.5% live at the ‘low income’ level with individual incomes at $6k, $12k and $25k, respectively.

Illinoisans income attainment covers an expansive range. The last census track for Illinois listed the median household income at $64k. However, when we have 35.4% living at or below low income taking action to slightly bridge the gap via a graduated tax structure can mean the difference between having additional meals, paying an extra bill, and more.

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?

State officials have worked arduously to relieve financial tension for its residents. It is time to return the servitude in that, Illinoisans should be required to volunteer their service to state funded programs in an effort to reduce costs. For example, individuals receiving higher education funding will volunteer hours per month. This can reduce salaries funded by the state to these programs while afforded the volunteer work experience. Businesses that receive state tax credits should be required to hire abled-bodied adults without dependents who receive benefits from SNAP. Including just half of this 160k+ population back into the workforce can bring more tax revenue to the state.

There are many brainstorm avenues the state can investigate to help decrease its shortfall.

Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?

Retired individuals should not be taxed on their retirement income. They have put many dollars into the state tax system over the course of employment. In a tax driven state where rates are 2nd highest in the nation (i.e. $400k home taxed at $9.6k yr) maintaining relief for seniors without retirement income taxation will be critical in retaining them as full time status residents, especially during a time of magnified exodus from the state at a rate of 30 residents relocating per day.

What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?

If we continue to promote inequality in the attainment of education, it will produce unsuccessful results. With the implementation of the progressive tax it could positively affect elementary and secondary education. Access to quality education is disproportionately distributed when comparing affluent and underserved areas. Closing this gap is largely geared toward hiring ‘scale’ teachers. Studies have revealed that underqualified teachers are directly related to poor outcomes for students. If the state increases its funding to education, they should also require quality performance from educators.

Additional improvements can start with students learning from updated resources (i.e. books, learning materials). Access to current information and ways to retrieve it is paramount in a society that is technology driven with on-demand deliverables. More involvement from the homefront is an extension of resources. Parents must make education a ‘family affair’ to ensure the children gain the necessities to prepare them to lead our state, our country.

Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?

Gun violence is a communal concern. Its hurt touches everyone. Legislature must enforce involvement at the local level to bring door-to-door awareness and ownership for correction. Banning together against gun violence and instituting laws for more strict policies against illegal weaponry is a step towards reduction in the violence plaguing our country.

Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.

I favor term limits with selection. A position’s allocated term should dictate specific limits. Serving the health, interest, rights, and needs of the people in our great country is an honor. Every American is afforded this opportunity. However, those who serve in one public position for a lifetime is branded as selfish. They should spend time polishing and preparing others for the next generation of lawmakers.

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 has it pros and cons. It does speak to electing more officials from minority groups who normally may not have been elected.It also provides the ability to serve and make re-election less costly for an incumbent while boosting seniority and influence. Although gerrymandering reduces competitiveness of elections, it has resulted in uncompetitive elections in many states. Party inclusion should be enforced in making redistricting decisions to bring equality in the redesign process. This will give every party an opportunity to serve.

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?

Legislature for lobbyist ethics reform and disclosure are steps in the right direction to mitigate corrupt practices. Shining the light on backroom deals will promote fairness in setting laws. Actions leading to unethical behavior have long plague our legislative system. Knowing that a watchdog system is in place and reporting requirements are necessary will likely deter divergence into a once authorized host of dark dealings.

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?

There should be improved policing of companies having the ability to sell customer information. Hefty fines should follow anyone willing to risk identity theft to make an extra dollar. Customers purchase in good faith with a belief their personal information is protected. Companies should be mandated to post (in large visible print) language indicating an ability to sell personal information if they so choose to. This will give the buyer an opportunity to purchase or forego.

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?

If Illinois is serious about retention of its public high school graduates then incentivizing measures should be in place to attract them. Lower the cost of home grown education, provide adequate development processes to decrease drop rate, and more opportunities for employment upon graduation.

What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?

We all must participate in saving earth for future generations. The waste created by past and especially present earthlings has cause for concern in that, our over abundance for the need to have conveniences has placed the environment in an unhealthy state. We must become selfless and act upon it, thereby, dismissing the use of many plastics, opting to use less motorized vehicles (as much as possible), and water. We need to clean up the laundry list of activities we engage in and put the brakes on destruction.

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.

A historian figure dear to my heart comes from a more recent era. She is someone who embraced me, because she saw things in me that I did not envision. That person is the late great, Reverend Willie T. Barrow, former CEO and co-founder of Operation PUSH, (formerly named Operation Breadbasket at the time of its creation) alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson. As an American civil rights activist and minister, she was courageous, strong-willed, feisty and princely on wisdom. For me (along with other godchildren) she was known as ‘Mother Barrow,’ a mentor and loving godmother. Her small frame packed an unforgettable punch of words whenever in her presence. Her knowledge and wisdom was paramount yet her love was tough. One had to work hard for her love, but once you got it you learned tremendously. Mother Barrow gave me much advice with some of it tough to digest. She was instrumental in the growth of my son - ensuring that he was involved in civic activities, financial literacy, and more. When I decided to divorce she was so upset. She made me read her authored book, “How to Get Married—and Stay Married,” three times. Mother Barrow would tell me “you must be strong, cause there is a lot of work to be done out here and you can contribute. You should trust everyone and trust no one.” I love her. I miss her.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

No favorites. However, I do like action movies. As a child I hung out with my brothers so there was no time for girly TV shows (until I was older, LOL).

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