Bill Foster says common sense will be key to solving major problems
Newly-elected U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is set to take measures built on what makes the most business sense with independent solutions to today’s problems — even if it means he has to compromise.
Foster ousted veteran Republican Judy Biggert in the November election, who once claimed a stronghold in the area for more than a decade. The new 11th District stretches through Chicago’s western suburbs and covers five counties: Kane, Kendall, DuPage, Will and Cook and includes all or parts of Aurora, Montgomery, North Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield, Darien, Downers Grove, Naperville, Lisle, Willowbrook, Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Joliet, New Lenox, Romeoville, Shorewood, and Burr Ridge.
Foster is now making his rounds through the communities he serves, hoping to gauge the largest needs and concerns of the area.
“I’ve been meeting with local mayors and taking a driving tour of their cities—it’s a tremendous way to learn the history and the real politics of the city,” said Foster. “This way, I get to see where all the dead bodies are buried so to speak … It’s a way to learn the real needs and what they would like first from the federal government. That’s a big part of my job and my staff’s job.”
New to the 11th District, but not to politics, Naperville resident Foster is a scientist, businessman and former Congressman, who served from March 2008 until January 2011 as the representative of Illinois' 14th Congressional District.
He said his focus now will be personally meeting with local mayors and Rotary clubs to listen to their input. In time, he hopes to get back to meetings with his constituents as well. He’d like to revisit his practice of “coffee on the corner,” of years past, where he set up shop at the local grocery store to chat with citizens.
But he said he first has to get back to Washington and help correct the mess left by the former Congress, calling the “sequester the final act of the worst Congress we’ve seen in a lifetime.
“It has been the least productive Congress in 50 years in terms of the number of bills passed and some decisions like the sequester were unnecessary and lazy-minded,” said Foster.
With deep cuts across the board, he feels a need to focus on finding a balanced alternative to the sequesterian cuts he feels will hurt the local economy.
“There are many places where cuts are reasonable and necessary, and, in fact, larger cuts could be justified, but there are places which are already underfunded, where cuts will be felt deeply,” said Foster. ““It’s clear that Americans are fed up with the partisan gridlock and governing by crisis, and so am I.”
Believing there’s no other way to resolve critical issues facing the country, he intends to work in a bi-partisan manner to create measures to combat major local issues. He said that includes the housing crisis, one of the biggest issues he sees for Will County. He also intends to keep a watchful eye on the Will County intermodal system – one facility each in Elwood and Joliet, and one being developed in Wilmington -- protecting its status as a main transportation hub.
As a businessman who started a company at the age of 19 with his brother and $500 in seed money from his parents, Foster is passionate about the revitalization of manufacturing as a means to balance the economy.
“My company manufactures 70 percent of all theater lighting equipment in the United States, employs 650 people, and it is all done in the Midwest,” he said. And that is something I am passionate about. I got into politics because of the precipitous decline of manufacturing.”
He believes poorly executed trade agreements giving China the opportunity to undercut American business are at the root of the U.S.’s manufacturing decline. And he is striving to reverse that.
In addition, Foster believes strongly that now is not the time to cut funds dedicated to cybersercurity, a time when the U.S. has seen more than $1 trillion in intellectual property heisted.
Foster believes in a true business approach to government spending—with 100 percent of federal funds being spent on items with a high return, such as education.
“Anything less than that, you need to have an honest discussion on how much spending on things like military or the elderly, thinking clearly about the differences,” said Foster. Democrats’ victory in the election, he added, “was a reflection of what people wanted—that they didn’t want people who took a pledge not to compromise as did my opponent; that they wanted someone with a business background to hammer out details instead of a politician retreating behind talking heads.”
Foster encourages constituents to contact his office with their concerns and reach out. Two office locations soon will open in Aurora and Joliet.
Foster began his political career in 2007 by challenging former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert in one of the most famously Republican districts in the nation. Then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama endorsed Foster. In what was described as "A Political Earthquake," Foster won that election, becoming the first Democrat to represent the district in more than 60 years. President Obama again endorsed Foster for his run in November.