Leslie Coolidge, the Democratic candidate in the re-drawn 6th Congressional District that now includes Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills, visited the southern end of the new district Tuesday night to speak at the Clarendon Hills Public Library about her stances on some of today's political hot topics.
WGN Radio's Bill Moller, who lives in Clarendon Hills, posed questions to Coolidge during the event. Afterward, those in attendance had the opportunity to ask their own questions.
Lucy Tarabour, adults program coordinator for the Clarendon Hills Public Library, said Republican incumbent Peter Roskam declined an invitation to attend the event.
For those new 6th Disticters not so familiar with Coolidge, here are some highlights of the chat:
On when she decided to run for office:
"Joe Walsh is my current Congressman—that had a lot to do with it. Once I realized what the [new] districts were, and that I wouldn't have the pleasure of taking on Mr. Walsh, it really was the debt ceiling debacle last summer. I sat there and I watched Congress, frankly, intentionally take us to the brink and ultimately we did have our debt downgraded for no reason other than politics. When you listen to what the rating agencies say, and they still say this, there isn't an underlying economic risk that the U.S. government is going to default on its debt, but there is a political risk of whether the government is going to agree to make payments or not. That's just ludicrous. Frankly I think we have people in Congress who are completely irresponsible and ought to be kicked out if they let something like that happen."
On incumbent Republican Peter Roskam declining to attend candidate forums in the new 6th District:
"Seventy-five percent of the people in this distict are going to have a new representative. It's just part of democracy that people ought to have the opportunity to hear from both of us. I think we know pretty definitively now that there aren't going to be any public occasions [where the two candidates appear together]."
On the rising national debt:
"I dont think talking about the debt is the right question to start with. I think the right question is what do we do first and foremost to create jobs, get people back to work, and get the ecnomy growing more robustly than it is now. You do that first, because when you have people back to work and the economy growing faster, your tax base is going to rise. That goes a certain way toward dealing with the deficit problem to start with. ... First is get the economy growing again, second is a balanced approach of, let's look at what we're spending on—not just Social Security and Medicare, but let's look across the board. Let's look at military spending. Let's look at discretionary and domestic spending. Let's look at it in an intelligent and measured way. ... We also need to have the abilty to raise revenue on the table, as well. I don't believe it is unfair to ask those who are doing well to pay more than they are paying now."
On government working with business:
"I think the most important thing for business is, companies want certainty. They want the ability to make reasonable plans knowing what the regulatory environment is, knowing what the tax environment is, and [they want to be] able to plan and make intelligent decisions based on the landscape.
"I view all of this as very much a public-private partnership. I've done a lot of work with pharmaceutical companies, and I ask people, 'Where do you think durgs come from?' Most people will say they're invented by the drug companies, and that's actualy not true. Most of the underlying compounds come from NIH [National Institute of Health] or the National Cancer Institute or research universities that are funded by federal funding. Then it gets licensed to a pharmaceutical compnay, who continues the development. ... There are things that are too big for individual businesses to take on, so the governemnt starts them and then they get handed off at an approporiate point in time. I think that's a perfect model."
On the federal government's role in education:
"Of everything that I've touched on since I've been running for office, I think this is the hardest question. I'm not 100 percent sure that I know the answer to that, but what I think is important is to bring everybody who really knows what they're talking about—techers, parents, administrators—I think we need to bring them together and figure out what works. ... I think everybody agrees No Child Left Behind ... has gone sort of overboard on the testing end and taken away too much discretion from teachers and what they're actually teaching in the classroom. ... I still think it's important that you have state and local control of education, but I do think that the federal government has a role to play to provide funding."
On social issues:
"I certainly consider myself, on what I think are social issues, to be liberal, which means that I believe everybody has the right to think what they want to think and to determine for themselves things related to their lives. We've got to make sure that there's some boundary where people are not infringing on other people's rights."
On the environment:
"If there were any one thing that I could personally promote in Congress, I think we absolutely have to deal with climate change. Climate change is real; it is caused by human activity. ... There's so much going on in this antiregulatory environment, that we need to be holding up the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, which we've had for 30 or 40 years now. It's just appalling that we're still fighting those types of issues. It's critically important that we protect our environment. ... We can absolutely protect our environment and promote business at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. I think working toward clean energy and clean technology is a huge economic move for us and I think we ought to be viewing it that way."
On the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"):
"I think, aspirationally, single-payer is the right answer. I don't think we could've gotten there realistically. I think that the bill that was passed that is now the law is a good first step. ... There are three real issues in health care: one is access to health care, seond is cost, and the third is quality. I think the Affordable Care Act was a good first step at addressing access. I don't think it got us all the way there and I don't think it's the ideal answer. ... I think the next step is to focus much more on what are we going to do to bend the cost curve, because I think that's really the issue. ... What we want to do is figure out how we have the best care possible at the lowest cost. ... Let's do the research; let's figure out the answers."
On foreign policy:
"I think President Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton have been absolutely brilliant from a foreign policy perspective. I moved here in June 2001 from the New York area, so when 9/11 happened, it was very personal to me. I will never forget what the attitude of the rest of the world was toward the U.S. after 9/11. Everyone called us to check on how we were doing. I think our prior administration completely squandered that attitude. ... I think our current administration has done a tremendous amount towards restoring the view of the rest of the world toward America and I think that's hugely important. I think you do it mostly through diplomacy and aid where appropriate, and where aboslutely necessary, through military involvement. But that's a very last-step notion. I think the approach that was taken in Libya [during the overthrow of Gaddafi], where we provided air support but we worked with our allies, we didn't have troops on the ground, was a wonderful model."