Running for: State Representative, District 52 Illinois
Political party affiliation: Green Party
Political/civic background: I have a political and civic background in both Australia and the USA. In Australia, my experience was pertaining to refugees and asylum seekers and the granting of ministerial discretion and research required for reform on Aboriginals that were being detained in excessively large numbers and measures to help rehabilitate Aboriginals that were considered delinquent youth. I also have seen my father take up on a Parliamentary inquiry into the handling of policing. He was awarded with a Centenary Medal for his community work. My mother worked for the UN when it came to malaria eradication in Pakistan before she married. Growing up in that environment has led me to want to take up initiatives for the community here.
In Chicago, I became a volunteer blogger for the UN on the platform of Center for African Affairs and Global Peace (CAAGLOP). After that, I became a communications officer with the Muslim Women’s Aliiance (MWA) and an outreach fopr entreupeneurs in the Chicagoland region with OPEN Chicago. My more recent work is outlined below.
Occupation: Subrogation Paralegal
Education: Bachelor of Science, Master of Law and Legal Practice, Paralegal Certificate
Campaign website: under construction
Facebook: Alia Sarfraz
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. Alia Sarfraz 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.
An obligation of the government is to raise revenue to support its functionality and we have not done that. Corruption and waste is part of the problem. That is why I support the creation of a citizens’ auditing board, with investigative authority, to supplement the work of the auditor general. However, spending cuts targeting real waste alone cannot fully restore stability to our operational budget. It is definitely not caused by excessive spending, excessive state employment or overpaid public employees.
That structural revenue problem is caused by the fact that Illinois has one of the most regressive tax systems. I propose a sales tax on speculative trading in Illinois, as occurs on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Board Options Exchange, Board of Trade and Stock Exchange. While even the poorest Illinoisans must pay steep sales taxes on necessities, the wealthy purchasers who spend tens of trillions of dollars on options, futures, credit default swaps and other derivatives do not pay any sales tax whatsoever on sales that occur at these Illinois facilities. A minuscule tax, of only a fraction of one percent on such transactions, would raise billions of dollars in new revenue. I also propose taxes or fees on emitters of pollution, including greenhouse gases.
Also utilization of a public bank will allow the state to use the revenues it collects to invest in authorized projects that benefit the people of Illinois, and keep the interest collected for the benefit of the people—rather than enrich the private financial institutions that prey upon workers, homeowners and taxpayers. Such a bank could provide low-interest credit to Illinois-based businesses, farmers and college students, finance a Green capital bill, and help the state pay its bills without additional reliance on tax revenues. It could help moderate the effects of economic downturns by making credit more widely available at reasonable rates of interest. North Dakota has had a successful public bank that has helped it balance its budget since 1919.
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?
Based on the national handling scale I would give him a B+. Pritzker showed that he was able to curtail the spread of the virus and did his best to secure protective equipment. Closing the whole of Illinois down was not necessary in remote areas. Keeping the City of Chicago and other highly densely populated areas under shutdown was the correct thing to do, especially when it came to incoming traffic at the airport. I think each state district should have had a larger say in whether business fully needed to be shut down.
The need to focus on building immunity and preventative health measures was overlooked. The need to shift billions away from unhealthy food processing and focus on building vitamin D supply. The need to make America healthier is apparent. This is what is leading to a marked decline in having healthy humans being able to cope with disease at large. We need to scut the subsidies for big, unhealthy agribusiness.
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?
I advocate for the demilitarization of techniques used by officers. A significant amount of the training that they receive is counterterrorism training when they are dealing with civilians. This is not warfare. A large number of officers are recruited from the army and need to understand that the threat level is significantly less.
In looking at some proposals, I agree that chokeholds need to be outlawed, and requiring officers to intervene if a colleague is using unlawful physical force, with a penalty of decertification for failing to do so. Such a bill will require all local law enforcement agencies and the state patrol to issue body cameras to officers, to be activated during interactions with the public. Among other provisions, it requires a police officer to have a legal basis for making contact with a member of the public.
The implementation of “no element of qualified immunity or any other kind of immunity” can be claimed by law enforcement officers as a defense in wrongful death or physical injury cases is necessary to shift a burden. Having a study into policing and law enforcement systems, in response to “deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers,” would be beneficial. This can include organizations such as: ACLU, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Urban League. Recommendations then need to be made in light of this and in what they see happening as a trend with new proposals.
Antiterrorism measures would include condemnation of “extremist organizations” such as Antifa and Boogaloo for acts on domestic soil. This would require persons seeking to become licensed as law enforcement officers in the state to complete training on topics including implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, non-lethal force and support available to law enforcement officers.
We need a board of inquiry into allegations and a continual evaluation of how the process is working.
4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
There should be greater transparency on both sides, which is best done with the use of body cameras. It will make officers think twice about acting inappropriately and it can offer the officers protection from accusations of misconduct. Therefore, it will reduce the number of cases that get shown and will replace cameras that are randomly placed on the streets which is an unnecessary cost and haven’t really proven to be much more effective. Plus, in a court of criminal law, we look to the standard of being, “beyond reasonable doubt.” This would assist those who investigate or a jury decide whether or not that standard is met. As far as funding towards this goes, I would end the 1033 program and reallocate funds to cameras, as those weapons are for military use.
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?
Checks and balances operate so that they can be checked by the powers and it is unfortunate that corporate money funds a lot of policy. The reason why we do not have enough of a “check” is because both parties rely on corporate money to fund their campaign. We need Illinois politicians to commit to a standard where they do not receive corporate contributions. For instance, judge candidates can receive money from law firms. We need to ensure that our residents have fair access in the legislature and in the judiciary by having this taken out of the system so that legal decision making is not swayed by certain law firms and the clients that they represent.
Ethic reforms would begin when corporate money is taken out of politics and ensures that there are more choices on the ballot. Room for more fair ballot access and more parties running would also become another form of check and balance.
We need greater representation of the people and I believe he should resign, it is only fair and the dignified way out.
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 believe in equality and justice for all. I have been involved in various organizations across the Chicagoland region.
When it came to Chicago Mayor campaigns, I have given my input and feedback with Dorothy Brown, Amara Enyia and Lori Lighfoot. I am a community liaison for all and am currently a part of the Rainbow PUSH coalition. I have given feedback to the Muslims for Biden campaign and my recommendations have been taken up. I was also an assigned Bernie Captain. Recently, I have even had Trump’s pastor reach out to me telling me that her, “spirit led her to me.” This shows that I am on a political radar and am able to work across all communities and am prepared to listen and problem solve.
Just in the last few weeks, I was willing to challenge the State Board of Elections on the transparency of their voter rolls and am now working to campaign with a Libertarian whose Congressional District 8 also overlaps with District 52 at the State level. I am here to show that in America we can work together in a climate which is being depicted as divided.
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.
Empowerment of local business - taxes should be waived when purchasing local and from small business providers. That would incentivize the purchase of local services and products.
Election reform - there needs to be more voices on the ballot as a check and balance on the system. The signatures required for other party candidates should be equivalent to the amount required for Democrat or Republican. There needs to be ranked choice voting. A lot of people I canvassed with were unhappy about the system.
Keeping the area Green - this is consistent with community values. While outwardly trends may want to change this, locals want to keep it this way and I support that.
8. What are your other top legislative priorities?
Empowerment of people by self sustainability - I feel that people need to be more self sufficient within their household environments when it comes to work set up and even to ability to school and have produce within the community instead of relying heavily on the external. COVID-19 should be a big wake up call when it comes to this. We need to be operating on an “abundancy mindset” and to get there need to realize that America has more than enough land to support even the giving of an acre to each family. 60% of all land is unaccounted for so we, as citizens, want to know what the use of that is. We could end homelessness, empower people and ease debt without inflation with just that land alone. The right to life is a constitutional right. An “abundancy mindset” can be adopted in school curriculums, by letting children work on their gifts and talents but also introducing ways in which they are able to handle and control finances from early on. “Abundancy” in health starts by healthy eating. I believe that Americans can provide healthcare for all in an “abundancy mindset” and it would be more cost effective. We can have “an abundancy” of produce and local supply of food, so why do we rely on the external?
Having the “abundancy mindset” can afford and end to homelessness, reduced violence and crime, keeping folks busy in empowerment and working on themselves and their goals, leading to an optimum potential which benefits all.
9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I believe in the fair tax but have my reservations that they will try to hike up other taxes which will make it difficult for working class families.The bill is flawed in certain ways - it does not include an exit tax or a tariff tax. In other words, an exit tax should be in place for a person or company that wants access to our market without paying into the fair tax system; they would have a tariff to protect our business and residents. That also removes the argument of causing people to leave the state and losing jobs. The current problem with the tax system is that the wealthy have more of an ability to have write-offs in tax and, generally speaking, the middle class have a higher percentage to income ratio in payment of tax. In its introduction, there needs to be shown where the taxes are going and how they plan to control spending, Perhaps if this tax is implemented, Illinoisans need to be shown where possible breaks in tax can be afforded. People already feel like tax in Illinois is high and it is the worst possible time for introduction. People want relief in tax somehow and it seems great at a certain level but when you have the current Governor making statements admitting that there are no guarantees in future hikes is where people are legitimately concerned (Source ABC 7 interview April 23, 2019 Chicago). People that undergo divorce suffer the most financially and should have some form of relief when it comes to filing during the period it is getting court approval. Single parent families get hit the hardest. We need to be more accommodating of these scenarios too. Just because a family is married should not be a reason to increase tax either which is another proposal under this scheme.
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?
Having unfunded pension liabilities means that government workers should be receiving more in pension benefits than was set aside for them. This is their right as an employee and there are strong protections for benefits of this nature. The State has a constitutional duty to honor its promises to public servants, retirees and surviving spouses. That is a BIG problem, we treat people as disposable these days and the 401K plans came about because companies do not want to pay. We should have had it to a point where everyone had a pension and a union to back them. Funds should be guaranteed without risks. The government has a role in generating income.
Corruption and waste is part of the problem. I support the creation of a citizens’ auditing board, with investigative authority, to supplement the work of the auditor general. However, spending cuts targeting real waste cannot restore stability to our operational budget. The structural budget deficit is not caused by excessive spending, excessive state employment or overpaid public employees. It is caused by a structural revenue problem.
They also should not be mixing pension funds with the general funds, just like they have been doing with the social security funds. It should also be taxed separate from the general fund.
I discussed my proposals for income generation which included utilization of a public bank in response to question (1). Having a public bank in place would have saved from the CPS fiasco in 2003 through 2007, when $1 billion worth of auction-rate securities, with derivative contracts called interest-rate swaps, in a bid to lower borrowing costs. Under these risky speculative agreements, now known as “toxic swaps,” the CPS was able to borrow large sums of money but agreed to swap interest rates with the banks in the future. Lenders like Loop Capital, Chase Bank, and Bank of America ended up profiting while the CPS will end up paying over $100 million and much more in added costs.
11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
To be truly “tough” on crime means attacking the causes of crime as much as possible, focusing on crimes that truly harm society, and focusing on turning offenders into productive, law-abiding citizens. Shootings have seen a recent spike. Mayor Lightfoot attributes it to lockdowns, shutting of the economy, an area hit hardest by the virus and due to gang prevalence. The root cause of what contributes to this culturesis: lack of resources, access to education, jobs, broken families, seeing violence and a lack of hope or feeling of escape. Young kids get hired to sell drugs and do not even know what they are getting into. The violence in music, video games and seen on the street is feeding young children. Such persons become prey and vulnerable. A 2017 Joint Intelligence report emphasized it was due to a steady supply of drugs which flow from Mexico to Chicago. We have solutions and resources but need to create the political will to want to fix this. We need to bring community mobilization, opportunities, social intervention and organizational change and development. I would restrict the type of music that is glorifying this culture, games and shows. We would need to have the help of local community members so it is not an us vs. them mentality. At risk teenagers need to be spoken to, a sense of trust needs to be developed with an elder peer, positive goals need to be created, early intervention and learning meditation, talent workshops, gang free school environments, and the connection with politicians willing to put an end to this. Installation of street cameras in these areas and if the addiction problem is too much then the creation of free clinics which supervise and help addicts get off.
14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
Term limits keep our government officials in office enough to have experience, give time to enjoy another aspect of life, a chance to run for the seat again in a non-consecutive term, and to have more people experience being in office. Moreover, it is a form of check and balance on power given. There would also be less time spent campaigning and more time working instead. Having them in place will also help get pensions under control:
- 2-year seats, maximum of 3 consecutive terms;
- 3-year seats, maximum of 3 consecutive terms;
- 4-year seats, maximum of 2 consecutive terms; and
- 6-year seats, maximum of 2 consecutive terms.
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?
Gerrymandering is an issue and based on population size and change in city structure over the years, it is time we revisited some boundary issues and should be doing so on a regular basis. There are some people living in unincorporated areas of Cook county paying much less tax than people who live next door to them in the same street. Unincorporated people do not get as quick access to police as do regular residents of the county. If this is not done, we just have to strictly adhere to the boundaries of the districts. Why are certain people being favored? Again, this circles back to possible corporate controlled funding of campaigns.
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?
This was a good attempt at giving the legislature a “new moral compass,” and instills some level of trust by the public in the General Assembly. Lobbyists do influence politics and this is well known. I feel that it gives greater transparency on whether a political figure is working as a lobbyist. If so, the political contributions should not be coming in.
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?
We live in a society where people feel that their rights are getting more and more infringed on a daily basis. People like Zuckerburg have capitalized off selling distribution of information. Instead of those platforms selling information or having data breaches, a person should be able to choose whether or not they wish to make certain disclosures about themself and whether or not that is up “for sale.” In this piece, you should know I am all about checks and balances and so an independent body regulating this should be formed. A model similar to the EU General Data Protection Regulations would be better than what we have now.
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?
Giving to our future generation is only something that contributes to the making of America as a whole, and we have to start that in Illinois. Illinois can generate enough funds, have a public bank and be able to afford to give free public education. Government spending on education pays off in the long run, and is the best “investment”. Why? Because better-educated people are more productive, hold higher-paying jobs, and create more jobs and new businesses, creating future government revenue. They normally stay out of trouble, impose less cost on our criminal justice and prison systems and social service agencies. They create a better home environment and better opportunities for their own children.
19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
A holistic and sustainable approach to our relationship with this planet and all life that it supports must be one of the biggest goals I have. For every tree taken down, there should be ones to replace it. I am against the privatization of water, as it is a human right. Looking into the threats of agribusiness when it comes to the presence of toxic chemicals, radioactive waste and pesticides. Meanwhile, new challenges are arising, such as agribusiness corporations that are attempting to manipulate and control the genetic makeup of our food supplies. I stand for empowerment of local farmers and fresh produce for this reason and want to become more self sustainable in our food supply. I believe that every person that is putting their land to use for growing vegetables should be able to get a tax break. Let’s incentivize the people.
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.
The warrior spirit of Muhammad Ali, who made his home in Chicago for some time. He had an ability to be known and loved by all that strikes me the most. His quotes are iconic and still resonate with the people today. He is a great source of motivation for people. There is not one story that a person has not narrated to me that doesn’t hold him in high esteem. He touched every corner of the globe. His prowess in the ring, the stance he took on issues and charisma makes him unforgettable and a true “people’s champ”. I used to watch his speeches and matches get televised in Australia when I was a young child. He was bold and brave. His actions as a conscientious objector to the war led to a counterculture generation. He has carried one of my cousins on his shoulders when visiting overseas. I was blessed enough to attend his funeral and so he has left a marking on my soul, as with the rest of this world.
21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Favorites have tended to change with time and perspective. When I was younger, my parents used to play Gandhi, Muhammad Ali speeches and a mix of Bollywood blockbusters that featured Amitabh Bachan. As I grew up it became the usual cartoons: Scooby Doo, She-Ra, The Jetsons and The Flintstones. Later it evolved to Seinfeld, South Park and Friends. Now, I prefer reality TV based that is practical or documentaries that teach. I managed to watch a whole Netflix series called, “The Messiah,” mainly due to its controversial nature and it was short enough to be done with it. I do not have the luxury of time and wish I did.