State revenue, pensions top issues in 61st House District
By Diana Kuyper Special to The News-Sun October 17, 2012 7:42PM
Updated: December 17, 2012 1:58AM
Newcomer Democrat Ed Erwin is seeking his first bid for state representative, running against incumbent Republican JoAnn Osmond in the 61st House District.
Osmond has held the position since 2002 when she was appointed to her late husband Tim’s position.
The district includes Winthrop Harbor, Zion, Newport Township, Wadsworth and Old Mill Creek, and parts of Antioch, Gurnee, Lake Villa and Lindenhurst. It encompasses the northern half of the 31st Senate District.
Erwin, a Lindenhurst resident for 22 years, is chairman of the Lake Villa Township Democratic Party. He is semiretired and has worked as an attorney and subsequently ran a business for 10 years.
For the past six years he has volunteered for state Democratic candidates, but dates his interest to his days as a paid campaign staff member for Adlai Stevenson’s U.S. Senate campaign in 1974. “That was an awesome experience and gave me a taste for politics,” said Erwin.
Erwin says he is seeking office because the 61st District deserves someone in the here and now.
“My one passion and motivation is to be engaged with constituents. What I have heard from campaigning door to door is that many people don’t even know who their state rep is. It is so easy to insulate yourself in Springfield and not take responsibility for what is going on throughout the state and I see the partisan trench being dug deeper and deeper with Dems and Reps blaming each other to the point where it is devoid of common sense,” said Erwin. He is especially concerned about resolving financial issues in the state and favors revenue-generating ideas like casinos.
“I don’t know why casinos in Illinois indicate corruption, but are legitimate in northwestern Indiana. That is a revenue stream I favor. It doesn’t dip directly into our pockets.”
Resolving the problems with unfunded pensions is another top concern. “Public pensions are on everyone’s minds in a couple of ways. The current bill that is on table right now doesn’t satisfy either side and hasn’t gone anywhere. The cost of Medicare for our state is also huge and I don’t think we are driving towards reducing the costs,” Erwin said.
He wants to go back to the table on public pension issues.”Our legislators have to take responsibility and take the blame. That opens the door to stakeholders, including unions and non-union members, being willing to sit down and negotiate. The best negotiations when I was an attorney were transparent and would include the media to report the play-by-play. Make that negotiating table a big table and include a lot more people around it.”
He wants to push for lean government. “Every expenditure must fulfill a clear and unequivocal mission. If it doesn’t, you better have a good reason why. That would be a fabulous first step.”
Osmond, a resident of Antioch, is in her 10th year serving the district. Re-election would require her to move within six months because she lives just out of the new district. “After 10 years I can speak seriously about my district and this state.”
Osmond says she has worked hard and successfully for constituents to keep more money in their pockets. “I am a champion of no new taxes. Funding the pensions is an obligation, but it has to be revised. It has to be a different type of retirement system. It needs to be sustainable for the current retirees but going forward we need to change the system.”
Coming from a small business background she says she has worked hard to keep business in the district, “but that is difficult when Wisconsin is trying to lure business away.”
She sold her insurance agency three years ago and for the first time in decades she can devote herself full-time to her grandchildren and voters of the 61st District. “For the first time in 89 years there is not an Osmond business in Antioch.”
Instead, she is in the 61st District office every day at Warren Township Center. “It was a unique opportunity to move when the office suite became available and I was fortunate to come over here in the same building as the senior center. It is a nice environment.”
In the coming term she would like the administration to look more seriously at tourism as a revenue generator for the state.
“We have many amenities, but they are in ill repair. We need to invest in particular in three areas locally, including Adeline GeoKaris State Park (Illinois Beach State Park), North Point Marina and Chain O’ Lakes State Park. We have to look at them as a source of tourism revenue and make improvements to make that happen. If we get these facilities up and running and have to charge a small fee for people to enjoy them, it will be worth it.”
She sits on the House Affordable Health Care Committee. The requirements of the act must be implemented soon statewide. “We still have a lot of questions on how to implement this but we need to move forward and make it happen, but we have to make sure it does not burden our businesses, doctors and hospitals.”
In all her work for the district she said she always keeps constituents’ views and interests in mind. “I always have an open door and I am here daily to hear anyone’s concerns, and I will continue to follow that policy.”