Today attended an impressive campaign gathering for Chris Kennedy, running for the Illinois democratic party governor’s nomination against hotel family magnate J.B. Pritzger. The meeting was attended by about 50 residents of the condo building where I live in Chicago. I don’t spend much time in Illinois because I love my place in the woods near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin so much, so I’m a little rusty on the issues.

But, Kennedy, son of Bobby and nephew of JFK, gave an informal presentation consistent with Kennedy social values, yet surprisingly insightful of the big picture on Chicago and downstate state issues. For example, he chided Chicago’s top universities for not doing the kind of job those in Silicon Valley or Boston have done in attracting high-tech entrepreneurs. His business philosophy is to build from within, rather than focus on bringing in more Boeings.

He cited the poor job being done across the state in high school education for statewide poverty and job issues. He pointed out the crooked job state legislators, especially house leader Madigan, do in undervaluing many commercial properties and some residential areas on real estate taxes, because those people are personally profiting from legal businesses focusing on such tax issues. He shared insights on better funding ideas for our schools.

Kennedy said Chicago leaders lie when they say they will add a thousand police officers over 2 years to deal with rampant shootings and crime. He pointed out that about 500 police retire each year, and Chicago has fewer police on duty than in the past. He said that lack of controls on the interstate and neighborhood gun trade is a major issue he would address.

Kennedy talked of the chronic unemployment and hunger rife in many of Chicago’s food deserts. Back in the 90s, I served on the board of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the nation’s largest food bank, where a young Kennedy was board president. He and his wife went on to found not-for-profit Top Box Foods, which provides high quality, low-cost food to thousands of needy Chicago families.

Kennedy also claims he connects well with downstate voters, given his early background criss-crossing the agricultural communities as an employee of Archer Daniels Midland.

One in the audience challenged Kennedy as to why he has such a low public profile compared with his primary competitor, billionaire J. B. Pritzger. Kennedy pointed out that he has consistently been out-polling Pritzger, despite his competitor’s spending on maintaining a high profile in the community and on social media. Kennedy indicated he will go into high gear in his campaign in January, as voters take more interest in the March democratic primary. He pointed out that Pritzger has deep pockets.

All in all, Kennedy displayed a deep understanding of state and local issues, and directions to their resolution. To the extent one can look past his Kennedy progenitors, and evaluate the man on his own merits, he is an experienced, deeply involved public figure, with a surprisingly strong background in big picture issues in Chicago and Illinois.

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