Running for: Illinois House, 37th District
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: First time candidate, President of Illinois National Organization for Women 2011-2019, Co-Founder of ERA Illinois (2016-2018)
Occupation: Global Marketing Manager
Education: Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with a triple concentration in Marketing, International Business, and Distribution Management, and a minor in Spanish.
Campaign website: michelleforillinois.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. Michelle Fadeley 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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on government, businesses, and personal finances. The priority is getting through this as safely as possible, saving as many lives as we can. There likely will be no way to cut our way out of the shortfall without causing even greater economic hardship in the state, putting more people out of work and closing more businesses. If Illinois can secure additional federal relief funds for impacts from COVID-19, that will reduce the amount of additional borrowing that would be needed. I also look forward to working with legislators to find viable solutions without increasing the financial strain on our residents.
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?
Nothing about this pandemic is easy, but our Governor has done an excellent job of navigating this pandemic by listening to those with expertise and getting to work right away. Our numbers and positivity rating were the best in the country under his leadership. This is especially impressive given our neighboring states did not come out as well. And, as local regions have gained more autonomy, some of their numbers have gone up significantly as they have further diverged from the original response by the state. For both transparency and results, I would give him an A.
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?
Our police officers are overtaxed with the overwhelming number of responsibilities we expect of them in our communities, including areas they are not experts in - areas like mental health, homelessness, substance abuse, and school discipline. Not only would these issues be better served by trained experts like social workers, but doing so would allow that time, funding, and officer resources to go to areas that could better increase community safety.
Furthermore, both police and the public need better data-sharing systems for improved transparency in issues from policing outcomes to gun violence prevention across county lines.
Finally, better training on use of force coupled with common-sense reforms such as the elimination of no-knock warrants would round out the range of ways we can improve policing for the officers themselves and the public.
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe requiring body cameras to be worn and turned on during any official interaction is beneficial for both the officers and the public.
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?
Springfield needs to change, and it’s bigger than any one person. If anyone is found guilty, they need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I will invite all of my future colleagues to stand with me in passing some of the strongest ethics reform bills in the country, including ensuring repayment of all money taken from the taxpayers, a range of lobbyist reforms that would target shadow lobbying and the revolving door between politicians and lobbyists, and banning red light cameras that so many politicians profited off.
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 am the recent president of the Illinois state chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). As part of that role, I co-founded ERA Illinois and helped Illinois adopt the Equal Rights Amendment in 2018.
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.
Our district has grown from a rural community to a bustling suburban area. Transportation issues such as overcrowded roads, safety, and crumbling infrastructure are big concerns. I would like to continue the work started by the capital bill and work with local governments to alleviate the strain on our roads, and improve the quality of our infrastructure for residents. Additionally, there are growing concerns in the community related to health care, from availability of mental health care facilities, to disability support services, to drug addiction treatment options, to senior services and prescription drug affordability. I will work with local and county officials and community stakeholders to address these gaps in our local services, and look for ways to make them affordable and accessible to any who need them.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
In addition to health care and ethics reform, my third top priority is better funding education. Early learning in Illinois has fallen behind the majority of other states, and funding for our state colleges and universities has fallen every year since 2004, resulting in rising tuition costs and ultimately lower student enrollment. Education is a critical bedrock to our future. Additionally, fixing the state funding formula for education can reduce the burden on local governments and provide property tax relief.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
The proposed graduated income tax is estimated to alleviate some tax burden for 97% of Illinois residents while allowing the state to better balance its budget. This is a win-win for people in the state of Illinois, and I am in favor.
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?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois had come a long way in a short amount of time in reducing the backlog of unpaid bills. Since the pandemic, however, there likely will be no way to cut our way out of the shortfall without causing even greater economic hardship in the state, putting more people out of work and closing more businesses. We will likely be facing additional borrowing, with the amount dependent on whether we will see additional federal relief funds.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
The wealth gap between the richest and poorer families more than doubled in the past three decades, with the bottom half of families in household wealth (with $97,000 or less in net worth) representing just 1% of total household wealth. At the same time, because of Illinois’ flat tax structure, the bottom 20% of earners pay a higher share of their income in taxes than the top 5% of earners. It’s time the wealthy pay their fair share. A small tax on those who have more than enough could make a big difference for Illinoisans.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
One thing that will improve the success of elementary and high schools from the start is better funding early education in Illinois. Studies show early learning can be the most critical when it comes to child development, and this is one area Illinois has fallen behind. Setting up children as they enter elementary and high school will ensure they are not behind from the start, having to try to catch up.
Additionally, Illinois should continue to work towards equitably funding schools across the state, while properly funding community services to reduce the burden on schools, allowing them to focus on education. Finally, strengthen evidence-based teaching, and address the teacher shortage to keep highly qualified teachers in our school system.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
In addition to making sure all our communities have access to secure jobs, affordable education, and other basic needs, there is common sense legislation that can address this problem in Illinois. Common sense legislation would include expanding background checks to include all gun sales, address the growing issue of ghost guns (homemade guns without any record or serial number) which skirt the background check process, as well as improve information sharing and enforcement.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I believe that the voters should make the decision on how long someone should stay in office, and that the electorate can enforce their own term limit in the voting booth.
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 is an ongoing issue, and political party should not dictate what actions are taken to stop it. Districts should be drawn with equal representation in mind. As one of my top priority issues, ethics reform should address the issue of fair maps as well.
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?
SB1639 was a great step in the right direction to changing the culture of lobbying in Springfield. I’d like to see a cooling off period looked at between leaving political office and becoming a lobbyist, and additional steps taken to address shadow lobbying.
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?
Consumers should have greater control over the use of their personal data. Currently, companies often employ an all-in or all-out agreement, despite some technology services being so ubiquitous that it can be severely restrictive to opt out of a particular service. Restricting the collection, use, and sale of this type of information should be under consumer control, and I would be in favor of looking at ways to ensure these options are offered to consumers.
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?
Illinois state colleges and universities have had their funding decreased almost every year since 2004. Additionally, during the budget crisis under Bruce Rauner’s administration, they took an additional big hit. This has resulted in a greater share of the costs being charged directly to students, in the form of higher tuitions and fees. The impact has been decreased enrollment, since it is often more affordable to go to an out-of-state institution. We need to re-invest in our state schools at the proper levels, and make them an affordable and attractive option once again.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
My focus is decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. Investing in and supporting energy diversification can be accomplished by state investment and incentives.
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.
I admire Jane Addams, and have visited the Hull House at least three times as an adult. Her list of work is extensive, but what I truly admire about Ms. Addams so greatly is the courage and perseverance for her causes despite public attacks calling her unpatriotic and unfeminine.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Deciding a favorite show of all time is challenging, because it really depends on the mood I’m in; my most recent favorite show, however, has been This Is Us. It’s a show that I consistently find moving, and really enjoy the character development.