Lawmakers Q & A
In the upcoming weeks, the Austin Weekly News will feature a Q and A with some of our elected officials representing Austin. This week, State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th), tackles issues including, the controversy surrounding Sen. Roland Burris, Chicago school closings and the federal stimulus bill.

How would you assess President Obama’s first full month in office?

I think he has done a marvelous job so far. He has remained faithful to his non-partisan principles on the campaign trail. He has appointed nearly all of his cabinet members after a rough start with appointees. He came into the worst economic crisis in 50 years and has responded with poise, leadership and a clear vision. He was handed a bag of onions on election day but instead of wincing at the smell he’s had to do the best he could to marinate them.

Are you surprised at the level of partisanship that has existed in the passage of the $787 billion stimulus package?

A little. I was hoping that, giving the dire state of our economy, both parties could be on the same page and put together a package we can all agree on. But some Republican members of the Senate and House were not of the same mind. I think it could just be that some Republicans do not want to help the president be successful. When Bush was in office his economic policies passed through with very little opposition by the party. Now, they don’t like anything about the current president’s plan.

Is some of opposition justified? Some economist argue that it may not solve the crisis in the long-term but instead will create a deficit that will be nearly impossible to overcome within the next decade?

Well, the package is not going to address all issues at once. I know in Illinois we need to seriously invest in roads, highways, and infrastructure. In Austin, there are construction projects waiting to be pursued on North and Central, and Chicago and Central. Looking to develop business in these areas is how we put people back to work and bring revenue back into the community. I hope that funds from the stimulus package are used to pursue these issues.

Do you think Sen. Roland Burris should step down?

Well, I was watching Meet the Press on Sunday and [former U.S. Senator] Peter Fitzgerald was expressing his hope that Sen. Burris will step down. I personally don’t believe he needs to leave the Senate, but he does need to be more forthright with the American people about what exactly his dealings with [former governor Rod] Blagojevich were. I know a lot has been made about the inconsistencies in his testimony and statements to the media, but looking at it objectively, I know that when you’re at a press conference and you are bombarded with a barrage of questions any inconsistency will be noticed and magnified.

What are your thoughts about the appointment of Ron Huberman as the new Chicago Public Schools CEO? Some Local School Council members and community activists felt it was a bad choice.

Well, I happen to think that Ron is very capable of doing well in his new role. However, I think the thing that upset many parents and school council members is his perhaps over-confidence when he first stepped into this new role. He appeared to be more interested in stating his agenda rather than listening to the concerns of the parents. I think once he adjusts to his new position he will do quite well.

The 411 on Rep. Graham

• A native of Austin
• Graduated from Robert Morris College with a degree in Business Administration.
• Elected as state rep for the 78th district in
• A divorced mother of two daughters