Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview with Cedra Crenshaw

by ann baskerville

Will County News recently sat down with Republican candidate for the 43rd State Senate seat Cedra Crenshaw.  Crenshaw faces incumbent Democrat AJ Wilhelmi in this November's election.

Issue One: Claims regarding Legislative Scholarships 
Background: During a recent WJOL debate between Crenshaw and Wilhelmi, Crenshaw claimed Larry Walsh appointed Wilhelmi to his State Senate seat, and Wilhelmi then awarded Walsh's nephew Kevin Walsh a legislative scholarship.

What was said on the WJOL debate:
Wilhelmi: "My opponent has said that Larry Walsh appointed me to the Senate Seat.  That is not true....That is a falsehood.... Larry Walsh never appointed me to the Senate seat.... Secondly, Elwood's a small town, we get applications from Elwood, Manhattan, Joliet, Romeoville, Rockdale, Bolingbrook. The fact of the matter is, I have a very fair and balanced application process.  I have limited numbers of folks applying....and I don't think Larry's extended family should be penalized because they happen to be related to the county executive."

Scott Slocum (host): Ok. Cedra, any rebuttal to that?

Crenshaw: "I find it quite astounding that Senator Wilhemi sees no moral problem with giving a legislative scholarship to the person who did in fact appoint him to the Illinois State Senate.  And that therein shows the problem, one of the problems, in Illinois, in terms of the leadership or lack thereof that we have."

Wilhelmi: "Larry Walsh did not appoint me to the Senate Seat."

You can listen to the entire debate here, I have condensed it above for the sake of space.

Crenshaw also has a page on her website where she outlines what she calls Wilhelmi's "Pay to Play Deals."

I asked Cedra to clarify the truth regarding this issue, because, obviously, during the debate the candidates made completely opposite claims.

Crenshaw said, "The truth is exactly what I said during the debate."  Crenshaw said Wilhelmi rewarded supporters and donors by giving legislative scholarships to supporters' children.  Crenshaw said Wilhelmi gave scholarships to the children of two Village of Manhattan trustees.  Crenshaw said State Rep. Jack McGuire also awarded scholarships to these kids.  Crenshaw said, "And what's so shocking to me is he saw no moral problem with that."

When I asked whether it was Larry Walsh himself who appointed Wilhelmi to the Senate seat or if it was the Democratic Party of Will County who appointed Wilhelmi, Crenshaw said that was an issue of semantics, and that everyone knows that it was Walsh who appointed Wilhelmi to the seat.

Ultimately, Crenshaw said, the legislative scholarships are "an incubator for corruption".

Issue Two: The State Budget
Next, I asked Cedra Crenshaw to elaborate on her plan to get the State Budget under control.  Crenshaw said there is room to "cut waste, mismanagement, and corruption."  Crenshaw is in favor of a line-by-line forensic audit of the budget.  Crenshaw said, for example, there are 150 million dollars currently not accounted for in the Illinois Tollway Budget.  Crenshaw said a forensic audit of all aspects of the state budget--down to the transaction level--would not only account for that money, but also serve as evidence for possible prosecution of anyone who was mismanaging state money.  The forensic audit would help hold people accountable, Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw is in favor of accountability and transparency with regards to the State Budget.  When asked whether she would be in favor of putting government transactions online where anyone could see them, Crenshaw said she knows some states put their checkbooks online, and she would support an action like that in Illinois.

Crenshaw says that for a 60 million dollar investment in the forensic audit, the state could save 3-5 billion dollars, which is a "great Return on Investment," said Crenshaw.

Crenshaw also wants to cut pork from the Capital Bill.  The 31 billion captial bill signed by Quinn contains too much pork, Crenshaw said.  Crenshaw identified the following as examples of waste in the Capital Bill: 500,000 for a Baseball Hall of Fame, 5,000,000 for the Black Ensemble Theatre, and 40,000,000 for Chicago State, a state college with a 16% graduation rate.

Crenshaw proposes cutting the pork and using that money to bridge the deficit and also pay schools that are currently owed money by the State of Illinois, schools such as the Joliet Township High School School District and the Valley View School District.

Issue Three: Job Creation in Illinois
When it comes to creating a favorable environment for job growth in Illinois, Crenshaw says there is a basic philosophical difference between herself and her opponent.  Crenshaw believes the private sector creates jobs, while Wilhelmi believes the government should have a much bigger role in job creation.

Crenshaw says she wants to create a favorable environment for job creation in Illinois by following the following principles: fiscal responsibility, low taxes, reasonable regulation, accountability, transparency, and limited government.  Furthermore, Crenshaw advocates government that is responsive to the needs of small business owners because small businesses create jobs.

For example, Crenshaw said she spoke with an electrical engineer who also does work in Arizona and Texas.  The engineer told Crenshaw that while it takes months to get a permit in Illinois, he can get the same permit in only days in other states.    If the permit involves blueprints, Crenshaw said it can take the engineer 5-6 months to get the permit and up to 2 years if the blueprint involves a road.  The engineer said in the other states, the government workers who process the permits treat him like a customer and quickly process his paperwork, an experience he hasn't had in Illinois, Crenshaw said.

Furthermore, Crenshaw related the story of a contractor she met who works in Will County.  The contractor said most of his business in Illinois is government business while most of his business in Indiana is private business.  Furthermore, the contractor told Crenshaw that "if we don't change politicians in November....and change the taxing environment, the regulatory environment, and the legal environment in Illinois, that contractor said he is moving to Indiana."

Crenshaw says, in regards to these two examples, "People who risk money, time, and skills need to be treated as friends to the state, because they create jobs and revenue."

Issue 4: Education
 I asked Crenshaw her reaction to an endorsement letter from AFT Local 604 that AJ Wilhelmi has posted on his website.  The letter claims Crenshaw will "gut public education as we know it"and implores people not to "let Senator Wilhelmi become victimized by the anti-incumbent fever being spread by those advocating an ultra conservative agenda."

Firstly, Crenshaw said the "letter is shameful in the way they have distorted" the facts.  Crenshaw said: "I am pro-teacher, my husband is a teacher, my kids go to public schools."  Furthermore, Crenshaw said "If the kids had a union, I'd be endorsed by the kids."

Crenshaw said, "We're not funding education right now, right now when he's in office."  Crenshaw said Wilhelmi voted to gut the pension, he skipped payments to the pension system.

Crenshaw supports the Meeks proposal to provide vouchers for children attending the weakest public schools in Chicago.  Crenshaw says charter schools not only provide a good option for children actually choosing to attend the charter schools, they also "drive-up competition in the public schools" and result in better education for all children.    More information on Crenshaw's ideas on educational policy can be found here.

Regarding the use of the word "victimized" in the letter, when asked whether the use of this word was condescending to the voters of the 43rd District--in that it implies that if Wilhelmi were to lose he will have been in some sense "victimized" by voters who were persuaded by an "anti-incumbent fever" rather than voters who were simply made a choice--Crenshaw said that is was condescending to the voters and that if Wilhelmi were to lose, "instead of being victimized, he would be held accountable."

Finally, when asked to discuss some of the goals she would pursue if elected, Crenshaw said she would be happy to "work with any lawmaker--regardless of party--to balance our state budget."   She would also be happy to "work with anyone to reduce the size of government."  Crenshaw said she would be happy to work with Democrat Emily McAsey to get rid of the legislative scholarship program.  Crenshaw said she would also be happy to work with Democrat James Meeks to "increase quality of education."