Kifowit hosts first town hall as legislator
By David Sharos For The Beacon-News February 4, 2013 6:52PM
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit address the concerns of her constituents during an informal town hall meeting at the McCoy Community Service Center on Monday, February 4, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 6, 2013 6:08AM
The McCoy Community Service Center in Aurora was the site Monday night for a special town hall meeting, offered by newly elected state representative Stephanie Kifowit, (D-Aurora) for the new 84th House District. From 5 until 6:30 p.m., local residents were invited to engage with casual conversations with Kifowit as well as her staff about issues affecting folks in Aurora.
Kifowit, 41, served over 9 years as an alderman for the City of Aurora and said that there were three issues that citizens continue to talk about, both during and since the election.
“The three biggest issues are getting the state’s finances in order by balancing the budget, getting property tax relief for some people who are really overpaying, and finding jobs,” Kifowit said. “I’m recently elected, so I’m also looking for more personal experiences regarding the issues as well as concerns people may have with local departments and their processes.”
Kifowit said she preferred a more casual setting Monday night, where residents could just approach her at a table and talk freely about their concerns. She noted that her focus on employment also has a wider base.
“I serve on the Economic Development Committee for the state, where we are looking for opportunities for people and for businesses to develop,” she said. “The spectrum of people who have issues and the concerns they have are endless.”
About a dozen citizens as well as township representatives and those representing other groups talked amongst themselves for about 20 minutes before Kifowit suggested the meeting begin. Many, including Karen Kramford of Aurora, said they had a history with their new representative, who seemed to be very much on target regarding their concerns.
“I worked with Stephanie when she was an alderman, and she was very focused on bringing business here to Aurora,” Kramford said. “I’d like to hear her thoughts on what she wants to do, now that she’s been elected. She’s always been very supportive about local issues and I find she is very realistic and open to new ideas.”
Bernie Biernacki, who also lives in Aurora, said he had played golf a few times with Kifowit while she was an alderman and admitted he was concerned about property taxes.
“I think for what we pay, we get quite a lot in terms of services, but I’m concerned about the raising of taxes because we can’t all drive Cadillacs,” he said. “I’m concerned about how taxes might escalate in the future. The other critical thing is pensions. My wife worked as a teacher, and the state never fulfilled its promises about its share of the pension.”
John Roesch, 78, of Aurora said his concerns focused on the state’s debt and that up until now, “nothing seems to be getting done about it.”
“The debt keeps rolling up, and to me, Stephanie seems like the kind of person who has good sense and I agree with her and her viewpoints,” Roesch said. “She believes in smaller government and that we need to live within our means. The fact that our state is rated so poorly shows you we haven’t done that.”
Some visitors like Lynn McHale of Aurora admitted that a town hall meeting was something unique to her experience and that she merely wanted to attend one to see what she could learn.
“I’ve not been to a town hall before, and Stephanie was someone I voted for,” McHale said. “I also am concerned about the funding of the pensions.”
Dianne McGuire, a trustee for the College of DuPage, said she was also interested in the meeting and was hoping to hear what other constituents living in the area served by the college were thinking.
“I’ve not attended a town hall either and I’d like to go back to the college and report some of the concerns people have.”
In terms of follow up from Monday’s meeting, Kifowit said there is another meeting planned in the next two weeks in Oswego and that she is currently working to form advisory groups. McHale said she believed people like Kifowit and others give Illinois residents hope.
“She is new and hopefully things are going to get done now that we have some new blood working for us and with that representation, we can make more inroads,” she said.