I was born, raised and educated in the neighborhoods of the 26th District. Growing up, my grandmother told me stories of how she had to stand up to slumlords in Kenwood to ensure that her hard-earned rent paid for safe, clean housing. She pressed upon me that no matter where you were from, you deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. She taught me that when you weren’t treated fairly, you had a responsibility to stand up for yourself and your community.
Her advocacy inspired me to become an organizer. As the executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), one of Chicago’s oldest and largest grassroots community organizations, I built a coalition that has created more than 8,500 jobs and generated $14 million in public funding for youth summer employment opportunities across the state of Illinois. I stood with our parents in fighting back against school closures and built a community coalition that overwhelmingly passed a voter referendum in support of an elected school board.
This is the kind of leadership we need in Springfield. As state representative, I will continue to fight for the families of the 26th District. My vision for the district includes:
• Creating Jobs and Growing the Economy for Everyone
As the only candidate in this race with a record of job creation, I will continue to develop our workforce, grow our economy and stabilize our communities. I will champion reforms that level the playing field for small businesses that create good-paying jobs in the neighborhoods hit hardest by the recession. I will fight to invest in youth employment, raise the minimum wage and re-invest our tax dollars in our communities.
• Supporting Excellent Neighborhood Public Schools
All children have the right to a world-class education in their own neighborhood. In Springfield, I will stand up for a just school funding formula that ends the disparities between rich and poor school districts. I am also the only candidate in this race who has a track record of standing with parents to stop school closings and to install an elected school board.
• Investing in Safe Streets and Strong Communities
I believe that communities can and should be made safer from the ground up. To address the root causes of violence, I will continue to champion funding for workforce development, education and employment, particularly for at-risk youth and ex-offenders.
• Reforming our Pensions Humanely and Responsibly
The pension reform bill that passed this spring broke a promise to elderly retirees and public sector workers. Elderly retirees have earned their retirement security by working hard, paying into the system, setting down roots in our communities, and forgoing Social Security. We must remember that stable public sector professions, like teaching and nursing, are a crucial pathway to the middle class for our communities, and particularly for low-income people of color. I am the only candidate in this race who supports efforts to overturn this flawed pension reform bill, and to replace it with a solution that generates the revenue needed to restore the state’s financial health and provide our seniors with the retirement security that they have worked for all their lives.
Here in the 26th District, there are neighborhoods with unemployment rates that are triple the national average — as high as during the Great Depression. Our neighborhood schools have been shuttered, destabilizing and disinvesting in our communities, and yet my opponent took no action on a bill this spring that would have stopped these closings once and for all.
This is unacceptable.
The families of the 26th District deserve better. I’m running for state representative because my grandmother taught me the importance of taking a stand for my community.
Will you stand with me?
Jhatayn “Jay” Travis is running against Christian Mitchell in the March 18 Democratic Primary for the Illinois 26th District. Jay led the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) from 2000-2012. She is a graduate of Mann Elementary, Kenwood Academy, Columbia College, and the University of Chicago. Jay lives in Kenwood, where she helps take care of her 4-year-old niece and her grandmother. Her campaign website is jayforus.com.