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Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County state's attorney, speaks during a news conference in Belleville in 2017. 

CHRISTOPHER — Congressional hopeful Brendan Kelly announced today a long-form agenda to “save Southern Illinois.”

In what he calls the Saving Southern Illinois Plan, the Democrat lays out what he sees as the wholesale big-ticket issues facing the 12th District, namely health care, infrastructure, trade and long-term economic development. He will present this plan at the Christopher Civic Center at 6 p.m.

Weaving personal narrative in with observations he has made by traveling throughout the 12th, Kelly hones in on creating “dignity” for those outside of the financial elite. A prevailing wage, affordable healthcare for all, security for the elderly, and breaking a well-ingrained cycle of poverty for those in the state are big themes in Kelly’s plan.

Kelly said it would be a priority if he is elected to help protect workers, specifically when it comes to pensions.

“They’re in bad shape in large part because investments … were devastated by the 2008 crisis,” he said.

“If we as a country bailed out Wall Street, bailed out Detroit, we can take care of the American worker who did what they were supposed to do,” Kelly said, adding that, “They earned it. They deserve it.”

To do this, he proposed creating a pension rehabilitation administration that would oversee protective measures, an idea Kelly said has been floated in the past.

Kelly’s plan makes a point of pushing bipartisan teamwork — he says with each point in the plan that he will work with any person on Capitol Hill to move this agenda forward. However, this won’t be an easy task, as the cavernous divide between political ideologies seems to move wider and deeper with each week. But still, it’s worth a try, Kelly said, and there are things in his plan he said anyone could get behind.

He said the protection of pensions is something he especially thinks could see real bipartisan support, adding that there was a strong moral argument to be made for protecting these investments.

“This is one area where I think we truly really could have progress,” he said.

Kelly also wrote into his plan provisions for boosting local businesses and entrepreneurs. To do this, he said there would need to be significant infrastructure investment — another place he sees as fertile ground for bipartisan cooperation given President Donald Trump’s push on the campaign for investment here — as well as keeping a close eye on what he sees as an ever-consolidating business market.

“We are on the edge of monopolies,” Kelly said. The ever-shrinking market for things like high speed internet and other such services are hurting small businesses, he said. By consolidating, Kelly said there is a diminished power of choice for consumers. He said he would encourage keeping a closer eye on these actions.

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“There has to be tough scrutiny of these mergers, not just before, but after,” Kelly said.

Kelly also said he would like to review some regulations that potential constituents have told him are burdensome.

“I’m a Democrat but I recognize that there are some regulations that were well out of date,” Kelly said.

He said he would like to revisit a regulation controlling the use of unused airwaves under control of the federal government. Kelly said he has seen proposals to use these channels to broadcast internet connections to rural areas where infrastructure updates would not be cost-effective.

This push for infrastructure, Kelly said, is also at the heart of his plan to revitalize Southern Illinois University.

“If we want SIU to thrive, we have to connect it to the greater world,” he said, explaining his wish to connect a major highway to Carbondale, making travel to and from the city and its largest employer easier.

He wrote in the plan that he wants to streamline grant funding for the school and to work with school officials to find creative cost-saving measures.

“There’s a large group of people within the SIU community that have ideas on how that could be done,” he said.

The sustainability of SIU, Kelly said, is vital to the success of the region.

Kelly said he looks forward to revealing his plan and continuing to have a dialogue with the people he hopes to serve and shaping his platform to better represent them.

“Our policies should come from the people, too,” he said.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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