League of Women Voters of Elmhurst
Voters Guide for the General Primary Election: March 20, 2018

Dem Candidate for 47th District State House — Jim Caffrey

Opening Statement

Good Afternoon. I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for sponsoring todayís forum. Itís a pleasure to be here.

My name is Jim Caffrey and I live in Elmhurst with my wife, Mary, and our two boys, Jacob and Dylan. Iím running for State Representative in District 47 because I believe that we here in Illinois deserve better from our legislators. Iím a proud Democrat, but Iím tired of the partisan bickering coming out of Springfield. The bickering can only be changed when people who are roadblocks to compromise, like the governor, are replaced. Over the last three years our fiscal situation has gone from bad to worse and our stateís reputation has gone downhill nationally because of a lack of ability to compromise. As a result it is hard to attract businesses and jobs, students to our universities, and to keep people from the leaving the state.

Just as the Bears are making changes to put together a winning team, we as voters are being asked to put together a winning team in Springfield. Here in District 47 we have an opportunity for the first time in many years to elect a new team member who will bring new ideas and a fresh approach to the problems our great state faces.

As your state representative, I would like to see Illinois do the following:
1. Put an end to gerrymandering and draw districts that are a more balanced reflection of constituents from both parties
2. Put our financial house in order by coming up with ideas to better spend the tax dollars we have to pay back our overdue bills, and to find solutions to our pension crisis without cutting back services to the needy or by raising taxes.

As a former businessman, Peace Corps Volunteer, and a national political organizer I have the necessary skills to best represent the interests of our district in Springfield. I would be honored for your support in this election. Thank you.

1. Where do you stand on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment?

I support the Equal Rights Amendment and Illinois should ratify it.

One might ask, why now, 35 years after the deadline, is it still important for the ERA to become part of the Constitution? Haven’t we passed enough laws to make it no longer necessary?

The short answer is no.

Let me review a few reasons why we still need ratification from the equalrightsamendment.org.

  1. Without the ERA, the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all people are protected equally without regard to sex.

  2. “While women enjoy more rights today than they did when the ERA was first introduced in 1923, or when it passed out of Congress in 1972, hard-won laws against sex discrimination do not rest on any constitutional foundation. They can be inconsistently enforced or even repealed by a simple majority vote.”

  3. “We have not moved beyond the traditional assumption that males hold rights and females, if treated unequally, must prove that they hold them.”

And perhaps the most important reason we need to pass the ERA comes from the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  Justice Scalia said in September 2010 that he does not think the Constitution prohibits sex discrimination.  That opinion is from a modern day Supreme Court Justice.

I support the ERA and will proudly vote for its passage if given the opportunity.


2. Do you believe that only the federal government can legislate on matters of immigration or do the states have the right when the federal government fails to act? Please explain your position.

There is no question that immigration is the purview of the federal government. This does not mean, however, that the states are completely powerless to protect the rights of those living within their borders, especially when issues of health and safety are involved.

One example of the proper use of state power is the Illinois Trust Act, which passed last year with Republican and Democratic support. This law protects against warrantless searches, with special protection for schools and health care facilities. It also helps to insure that victims of crime can step forward without fear of placing their immigration status in jeopardy to allow law enforcement to do the job of fighting crime.  

It is important to remember that we are a nation of laws.  However, the fundamental principle of American jurisprudence has never been the black letter law alone, but justice tempered with mercy.

Many of you know that I served in the Peace Corps.  I was in the West African country of Mali.  It was the 2nd poorest country in the world.  Just like the folks leaving Europe one hundred years prior, many Malians wanted a chance to emigrate here and achieve the American Dream.  They were college students, farmers, and laborers; all wanting something better for themselves and their families.  So, I worry when the people making decisions about our immigration policy do so with a preconceived notion about the people from certain countries, or lack a true understanding of our immigration history. 

3. What is your stance on a temporary property tax freeze, which the State House approved last year?

I am opposed to a temporary property tax freeze.  And I’m not alone.  The Elmhurst Chamber or Commerce is also in opposition to this property tax freeze.

According to their recently released paper on the issue, the Chamber said that “state-mandated freeze could result in millions of dollars in cutbacks and service losses” including 13 full-time teachers in year one alone, fewer first responders, and a reduction in programs for senior citizens. 

No one denies that we have a property tax problem in Illinois.  The rates are too high, it is a regressive tax, and it is driving people out of the state.  We need reform.  The best way to reduce the rates, however, is through consolidating local taxing bodies and a change to our local pension systems.

Illinois has nearly 7000 local taxing districts.  The next closest state is Texas with 5200.  Each of these districts has leadership and employees that are often redundant to other government entities in the area.  We need to aggressively go after consolidation so that we can reduce costs, and ultimately lower the property tax burden in the state.

One example of consolidation:  There are plans to fold the DuPage Election Commission into the County Clerk’s office.  DuPage Democrats have been advocating his move for years and it will save the county $300K.

We have many good opportunities to lower property taxes in Illinois.  A property tax freeze in not one of them.

4. Do you support changes to the current redistricting process to create rules that make the process more transparent and accountable?

I support efforts to change the current redistricting process and stop the gerrymandering in Illinois. Illinois has districts that look like poorly designed jigsaw puzzle pieces. These districts were designed for purely partisan purposes. What we have done through our current process is to create extremely red and blue districts. What we need are purple districts where elected officials need to listen to all of their constituents, not just ones from their own party.

I support a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to change the redistricting process. Several states have a more open, transparent, and fair process that Illinois could look to for guidance. One example is next door in Iowa. Iowa has an independent group that draws the maps while allowing the legislature the ability to simply approve or reject whatís been proposed. And if you look at Iowaís map, the districts look much more logical, with boundaries encompassing entire counties instead of splitting up local towns and villages like we do in Illinois.

Closing Statement

I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for hosting todayís forum and giving us a chance to speak to the voters of the 47th District.

I love living in Illinois and calling Elmhurst home. Iíve enjoyed going door-to-door and meeting people at events like this one. It reminds me how important we all are as individuals in running this state because governing starts locally. What we do here in District 47 can contribute to the success of the State House in Springfield, which eventually resonates nationally.

As a result, I am more convinced than ever that we can improve our fiscal situation and we can improve our stateís reputation. So I say you, if you want change in leadership, if you want fresh thinking when it comes to resolving our financial problems, if you want election reform and government that works, and I mean works by coalition and compromise, then I hope you will vote for me, Jim Caffrey, as your new state representative for District 47. Thank you.

The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization, neither supports nor opposes any candidate.

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