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Ben Bierly, Illinois Senate 43rd District Republican nominee profile

His top priorities include property tax relief, per capita spending reductions and infrastructure.

Ben Bierly, Illinois Senate 43rd District Republican nominee, 2020 election candidate questionnaire
Ben Bierly, Illinois Senate 43rd District Republican nominee.
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Candidate profile

Ben Bierly, Major USMC (Retired)

Running for: IL Senate Dist. 43

Political party affiliation: Republican

Political/civic background:

Occupation: Professor of Political Science

Education: (highlights) US Naval Academy 1994 – BS History, Minors in Spanish and German

Command and Control Systems School 2001 – Comm. System Officer Course

Naval Justice School Newport 2005 – Military Justice Senior Officer

Penn State University 2011 – Grad. Certificate in Supply Chain Management

Regent University 2012 – M.Ed and MA Govt (Law and Public Policy)

Campaign website: ben4illinois.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BenBierlyforILStateSenate43

Twitter: https://twitter.com/benbierly

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben4illinois/


The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Ben Bierly submitted the following responses:

1. 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.

No response

2. 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?

I need to break Governor Pritzker’s performance into two periods. For the first 30 days, I would give Governor Pritzker a B in performance. He had the authority to declare a state of emergency for the pandemic and, given the unknowns, did what perhaps ought to be done at that time. We did not know how severe the pandemic would be or how fast it would spread. His only big mistake during the first 30 days was not calling an emergency session of the General Assembly to develop a proper plan for continuing operations past the 30-day limit.

After the 30 day authority expired on April 8th, Governor Pritzker has earned a solid F for his failure to follow the state and federal constitutions and the state’s own Emergency Management Agency Act. A continuing crisis is no reason for suspending the rights of citizens, including the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (think commerce and education). Not only has the governor refused to consider data that contradicts the narrative, but he has claimed powers to limit individual liberty that simply don’t exist.

3. 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?

We need to be very careful in how we proceed on this issue. George Floyd’s death was clearly an unnecessary tragedy and the police involved should be held accountable at the appropriate level. However, we need to consider real research into the perception of police brutality as a systemic issue. National FBI data does not support the claim of systemic racism and police brutality directed at minorities. This does not mean we can’t make some improvements.

I have said from the beginning of my campaign that we need to eliminate the use of civil asset forfeiture, especially since this policy violates the US 5th Amendment requirement for due process before property is taken from an individual who owns it. I am all for funding police to do their vital job of ensuring our safety, so police should not be confiscating property to sell for their needs.

With regard excessive force, there are two three we can consider. First, we need to ensure the transparency of investigations, so the public is informed. Second, we should make it easier for police departments to get rid of bad employees when necessary. Lastly, we can consider requiring individual police to carry liability insurance. We do not need to make it easy to sue police for doing their jobs, but when a police officer acts in bad faith, they should have to answer for that behavior.

We also need to consider our own responsibilities in engagement with law enforcement. Any reform we make needs to include better education – perhaps in social studies classes – to address what police must deal with and how the public can best help in that interaction. Your disagreement with their reasoning is something to be worked out after the interaction with appropriate judicial processes.

4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?

The use of body cameras is a logical step in protecting both the police and the public. More often than not, body cameras are proving the police have done the right thing in their interactions with the public. However, we should put limits on what is subject to release to the public. Police should be able to feel relaxed doing their jobs and making camera footage too available may have a chilling effect on their job. Only the footage of interactions with the public should be subject to release, or (preferably) law enforcement officials should be able to turn off the camera when not engaging members of the public.

5. 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?

As a life-long public servant and a retired Marine Corps officer, I find this whole matter rather disturbing. Public officials are supposed to be above reproach! This includes being beyond even the perceptions of wrongdoing. The ethics issues with the General Assembly are a clear and present danger to the proper operation of the state. The GA should hold a special session immediately to address the structural issues that have allowed this environment to grow. Ethics issues are like a black mold poisoning everything the GA produces. How long should we let something so detrimental continue to grow before we act?

Governor Pritzker should have called for Madigan’s immediate resignation! He then should have called for a special session to address the issue of ethics reforms, which could have been handled in conjunction with the required emergency session to address the COVID 19 crisis that the governor failed to call. It appears that Governor Pritzker may be complicit in the arrangement and that may be why he has not done so. The governor also has his own allegations of ethics violations to deal with as well. He is possibly being investigated for tax evasion, having pulled the toilets from his Gold-Coast home to avoid paying property taxes on the property.

The two things we can do to address the issue immediately are to move the Legislative Inspector General’s Office to the Judiciary and to establish term limits for elected officials at the state and local levels. Moving the IG Office will guarantee its independence and ability to act on allegations of wrongdoing. Setting term limits will help to keep legislators from gaining so much power that they become untouchable.

6. 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.

I have been teaching political science at colleges in the area for the last two years. This is a public service, especially since I could get paid a lot more to do other work. However, students need dedicated professionals who love to teach students how to think about and learn subjects (though not specifically what to think).

I have also been serving as a precinct committeeman and chairman of the Jackson Township Republicans. In this rile, I have been communicating with people in Jackson Township about politics, elections, and issues.

Lastly, I was an assistant wrestling for two years (but not this immediate past year) for Joliet Steel Kids wrestling and Jolie Area Wrestling Club. My younger kids lost interest about the same time I entered this race, so I did not coach this past year.

7. 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) Property Taxes: place property taxes under one taxing authority to give residents one body to hold accountable

2) Spending: reduce spending to national average per capita spending

3) Infrastructure: water, roads, bridges, and even proper food source sin depressed areas

8. What are your other top legislative priorities?

1) Ethics: Move the Legislative IG to the Judiciary Branch for complete independence

2) Term Limits: 10 years – and I will hold myself to this.

3) Right of Self-defense: the inalienable right to life includes the right to defend oneself without threat of automatic criminal allegations

4) Fair (i.e. impartial) districts, coupled with voter integrity: one citizen, one vote

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

We don’t have to guess what the future holds if we turn to Pritzker’s graduated income tax. While speaking at a Des Plains Chamber of Commerce event, Illinois state Treasurer Michael Frerichs told us clearly that retirement income will be on the table if the Citizens allow this progressive income tax. Furthermore, there is no guarantee in the proposed amendment that lawmakers won’t change the tax brackets and tax rates in the future! Lastly, the idea of the fair tax fixing our problems is at best a laughable attempt, and at worst is a downright dishonest attempt at bilking We the People without fixing the real issue – our state spending!

10. Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. 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?

We the People do NOT need any higher taxes! Illinoisans already shoulder the higher tax burden in the nation, based on state and local taxes and fees vs. income. State Reps Connor (85) and Walsh Jr (86) are even trying to make I-80 a tollway through Will County! We don’t need new taxes – we need less! There is only one exception I might consider: grossly excessive state and local pensions - over $!00k maybe - might be an appropriate target to provide relief to the taxpayers of Illinois. Public servants should not be getting rich off We the People!

[Note: Please be careful to represent this view accurately! I am not advocating a general tax raise in any way, but a very narrow avenue of fixing the evils of government perpetrated against We the People – and I am open to a bi-partisan agreement on where that line should lay.]

Raising taxes and fees will not fix our debt problem! Our real problem in Illinois is that our government spends money like a drunken sailor in a whorehouse! (Sorry for the crude visualization here). Illinois needs a law like the Anti-Deficiency Act that provides criminal and civil liability for government actors who obligate the government for more than their departments/offices have on hand to spend. This is already in effect with federal offices. I could have gone to prison had I done in the Marine Corps what they do in Springfield!

We need to reduce state spending while prioritizing education and infrastructure, commit to improving our bond status to AAA, eliminate the $55M in annual corruption spending, and fix our pension systems.

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

The only retirement income that should be considered for taxation is that as a result of public employment under a defined benefit plan where the retirement is in excess of $100k per retiree. Consider the “50 high-3” plan used to pay military retirees. Under that plan, a member having served 20 years will receive 50% of the average of their highest three years of basic pay. This does not include housing, food, or medical, which means civilian plans should have that factor taken into account as well. If that plan is good enough for our military, it should be good enough for public employees. Also consider why any public employee would be paid more than the governor of the state. Aside from a very few highly skilled professions, public employees should not be receiving so much pay.

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

Stop crowing about graduating our youth when they are doing so poorly on basic skills.

Reading literacy is a must – no child should be pushed along through the grades until they can exceed competency requirements for their grade levels. Doing so only sets them up for failure later in the education.

Remove special interests – no outside groups should be entering our schools, except public services like fire and police. Too much time for education is lost trying to appease some special political interest.

Teach our kids how to handle real-world problems instead of how to avoid them.

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

Violence plagues America – especially in our cities. Stop putting an adjective on it and start addressing the real problem. We teach kids in school that they are a cosmic accident, that there are no boundaries, that life is meaningless, and that we want them to go through the motions whether they learn or not. Then we wonder why our kids are confused and hopeless. We turn a blind eye to rioting, gangs, and personal violence and call it a social crime instead of personal crime. If you want to truly solve this problem, start by acknowledging that the legislature will never fix it. This is a cultural problem that must be addressed person to person in our schools, on our streets, and in our homes. Having said that, there are some things the legislature can do to help:

1) Remove disincentives for two-parent families.

2) Teach people the skills they need to leave poverty

3) Allow churches, with parental permission, to engage students at schools (yes, this is legal)

4) Look at roadblocks to community revitalization

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

I favor term limits and will be proposing a 10-year term limit for members of the General Assembly and other elected positions throughout the state at both state and local levels. I have no problem with someone serving 10 years in one position and then running for another position, but they should not stay too long in office. My reasons for this are quite simple. First, politicians tend to naturally collect power in their positions – the longer they stay, the more power they collect. This is never to the benefit of the people they are supposed to serve. As we have seen with Madigan, with power comes the fealty of those whom the politician is in a position to help, leading to a sense of being above accountability to either the voters or the law.

15. 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?

Both parties have been guilty of making redistricting about power.

1) The boundaries should be drawn by a third party and then approved by referendum of the people – take the parties out of it entirely.

2) If not a referendum, the new districts could be approved by the state Supreme Court, notwithstanding a petition challenge of the people.

3) The boundaries should be drawn with the shortest circumference possible – no horseshoes or long tendrils reaching from Chicago (or other areas) cutting up territories and votes.

16. 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 will answer this during the interview. Please see my other answers dealing with ethics reforms.

17. 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?

While I certainly have an opinion about this, I believe this is a national issue. Congress should really be taking this up for two reasons: 1) information systems are omnipresent, not heeding political boundaries, which makes this properly a federal issue; and 2) we need a unified response across all states to limit the confusion about policies for information companies to follow. For my own personal opinion – based on legal and policy experience – I do believe there’s a line between giving access to personal data for commercial use and for surveillance and legal pursuits. Data should certainly be protected/encrypted, so there remains an expectation of privacy. With that in place, the 4th Amendment will protect private citizens from unlawful search and seizure of such information.

18. 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?

My first impression is that it’s not our universities that’s the problem – it our state. Kids are keen to pay attention to their future possibilities and if they don’t see potential in the state, there’s very little incentive to them staying here for college. I would also tend to think that the quality of the programs might impact this figure. Students look for reputable colleges in their field, and are willing to go out of state to get what they are looking for.

Responsiveness may be part of the issue. My own son had a full scholarship to NIU, less room and board, but ended up enlisting the Army. The primary reason for his decision was the college was difficult to communicate with and offered too little help too late in terms of actually getting him registered for class and into his dorm. Id have liked him to go to college and then go into the military, but quite frankly, NIU blew that opportunity.

Retention has been a problem even at the junior college level, which suggests we might need to invest some money into studying the problem more thoroughly. Since I am starting my doctorate in education policy this month with Liberty University, I might just have to take that up for a thesis! I do know program quality could be improved to help improve retention. Higher education institutions have turned to adjunct professors to keep their costs down, but I have to wonder at what cost. It’s hard for adjuncts to give as much time to teaching and preparation of their courses as regular full-time professors (I am speaking from experience here). The bottom line is we need to do a professional study to determine the cause and the cure, rather than leave this to politicians to solve, like they have all the answers.

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

Environmental policy shouldn’t be an either-or issue. Conservatives don’t want a dirty place to live, but we don’t believe we’re about to destroy the planet if we don’t take some drastic measure that a Swedish teen is yelling at us to take. We read reports and remember the environmentalist blunders. We want clean air, clean water, and clean streets. We’re excited by free-market incentives that make it easy to be clean. I personally love what Tesla is doing in changing our industries! Environmentalism really comes down to what we learned in kindergarten. Don’t hurt others. Don’t leave a mess. If you make a mess, clean it up. Have fun. Learn something new. If you come to my house, you’ll see solar panels that are designed to provide 80% of our power needs. You’ll also see a hybrid van that can run up to 40 miles just on electric.

20. 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.

While everyone may be big on Abraham Lincoln, it turns out that Ronald Reagan was born and raised in Illinois as well. He graduated Eureka College in 1932 and moved out of the state to become a sports announcer in Iowa. My impression of Ronald Reagan was formed watching him as president of the United States. He used humor and generally brought people together from both sides of the aisle to get things done. I don’t remember specific politics other than what the average person may remember (I was 10 when he was elected president).

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

Alaska the Last Frontier has caught my imagination. Their kind of goofy, but still a loveable family that doesn’t ask for or expect much, helps others, and works hard.