Congresswoman Robin Kelly was elected to represent the Illinois' 2nd Congressional District on April 9, 2013, and for the second time as the elected representative of the district, addressed the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce. Rep. Kelly told the group that her goal for the Chicago Southland and the Illinois' 2nd Congressional district is simple: "Becoming a major player in the global economy."
This past Monday, on June 16, 2014, Kelly reviewed her first full year in office, and also updated the Chamber on many legislative issues concerning the Chicago Southland and the Illinois' 2nd Congressional district.
Since taking office, Kelly has worked tirelessly to promote national safety and expand economic opportunity, sponsoring numerous bills to generate job growth and to put an end the senseless gun violence on the streets. Kelly’s first legislation introduced, "Improving Gun Safety Standards Act," is a common sense reform bill, and would allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue safety standards for guns and ammunition that will help reduce gun-related deaths.
Another innovative piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Kelly, H.R.2465, would require that the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, to submit to Congress an annual report on the effects of gun violence on public health. It would do for gun violence, what the Surgeon General did for the health effects of smoking. Declaring it a public health hazard.
As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kelly currently serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs and National Security Subcommittees. She also serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Research and Technology Subcommittee.
During her term as chief of staff, Kelly pursued a progressive agenda rooted in promoting small business job creation, investment strategy innovation, and advancing financial literacy in underserved areas. She also helped transform the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office – an agency that managed as much as $17 billion in state funds – by improving efficiencies, streamlining expenses and demanding stronger ethical guidelines.
In addressing the Chamber, Rep. Kelly discussed "jobs" as being her number one priority for the Illinois' 2nd Congressional District and her vision of "becoming a major player in the global economy." The driving force behind this vision is what Kelly calls the "Third Airport project."
Kelly gave the Chamber a progress report on the "Third Airport project."
"In the last year, I’ve met twice with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to advance the Third Airport project. At the most recent meeting, I was joined in Washington by a delegation of Illinois officials to express to the Secretary the strong regional support for the airport and to urge federal officials to expedite final approval of the project," said Kelly. "It was a significant meeting because leaders from Chicago, south Cook, Will and Kankakee counties came together for the first time to express their support for the third airport."
Joining Kelly in the meeting in Washington, D.C., with Secretary Foxx were State Representatives Will Davis, Anthony DeLuca, Al Riley, Marcus Evans and Larry Walsh Jr.. State Senators Toi Hutchinson and Jacqueline Collins; and Ed Paesel, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. Paesel has been a strong and steadfast supporter of the airport for 30 years, said Rep. Kelly.
Kelly praised the leaders, saying, "Our collective, persuasive and positive energy worked. After the meeting, FAA officials promised to expedite the process for us. Currently, IDOT and the FAA are working together to review and eventually approve the Airspace Study, the environmental impacts and the Airport Layout Master Plan."
Kelly is hopeful that "IDOT would receive final approval from the FAA to break ground on the airport in 2016."
Linked with the "Third Airport project" is the Illiana Expressway project. "It’s been well documented what an enormous benefit the Illiana will be to our region—and the state. Yet the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning—CMAP—rejected the project."
Addressing the issue of pushback on the project by interests in the city of Chicago and Cook County, Kelly said, "Unfortunately, it was a decision based more on regional bias rather than sound strategic planning. As a result of CMAP’s rejection, we had to navigate through tricky terrain to gain support for the Illiana project from the Metropolitan Planning Organization."
In the end, the project was approved with support from the Southland interests. "I’m proud to say that we again united as a region and went into action. Regional business leaders, labor leaders, political leaders of both parties from all levels of government came together in support of the Illiana."
Rep. Kelly added, "I don’t have to tell you how rare it is that a group this diverse stands united in support of a single project. In addition to joining the coalition, I testified before the Metropolitan Planning Organization and wrote an op-ed piece for the Tribune in support of the Illiana. In the end, the MPO put facts above politics and approved the expressway."
The Illiana expressway project is now awaiting final approval from the Federal Highway Administration. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife regarding endangered and threatened species along the corridor, as well as the highway’s impact on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie raised concerns. Rep. Kelly is optimistic that while this may delay a decision by the U.S. Highway Department by a few months, she is optimistic these issues will be resolved and the project will remain on track.
Both Illinois and Indiana have already selected finalists to bid on the project. Once the project is approved at the federal level, IDOT will be prepared for a groundbreaking that could happen as soon as next year.
Rep. Kelly reiterated "These two transportation projects will make the Southland a major player in the global economy." She is committed to "Serving as an ambassador for our local businesses in helping to expand their access to international markets. With all the infrastructure improvements planned, I’ve received several inquiries from international business interests looking for opportunities to do business with us."
Rep. Kelly announced plans for later this year, hosting an International Business Summit in Washington where she will connect 1) local businesses; 2) chambers of commerce; 3) economic development groups and; 4) community stakeholders with representatives from countries around the world to discuss international investment in the 2nd District.
"This international connection will open the Chicago Southland to the world, attracting new businesses, jobs and opportunity," added Rep. Kelly.