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Democratic candidate for Illinois House in the 25th District: Curtis J. Tarver II

Curtis J. Tarver II, Illinois House 25th District Democratic primary candidate. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

On Jan. 25, Curtis J. Tarver II appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 25th District:

My name is Curtis Tarver and from a political background, I’ve formerly worked in City Hall in intergovernmental affairs and so I’m very familiar with the very neighborhoods and wards that comprise the 25th District.

Civically, I’m involved with Big Shoulders fund. I’m on the board for Illinois Voices for Children. I’m on the board for DePaul USA which is an organization that focuses on eliminating homelessness.

So there’s about 12.8 million people in the state, two million of those are students between kindergarten and 12th grade in public schools, and so I think we have to be on a path to actually fully funding public schools. We have a more equitable system now, but for me, a fundamental right for every student in Illinois is to have a good quality education and a safe neighborhood school.

My main cause in addition to education would be focusing on small businesses. So, I’m a small business owner, we started the fire African-American brewery in Illinois three years ago and we hire a good amount of individuals. Especially those who need a second chance and those who have been formerly incarcerated. So I want to work to reduce the recidivism rate by hiring people who need a second chance.

The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations 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. Curtis J. Tarver submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:

TOPIC: Top priorities

QUESTION: Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.

My top priorities will be:

Working to ensure all Illinois schools are adequately funded and provided the resources needed to prepare our students for a changing economy (i.e. having a focus on the actual cost to fully fund schools as we identify new sources of revenue – and dedicating resources to doing so)

Focusing on small businesses and investing in their success so that they may thrive and grow (i.e. improving access to capital, removing unnecessary regulations);

Providing opportunities and resources to assist in reducing recidivism and its social and economic costs (i.e. continuing to eliminate unnecessary barriers to jobs, incentivizing businesses to hire the formerly incarcerated)

Curtis J. Tarver II

Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 25th district

Political/civic background:

Hearing, City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (2016- 2017)

Commissioner, Chicago Commission on Human Relations (2014 – 2016)

Big Shoulders Fund, Chairman’s Advisory Council (2013 – present)

Depaul USA, Board of Trustees Member (2012- present)

Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Volunteer Attorney (2011-2012)

Daniel Murphy Scholars Fund, Mentor (2010-2013)

Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Young Professionals Board Member (2008-2010) Co-Chair (2011-2012)

Chicago Association of Minority Recruiters, Board Member (2008-2012)

Cook County Bar Association, Job Fair Board Member (2007-2011)

Chicago Public Schools, Real Men Read MENtor (2007-2010)

Chicago Urban League, Metropolitan Board, Fundraising Chair (2008)

Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, Associate Board Member (2007)

Occupation: Trial Attorney (Plaintiff)

Education:  Iowa State University (B.S.), University of Iowa College of Law (J.D.)

Campaign website: curtisjtarverii.com

TOPIC: Top district needs

QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.

ANSWER: Each of the three priorities noted above are extremely important to our district. The district is incredibly diverse and different wards and neighborhoods have different priorities. Throughout the district education and economic viability is a need. In other parts of the district the ability for those who have been formerly incarcerated to be gainfully employed and less likely to reoffend is of high importance.

In addition to these needs I would certainly do all within my ability to ensure the success of the President Obama library in the district.

TOPIC: Pension debt

QUESTION:  In 2017, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability ballooned to at least $130 billion. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Please explain your answer. And what is your position on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability of the pension debt?

ANSWER: I am opposed to a constitutional amendment that would reduce the benefits to which individuals are rightfully entitled. Reducing the liability of pension debt requires stripping bargained-for and earned rights from hard-working individuals because of the mismanagement of elected officials.

Re-amortization is something that I think is worthy of discussion. It is constitutional and does not require welshing on promises made to public sector employees. Re-amortization also purports to protect Illinois from having to cut spending on core services by 40% by the year 2045. I certainly want to protect our state from cuts to core services. Before I could support re-amortization, new and sustainable sources of revenue would have to be identified to pay the level-dollar annual payment.


TOPIC: Minimum wage

QUESTION: Cook County and Chicago are on their way to paying a $13 hourly minimum wage. Many suburbs in the county, however, have opted out of the wage increase. Should Illinois raise its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour? Please explain. And if you favor an increase in the state minimum wage, what should it be?

ANSWER: Yes, the state should increase the minimum wage beyond $8.25. The increase should be phased over a set number of years.

TOPIC: Marijuana

QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. This would provide significant revenue for the state while providing a new sector of jobs. It can help to reduce the jail and/or prison population for charges stemming from marijuana use and sales. It can potentially help reduce the number of opioid overdoses as well as the number of individuals addicted to opioids as studies for medicinal marijuana and more recently recreational (Colorado) have shown. Legalization has also shown there has been a decrease in teen use of marijuana where there is regulation and stiff penalties for selling to minors and failing to check identification.

TOPIC: Casinos

QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.

ANSWER: I would support additional casinos in Illinois including Chicago with a very specific caveat.

My support would be conditioned on the ensuring that the new revenue not be siphoned in other areas that decrease the current funding from gambling, gaming and lotteries to educational funding. The increase in revenue overall would have to translate to a proportional increase in funding for schools. My push would be to earmark a portion of the revenue as a direct source of increased funding for Illinois schools.

Given the huge decline in wagering on horse racing and two parks having closed at the end of 2015, the addition of video gaming, slots could help to revive the industry and generate new revenue for the state. Therefore, I would support racinos with the same caveat noted above for casinos.

Bookmark the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide

TOPIC: Property tax freeze

QUESTION: A property tax freeze in Illinois has been proposed frequently since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office. What’s your position? If you favor a freeze, how many years should it last? Should the freeze exclude property tax increases to service the debt, make pension payments or cover the cost of public safety? Again, please explain.

ANSWER: I am not in favor of a stand-alone property tax freeze.

TOPIC: School funding

QUESTION: A revised school funding formula was approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, but a bipartisan commission has concluded that billions more dollars are needed to achieve sufficient and equitable funding. Should Illinois spend more on schools, and where would the money come from?

ANSWER: Illinois must spend more money on schools. We should ensure that all schools are adequately funded and that this funding allows for teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals as well as other positions including social workers, nurses and librarians.

The money to achieve sufficient and equitable funding would need to come from new and sustainable revenue sources. Everything should be on the table when it comes to funding schools including a different income tax model for individuals and corporations, legalization of marijuana, casino/racino licenses as well as a fresh look at sales tax.

TOPIC: Opioids

QUESTION: How can the Legislature best address the problem of opioid abuse and addiction? Please cite specific laws you have supported or would support.

ANSWER: One way to potentially reduce opioid abuse and addiction may be to legalize marijuana recreationally in Illinois. There have been studies on the issue with medicinal marijuana. There is now a study showing a reduction in opioid use in Colorado since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Specifically, the research suggests that marijuana is often highly effective in treating some of the same issues with chronic pain for which a person may be prescribed opiates. The research suggests when given a choice between opiates and marijuana many individuals opt for marijuana. Research also suggests that there is a “zero” risk to overdoses from marijuana unlike opioids.


QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.

ANSWER: I would support a ban on individuals purchasing and using gun silencers. If the issue for the individual firing a firearm recreational is one of noise – he or she can purchase/use ear plugs, ear muffs or some other way to reduce the noise. The arguments about greater accuracy and less recoil to me are not sufficient to allow for the possession and use of silencers statewide. An individual can practice at the range and/or take classes for training and better accuracy. I would, however, support allowing silencers to be used at licensed gun ranges only as there can be an issue with suburban gun clubs where individuals are firing firearms (i.e. at targets, skeet shooting) where the noise level may bother neighbors.

QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.

ANSWER: Absolutely every gun dealer in Illinois should be licensed. Licensing gun dealers will not solve the problem of gun violence but it certainly cannot hurt to require individuals and entities who intend to sell firearms to be licensed. This would allow for a more focused approach by law enforcement to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. As with many other laws, the federal law may provide certain basic requirements but the state is allowed to enact additional regulatory oversight for the protection of its residents.

QUESTION: Should family members be empowered to petition courts for the temporary removal of guns from emotionally or mentally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. Family members will often know that a person is emotionally or mentally disturbed long before the general public. Family members will often be able to detect sooner than others whether a person is acting differently and would also know about that individuals temper, past confrontations and/or physical altercations. Furthermore, the motions should be heard on an emergency basis without a long notice period. The owner of the firearm should also have the ability to have a hearing without any unreasonable delay once a firearm has been removed (no matter how temporary) of his or her firearm as well. Due process is a must.

TOPIC: Medicaid

QUESTION: What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?

ANSWER: It is important that the state reimburse medical providers in a timely fashion for their care. I would push for this as a way to keep the program viable in Illinois. Medicaid managed care organizations are often barely able to keep hospitals in their networks. The state should not enact managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries.

TOPIC: College student exodus

QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?

ANSWER: The first thing I will do is to push for providing an excellent education in a safe environment with adequate resources for every student in the state. Illinois should grow the number of students graduating from schools who are prepared for college. Having more college-ready students would provide more opportunity for institutions to attract Illinois residents. While it is ideal to keep our “best and brightest” those are also the very students who will have the most opportunities to attend the schools of their choice. Illinois is losing not only its best and brightest students. It is losing individuals in droves. A focus on educating and providing opportunities for everyone and not simply the elite students seems to be the proper focus.

I do not think Illinois has too many state universities we have too few students graduating from high school ready for college.

TOPIC: Gov. Rauner

QUESTION: Please list three of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you agree. Also please list three of the governor’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you disagree.



Reducing the jail and/or prison population by (at least) 25% by 2025.

Signing HB 3817 creating the Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act

Reducing the cost of LLC fees.


I do not agree with the governor’s attempts to unconstitutionally remove bargained for benefits under the guise of fiscal responsibility.

Right to Work Zones

I do not agree with nor would I support “right to work” zones. These zones serve to undermine labor and to cripple them financially.

HB1424 Veto

I do not agree with dismantling a program which for nearly 30 years has played such a vital role in the care of and for seniors and persons with disabilities especially for an untried replacement that doesn’t clearly provide more benefits or protections for Illinois’ residents who need the most help. Seniors and persons with disabilities should have every option to remain in their home while receiving services.