Democrats in 11th District target education, economy
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:15PM
Three Democrats running for election in the U.S. 11th Congressional District agree on at least one thing: the country needs more jobs.
“When people are out of work, it hurts everybody,” said Jim Hickey, candidate from Orland Park.
Hickey himself was out of work after his business fell victim to the economy a few years ago. He said he knows the problems of the middle class and is ready to represent them in Congress.
“I’m running because we need to have common, working-class people representing us in Congress,” he said.
Hickey favors a “bottom up” approach to economic recovery, starting with keeping more money in the common American’s pocket. More money in the hands of consumers means more money spent at local businesses, and healthier businesses mean financially healthier communities, he said.
Millionaire and Former Congressman Bill Foster reminds voters that although he no longer is part of the country’s diminishing middle class, he was once there.
“I started my business with 500 bucks from my parents,” said Foster, who launched Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. with his brother at age 19. The company now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the United States and provides hundreds of American jobs, but it didn’t start out that way.
“We spent a long time trying to figure out how we would make payroll each month,” he said.
Foster said he will work hard, if elected, to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
“We’ve lost one-third of our manufacturing jobs,” he said.
Foster said that’s a loss not only to families, but also to the communities where those employees once shopped, dined and carried out their business.
Getting jobs back will require a good business sense, which, Foster said, he can bring to Congress.
Juan Thomas of Aurora agrees that bringing jobs back to the United States is a top priority. In addition to employment, Thomas said every American should be entitled to three things: affordable health care, a high-quality education and the opportunity to succeed.
He would work to close corporate tax loopholes and to increase funding for Pell Grants and small businesses. He pointed to the Full Employment and Training Act, also known as House Resolution 870, as a way to get local economies moving. The bill sets a goal of no more than 4 percent unemployment within 10 years.
As an attorney and a lifelong resident of the district, Thomas said he understands the struggles of the people.
“I think we need a congressman who can relate to all people,” he said.
Having returned to college himself in 2007, a top issue in Hickey’s campaign is the ability of graduates to pay back student loans.
Education, he said, is a long-term asset that should be financed with a long-term loan. He proposes financing loans for 50 years at 2 percent interest to allow more families to afford a college education.
A former school board member, Thomas said work also is needed at the public elementary and high school level. Income, he said, should have nothing to do with the quality of a public education.
“The worst school in the 11th District should be a darn good school,” he said.
He said the country’s educational system could learn something from the National Football League, which allows the worst team to have first pick of the best players. Similarly, the worst schools should have access to the best teachers, he said.
Foster said he is proud of an initiative he began during his term in Congress to increase the availability of online resources for adults wishing to continue their education.
“I’m a big fan of technology as a way of reducing educational costs,” he said.
While in Congress, Foster supported the new G.I. bill, which provides education benefits to returning soldiers. He called the bill important to the veterans and to society in general.
“The original G.I. bill paid for itself seven times over,” through veterans earning higher incomes and paying higher income taxes, Foster said.