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Clayton D. Cleveland, Illinois House 80th District Libertarian nominee profile

His top priorities include education, improved safety and infrastructure at the Joliet/Elwood intermodal and economic development.

Candidate profile

Clayton D. Cleveland

Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 80th District

Political party affiliation: Libertarian Party

Political/civic background: First time Candidate

Occupation: Full Time: Asset and Acquisition Manager at a Real Estate Company. Part Time: Organic Farmer and Inventor

Education: Master’s in Financial Management from Drake University

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/clayton_il


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. Clayton D. Cleveland 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.

While the Federal Reserve has been magically creating Trillions of dollars, Illinois politicians have continued to overspend and past promises are continually catching up. Illinois needs to actually admit to its financial despair and work on consolidating and correcting its errors. The current economic environment provides Illinois with a great opportunity to reach out to the central bank and put forth a refinance and recovery plan.

First, Illinois needs to account for all of its off balance sheet debts. We need an honest assessment of all the future liabilities. Then consolidate its off balance sheet debts with its other bond obligation and repackage everything into one financial instrument. In exchange for the consolidation of Illinois debts, we need to be willing to outlaw the practices that put us in the position in the first place and set expiration dates and time horizons for all government expenditures. The goal of this would be to put the burden of proof on the program and allow for greater adaptation to changing populations.

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?

Being generous, Gov. JB Pritzker deserves a D for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar to Gilligan’s 3 hour tour or the Axiom in Wall-E spending 700 years on the 5 year cruise, Illinois is in month 5 of the 15 days to flatten the curve. Pritzker was a key driver of convincing citizens that if we only take away liberties and freedoms for only a little while then it will be over. Our governmental policies have destroyed the livelihoods of millions and the mental health of millions more, while failing to protect the most vulnerable.

First of all, we failed at protecting the people that needed it most. When I have spoken to workers from assisted care and developmental centers, there is a common trend that worker’s felt the facilities were forced to take on patients with Covid even without the resources to manage. A local facility was fighting to get government permits in order to finish an isolated wing to best serve the patients, but this process was deemed non essential.

The lack of preparedness and communication throughout all levels of our government has been extremely poor. On March 3rd, I received an email from my local Congressman stating “the risk to the general public remains low.” Within two weeks, Governor Pritzker had shut down schools, bars and restaurants, and a shelter in place order. The State went from 0 to 100 within two weeks. We went from free to scared to go outside during a month’s time.

The crackdown on the outdoors and nature has been mindboggling. Pritzker and government officials have been more than happy to shut down trails, the state parks, local playgrounds, and many other outdoor activities, but feel like it is normal that people should be locked in close spaces breathing the same air at a much higher rate than normal. Early evidence showed that the transmission of the disease outdoors was very low and the primary source of transmission was between family members. People believed our government that we were staying inside to keep the virus outside, but in actuality we were locking ourselves in with the virus.

Pritzker and government officials have focused on fear. The government focus should have been on health and wellness and not fear and anxiety. As a government official, I would have been promoting exercise, instead of threatening people taking walks. The government should be promoting positive diets and steps to fight obesity, which has been one of the leading factors in Covid deaths. Government threats have increased into government actions with the government issuing expansive fines and arrests for challenging their authority.

While Illinois is in a much improved situation from May, we have failed to address the more long term consequences of the lockdown. The measures against small businesses will harm the livelihoods and well being of millions of Illinoisans. From a business standpoint, an estimated 24,000 Illinois restaurants will never reopen. From a quality life standpoint, the situation is so dire right now that a recent CDC survey found that 25% of 18-24 year olds and 16% of 25-44% have “seriously considered suicide” in the past month. This is a serious crisis that needs to be addressed. We need to start taking measures to address the problems created by the lockdowns, while still recognizing the severity of the disease. A potential vaccine and widespread inoculations may still be more than a year away. We need to start learning to fight the disease without destroying our lives.

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?

Legislators should look at reforms in methodology of policing, but a greater focus should be in reforming the legal system. If legislators would work to reduce the number of victimless crimes, then there would be fewer negative interactions between citizens and police. Streamlining the legal system and increasing understanding of laws and rights would help both police and citizens. Police are being asked to enforce laws that run counter to individual freedom, which can cause hostile interactions.

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

Yes, I would support law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. It would improve accountability and transparency.

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?

If Speaker Madigan is found to have committed bribery, especially at the alleged scale, the question should be whether or not he belongs in prison and not just asking about his resignation. Mike Madigan is 100% to blame. Regardless of whether or not the courts convict Madigan, he still should resign. His underlings, allies, and associates allegedly profited at the expense of $450 Million from Illinois residents.

Some of the ethics reforms that the legislature needs to undertake are a two year waiting period for lobbying and consulting for politicians leaving office, clear registration by lobbyist, and mandatory recusal for conflict of interest.

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.

This is my first time running for public office. Over the past seven years, I have worked with an organization to help expand educational opportunities in the community and help provide college scholarships.

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) Lincoln Way North and Rich East Closures

Two of the public high schools (Lincoln Way North and Rich East) serving the district have closed permanently, reducing opportunity for students, increasing costs, and costing tax payers tens of millions of dollars. The only solutions put forward were more public funds. We need efforts to bring in outside money and outside ideas to help our educational system.

2) Elwood and Joliet Intermodal

The expansion of the CenterPoint Intermodal Port has been a boon to certain aspects of the economy. While there have been many positives, it has also placed a strain on the local infrastructure and safety of residents. We need to work to balance the economic impact on the regional economy with the safety and infrastructure with local residents.

3) Improving Empty Retail Space

Throughout the district, there are large swathes of empty retail, commercial, and industrial space. Instead of providing tax benefits to develop new land, the community focus and tax benefits should go to revitalizing the empty existing spaces.

8. What are your other top legislative priorities?

1. Ballot Access Reform.

In 2018, almost half of the IL House of representative races were unopposed. We are supposedly part of a representative Republic and an essential part of our government is having choices in the electoral process. Americans love having choices when it comes to the grocery stores, entertainment platforms, dining sources, but our current electoral system denies us any choice. Illinois has some of the most stringent ballot requirements of any states.

2. Eliminating Government Corruption and Creating Transparency

It is no secret that Illinois is well known for its machine politics and corruption. It is time that the government starts representing the people and not the politicians. I will push for term limits, limits on lobbying and consulting when politicians leave office, and legislative recusals when donors are involved.

3. Reducing Government Bureaucracy and Redundancy

Illinois has nearly 7,000 different taxing authorities, which is over 1600 more than Texas, the next closest state, that has 2.7x the population and 4.6x the size. Improving the efficiency of our government will help close the budget deficit and reduce property taxes.

4. Education Reform

Instead of trying to fit students into schools, we need to let students find schools that fit them. The government draws imaginary boxes around its citizens then tells us that our only option to seek education is within the imaginary box that they created. Parents and students need to be allowed the resources for them to seek the best education that fits their own learning and discipline needs.

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

I am strongly against the proposed graduated income tax. This would allow politicians more ability to increase tax rates with less input from citizens. Illinois is already losing population to other states and one of the primary reasons is because of the taxes. We don’t need the State to provide more reasons for people to flea.

In the event the graduated income tax goes through, I would propose an expiration date on the tax. The concept of perpetual taxation is highly undemocratic and taxes future generations without representation.

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?

Illinois is in a situation in which we need to take large measures to secure the future. The interest rate and money printing environment has created a potential opportunity to refinance and consolidate our debts. Similar to the answer in question one, Illinois needs to work with the national government and the Federal Reserve to create a consolidation plan.

Illinois needs to account for all of its off balance sheet debts. We need an honest assessment of all the future liabilities. Then consolidate its off balance sheet debts with its other bond obligation and repackage everything into one financial instrument. In exchange for the consolidation of Illinois debts, we need to be willing to outlaw the practices that put us in the position in the first place and set expiration dates and time horizons for all government expenditures. The goal of this would be to put the burden of proof on the program and allow for greater adaptation to changing populations.

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

Private income for Illinois residents should not be taxed. Illinois already ranks near the worst for retirees, we don’t need to give people more reasons to move out.

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

During the Covid-19 pandemic, in person classrooms vs remote learning has become one of the largest issues within education. Illinois needs to recognize that each individual family, student, and teacher will have different comfort and safety levels in regards to the pandemic and their abilities to learn. Some students will do well during remote learning and some will not, some parents will be able to work during remote learning and others may have issues with employment.

I am fully in support of micro schools or pandemic pods to help expand the opportunities for students that will not succeed without in person learning. Micro schools would be small 7-15 student class rooms that could be set up in empty retail space or office buildings or even in homes. The micro schools would be greatly beneficial to teachers and students by reducing the potential for exposure, increase the amount of individual attention, plus expand the autonomy and freedom of the teachers.

As the world transitions into a novel post Covid environment, expanding the options for individual learning will lead to the greatest benefit for education within Illinois. There is a great deal of resources being allocated towards remote learning, which lead to a new crop of teachers and students that thrive online. At the same, many students and teachers will benefit being in a larger social setting.

To improve education in Illinois, students and families need to be able to access learning environments and models that best fit their individual needs, talents, and abilities. At the same time, teachers need more freedom to control the methodologies that best fits their strengths.

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

During Alcohol Prohibition, the US saw a 37.5% INCREASE in homicides per capita. The 10 years following the end of Prohibition, the US saw a 47% DROP in homicides per capita. Legislators should take a look at ending other black markets and prohibitions in the Illinois and throughout the country. Opening up transparency in the black markets and legalization has stemmed violence in this country in the past, there is strong evidence that it may again in the future.

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

I believe there should be term limits for all elected officials in Illinois. I also believe there should be a collective total for time allowed to be spent in government. Term limits would help reduce opportunities for corruption and reduce political favors. I would like to see 8 year max for the IL House and IL Senate with a combined legislative max of 12 years. A max for the governor of 8 years and a total max in IL State wide government of 20 years.

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?

I don’t know if gerrymandering will ever be solved, but I think Illinois can take some steps to help rectify the damages created by it. First of all, term limits. Second, reduce the barriers to ballot access. 54 of 118 IL House of Representatives races went unopposed in 2018. Make the process for getting on the ballot easier and increasing the number choices for voters.

If the powers in the State are going to continue to deny people access to getting on the ballot, the other idea would be to institute a ghost runner policy. In an unopposed race, this would require a candidate None of the Above to appear on the ballot. Certain politicians have been able to remain in power solely based on their ability to keep others off the ballot. This would require politicians to maintain their positions based on the merits of their candidacy and not their legal prowess.

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 believe that there are a lot of positive steps towards trying to clean up Illinois politics. It will be a long and difficult road to clean up the corruption, but one of the easier steps that could be undertaken is term limits. Limiting the length and the power of politicians can strengthen transparency and stronger checks and balances. Some of the ethics reforms that the legislature needs to undertake are a two year waiting period for lobbying and consulting for politicians leaving office, clear registration by lobbyist, and mandatory recusal for conflict of interest.

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?

I would like to see individuals be able to have easier access to their information that is being used and sold. One of the difficulties about our privacy is the lack of transparency when it comes to what is being collected and how it is being used. If consumers are allowed more transparent and understandable information on their data, individuals would be better able to make their own decisions on who and how it can be used.

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?

To improve the appeal of state schools to Illinois high school students and families, I believe there should be a fixed cost level that could be started up to four years before the student enters college. Students and parents would be able to lock in a rate as freshmen in high school and that rate would last them through college graduation. This would allow for more time to prepay and prepare for the actual costs of college.

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

There are a few different steps that I would like to see Illinois take to improve the environment and improve the long term relationship between humans and nature.

1) We need to remove the tax restrictions on non productive land. The tax structure punishes open spaces.

2) The state should also put restrictions on government entities from issuing tax breaks to develop new land near locations that have unutilized development.

3) Legalize mixed grid and decentralized renewable utilities.

4) Promote private funds to expanding public prairies and Miyawaki Forest

5) Raise private funds for awards to advancements in energy and green architecture

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 I have to admit that with the track record of Illinois politicians it is difficult to find inspiration from many of them, I will say that I admire some of the actions and practices of Shadrach Bond, First Governor of Illinois.

Similar to our current situation, Gov. Bond led a state with no money, but still wanted to provide for the people. Gov. Bond led a private effort to fund public roads and transportation. He also pushed for reducing punishment for misdemeanor offenses and reducing government involvement in citizen’s lives. Lastly, he vetoed efforts to for the State Bank.

While I don’t agree with all the actions of Gov. Bond, I firmly believe government should work to inspire private citizens to give freely for public goods. I also believe in fixing our judicial system and reforming punishment. Lastly, I don’t believe that the Government should be spending now and leveraging the future of Illinois citizens.

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

South Park. It mixes intelligent commentary on politics, society, and current events with childish toilet humor.