Your Vote, Your Community, Their Answers: Bobby Rush vs. Don Peloquin

Your Vote, Your Community, Their Answers: Bobby Rush vs. Don Peloquin

Race and poverty are two words that are rarely heard during election season. They were conspicuously missing from the presidential debate and odes to the middle class are standard for campaigners.

We asked some local politicians running in the November election how they would help their communities in terms of race and poverty. From the candidates in the 1st Congressional District race, here are the answers from Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush and his Republican challenger Don Peloquin.

Rep. Bobby Rush

Rep. Bobby Rush

If elected, what’s the most important thing in the next term that you want to accomplish that will benefit communities in the 1st district?

Upon re-election, I intend to continue to focus on creating and retaining jobs for my district.  Specifically, I intend to continue my push for the development and expansion of small businesses, particularly, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) throughout the district.  Working the last 3 years with the Obama Administration, most notably the Department of Transportation, I have helped to bring billions of federal transportation dollars to the Chicago region. Over the next 5 years, there will be significant infrastructure improvements that will help spur the growth of DBE contractors, yielding increased job opportunities for my constituents and residents in the metro Chicago area.

What are the biggest concerns in the 1st district?

The economy. As is the case in much of the nation, unemployment remains the top concern throughout the district, both in Chicago and in the suburban part of my district. Housing issues are negatively impacting the district, weak local schools, and crime are also significant concerns.

How do you see that you can make a difference in people’s lives when it comes to race and/or poverty?

All of my adult life, I have been focused on combating disparities within racial groups and eradicating poverty, as a young man in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, the Chicago City Council and now in the United States Congress.
I have been a leader nationally in the fight to fund programs such as the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP), child nutrition programs (SNAP) and public housing assistance. As a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which had primary jurisdiction over the enactment of the Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare, I fought to include programs that would reduce the disparities that exist in the U.S. in the delivery of healthcare services to low income citizens. I am also a strong and ardent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and work closely with national and local immigration reform leaders to create a path to citizenship for those who have come to this country and want to lead responsible and productive lives in the U. S.

Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin


If elected, what’s the most important thing in the next term that you want to accomplish that will benefit communities in the 1st district?

The most important thing I want to accomplish in the 1st Congressional District is the creation of jobs via economic development. With more than 25 years experience in local government, I have the knowledge and ability to interact successfully with all governing bodies and agencies to create the economic opportunities that will propel forward the 1st Congressional District.

I am a strong advocate for transportation improvements, which will create corridor development — and along with that, jobs — and return the district to the major national hub it once was. I envision the southern end of the district, bounded by three major expressways and with an intermodal center already in place, to be revitalized as a major national and international cargo transportation center.

I believe small businesses are the backbone of America and the solution to reviving our economy, and I will work to create a climate of support for these businesses. The American manufacturing era may be over but the age of technology is booming. I will push to provide retraining for our unemployed citizens in areas of technology, and help create job opportunities through innovation: seeking alternative energy sources, recycling and re-using waste streams, and reclaiming vacant industrial sites and tax delinquent properties.

I am a huge proponent of retraining. We need to get Americans back to work, to offer greater opportunities to the unemployed of all professional and skill levels in emerging areas of growth in our economy: technology and solar, wind and bio-energy.

What are the biggest concerns in the 1st district?

The biggest concerns facing the 1st Congressional District are creation of jobs/economic development, health care and equal representation of city and suburban constituents.

I will work tirelessly to provide greater economic opportunities to the district, and to create an environment that will allow small businesses to flourish and create jobs. I support tax breaks for “insourcing”; I believe companies that profit from Americans need to create jobs for Americans. Tax breaks should be given to businesses that bring jobs back to the U.S.

I will strive to overhaul the Medicare/Medicaid system, to create a more efficient way to control costs in order to avoid insolvency. I will work to prevent government from entering into the healthcare industry and interfering in the personal choices and relationships between doctor and patient.

I will work to ensure that all constituents of the district have an equal voice in Washington. I will not serve the party, I will serve the people who elected me.

I am committed to simplifying and demystifying government and to seeking common ground over partisan politics. I will strive to ensure that all citizens, city and suburban, have a voice in this sprawling, diverse district, which stretches from 26th Street and the lakefront to tiny Elwood in Will County.

How do you see that you can make a difference in people’s lives when it comes to race and/or poverty?

I have been the mayor of a very diverse city for 28 years (I am in my final term as mayor of Blue Island) and have worked successfully with people of all races and ethnicities and across party lines. During my tenure as mayor, we faced the prospect of our main employer, our local hospital, shutting down. I worked with both sides of the aisle and with the public and private sectors to make sure that those hospital doors stayed open not only for the employees who depended on their jobs for a paycheck, but for the community that benefited by having such close proximity to medical treatment. As a result, more than 1,000 jobs were saved.

I can make a difference in the 1st Congressional District by creating economic opportunity and jobs, which is one of the keys to not only reducing poverty but decreasing violence and allowing people to feel safe and take pride in their community. There are many vacant industrial buildings and brown areas in the 1st District that can be cleaned up and utilized in new ways using new technology, for example as vertical farms. Four crops a year can be cultivated, and tilapia and chickens also can be raised — all organically, using solar and new green technologies, with very little waste. These organic foods can be sold to restaurants and to the community. All of this would create jobs, locally, in the communities where employment is most needed.

Though the 1st Congressional District has been remapped to extend from the urban lakefront neighborhoods to rural communities, the areas all have one thing in common: the very real opportunity to become the nation’s premier transportation hub. It is surrounded by three major expressways, an intermodal center that can easily be expanded using other vacant industrial sites, and a proposed third airport that should be used for cargo.

All this equals jobs, and the means for people to get to those jobs.

Poverty begets violence, and the way out is through economic opportunity via small businesses. The government needs to step back and allow small businesses to drive economic development. I will work across all party lines to ensure that the 1st District has a voice in Washington and, while reining in rampant government overspending, that the people of the district receive all the federal funding to which they are entitled to help revitalize our communities.

It’s time that we “Get to Work.” We need to roll up our sleeves, acknowledge our differences, and find a way to get our problems resolved. No political party will ever be 100 percent satisfied, but it can no longer be about politics. It’s about your next door neighbor; it’s about your grandchildren. It’s about putting our country first.

Photo credits: Rush campaign, Peloquin campaign and KCIvey


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  • In spite of all that either of them have done, poverty and the associated societal ills persist all over the 1st District. The racial injustices and disparities have been going on for so long and so rampantly that they can now be considered systemic. And neither of these candidates appear to be promoting any kind of end to those injustices. Things like, removing mandatory sentences for drug crimes (and free the hands of judges to do their work). Address the drug laws as they are and determine if they are more consequential to society as a whole Such as how much the drug war is costing us in blood and treasure.

    Look at regulations and determine if they they make sense in the environment we live in today. We don't need deregulation, we need re-regulation. If we've learned anything from the past, it is that business unfettered can cause a lot of socitetal damage as well as working to centralize wealth, which is not a benefit to society at all. And with the better regulations, job will be created.

    Also make the government easier to deal with.


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