Lilly goes door-to-door in new district
2/24/12 Oak Park Camille Lilly goes door to door on Oak Park Ave. introducing herself to residents. Camille is running for re election in the Illinois State Rep. position in the 78th district. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:20AM
State Rep. Camille Lilly has been hitting the streets to get to know her constituents, old and new.
On Feb. 24 she trudged through the snow on 900 and 1000 block of North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, knocking on doors. Since fall, she’s been meeting face to face with residents, handing them a community survey and inquiring about what’s on their minds.
Rising taxes and economic development were on the minds of most.
Oak Park resident Robin Basney is a stay-at-home mom with another child on the way. She told Lilly her family moved to Oak Park three years ago for the schools, but they have seen their property taxes rise from $8,000 to $14,000.
“We appeal them (taxes) all of the time,” he said. “They are taxing the house like it’s worth $500,000.”
Lilly said there has to be a better way.
“I’m looking at legislation that would freeze property taxes during these challenging economic times,” Lilly said. “Let’s not hit our citizens again.”
Lilly was named to the state representative seat in November 2010, replacing Deborah Graham. She is being challenged in March 20 primary by Michael Nardello.
The district boundaries were redrawn last year and now cover more of Oak Park, the West Side of Chicago, Elmwood Park, River Grove and Franklin Park.
“The Lord expanded my boundaries,” she said. “This is a blessing.”
Lilly, 50, grew up in Oak Park, attending Hatch Elementary School and graduating from Oak Park-River Forest High School. She lives in the Galewood neighborhood that borders the village. “I’m honored to serve the community where I had the opportunity to be raised,” she said.
Investing in economic development, especially small and local businesses, is one way she believes the state can generate revenue instead of raising taxes.
“We need to grow these kinds of businesses locally during these difficult financial times,” she said.
She said big companies have been given help from the state, sometimes with minimal return, and small businesses should be given a chance to do something with the state’s help.
“I believe small businesses are the backbone of America,” she said. “We’ve given incentives to major corporations and those incentives need to be returned to the State of Illinois and funneled into the small businesses, where they will be valued and supported.”
Taxes were also on the mind of Janet Vinci, another Oak Park resident. With education expenses and rising property taxes, she said it’s hard to stay afloat. “The tax and the value of the house seem to be in false alignment,” she said. “We don’t have enough business tax support.”
She said if taxes keep going up it would be difficult to sell her home if she chose to do so. “One goes up and the other (home value) goes down,” she said.
Lilly said cutting cost in the state’s budget is a priority, doing a budget audit line by line to make sure there is no waste and duplication and budgeting based on outcome. She said state funds are allocated to a particular program or agency and the impact should be scrutinized, while keeping the public informed.
“We need the state to let the people know what we’re doing,” she said.
Lilly believes in transparency and making sure the public knows why she and other state legislators make certain decisions.
“Create a fairness in state government through inclusion,” she said. “Make sure people understand what is happening.”
Along with being a state legislator, Lilly works part time for Loretto Hospital in Chicago as vice president of External Affairs and Development, which was her full-time job prior to being elected to the state legislature. She has worked at the hospital in various capacities for the past 21 years.
“I don’t have the political background you would expect,” she said. “I work and do my part to make changes.”
She developed the Beth-Anne Life Centre campus, constructing a facility for senior citizens, a daycare, the Westside Performing Art Center and a small business incubator. She said she led the Austin Banner Program, promoting local businesses, took the initiative to bring in several new and still thriving companies through the Lake and Central Redevelopment Project, and help create the Austin Chamber of Commerce Summer Youth Program - which has offered valuable career experiences for more than 5,000 local students.
“I’m no stranger to hard work,” Lilly said. “I stay at it and stick to it.”