Here’s the story millionaire Galesburg developer Mark Kleine doesn’t want you to know: just one year ago, he was actively trying to silence Congresswoman Bustos for trying to protect Illinois children from lead contaminated water.
Why on earth would anyone ever be against getting lead out of drinking water?
For Mark Kleine, it was all about money. Worried that the bad press might hurt the value of a Galesburg housing development he was building – Kleine tried to silence Rep. Bustos and publicly called on elected leaders to sweep the issue under the rug.
Kleine will undoubtedly claim he’s running for Congress for different reasons, but over the course of two months, he went from supporting Rep. Bustos’ re-election campaign to trying to silence her in the media – all because it benefitted his bottom line.
“There is no safe level of lead exposure for children. When kids in Galesburg needed a leader, millionaire Mark Kleine wanted to sweep this problem under the rug because he was worried it would cost him money,” said DCCC spokeswoman Rachel Irwin. “No matter what Mark Kleine says, he went from supporting Congresswoman Bustos to trying to silence her because she stood up and led the charge to protect hundreds of Illinois children from lead exposure. Fortunately, Congresswoman Bustos didn’t buckle under pressure and never gave up until she secured $4 million to replace hundreds of lead water pipes in Galesburg.”
On March 29, 2016, Mark Kleine supported Rep. Bustos and donated $1,000 to her re-election campaign.
But just 11 days later, on April 9, 2016, the Associated Press reported a recent test of Galesburg’s water exceeded the acceptable level for lead content. It was also uncovered that this problem went back decades as it was the 22nd test that exceed this level since 1991. Of greater concern, however, was the fact that more than 14 percent of children tested for lead in Knox County (where Galesburg makes up the majority of the population) had lead levels above the point where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends intervention.
Congresswoman Bustos responded immediately and called for all elected officials to work together to get lead out of the water. Bustos’ first recommendation to the City was to apply for funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund – a federally funded, state distributed program. Bustos worked tirelessly to help the city secure $4 million in funding from this program and in June 2017, she joined with the Mayor of Galesburg and local officials to break ground on replacing hundreds of lead water pipes.
So where was Mark Kleine while Congresswoman Bustos was fighting to protect children from lead contamination?
Kleine criticized Congresswoman Bustos for working to solve the problem. As he made clear in a May 15, 2016 Galesburg Register-Mail story, Mark Kleine wanted Bustos to say everything was fine and sweep the problem under the rug because he cared more about how the “image” would affect his business.
Mark Kleine, the local businessman working on a new housing development on the city’s north side, said time will tell what the full extent of the coverage will do to Galesburg’s image in the economic development sector.
Kleine said it will be on the city leaders to put a clear message out there.
“If we can get everyone who says they’re willing to work with us, including our congresswoman, the message needs to be, nationally and locally, that Galesburg has clean water,” Kleine said.