Sunday, October 3, 2010

Interview with Toi Hutchinson, Illinois State Senator, 40th District

by ann baskerville

State Senator Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat,  represents the Illinois 40th State Senate District, one of the most economically and topographically diverse districts in the state:
map from

Hutchinson was appointed to the 40th State Senate seat on January 5, 2009 to serve the remainder of
Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson's unexpired term.  Prior to her appointment, Hutchinson served as
Halvorson's chief of staff.  Hutchinson is being challenged this November by Republican Adam Baumgartner.

Hutchinson has heard one consistent concern from residents of the 40th District: "jobs, jobs
jobs, jobs, jobs."  Hutchinson's conversations with constituents have focused her determination 
to pass legislation that brings jobs to the 40th district.  For example, Hutchinson said she is  
extremely proud of her work in passing the Illiana Expressway legislation because it is projected to 
create 4,300 short-term construction jobs and 13,800 long-term jobs in Northeastern Illinois in the 30 years
following construction.   She said the project will also lay the groundwork for future economic development in 
the 40th District.

Hutchinson is also eager to work to restore the public trust in government.  She says public trust in government
has declined because  "the public trust has been violated so much in the past." Hutchinson believes in increasing 
openness and transparency in government and also focusing on accountability, analyzing how well state-funded
programs accomplish their goals, and give taxpayers a return on investment.  Hutchinson said it is important to restore 
public trust in government because, "Government can be an extremely strong job creator" and because "a healthy, 
vibrant capitalistic system requires government to provide checks and balances."

When asked her opinion regarding a recent survey of warehouse workers in Will County that found 62% of 
workers were temps making poverty-level wages, Hutchinson said the government does have a role in "investing in,
protecting, and training out workers.  Hutchinson cited the Preamble to the Illinois State Constitution, which states
a duty to "provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual", and said "the people in this district are our
biggest asset" and that it is important to have smart regulations that protect people.

Hutchinson was involved in work that brought American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to Hopkins Park for
the Sandstone Hills rent-to-own housing community.  29 rent-to-own homes are being built with Recovery Act dollars 
in the Pembroke Township community.  Hutchinson said the project was the result of years of work by local residents.  
Hutchinson was handed a binder of information about the project by a woman who told Hutchinson, "This is my dream
and I'm putting it in your hands."  Hutchinson said Sandstone Hills is "an extremely important project to people in the area...
a home is not just a roof over your head, it provides a sense of belonging and a pride of ownership, something people can take 
care of."

Sandstone Hills in Hopkins Park, Illinois

Hutchinson is interested in local, organic farms in Pembroke Township, such as the farms recently 
featured in a Chicago Reader article. Hutchinson worked on legislation that would allow small farms to
accept state food stamp benefits. Hutchinson is also interested in working to help interested farmers go through
the organic certification process in an efficient manner. Hutchinson says these small, family-owned businesses
get to the root of Midwestern values embodied in the phrase, "If you give a man a fish, he eats for one day. Teach
a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime." Hutchinson believes it is important to understand the history of the Pembroke
Township area. She does not think outsiders should approach the area with an attitude of "this is what we want
to do for you poor people." Hutchinson believes in self-determination and seeking input from all stake-holders.
Hutchinson said she is interested in "hand-ups, not hand outs."

Video-taped interview with Toi Hutchinson: