Leslie Armstrong-McLeod, Illinois House 64th District Democratic nominee profile
Her top priorities include unemployment issues amid COVID-19, equitable education funding and a reduction of ethylene oxide emissions in Lake and McHenry counties.
Running for: State Representative, District 64
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Union President, Community Consolidated School District 46 Paraprofessionals and Support Staff Labor Union Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504. Former Vice President and Board Member of the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (INSPRA). Former Executive Board Member of the Grayslake Arts Alliance.
Occupation: Media Relations Specialist/Webmaster at Community Consolidated School District 46, Grayslake, IL
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Millikin University, Decatur, IL
Campaign website: thepeopleforleslie.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. Leslie Armstrong-McLeod 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 needs to approve the Fair Tax Plan to relieve the burden on lower-wage workers and require the top 3% of earners to pay their fair share.
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 would give the governor a B+ in his handling of the pandemic. As an education professional, I appreciated the quick and decisive action on the stay-at-home order early on in March. I appreciated his daily briefings with Dr. Ezike and the decisions made to limit activities in the public. As the pandemic has continued I have been disappointed with discrepancies in the governor’s orders and guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and unobtainable requirements and guidelines for the reopening of schools.
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?
Yes. While I have the utmost respect for those who choose to become law enforcement officers, we need to take a hard look at policing policies, namely no-knock warrants, excessive use of force, and use of body cameras. We also need to stop the militarization of the police departments. I would like to see more transparency in law enforcement, much like you see in state reporting for education with interactive report cards that are easily accessible by the public. The public should not have to dig to find information like how many officers are employed by a village, what is their educational background, what training have they had, how much are they paid, how long have they been on the job. We need more transparency for the public. Law enforcement needs to go back to serving and protecting the public.
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
Yes. Law enforcement officers should be visibly accountable to the public. I feel that officers who turn off their body cameras during working hours need to be subject to discipline or termination.
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?
If there was wrongdoing on the part of the House Speaker, then, yes, he needs to resign.
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.
In my current position with Community Consolidated School District 46, I serve as the president of the support staff labor union and work on behalf of custodians, school office workers, classroom program assistants, and computer technicians. As a photographer, I have donated artwork to the Village of Fox Lake for their summer art series for the past several years, donated photographs to the local Town Planner of Northern Illinois, the Fox Lake-Richmond-Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce, and the Friends of the Old Courthouse in Woodstock for inclusion in their book “A Week in the Life of McHenry County”. I have worked as a volunteer judge for the Lake County 4H, worked on the planning committee for the Fox Lake Earth Day Gathering events, and assisted the Grant Township Democrats with their roadside cleanup efforts.
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.
- Support for working families, especially unemployment issues due to the COVID-19 crisis
- Equitable education funding
- Reducing Ethylene Oxide (EtO) emissions in Lake and McHenry Counties
What are your other top legislative priorities?
Strengthening worker protections, women’s reproductive rights, clean energy
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I am a proponent of the Fair Tax Plan. I believe the current flat tax is fundamentally unfair to lower wage and middle-class workers. Those that can pay more should pay more. People before profits.
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?
How Illinois has handled its finances in the past obviously doesn’t work. We need to take a hard look at cutting spending and not just raising revenue and figure out an equitable way to get this state back on track.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Yes. As one of only three states that exempt all retirement income from taxation, approving the Fair Tax plan with an initial 1% tax on retirement income will greatly help with state finances. The exemption on retirement incomes is the state’s most expensive exemption. I have nothing against retiring in style, but Illinois can’t afford that right now.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
Illinois needs to continue to work on reforming the funding of schools in Illinois. While the evidence-based-funding (EBF) is a good start, Illinois needs to shift away from the property-tax based school funding model that puts the burden on communities across Illinois and adds to the inequity in districts across the state.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
The Legislature can look at increasing funding for mental health interventions, firearm registration, and regulations and tax on ammunition.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I do not favor term limits. I value the vote of each and every individual to speak to whether or not an elected official should remain in office and for how long.
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?
Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November for an independent mapping process, but I feel that it is important that the voters choose their representation, not the other way around. I would support the effort to end gerrymandering.
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?
Corruption by state and local officials is disheartening and damages trust between the public and elected officials. It is hard to find yourself lumped into the general consensus that all politicians are criminals. I want to work to change that perception by being transparent in all that I do, and require that other elected officials do the same.
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?
The selling of personal data should not be permitted, and businesses found to be profiting off of the sale of collected personal data should face stiff penalties. The fines need to be higher than the potential profits to be a disincentive to the practice.
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 needs to make sure to offer programs and degrees that are of interest and benefit to students, as well as hire and retain quality educators.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
As a proponent of clean energy, passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is my priority for Illinois.
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.
Jane Addams, hands down. Born and raised in Illinois she was one of the most prominent female public figures in the United States for her social work, her work with immigrant families, her role in the women’s suffrage movement, her co-founding of Hull House, and her co-founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. She advocated for women’s and children’s issues, was an advocate for the arts, and provided meeting space for labor union organizers. Jane Addams is really the embodiment of everything I hold near and dear in my heart. A desire to serve the public, support the arts and education, and strive for the betterment of all people.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
The West Wing. As a new candidate and an avid follower of politics, rewatching The West Wing became a priority during the governor’s Stay-At-Home order.