Martwick, Kessem make campaign pitches at group meeting
by KEVIN GROSS
Republican candidate Ammie Kessem and Democratic incumbent Rob Martwick discussed their campaigns as they run in the 19th Illinois House District at a meeting of the Big Oaks-Union Ridge Neighborhood Association on Sept. 20.
"I would have loved to have stood up today and talked to you about how wonderful things are here in Illinois," Kessem said to a crowd of about 65 residents at Saint Monica Academy in Beyenka Hall, 5115 N. Mont Clare Ave. "But the truth of the matter is that we are in dire straits."
Kessem, an almost 20-year police sergeant and member of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, described herself as an independent candidate opposing orthodox Springfield politics, who would serve as a "champion" for taxpayers, homeowners and workers.
"I will propose a hard 1 percent cap on our property taxes, lower income taxes back down to 3 percent, protect unions workers from union busting policies, and add term limits for our politicians to end the reign of power they have over us," Kessem said.
By contrast Martwick said, "I think we agree our tax system is broken, (but) we have different methods for solving that. We owe so much money and we’re on a trajectory where that debt is growing rapidly … and it’s not going to go away with wishes. You cannot drastically cut taxes and solve our problems."
Martwick said that he would push for a graduated income tax, and would use income tax proceeds to create what he said could be $3.5 billion in property tax relief, $1 billion in sales tax reductions, and $1 billion dedicated to repaying pension debt that he said could cut "seven years and $60 billion" off the repayment schedule.
"Anyone making $100,000 a year or less would see a net tax reduction that balances our tax system, makes it more fair, and puts more of the burden on people who have succeeded so well in our economy," Martwick said.
The candidates spoke for about 10 minutes each at the meeting and did not debate each other or answer audience questions during the event out of concerns that "audience members and their questions could be planted," as explained by forum moderator Chris Devine of the neighborhood association.
Despite rules barring candidates from "personal attacks against the opposing candidate and their party," Kessem made numerous references to "incumbent career politicians" and their past records, and she expressed frustration that some politicians refused to use their positions to help block the controversial 45th Ward housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy.
"Unfortunately, these representatives remained the perfect idlers and sought refuge and passivity, explaining it was a matter of the 45th Ward alderman. The incumbents took no stance on the contentious matter, despite the fact that it affected thousands of their constituents," Kessem said. "This is not leadership, and it is not representing the interests and concerns of the residents of the 19th District."
Martwick discussed his own record as a 6-year lawmaker and his opposition to Governor Bruce Rauner, specifically highlighting bipartisan legislative accomplishments in pension reform, property tax relief, consumer protection and gun safety.
Martwick also discussed his role as chairman of the state Personnel and Pensions Committee, where he included new money-saving pension options in the most recent state budget, including buyouts of pensions for former but long-inactive public employees, or higher cash buyouts up-front for certain retiring employees in exchange for giving up their annual raise quota as they age.
Regarding pensions, Kessem said she would model the system after the State University Retirement System of Illinois, a plan that she praised for its "affordability, flexibility for enrollees to make their own decisions, and insurmountable barriers in place protecting the fund from being looted by politicians in Springfield."
"I am 100 percent pro-education, and I am pro-environment," Martwick said. He also said that he supports an elected school board.
"I believe in investing in and providing opportunity for middle class and working class people … I have been endorsed by every major labor organization, because of my willingness to stand and fight for their issues," he said.
Also at the meeting, Chicago Department of Transportation project manager Oswaldo Chaves discussed the Chicago Smart Lighting Program, which will replace about 270,000 streetlights across the city through a 4-year period. The new lights use less electricity and will automatically notify city agencies when they burn out.
"Relying on 311 calls, we probably only know about 25 to 30 percent of the lights that are out," Chaves said.
REPUBLICAN candidate Ammie Kessem and Democratic incumbent Rob Martwick discussed their campaigns as they run in the 19th Illinois House District at a meeting of the Big Oaks-Union Ridge Neighborhood Association on Sept. 20.
(Photo by Kevin Gross)