By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
With a strong background in public policy, science, workforce development, adult education, nonprofits, and politics, Adrienne Irmer, a south side native and resident of South Shore, sat down with the Herald on Wednesday Jan. 31, to discuss her candidacy and run for the 25th House District seat in the 2018 Illinois March Primary.
The 25th House District includes Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Chicago,
South Shore, East Side and Woodlawn.
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) Democratic Majority Leader, who currently occupies the post, announced in September she would not seek another term.
Since hearing of Currie’s announcement back in September, Irmer said she’d honor the political giant’s progressive legacy once elected.
“Leader Currie has blazed a trail for women in Illinois Democratic
politics and I hope to honor her progressive legacy in this key
legislative seat,” Irmer said. “As we move the 25th District forward, it is important that we elect a representative who knows the issues most important to all constituents of the 25th [District]. I will do everything in my power to protect our diverse communities from the ruinous [Gov. Bruce] Rauner and [President Donald] Trump agendas.”
As a passionate champion of social issues for over 16 years in the Hyde Park area, Irmer said her professional career has crossed vital sectors, including the fields of public health and safety, education and infrastructure, as well as electoral campaigns at all levels of government.
In the past, Irmer has worked in various level of politics including a tenure under Illinois State Sen. Kwame Raoul that increased her skill and knowledge in both public policy and politics.
“After working for the Red Cross and Work Force Development, I went to work for Senator Raoul and that’s when I came up close and personal with how the sausage is made,” Irmer said.
Due to her past experience working with nonprofits and Raoul’s office, Irmer said she obtained a keen knowledge and understanding of how grants work, services, and policies to help progress underserved communities.
Irmer said her current campaign strategies are designed to do three things: inform, reform and transform.
Irmer believes that the current state legislature has too many lawyers, and if elected she will help impact policy as both a scientist and critical thinker who can help change outcomes.
“I think we have a lot of lawyers in Springfield,” said Irmer about the current state legislators. “But we don’t have very many scientists.”
If elected, she will be the second graduate out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, BA Biology; 2004), to ever serve in the state legislature. She believes that the state is in need of more critical thinkers and data-driven focused individuals who can help impact policy.
Irmer said that some of the high priorities of the 25th District are early childhood education, government transparency, and increasing voter engagement. She explained that her goal is to help “inform” the public on all several categories throughout the election.
In the 25th District, Irmer plans to work reform the state’s current income tax structure, the funding formula of the public schools, as well as reforming the criminal justice process, and pension code.
“I want to look into creating a progressive income tax,” Irmer said. “I want to fight to help legalize marijuana.”
When it comes to creating a balanced state budget, Irmer said she is in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use only, along with the revenues from a progressive income tax as funds to help transform lives in Illinois. She believes through the legalization of marijuana, not only will the state have more money available for schools, and human services, but it can invest in the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid so that people can “realize health care as a right instead of a privilege in Illinois.”
She said “we are not going to cut our way to a balanced budget. It’s just not going to happen, [Governor Bruce] Rauner has tried and failed miserably.”
Irmer also said the other revenue streams she will be willing to look into to help the state budget are the coal severance tax and the LaSalle street transaction tax.
After losing a cousin to gun violence, she said she will help transform the community by addressing gun violence as a symptom, not as a stand-alone phenomenon.
Irmer believes that investing in people is key to growth and prosperity in the district and investing in the community’s infrastructure while protecting the environment is the path to the “future.”
Irmer said her vision will help “transform” lives in the community. If elected, she will look to bring her highly-tuned critical thinking and analytical skills to the study of the dynamic and complex systems of the communities. This includes the areas of public policy, community and economic development, advocacy activism, and community and government affairs.
Irmer said when it comes to her choosing between investing in an elected school board over an appointed school board, she believes that the electoral process holds a little bit more accountability. Irmer said that an entity under the sole control of a mayor is obliged to maintaining a particular agenda.
On the issue of whether she would invest in charter schools over public schools, she believes philosophically that if the city had been fully funding public schools in the past, there wouldn’t be a need to create competition for education space in the first place.
“I do believe we need a moratorium on further expansion of Charter Schools and if they are receiving public funding, they need to be held to the same standards as public schools,” Irmer said. ” You can’t use taxpayer dollars and not follow the same rules as public schools. I think that’s fundamentally unfair.”
Irmer was recently named to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2018
Emerging Leaders program. Her civic leadership and service in the past included the Executive Board of The Liberty Project, a policy-making, advocacy, and civic education organization; the Junior Executive Board for South Central Community Services, Inc.; the Advisory Board of the Chicago Ideas Week YOU(th) Program; and the Junior Executive Board for the Better Boys Foundation on Chicago’s West Side.
Irmer is the daughter of Perri Irmer, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum, who was awarded two years ago with the 2016 Black History Month Vanguard Award for her impact on African American culture. Irmer explained that her mother has been very encouraging and supportive throughout the whole political process and reminded her that she is “in this for the people,” for her campaign.
In the month of November, Irmer received an endorsement from Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).
“What I see in this young lady here and what I have heard from her is the…fire in the belly to get things done,” Hairston said in a past issue of the Herald. “[And] to understand and learn how things work and not be fooled and not be tricked into falling for the same ole same ole. This young lady…has proven to me that she has the commitment to go down to Springfield.”
Former Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), Illinois State Senator Donne Trotter (D-17th), Illinois State Representative Will Davis (D-30th) and Illinois State Representative Marcus Evans (D-33rd) have also endorsed Irmer.
Irmer, who said she’s spent her entire adult life in the field of service, said if elected she would go down to Springfield to fight for the communities of the 25th District that haven’t had a voice for “way too long.”
Irmer recently served as the Legislative Coordinator for the Cook
County Bureau of Asset Management.
She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from MIT in 2004 and was
a National Urban Fellow in 2014 after being recommended by Raoul to attend the program.
As a National Urban Fellow, Irmer received her Masters of Public Administration (MPA) and served as Special Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Beverly Hills, CA.
In terms of criminal justice reform she believes that the legalization of marijuana will help the process. She said that if the state of Colorado has realized and generated nearly half a billion dollars of revenue for their state—on this issue, that Illinois is far behind the plurality of states in America. She believes the state can create thousands of jobs through the legalization of marijuana.
Irmer also believes in Automatic Re-Sentencing. She said if Illinois lessens the severity of any crime (for example the legalization of marijuana), that it is their duty to ensure that people within the criminal justice system have their sentences swiftly and fairly reduced in accordance with such changes to the state’s criminal code.
She said that the state spends an exorbitant amount of money incarcerating people and could imagine what the state could do with more funds available to invest in communities instead of mass incarceration.
Irmer also believes in investing in Re-Entry Programming to Combat Recidivism: She said when people leave our criminal justice system, the odds are heavily stacked against them and that most people end up back in prisons. She believes that barriers to employment, housing, voting, and human services have all contributed to recidivism, and that it is time to take a hard look at how state policies create a revolving door for prisons instead of a viable exit.
Irmer said there are modest reforms that will give all governing bodies of Illinois the capacity to expand opportunities for apprentice and seasonal labor on capital projects. With an aging workforce, she believes it is critical that government help grow the pipeline of skilled labor.
On the importance of government transparency: Irmer said it should be easier for residents to understand what government is doing, not harder. She said it is her goal to assess where Illinois can be better at information sharing in a way that all people can understand.
On the issues of reform on Progressive Income Tax, Irmer supports the tax and believes it’s time to bring equity to the states income tax model and stand up for working families of Illinois to help achieve change to the state’s constitution.
Irmer also believes in fair funding for Public Schools. She believes bill SB 0001 was a great step in the right direction, but Rauner left his mark on a historic piece of legislation in a negative way.
Irmer said if elected, she’d make sure that infrastructure continues to meet safety standards and the needs of the people.
When it comes to protecting the local environment, she said above all other candidates and current state legislatures, she may have completed more in depth studies on the protection and environmental safety of Lake Michigan waters as a trained Biologist. Irmer said with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing less protecting the waters, air, and other natural resources of the state, that it’s incumbent upon the Illinois EPA to ensure they are protected from disastrous pollution.
She said in order to do this, and in order to resist Trump, they must make sure they are funding and encouraging the Illinois EPA to step up where the Federal EPA will not.