Chelsea Laliberte Barnes, Illinois House 51st District 2022 Primary Election Questionnaire

Election 2024
Illinois House District 51 candidate Chelsea Laliberte Barnes

Full Name: Chelsea Laliberte Barnes

What office are you seeking? Illinois House District 51

What offices, if any, have you previously held? N/A

City: Palatine

Occupation: Licensed Social Worker & Small Business Owner

Education: High School Diploma, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, 2003 BA, Integrated Marketing Communications with a focus in Public Relations, Roosevelt University, 2007 MS, Social Administration (Social Work) with a focus on Children & Families, Case Western Reserve University, 2018 (became a Licensed Social Worker in 2019)

Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, 2021

Campaign Website: www.chelseaforillinois.com

What are the top issues facing your district and what would you like to do to address those issues?

Since I announced my candidacy last August, I have knocked on thousands of doors to learn what matters most to District 51 residents. Three themes consistently arise throughout the conversation about current concerns: the economy, health care, and education. As a social worker and nonprofit leader serving the community for over 13 years, I understand why.

Our economy is trending in a positive direction, but there is still work to be done. Despite a rapidly expanding labor market, inflation continues to hurt the wallets of all Americans. Consumers demand more than there is supply for—remember when it was difficult to find toilet paper? By growing our local and state economies, we can simultaneously mitigate supply chain challenges and create more well-paying jobs. We must also address severe issues in our pension program, provide small businesses with more significant support and resources, and work towards a fairer tax system.

We can work towards a more productive and equitable economy by improving access to quality health care— both mental and physical. Better health care means fewer sick days, fewer deaths, and healthier employer-employee communication. Some of the most successful U.S. companies recognized this as early as the 1980s when they began hiring physicians for their employees, with easier scheduling and shorter wait times. The public sector is responsible for making this ease of access a reality for all Illinoisans. By increasing funding for medical specialist training, local nursing programs, and social workers, no one will have to wait months to see a psychiatrist or endocrinologist. Additionally, Illinois must provide older adults with reliable long-term care options, better in-home and mobile services, and price caps on necessary prescriptions. By ensuring that retirees have a seat at the table, these challenges can be solved ethically and effectively.

I would take a similar approach to other community challenges: those most impacted by and connected to the issue must have a voice. As such, supporting and strengthening our school system can only be done in close collaboration with educators and students. District 51 has some of the best schools in the country, but we must continue to ensure that technological resources are modernized, that lower-income students reach the same achievements as their peers, and that our children are attending school to learn, not hide from intruders.

What I hope this answer makes clear is that there is no “single-issue” to solve—most of our challenges are interconnected. Many of our greatest challenges require surprisingly simple solutions; we just need political will and cooperation. Thus, we must approach issues from a systems-focused perspective. As your State Representative, I will help build a broad, diverse coalition of people devoted to creating a healthier and happier Illinois.

If COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rise again, what mitigations, if any, should the state pursue?

We know much more about COVID-19 today—its mutations, spread, and impacts on various populations— than we did at the beginning of the pandemic or even a year ago. We must implement proactive, ongoing, evidence-based interventions and avoid reliance on reactionary approaches. Hospitals should never worry about a lack of available beds or medical equipment, and emergency room wait times should never be life- threatening. By increasing access to telehealth, more Illinois residents can conduct their most basic appointments from the comfort of their homes. Technology can help in schools and offices too. If educators and workers have the resources to teach classes and meetings virtually, COVID outbreaks will cause fewer disruptions. Hybrid options are ideal: those who are sick or exposed can stay home, and others maintain the in-person experience. We’ve gone through a lot over the last two years. No one wants to return to isolation and confusion. Ensuring that our institutions are well-equipped to handle public health changes (COVID or otherwise) before they happen is the wisest long-term solution.

In light of Michael Madigan’s indictment, what steps should the legislature take to address corruption and ethics concerns in the state?

It has been devastating to see Illinois characterized by corruption and unethical decisions because, as a social worker, ethics is a foundational principle and core value in my life. One of the reasons I believe we need more social workers in government is because we receive regular training in ethical practices. I would use these practices to inform my role as a State Representative to ensure a commitment to service and social justice, uphold each person’s dignity and worth, nurture human relationships, and promote integrity. Making decisions about laws that millions of people will be required to abide by is a privilege I take very seriously.

I was encouraged to see the passage of SB539, which changed the state’s lobbying, campaign finance, and conflict-of-interest regulations. It is essential to maintain transparency to ensure corporations, nonprofits, and communities feel educated about these measures and newly established processes. Through coordinated, bipartisan consensus building, let’s build on this work by fast-tracking ethical standards. We must keep bringing advocates to the table–a core piece of my leadership experience.

I support prioritizing independent oversight by giving the Legislative Inspector General’s office more control over the investigations conducted and reports provided. Requiring the Office of the Executive Inspector General to report to the Legislative Ethics Commission leaves too much opportunity for nepotism and paying out favors. I will advocate for stricter oversight around how public offices and funds are used, increase campaign finance transparency, and disclose the sources that fund lobbyists and their activities.

If there was one bill that you could get through the legislature next year, what would it be?

I have been fortunate to help write and pass many state laws and a few federal bills. With this experience and my background as a social worker, we must think broadly to address systemic, intersecting problems. I would build off of the work I have focused on in addressing our mental health and substance use crisis, and work with the Legislative Mental Health Committee on a comprehensive plan to address the workforce shortage, lack of quality care due to low reimbursement rates, and the considerable rises in suicides, overdose deaths, and emergency room visits. I am also concerned about treatment stay lengths being far too short. We have much to work on, and I am eager to continue that work.

I am encouraged that the General Assembly has passed a budget that puts Illinoisans first. I would build off of this by implementing an omnibus package that takes account of all aspects of our economy, supports businesses and employees, and commissions an independent study that focuses on outcomes for addressing pensions, taxes, jobs, and the needs of workers and retirees. Legislators and voters must understand what is ahead of us so we are not constantly constrained by addressing the here and now. Let’s let data guide us.

If there was one recently passed law you could repeal, what would it be?

I don’t know if there is one specific bill I would advocate to repeal, but there is continued work that needs to be done on access to mental health care, economic sustainability, taxes, and affordable housing, among other vital issues.

Do you support term limits? If yes, why and what would they look like? And if no, why not?

I support term limits in leadership; our elections are essentially term limits. Voters select who they want to represent them in the General Assembly, but members themselves make decisions on committee chairs, majority leadership, and more. These individuals should not be allowed to leverage political connections for prolonged power. That said, legislating does require a massive learning curve. There are now many Master’s and Ph.D. programs in public policy because it is a complex and ever-changing field. Implementing term limits without full knowledge of their effects could stall the legislative process, hinder productivity, and reduce voter turnout. These are risks that should not be taken lightly, so the sim

Inflation across the country has greatly impacted the price of gasoline, food and other supplies. What should the legislature do to address these issues?

It was encouraging to see the Illinois General Assembly temporarily remove the sales and gas tax. While this is not a long-term solution, it gives Illinoisans a boost. We can address the causes contributing to inflation at the federal level by ensuring strong domestic diplomacy is occurring as we navigate the global catastrophe of war in Ukraine and COVID-19.

We can reduce our reliance on the manufacturing, distribution, and retailing of products and services outside of our state and country. We have seen the negative impacts on our supply chains due to our overdependence on services out of Illinois. We must ensure jobs are being filled in industries like farming and retail. And, I would like to see businesses across the state take a look at what they can be doing to operate leaner while prioritizing the new and evolving needs of consumers. Much of this is comprehensive, and we need to be looking at inflation through that lens.

Taxes are a top concern of Illinois voters. What do you think the underlying issues are and how would you propose addressing them?

Illinoisans need more transparent information about our taxation system and how it impacts their lives. Complicated political rhetoric has dominated the public discussion, creating confusion and frustration. Although many voters rejected a graduated income tax in 2020, PACs and the ultra-wealthy had an outsized influence on the debate preceding the referendum.

Providing nonpartisan, evidence-based information to voters about the costs and benefits of different options, in combination with analysis from economists and actuaries, is the best path forward. This should be done not just for income taxes but the many other varieties available (i.e., land value taxes, value-added taxes, and gas taxes).

My husband and I come from working families and are now raising our own. I know how critical it is to maintain trust, transparency, and confidence. As Representative of District 51, I will work to create a fairer, more understandable tax system that ultimately strengthens the Illinois economy.

What are three things the state legislature could do to promote better fiscal responsibility within state government?

Continue paying our bills, improving our economic standing, and finding new funding sources like grants and sales tax from new and evolving industries.

Get a better understanding of how the state and local governments engage in wasteful spending practices, build a plan to reappropriate funds for other necessities, and re-train government entities on best practices.

Address our pension issues through short- and long- term solutions without diminishing public retirement benefits. The state must provide fully funded, fixed benefits for new employees and make payouts for current beneficiaries more sustainable. We need to keep paying our bills and drive down debt. I also support extending a buyout option for public schools, universities, and state employees.

How would you propose addressing the problems with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services?

As a social worker and mother, I am deeply concerned about DCFS. I respect and value the dedication of the caseworkers and all they do. They put their lives on the line every day to protect the most vulnerable among us. Earlier this year, a caseworker was killed during a home visit. The system needs an overhaul to protect the children, families, and caseworkers across the state. An independent department audit with recommendations for positive change is sorely needed. We can learn from other states/models that report effective outcomes.

The reality is that the issues facing children and families go beyond DCFS. We must look at how our laws benefit or hinder their safety, and we must advance a continuum of measures to ensure they thrive. The KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual survey analyzing child well-being within each state, reports that Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Hampshire are leading the country in how they approach child welfare. They have prioritized health insurance for children, decreasing poverty and hunger, and creating access to technology for virtual learning. Illinois can also ensure that policies address disparities and are designed with a racial and ethnic equity lens. We also can expand Medicaid and provide equitable, quality education.

What can be done at a state level to address crime?

The critical question we’ve been asking for decades: what causes crime, and how do we stop it? Today, we’re much closer to an answer, but there is a lot of work to be done. History, sociological studies, and data link crime to poverty, lack of education, limited opportunity, and racism. With universal access to a living wage, equitable school funding, and greater inclusion of marginalized groups in positions of power, communities will grow safer. Building more accessible housing options, improving access to public transportation, and increasing green spaces are also powerful tools for lowering crime.

As the mother of a three-year-old child and as a social worker serving children and families, this is an issue that keeps me up at night. To be clear, I believe that individuals who violate the law should be held accountable for their actions. People who commit the most dangerous crimes, including against women, children, and the elderly, must be kept away from the public. However, our justice system must be focused on rehabilitation, not dehumanization. Over the last 13 years, I have worked with selfless individuals who put their lives on the line every day—police, probation officers, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, court/police social workers, and beyond. My experience has made one thing clear: most crimes are a result of complex socioeconomic and psychological variables that are changeable. Increasing access to quality mental health and medical treatment, both within and outside jails and prisons, is critical. If people receive treatment while serving their sentences, it will help to ensure that they live productive lives after their release.

As always, strengthening community social ties and trust is also beneficial. We need to collaborate with law enforcement and social services to build protective and preventive strategies instead of waiting for a violent act to occur. When Lake County leadership, the criminal justice community, and I built the Lake County Opioid Initiative to reduce drug-related deaths and arrests, we took a similarly proactive approach. Our program, A Way Out, which has helped to drive down deaths, was modeled in surrounding communities like McHenry County. We must be developing communities to promote safety, collaboration, and cohesion, not division. I plan to build on these ideas here in District 51.

Did Joe Biden win the 2020 election?

Yes, he certainly did.

What is your position on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?

We must ensure that January 6 never occurs again. It was an organized coup against the U.S. government, antidemocratic, and emblematic of an ongoing war of misinformation throughout this country. Those responsible for the terror that unfolded on January 6th must be held accountable and serious efforts must be made to combat the national rise in conspiracy theories, extremism, and political violence. The brave staff, officers, and others at the Capital who protected vulnerable members should be honored, and necessary mental or physical health treatment following the attack should be subsidized.

Illinois has seen significant revenue growth from marijuana sales and enhanced gambling. Are there other industries the state should consider to grow revenue?

With the most recent reports indicating that the world is continuing to fall short of 2030 climate goals, Illinois has the opportunity to become a global leader. Several studies have highlighted the high potential within Illinois boundaries for both solar and wind energy, two burgeoning industries. Creating more incentives for solar, wind, and other climate-related companies is a no- brainer. A sustainable environment is intrinsically connected to a healthy economy. We can and should do everything in our power to ensure that future generations have clean air, stable energy costs, and safe drinking water. We should also target other industries such as technology, agriculture, and professional services, and offer incentives to ensure they come to our state and stay.

Additionally, I’d like to see the trend in revenue growth continue by focusing on our current business communities. As a small business owner, I am a member of our local Chambers of Commerce in Palatine, the Lake Zurich area, and Arlington Heights. I speak regularly with business leaders, and I hear how they need technical assistance, access to grants, additional tax incentives, and other resources. In response to these conversations, I think business owners and operators should have access to training on best practices for their industry to ensure they are operating in the most efficient way.