Voice Of The Voter: Carmi Voters Want Jobs, To Be Heard

As the Illinois March 18th primary election nears, Eyewitness News asks, "What issues matter to you?"
As the Illinois March 18th primary election nears, Eyewitness News asks, "What issues matter to you?" From Your Local Election Headquarters, lead political reporter Kayla Moody is traveling around Southern Illinois talking with voters.

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No one likes to be ignored. But in Carmi, Illinois, voters feel like their state politicians have put them on the back-burner for years.

"I just want someone who is fair, honest and listens to people other than Chicago," said one Carmi woman.

It's easy to see how the quaint little town feels like the red headed step child, living in the shadow of a concrete jungle 300 miles away. Chicago culture and politics are a stark contrast from that of Carmi and other downstate communities.

Many White County voters share a common sentiment -- they want jobs. Not just any gig, but a career to support their families.

"In this area, they're not around here," said Alex Jovanovic, a Carmi resident. "We need something bigger around here, maybe more manufacturing."

Jovanovic makes minimum wage. He says he'd support a statewide hourly rate increase.

"I'd really like to see that go into affect because, you know, me making $8.25 an hour is really not cutting it. I can't pay my own bills."

During the State of the State Address, llinois Governor Pat Quinn said he wanted to raise the minimum wage in Illinois from $8.25 to $10.

The desire for an increase in minimum wage is echoed by Whitney Williams, who works as an assistant manager at a local convenience store.

"Even if it was $9, it would still help people out," suggested Williams. "I mean, I know it's hard. I struggle and everyone else struggles. I've got a friend in [the store] who has three kids and she's workin' her butt off."

She says many people who come into her workplace talk about how they are looking for a job. "There just aren't any," said Williams.

She suggests part of the unemployment problem in White County is a domino effect from cash-strapped schools.

"They've had to lay off a lot of people make a lot of cuts," explained Williams. "I went to school to be a teacher and there's just nothing around here."

Cheryl Bartley-Ferguson works as private contractor in Carmi. She says Illinois isn't business-friendly, something she believes is driving companies and residents away.
"Double tax, triple tax -- I think Illinois makes its own walls," said Bartley-Ferguson, a Kentucky native who now lives in Carmi. "And now trying to have a business on my own, you really see how hard it is to live in Illinois ... you really gotta put your heart in it if you want to stay here."

Many people in Carmi want to stay and work in Carmi -- it's their home. Like many places, it's often a struggle to make ends meet. They're hoping their legislators hear their cries for help and take steps to make living and working in Southern Illinois less of a struggle.
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