Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Won’t be easy for Ross. Rep. Coulson is definitely the chalk in 17th.

Continuing to air this week in the suburbs is the “Public Affairs,” show with State Rep. Candidate Judith-Rae Ross [D-Skokie, 17th Dist.]. [See here] for details of the suburban and City airing schedule. You can also watch a video podcast or listen to a podcast of the Ross show, as well as eighteen other shows, on your computer, [See here]. The 17th District includes portions of Skokie, Glenview, Morton Grove, Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe.

Speaker Mike Madigan has been trying to unseat moderate Republican Beth Coulson from the 17th District with real intensity since re-districting the 17th in 2001-02 to make it much more “Democrat friendly.” The 17th has a significant Jewish population and Speaker Mike therefore preferred a Jewish candidate, Michael Bender, in the 2002 Democratic Primary. Bender lost a close race [which he took to court, Gore v. Bush, redux] to Pat Hughes, a Catholic male. Hughes, in turn, lost a close race [674 votes] to incumbent Coulson.

Next time [2004], Speaker Mike decided a Jewish female would be the ticket, and he went with Michele Bromberg, who turned out to be very much the wrong candidate for that district. Bromberg, even with-- then U. S. Senate Candidate-- Barack Obama aided mailers, lost by over 4000 votes. I should note that, to many, Bromberg’s attempts to tie moderate Republican Coulson to conservative Republican Senate Candidate Alan Keyes were clumsy, insulting and counter-productive.

In the 17th, the Speaker Mike – Beth Coulson feud is beginning to resemble the old Elmer Fudd- Bugs Bunny cartoon, with Speaker Mike playing the predictably losing Elmer Fudd.

This time, Judith-Rae Ross, yet another Jewish female, is taking on Beth Coulson. It is not clear if Elmer Fudd, I mean Speaker Mike, is up yet again to see if the third term is the charm. Judith-Rae Ross has more political experience, more finesse and a better ability to discuss ideas than did candidate Bromberg. And, a Jewish female is a better demographic for the District than was Catholic male Pat Hughes [Who I should note is plenty talented, smart and personable].

Ross is working hard, having entered the race and started walking precincts almost a year ago. She liked tax swaps then and still does, but her views have been modified a bit, see here for her views in May, 2005 and see partial transcript of this week's show, below, for Ross' current views. Ross is smart, savvy, able to discuss ideas and likeable, all important traits for winning in the 17th.

State Rep. Beth Coulson also works very hard, both in the legislature and by walking her precincts and meeting and working with and for her constituents. Beth is a ten year moderate, Republican incumbent, who has drawn fire from outside the District [For example, Family-Pac’s Paul Caprio] for both her moderate views on abortion and her general reluctance to make endorsements of other candidates, including of some prominent Republicans. However, that moderation and independence seems to work well in her district, and she draws strong support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats, many of whom have a strong attachment to her.

All in all, if the Republicans have a tough year nationally—and if that disaffection can be transferred to the 17th, if Ross can sell her tax swap and similar ideas to the 17th District Dems and Independents, if Speaker Mike will still get in the game and if Ross catches a wave [as we used to say on the West Coast], Elmer Fudd might get his bunny. But, note, what do I have there? Five ifs? Won’t be easy for Ross. Coulson is definitely the chalk on this one.
Jeff Berkowitz: Would you say you are a social moderate…pro-choice on abortion?

Judith-Rae Ross: Oh, of course.

Jeff Berkowitz: Pro gun control, pro gay rights, all of those things, probably describe Beth Coulson, right? She’s a moderate Republican. In that sense, you would say you’re a moderate Democrat?

Judith-Rae Ross: In that sense, I am. Where I differ-

Jeff Berkowitz: That stuff is all off the table, that’s not going to be an issue, right?

Judith-Rae Ross: That’s off the table, we’re not going to have an issue there. But, where we do have an issue is a difference on small business development. Differences on education. I would look at, very seriously, changing the taxing structure, because our schools are in trouble. Face it Jeff, you want a democracy? You really want a democracy?

Jeff Berkowitz: I thought we have a democracy.

Judith-Rae Ross: No, No, you want a democracy to continue? You want a democracy to continue, you have got to teach the kiddies how to think. And, they won’t learn how to think if they don’t have decent schooling. And, our schools are in trouble. Even in the 17th [House district].

Jeff Berkowitz: How much do we spend across the State of Illinois [on elementary and secondary education] 22 billion dollars? That’s from the Feds, that’s from the local property taxes, that’s from the State—altogether 22 billion dollars. About 2.2 million kids, that’s about $10,000 per kid per year.

Judith-Rae Ross: No, it’s under that.

Jeff Berkowitz: It can’t be. I just did the numbers.

Judith-Rae Ross: Because it’s the property tax.

Jeff Berkowitz: But, you add it all up, it’s 22 billion dollars. Do you dispute the 22 billion dollars.

Judith-Rae Ross: It’s under that.

Jeff Berkowitz: It can’t be. I just did the numbers.

Judith-Rae Ross: When you did the numbers--because it’s the property tax-

Jeff Berkowitz: But, if you add it all up, it’s twenty two billion dollars.

Judith-Rae Ross: No. No. No.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you dispute the twenty two billion dollars?

Judith-Rae Ross: I don’t dispute the twenty two billion dollars. But, I do dispute the fact that it’s divided evenly, which it’s not. It’s divided according to property tax.

Jeff Berkowitz: Okay, so you mean it’s inequitable. On average, it’s ten thousand dollars, [per kid, per year across the state of Illinois]but some [districts] are much more and some much less.

Judith-Rae Ross: Some are much more, and some are much less.

Jeff Berkowitz: New Trier [High School] might be at $18,000 per kid per year and some other high schools quite a bit less. You want to average it out, you want to equalize.

Judith-Rae Ross: I want to—no. I don’t want to take money away from some of the schools that already have it, but we have to look at a way either of equalizing the sales tax and the like, say, that we have in Skokie.

Jeff Berkowitz: Not the sales tax, that doesn’t account for much.

Judith-Rae Ross: No, no, but the Old Orchard [Mall] forgives all in District 68. There is some that go back. But, we have to look at a way of consolidating some of the districts, that’s one. Two, look at a way that we have a tax swap, where we take a little more on the income taxes and—Senate Bill, I think it was 755.

Jeff Berkowitz: … Yes, Senate Bill 755, House Bill 750. The tax swap.

Judith-Rae Ross: Yes, Senate Bill 755. We have to take a good, hard look at that.

Jeff Berkowitz: Tax Swap.

Judith-Rae Ross: Yes.

Jeff Berkowitz: Which some would characterize-- When we spoke last time [you were on the show], I think you agreed, as a humongous tax increase?

Judith-Rae Ross: I’m not sure it’s that humongous a tax increase.

Jeff Berkowitz: Would you say it is a net increase of at least four billion dollars?

Judith-Rae Ross: I’m not sure.

Jeff Berkowitz: Yes or no?

Judith-Rae Ross: I’m not going to say “yes” or “no” on that.

Jeff Berkowitz: How much do you support, in terms of a tax increase, circle a number? Two billion? Three billion? Four billion? Net tax increase? How much more do you want from the Illinois taxpayers? Pick one. Two, Three or Four billion dollars.

Judith-Rae Ross: I’d say I’d want between 1.5 [from the Illinois] and 2.0 [billion dollars], and I’ll tell you why.

Jeff Berkowitz: Two [billion dollars] more? Two [billion dollars] more. And it all goes to education?

Judith-Rae Ross: It goes to several things in education. One. I’d like to see global languages [taught] at the grade school level. We are in a global economy. It’s about time some of us learned how to speak Chinese. No, Let me finish. Two. The gambling hole. The hole in the lottery: where money from the lottery goes into education and an equal number comes out. I would stop up that hole in the gambling bucket, or the lottery bucket. It’s about time. That would do something. I’d earmark part of that for pensions for teachers, to restructure. Why would you-

Jeff Berkowitz: You want more to come from Lotto to go to the pensions, Tax money that goes into the general revenue funds.

Judith-Rae Ross: To the pensions.

Jeff Berkowitz: Currently, it goes into the general revenue fund.

Judith-Rae Ross: It goes into the general revenue fund, yeah.

Jeff Berkowitz: So how much more for education? Two billion dollars, roughly?

Judith-Rae Ross: Roughly. And, I think it’s a good investment, frankly.

Jeff Berkowitz: And, a net increase of taxes of how much? Two billion? So, basically, all to Education?

Judith-Rae Ross: All to education.

Jeff Berkowitz: Two billion dollars?

Judith-Rae Ross: Yeah.

Jeff Berkowitz: Raise the income tax to five percent?

Judith-Rae Ross: No, I wouldn’t do it that way.

Jeff Berkowitz: How much are you going to raise it?

Judith-Rae Ross: Four percent. Four percent.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you think that gets you two billion dollars?

Judith-Rae Ross: It might not, it might not-- but at least it’s a start. Now, before you have me as a tax increasing--

Jeff Berkowitz: So, all these voters that you’re looking at now, you’re saying you’re raising their income tax from three percent to four percent, right?

Judith-Rae Ross: I think we have to look at it. I think we have to look at.

Jeff Berkowitz: Well, wait, look at or do it?

Judith-Rae Ross: Do it. And, then get property tax-- I said, do it.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do it. Do it.

Judith-Rae Ross: And, I said get property tax—

Jeff Berkowitz: You differ [with Beth Coulson]? [State Rep.] Beth Coulson won’t do that. Is that what you are saying?

Judith Rae-Ross: That's right. I do differ [from Coulson] on that.

Jeff Berkowitz: She won’t do it. That’s what you are saying?

Judith-Rae Ross: She won’t do it. I don’t think she will.

Jeff Berkowitz: And, we should say, we’d like to have Beth Coulson, here, on the show. We hope she’ll come on individually, as well as jointly, and discuss these ideas. You’d like to debate Beth?

Judith-Rae Ross: I will be perfectly happy to debate Beth.

Jeff Berkowitz: …We hope [Beth] will …come back [on the show] because democracy is all about discussing ideas, right?

Judith-Rae Ross: …”I disagree,” is the basis of democracy.
Public Affairs, with Judith-Rae Ross, 17th Dist. Democratic State Rep. candidate, was recorded on March 19, 2006 and is airing on the Suburban edition of Public Affairs this week [week of March 27] and on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs on Monday night, April 3 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21. See here, for a detailed, regular suburban airing schedule for Public Affairs . The show with candidate Ross is also available as a video podcast currently at the Public Affairs Cinema Complex, along with eighteen other shows, which are also airing there. [See here].
State Rep. Candidate Judith-Rae Ross[D-Skokie]debates and discusses with Show Host and Executive Legal Recruiter Jeff Berkowitz more than a dozen state legislative and public policy issues.
Transcript draft prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at