The people of the 17th Congressional District put their trust in me Nov. 6 to represent them in the U.S. Congress. I’m humbled and honored to be taking a seat in the hallowed halls of the House of Representatives, which once featured some of the greatest statesmen of our nation’s history – names such as James Madison, William Jennings Bryan and John F. Kennedy.
The excitement of winning the election and the honor of serving in Congress are tempered by the challenges facing our nation and the people of this new 17th Congressional District. We must act to energize our economy, create good-paying jobs, address our national debt, and strengthen the middle class. And we must find ways to break through the gridlock that has paralyzed our government for too long and produced harmful consequences for the American people.
These challenges can’t wait. People I met on the campaign trail are struggling and looking for solutions. That’s why I’m bringing a sense of urgency to tackling these issues by laying the groundwork for action before I take office in early January.
I’m moving forward on the following fronts in the days since I was elected:
Jobs and the economy: The day after the election, I began reaching out to leaders in business, education, labor, agriculture and other sectors of the economy in our district to discuss an economic summit. While some national economic numbers point to growth, areas of the 17th District still suffer from high unemployment, and many areas face unacceptable levels of underemployment. We will host the summit within the first 100 days of my term, and my staff will work with leaders from throughout the district to make jobs and economic growth our top priorities.
Ending gridlock: One of the main reasons I chose to run for office is I’m tired of the partisan bickering that slowed or stopped action on a number of measures critical to our economic health. The day after the election, I began reaching out to newly-elected members of Congress from both political parties to suggest we meet soon to get to know one another and plan a bipartisan retreat. Former Congressman Ray LaHood once hosted those types of retreats to create a more cooperative atmosphere. I will continue to meet with members of Congress from both parties during session to discuss areas of potential collaboration and keep the lines of communication open.
Effective representation: I’ve also reached out to a variety of leaders in the district to discuss the committee assignments that could best serve our district. The Armed Services Committee is one I have an interest in because of the presence of the Rock Island Arsenal in the Quad-Cities region, the Air National Guard base near Peoria, and the importance of the aerospace industry in the Rockford area. I also have an interest in serving on the agriculture committee to represent the leading industry in our region. And I plan to seek a seat on the transportation and infrastructure committee, which will give the district a voice on key issues such as Amtrak, the I-74 bridge and other important highways in the region.
Constituent service: I will have regional offices throughout the district and have already begun discussions with other elected officials about sharing office space. I plan to have social media in place to enhance communications and hire staff from within the district to handle constituent concerns and help them cut through the bureaucracy.
Those four examples are just a start. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll listen, bring people of different outlooks to the table, and always put the best interests of the district ahead of the special interests.
I commit to working just as hard to represent the people of the 17th Congressional District as I did to win the election. Our district is vast in size, resources and potential. But our best asset is our people. I’ll work every day to best represent the people and earn your trust as your representative in Congress. And I will bring a sense of urgency to help tackle the challenges we face.
Note to readers – Cheri Bustos, an East Moline Democrat, is congresswoman-elect for the 17th District, which includes Whiteside and Carroll counties.