WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Kennedy Talks Business with McDonough County Democrats

May 31, 2017

Chris Kennedy, one of at least five democrats seeking the party’s nomination for governor, said businesses in Illinois need a budget, not Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s turnaround agenda.

The Chicago businessman gave the keynote address at the McDonough County Democrats President’s Day Dinner last week. He said businesses want predictability from the government and they have been denied that during the nearly two-year long budget impasse.
 

“That’s what they want more than anything else. Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation you want from your government, something that is predictable, understandable,” Kennedy said. “[Without a budget] no one knows what is going to happen. No one knows what the tax rates are going to be. No one knows what Governor Rauner is going to do and until that is resolved, everything is at risk.”

While many other politicians have called for compromise, Kennedy shies away from referring to the gridlock in Springfield as a standoff.

“This isn’t a standoff between people who can’t get along. This is Governor Rauner in a hostage taking," Kennedy said. "Taking the budget hostage and saying look I’m not going to let you pass a budget until you pass my turnaround agenda. So he’s got a five item turnaround agenda and you get close to dealing with that and he adds another thing and another thing after that.”

Kennedy served as president of family owned Merchandise Mart, a commercial building in downtown Chicago for more than a dozen year. He stepped down in 2012, to start Top-Box Foods, a hunger relief non-profit.

He told the crowd of more than 200 people at the V.F.W in Macomb that while president of merchandise mart, he worked to bring businesses to Illinois and help them grow and not one business ever asked about the issues deemed priorities by Governor Rauner’s turnaround agenda.

“I dealt with 5,000 companies. Not one of those companies ever asked me about tort reform or workers comp, or right to work or how we draw or maps or term limits,” Kennedy said.

“Do you think Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, and Knoll, the big furniture manufacture said, ‘Chris, I would really like to come to Chicago and make a lot of money selling furniture in Chicago but geez, the way you draw your maps for your state legislators, wow, I’m really hung up on that.’ It didn’t happen and never will.”

Kennedy is the eighth son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. He grew up in Boston, but has lived in Illinois for more than 30 years. He told the media during an interview prior to his keynote address, that Illinois is on the wrong track.

“I think if we don’t change directions, my children, other children, maybe that whole generation leaves our state and never comes back,” Kennedy said. “That’s a concern for me, it’s a concern for everybody I think that lives in our state right now.”

Kennedy worked his way around the V.F.W. prior to dinner in order to meet attendees and take photos with them.
Credit Emily Boyer

Kennedy said the first thing Illinois needs is a budget in order to bring businesses back to Illinois. And in the long term, he said Illinois will also need to rebuild its state colleges and universities as well as community colleges. Kennedy he wants to look out of state for inspiration.  

“Don’t look to Springfield or the Thompson Center for answers, look to California. Understand how they fund and organize higher ed. Look to Massachusetts and Minnesota and see how they fund and organize K-12 education. Look at other states, learn from them, steal their ideas, bring the good ones to Illinois, adopt them and we will have the best outcomes of every state in the nation.”