The Chicago Reporter has been committed to covering race and poverty since its humble beginnings in 1972. It’s 40 years later and that commitment remains. There’s a lot on the line this election season from the White House on down to the local races.
We’ve asked some politicians from our communities how they would help their district in terms of race and poverty. Today we’re featuring the 4th Congressional District race where Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez faces Republican challenger Hector Concepcion
Rep. Luis Gutierrez
If elected, what's the most important thing in the next term that you want to accomplish that will benefit communities in the 4th district?
I think we have a real chance to pass significant immigration reform in the next two to four years, which would improve things across Chicago, both inside and outside of immigrant communities.
Right now, we have thousands of families fearing deportation, fearing separation, unable to work on the books, unable to get legal or even to leave and come back legally. We have put a cap on opportunity for many of our fellow Chicagoans, which has a ripple effect across our economy and tears at the social fabric in neighborhoods in the Fourth District and across the country.
While most residents of Chicago and of the Fourth District are not immigrants, everyone pays when we deny DREAM Act students an education or make green cards unavailable to math and science university graduates. We all lose when same sex couples are denied any of the benefits of legal immigration or employers can choose between a labor force covered by basic labor laws and another underground labor force that is not.
Our current immigration mess allows discrimination to fester and that is felt well beyond immigrants themselves. Addressing immigration reform will make a great deal of progress towards reestablishing the rule of law in immigration and in the workplace and will provide a huge economic boost at the same time.
What are the biggest concerns in the 4th district?
Jobs, crime, education, health care, housing and a safe environment where healthy families thrive, these are always the main concerns of my Congressional District and really, any Congressional District. This is especially so during a recession. I think we are making progress on jobs, health care and housing and that we will continue to make progress if the President is reelected.
I am very concerned by the gun violence in Chicago and in the Fourth District. More people are typically shot in a weekend than are shot in one of those mass shootings that CNN and every other station covers with breathless live coverage. But the weekly mass shootings in the Chicago area get no attention. There is no sense of national alarm that our young people are killing other young people with guns.
The schools, communities, parents, police and the mayor of Chicago can make progress, and they are doing a lot, but the federal government must play a role with gun legislation and money for serious crime prevention and improvements in the education and opportunities available to young people that will help them avoid the violence.
How do you see that you can make a difference in people's lives when it comes to race and/or poverty?
I am proud of my record fighting against discrimination in all its forms and fighting for underdogs who don't really have a voice in Washington. I will continue this fight.
A more concrete example of my work in this area is in serving on the House Financial Services Committee and the Housing, Insurance and Community Opportunity Subcommittee. We are helping improve the housing market and holding mortgage lenders and big banks accountable for actions they took that damaged our economy...
The creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) is one part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill I helped pass that is particularly helpful. By stabilizing housing and homeownership and making credit available in a non-discriminatory fashion to business owners and entrepreneurs, we are creating the building blocks of a successful local economy. We included important transparency measures for international remittances that will help constituents when they send money to relatives overseas and specific oversight of payday lenders...
I think we have made progress, but not enough in my humble opinion.
Hector Concepcion, executive director for the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce
If elected, what's the most important thing in the next term that you want to accomplish that will benefit communities in the 4th District?
The most important issue that I will focus on will be “job creation”. I believe that job creation is essential in order for each family to achieve the American dream. Throughout the recent year, I have acknowledged that our citizens in the 4rth district need to find jobs in order to fully support their fellow loved ones. New graduate students need to grow to their fully potential and right now this is not being possible do to the fact that many cannot find jobs.
What are the biggest concerns in the 4th district?
The biggest concerns are the following:
How do you see that you can make a difference in people’s lives when it comes to race and/or poverty?
I can make a difference in individual’s lives by being a true mentor. My intention is to inspire my community to achieve equality through higher education. This will open the doors to entrepreneurship ideas which will create jobs for citizens in the 4th Congressional District.
Photo Credit: Gutierrez Campaign, Concepcion Campaign and RichieC