July 03, 2023

Casten holds town hall meeting for constituents

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-6th) is still a relatively new face to the local community, as after the re-drawing of district boundaries last year, his district now includes a large part of the 19th Ward and surrounding suburbs.

A scientist from Downers Grove, Casten hosted a town hall meeting in Alsip on June 28, and international news, such as Ukraine’s war with Russia, Congress striking a last-minute deal on a debt ceiling, and the national economy were at the top of his mind.

About 75 people attended the meeting, where Casten said the country is seeing an “unprecedented surge” in investment in manufacturing.

That is in part, he said, because of legislation such as the CHIPS and Science Act, which the White House said last year “will unlock hundreds of billions more in private sector semiconductor investment across the country, including production essential to national defense and critical sectors.”

“I’m 51 years old. My entire life experiences, as long as we can get cheaper stuff somewhere else, we’ll shut down manufacturing in the U.S. and prioritize that,” Casten said. “And now we’re making a very conscious decision [to not do that]. … We left a lot of people out of work. We decimated a lot of communities. Let’s bring that back. We’re seeing those investments.”

Regarding local issues, Casten said after the meeting that $30 million worth of projects was recently designated to communities in the area, including for Evergreen Park to replace lead water lines.

In Alsip, he said he has helped the police department obtain body cameras.

Addressing railroad and infrastructure concerns, he said, is also a top priority—as it was for his predecessors, Dan Lipinski and Marie Newman.

Residents have often complained of stopped freight trains blocking crossings for long periods of time.

“I’ve yet to come to a Southwest Side community who thinks that their life would be better if we had longer trains and fewer rail-grade crossings,” Casten said. “My dad always likes to say that if you’ve found someone’s strength, you’ve found their weakness. The strength of the South Side is it has a robust manufacturing sector that is intimately connected to railyards. The weakness of the South Side is it has a robust manufacturing sector that is intimately connected to railyards.”

Regarding international events, Casten said he is “extremely nervous” about recent events in Russia, where military forces briefly rebelled against President Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine. While some consider the rebellion the greatest challenge to Putin in his two decades in power, Casten is still uneasy. Putin might appear weaker, but there are downsides.

“It’s also the case that a massive nuclear-arms state where we don’t know who is in control,” he said, “is not a good situation.”

Casten also expressed relief that Congress reached a deal on maintaining the nation’s debt ceiling, avoiding a default on the federal government’s debt.

As the Associated Press reported, Republicans had refused to raise the ceiling unless Democrats agreed to cut spending. The final agreement suspends the debt limit until 2025, after the next presidential election, and restricts spending.

The debt limit is $31.4 trillion, which “will ensure that the government can borrow to pay debts already incurred,” the AP reported.

According to President Joe Biden, it was a compromise.

“No one got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed,” Biden said. “We averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse.”

Still, experts said problems still loom. As CNN reported, the federal-budget deficit for 2023 is projected to be $1.5 trillion, and it will nearly double to $2.7 trillion in 2033.

Casten said the issue wasn’t just a matter of fiscal responsibility. The good news is that the U.S. didn’t “blow up the global economy” over the dispute, he said, but the bad news is that the conversation shouldn’t have been taking place in the first place.

“The analogy that I make is suppose that you decided to get a job and that job had a certain income level. You then decided to buy a home and that home had a certain mortgage payment associated with it,” Casten said. “Then you decided as of tomorrow, I’m not going to pay my mortgage anymore. That’s not fiscally responsible—that’s just unethical. And if you did that, you’d probably get evicted.”

Casten said this was his sixth town hall meeting of 2023, and he plans to host more in coming weeks.

To see video of the Alsip town hall, visit the Facebook page for Congressman Sean Casten.

By:  Kyle Garmes
Source: The Beverly Review