Engineering Illinois’ future

By Tim Belter ’13
February 10, 2012

Politics at any level can be impenetrable to an outsider. The layers of procedures and policies can make it difficult to understand what’s going on.

“One of the challenges for us in politics is how to communicate with you,” Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told Bradley students last Friday afternoon in a presentation about the Illinois capital funding bill.

The forum, organized by Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction, was one way Cullerton hopes to strengthen the connection between politicians and constituents. He and state Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) spoke to about 200 students in Baker Hall, explaining what the capital funding bill does, how it’s paid for and how it impacts Bradley students.

While acknowledging the budgetary and economic difficulties the state still faces, Cullerton sounded a positive note about the direction of Illinois’ future.

“Things are getting better. The economy is improving,” he said. “We have universities like this one that are providing not just engineers, but people of all majors to our educated workforce.”

Higher education projects are an important part of the capital funding bill, he said. It has provided money for projects at schools across the state, including $9 million toward the renovation of Bradley’s Westlake Hall.

“We’ve been underfunding higher education,” Cullerton said. “We can do more if this capital bill continues to grow.”

Cullerton explained how the bill is also intended to help pull Illinois out of economic trouble by establishing infrastructure improvements and how engineers play a key role in deciding which proposals are most important.

Senior civil engineering major Adam Shedor appreciated Cullerton’s focus on improving Illinois’ economy.

“I thought the senator was very eloquent,” he said. “I’m delighted to hear that we’re getting more connections on jobs in Peoria.”

Dr. Al-Khafaji also noted Cullerton and Koehler’s efforts.

“These two gentlemen have done a fantastic job despite the challenges that this state faces,” he said. “The work of state government impacts all of us.”

Cullerton also will be participating in the 2012 Innovations Conference on Asphalt and Transportation. The event, held at Bradley in April, is attended by political and business leaders like Gov. Pat Quinn and Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman.