By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
The Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) hosted a State Representative of the 25th District Candidate Forum on last Wednesday at the Hyatt Place Chicago – South/University Medical Center, 5225 S. Harper Ave.
The event was designed to address business issues in the 25th District and was moderated by Dwayne Hirsch, executive board member of the SBAC. Six of the seven candidates were in attendance vying for the seat occupied by State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25). Candidate William Calloway did not attend the forum due to a prior commitment.
The six candidates, who attended the one-hour forum, included Angelique Collins, Adrienne Irmer, Grace Chan McKibben, Anne Marie Miles, Flynn Rush, and Curtis Tarver II. Each candidate was given two minutes to make an introduction and then they were asked several questions.
On the question of why the state of Illinois has a reputation of being unfriendly to businesses, Collins explained steps could be taken to change that perception and make Illinois small business friendly.
“The reason why it’s so hard to open businesses in the state of Illinois is that we don’t have easy access to capital,” Collins said. “I personally struggled. I wasn’t able to get a loan. I didn’t have access to capital, which is why we struggled. It’s one thing to open a business but you also have to maintain it. We have to make small businesses a priority.”
On the question of what initiative would you focus on to support economic development and small business growth in the district, Chan McKibben said elected officials should have a regional mindset.
“I think beyond cutting the red tape or making sure that there are tax breaks for small businesses we need to think larger and think about the economic development of the entire region,” Chan McKibben said. “What we have in the region are a lot of people and a labor force that is pretty much not tapped into because there are a lot of folks that are unemployed and underemployed.”
After Chan McKibben addressed the crowd, Hirsch gave candidate Miles a follow-up question on what she would do to help promote the benefits of a law funding businesses through equity crowd funding. Miles agreed with Hirsch that it would be a great idea.
“First I want to say that I think equity crowd funding is absolutely a wonderful idea,” Miles said. “The reason why it’s a wonderful idea is because it allows you to have people invest in your community. What you need in order to publicize the law [are] people like the SBAC and other fellow lawmakers to help build a consensus. It’s not enough to say I’m just going to pass this law. I’ll be out in the community reaching out to groups.”
On the question of do you support recreational marijuana in the state of Illinois, candidate Rush said he will support the use of the drug for medical purposes only.
“I support the use of marijuana for medical purposes [only],” Rush said. “Like the surgeon general warning on cigarettes, there’s a warning that should come along with recreational use of marijuana.”
Irmer said she supports the legalization and recreational use of marijuana for adults.
“Tonight we had a conversation about systemic institutional racism. We know that the laws are applied unequally to young men and women of color than they are to their white peers as it relates to marijuana,” Irmer said. “The majority of marijuana cases are young men and women of color. This is a social justice issue.”
Tarver ended his closing remarks by taking an indirect verbal political shot at candidates who had family ties to the election. Tarver explained that most of his wealth was built with his own hands and not through nepotism.
“You are going to hear from a lot of people … talking about what their father’s done or what their mom’s done. Bottom line is that I’m here because of me,” Tarver said. “The reason why you see my name on 51st Street, on 14th [Street] and Michigan [Avenue], my name on Homewood and … several projects is that I’ve done these things myself. That’s what I will continue to do in Springfield and I don’t need nobody to hold my hand.”
The 25th House District includes Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, South Shore, South Chicago and East Side.
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) Democratic Majority Leader, who currently occupies the post, announced in September that she would not seek another term.