Christie Vilsack, Democrat candidate for Congress in Iowa's newly aligned 4th District, made several stops in Cherokee last week, including an overnight stay.
On Wednesday, Vilsack (D-Ames) was the guest of honor at a Cherokee County Democrats Meet the Candidate event at The Grainery Lodge in rural Cherokee. Several Democrat representatives from surrounding counties had an opportunity to meet Vilsack and ask questions from the former Iowa First Lady.
Vilsack spent the night in Cherokee and the next day took a tour of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute. Vilsack commented "I'm from Mount Pleasant, and we have a special connection with Cherokee. Both cities are home to State Mental Health Institutions."
Vilsack stated that she was quite familiar with the MHI in Mount Pleasant and wanted the opportunity to see for herself the Cherokee MHI campus.
Vilsack also accepted an invitation to tour the Cherokee County Work Services facility. The facility is currently concerned that it is not being represented while the Iowa General Assembly calls for a redesign of the mental health and disability services system.
Cherokee County Work Services provides a work and social environment for many area resident with mental health issues and disabilities. With budget cutting across the state, the CCWS wanted to show Vilsack that reports that these types of workgroups facilities are a benefit to their communities and not exploitative.
An argument that many in Des Moines are claiming so they can cut funding to programs like those at the CCWS. If work groups like CCWS get lost in the redesigned mental health and disability services system, it could mean closure of these facilities and affect each community in ways lawmakers can not foresee.
Vilsack's main message is to strengthen Iowa's rural communities.
Last week, Vilsack announced an innovative new plan to create an Infrastructure Investment Bank. The plan, called Vision 20/20, will rebuild aging infrastructure in rural Iowa, creating new economic and job opportunities in the state.
"I refuse to let Washington give up on rural America. With the right tools and determination, we can provide a bright future for families who appreciate our special quality of life," said Christie Vilsack. "The Vision 20/20 plan lays out a new vision that will keep our small towns and rural communities alive."
The Vision 20/20 plan develops an innovative approach to securing capital for rural communities by setting up a $10 billion national Infrastructure Bank that would require a 20 percent investment in rural projects with a minimum project size of $20 million.
In short, Vision 20/20 will accomplish three important objectives to our economic recovery:
1. Create good-paying jobs all across this district by rebuilding rural Iowa.
2. Establish a secure option for pension funds to invest their money for a solid, secure return.
3. Provide a source of capital to rebuild and replace our aging infrastructure.
"Our national politics may be paralyzed, but it's imperative we still help vital infrastructure projects move forward," said Vilsack. "It's an essential step in making sure that rural economies can thrive and provide thousands of good-paying jobs."
The Vision 20/20 Infrastructure Investment Bank will use an existing investment model that guarantees a secure return to investors that is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government, without raising taxes to fund it.
Unions, teachers, public employees and private businesses could invest a portion of their pensions in guaranteed bonds, These bonds would provide capital for the Infrastructure Bank to enable cities and counties to pay for critical infrastructure projects and leverage more private investments. The funding could be used to complete existing projects or fund new major projects of at least $20 million. With "Skin in the game," these public and private investors would be working to rebuild our country.
These capital investments would create short-term construction jobs in rebuilding our infrastructure. Even more important, they will create long-term by helping farmers and rural businesses with the modern transportation system they need.
While government facilitated and enabled, it would operate independently. Board members would have to have a successful record on financing and developing infrastructure projects. And loans would be made on the basis of good economics-not politics.
For more information on the Vision 20/20 plan, please visit www.christievilsackforiowa.com.