Hello/ ¡Hola!/ Cześć,
My name is Mateusz Tomkowiak. I was born in Poland, and I immigrated to America with my family (and 4 suitcases) when I was 9 years old. My family started at the bottom. We rented a small apartment in Archer Heights, my dad worked the night shift at a -- now closed -- factory, and my mom worked with disabled children for the Chicago Public Schools.
I spoke Polish with my parents at home, broken Spanish with my neighbors and eventually learned to speak English at Richard Edwards School (on 48th & Karlov). Eventually, I went on to pursue college at the University of Chicago and a PhD at Princeton University. My research in health policy and political science has given me the opportunity to work as an adviser to health economists writing the Affordable Care Act. My analysis of politics and policy have been published in the national press, like Vox or Politico Magazine, the local press, like WGN, and Chicago Tribune, and scholarly journals. And, my work as an instructor at Princeton, and the University of Chicago has given me the opportunity to teach, guide and learn from a generation of young Millennials. Throughout, I have been a vocal, consistent and independent critic of the power structure in our nation, state and city.
It was my time growing up on Chicago's southwest side that has informed my life choices as an adult and led me to dedicate myself to education and healthcare. It is here that I experienced firsthand the educational, health and income inequalities that plague the many, and benefit the few who are rich and well-connected.
My public school, was so overcrowded that for a number of years it operated on an AM and PM shift. While public schools in other parts of the city and the state received tablet computers and new gyms, the kids in my neighborhood, received a 4 hour per day education, and their family life was turned upside down as parents had to figure out how to care for kids who came home at noon, or didn't leave for school until noon. The supposedly powerful politicians who represent us on the southwest side send their kids to expensive private schools, while the rest of us struggle in underfunded public schools. Our schools are supposed to be the ladders to economic opportunity, but all to often they simply cement in our inequities. This is why I have pursued more equality in higher education and worked to mentor and pass on skills to young kids from the southwest-side, so that they can compete with wealthier kids in the college admissions process.
My family has also had to weather severe health emergencies stemming from my brother's mental illness. We lived through the lack of mental health centers, the endless phone calls to insurance companies begging simply to receive the coverage that was promised, the running around emergency rooms and police stations (which are forced to serve as our mental health institution), and the need to figure out how to pay for mounting medical bills. Life doesn't have to look like this for those who are facing health emergencies, and, so I set out in my research and public advocacy to reform our cruel and unequal healthcare system.
However, I soon realized that researching, arguing and writing wasn't enough to bring about changes. There are powerful political forces that stand in the way of good public policy. These politicians operate in a way that makes a farce of our democracy - they privilege a few at the expense of the many. And, the only way into their club is wealth and political connections.
But, my father worked nights and spoke broken English, he couldn't run around collecting votes for Mike Madigan, so my family, and many like us, were irrelevant. My family was poor and rented a home, so our interests were worthless to Mike Madigan's property tax reassessment business. This is the manner in which our local politicians behave, and the way in which they dole out services. They get rich off our backs. I am neither wealthy, nor well-connected, and that is what informs my governing philosophy. I want to enter public service to make sure that our community provides an equal opportunity for all, not because I want to enrich myself.
I hope that in the coming months we can learn more about one another. Please, don't hesitate to contact me with your questions or comments,