Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paula Basta Saved My Life


"Paula Basta Saved My Life"

Lilya Zhilina came to America with no job and no home. Lilya Zhilina was nearly on the street...

Until she met Paula Basta

"I couldn't find a job. I couldn't find an apartment. I could find nothing. Paula helped me find a job and she helped me find a home. Paula Basta saved my life"

- Lilya Zhilina




This is Paula Basta for 14th District Representative weekend here at Rogers Park in 1,000 Words.

For the past 30 years, Paula Basta has given her time and energy working directly with seniors, families, the disabled, and the LGBT community across Chicago. Because of her deep understanding of the intricacies of aging and City services, and her unique gift for coalition building, she has built bridges with partners and officials alike while helping to give these constituencies a voice for the issues that affect their daily lives.


Senior accomplishments:


Paula began her career as a social worker at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Chicago and later as the parish social worker for St. Clements Parish in Lincoln Park.

These experiences eventually led to becoming Executive Director of H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly). She managed the nearly 30 staff and many volunteers and grew that organization into a million-dollar, multi-disciplinary service agency. This deepened not only Paula’s executive and leadership experience, but also her years-long commitment to making life better for seniors and their families.

As Director of the Chicago Department on Aging’s citywide hotline, Paula learned first-hand both the emergent and long-term needs of the people government is intended to serve. Today, Paula manages one of the busiest senior centers for the City of Chicago – the Northeast (Levy) Senior Center. She also oversees the Northeast Region’s Golden Diner program that provides 4200 meals a week to seniors. She not only keenly understands these needs, but she also works tirelessly through volunteer and advisory capacities to meet the needs of the 4,000 individuals who come through the door of the Senior Center every month.


LGBT highlights:


Paula is also extremely active in the LGBT community. She is the crucial bridge between LGBT organizations and the traditional aging networks. Paula has been a tremendous asset to LGBT community.

Paula served for seven years on the Board for Equality Illinois and as its Board President from 2005 – 2006 – an exciting time during which the Illinois Human Rights Act was enacted and the groundwork was laid for the recent passage of the Illinois Civil Unions law, resulting in the improvement in the lives of thousands of couples starting in June of 2011.

Paula has taken the lead at the city and statewide level in forging alliances between the traditional aging network and LGBT agencies and organizations. She has helped The Center on Halsted’s SAGE Program become a congregate meal site and supported its move to become a center where LGBT seniors can meet and discuss their issues. She is also the go-to community leader and City representative to whom legislators and council people look to ensure that legislation encompasses vital LGBT and senior issues.

She is currently a member of the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging, Cook County State’s Attorney’s LGBT Advisory Council and a Board member of TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network). She was a 2009 inductee into the Mayor’s Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.


Community involvement:


Paula’s political experience and involvement is long-term and based solidly in the kind of grassroots organizing and leadership she will re-awaken and reinforce in the north lakefront communities. In 2010, Paula completed the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership as one of only 12 women selected statewide – a program recognized for actively recruiting and developing Democratic women leaders for political office.

Believing that all efforts should arise out of and not simply dictate what constitute community issues and needs, she devoted her earliest efforts to the women’s equality and pro-choice movements, to which she added LGBT and senior organizing

Paula’s knowledge of community needs is broad and inclusive: She has served in member, board and advisory capacities with Partners for Rogers Park, Willye B. White Park, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, the Inter-Community Housing Corporation and her local CAPS program.

Her political role model has always been Paul Simon because of his direct appeal to the voters and his skill in forging consensus where no one thought effective compromise possible, and his unerring integrity. Paula wants a return to that kind of politics, and that kind of politician, and believes that only with the election of truly independent legislators will that happen.


Real Life:


Born in Cleveland, Ohio to a mother who owned a beauty salon and a father who ran an auto repair shop, Paula saw first hand the unique challenges that small businesses faced daily and she embraced their strong spirit of hard work and commitment to family and community. She finished her undergraduate studies with a degree in social work from University of Dayton.

On arriving in Chicago in 1978, Paula found an exciting, diverse, ecumenical movement devoted to issues of racial, economic and social justice and she dived right in. She became active with Chicago Catholic Women, which led to her completion of a Masters in Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary in 1989.




Her stand on The Issues


For Seniors


Paula began her career as a social worker at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Chicago and later as the parish social worker for St. Clements Parish in Lincoln Park.

These experiences prepared Paula to be the Executive Director of H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly). She managed nearly 30 staff and many volunteers, growing that organization into a million-dollar, multi-disciplinary service agency. This not only deepened Paula’s executive and leadership experience, but also her proven commitment to making life better for seniors and their families.

As Director of the Chicago Department on Aging’s citywide hotline, Paula learned first-hand both the emergent and long-term needs of the people who government is intended to serve. Today, Paula manages one of the busiest senior centers for the City of Chicago – the Northeast (Levy) Senior Center. She also oversees the Northeast Region’s Golden Diner program that provides 4200 meals a week to seniors. She not only keenly understands these needs, but she also works tirelessly in volunteer and advisory capacities to meet the needs of the 4,000 individuals who come through the door of the Senior Center every month.

In 2011, the state legislature tightened eligibility parameters for seniors in “Illinois Cares Rx,” a popular prescription drug program for the elderly. Around twenty percent of those who once qualified will lose coverage under the new state budget. Furthermore, budget cuts have weakened state programs that deliver food to the seniors’ homes. Paula will take her advocacy experience to Springfield and push to expand Illinois Cares Rx along with other programs that provide seniors with the care and support they deserve.


LGBT Issues


Paula is a long term and dedicated advocate for the LGBT community.

Paula worked with the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging, establishing ties between two traditionally separated advocacy fields in Cook County. Paula has been a strong voice for lesbian, gay and transgender seniors, realizing that they face a uniquely challenging set of issues. She has served organizations like the Department of Family and Support Services, the Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center and Equality Illinois. Paula also served on State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s LGBT Advisory Council.

The Illinois Civil Unions Act was a major step forward for LGBT rights in Illinois. The legislation indicates that Springfield is finally starting to get serious about gay rights. Paula will mobilize her ties with the LGBT community to fight for further legislation guaranteeing marriage equality in Illinois.

Paula will join advocates in putting pressure on Springfield to adopt a comprehensive approach to providing members of the LGBT community with a voice and the full measure of their civil and human rights.


For Economic Development and Small Businesses


Paula supports the small business districts in our community and continually reaches out to hear about the local business environment, the challenges and potential opportunities for the area. She has worked closely with the Rogers Park Business Alliance and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to support the locally owned businesses that are so important to our community.

Paula is invested in giving small businesses strong footing through incentive and tax-credit programs. She knows that local companies are an investment in local communities, providing new jobs and revenue for nearby residents.


On Public Safety and Gun Control


Working with her community CAPS program, Paula Basta makes public safety a priority. As State Representative, Paula would be a leading advocate to reduce gun violence with common-sense legislation.

Locally, Paula continues to work to make the streets of our community safer for our neighbors. Paula is part of her neighborhood CAPS program, which addresses safety concerns on the street and sponsors numerous meetings and events with neighbors. Public safety is an issue that demands community action in addition to the efforts of the Chicago Police Department.

There are no legal provisions for concealed-carrying of firearms in Illinois, a contentious point in Springfield. In May 2011, a concealed-carry law failed to pass the House by six votes, with all but two Chicago area representatives voting against the bill. Paula contends that the concealed-carry laws are out of touch with the day-to-day reality of city residents. Paula will always prioritize residents’ safety over national lobbying interests.


For Education


Paula understands the importance that receiving a quality education plays in the development of a child’s life. Paula will fight for funding for Chicago Public Schools, advocating reduced class sizes, retaining quality teachers, and adding vital programs for students. Paula strongly supports early childhood education and will work to help secure funding to add additional pre-school and full-day kindergarten classes at local schools.

Senate Bill 7 has far reaching consequences for education in Illinois, but only if it receives the necessary financial support. Among other long needed changes, the bill mandates obligatory annual training hours for school board members, reduces class sizes, and clarifies the dismissal process for incompetent teachers.

Meanwhile, many teachers, superintendents, and school administrators are concerned that the new state budget cuts will make it harder to implement the broad and on-going reforms. Paula is a strong supporter of financing for Illinois’ educational system. She firmly believes that children should not bear the burden of balancing the state budget. Paula insists that we must adequately fund education to make good on Springfield’s promises for reform.


On Healthcare


Paula will work to expand vital healthcare services statewide and will work for better funding and expansion of services. These efforts will lead to improved healthcare services for women. Paula believes strongly in a woman’s right to choose, and will fight vigorously in Springfield to protect that right.

Paula realizes that the budget cuts for this fiscal year have taken a toll on senior health care. The state cut programs that help seniors receive supplies and care at home, which might have the unintentional effect of increasing the state’s expenses when those seniors are compelled to move to state funded hospices and retirement homes. With her tested experiences advocating for the elderly, Paula is devoted to making certain that seniors are not left behind due to budget issues.

Paula also understands the importance in ensuring quality, affordable healthcare for children. The “All Kids” program currently provides universal, broad and affordable health care for 1.6 million children in Illinois. Paula supports the funding of the “All Kids” program, ensuring inclusive healthcare coverage for all children in Illinois.


On the State Budget


Springfield settled on steep budget cuts for the current fiscal year. The House collectively reduced Gov. Quinn’s original $36 billion down to $33.2 billion, which the governor further reduced to the final $32.9 billion budget. The end product is around $2 billion lower than last fiscal year’s budget.

They drew spending cuts primarily from Medicaid reimbursements and educational coffers. The budget cuts roughly $276 million from Medicaid and a further $89 million came from school district transportation. Superintendent offices face an $11 million cut. The reductions to education, in particular, make recent reforms harder to implement.

Paula knows that some of these cuts burden many hard-working families and individuals in economically hard times. She believes that it’s time to take a hard look at the cuts and who pays the price for fiscal irresponsibility in Springfield. Paula will make sure that children, students and the elderly do not take the fall for the state’s problems.


Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform


Paula believes in open, efficient and transparent government, free of the influences of corruption stemming from campaign donations.

Current campaign caps limit political contributions to $5,000 per individual, $10,000 per business, and $50,000 per PAC. Paula supports enforcing and expanding caps on political donations to candidates to help eliminate negative influences of large campaign contributors.








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