With a list of endorsements from groups such as the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Citizen Action/Illinois and United Working Families, among others, a March 15 rematch is on for Democratic candidate Jhatayn "Jay" Travis to unseat 26th District House Rep. Christian Mitchell. She insisted that her 2014 loss was due to voter disenfranchisement at polling places.
Her 2016 platform is built around electing "people who say what they mean and mean what they say." To that end, in a December 2015 Hyde Park Herald editorial she accused Mitchell of being "missing in action" or voting "dead wrong on issues of critical concern to our residents."
Travis spoke with Windy City Times about issues affecting the LGBT community and how its members stand to be affected through her list of campaign pledges whether in education, public safety, jobs and economic fairness, gender equality or protecting the most vulnerable.
Windy City Times: You have said that the budget crisis in Springfield is driven by a "billionaire boys' club of donors and their lobbyists who leverage for their interests over those of ordinary Illinois residents." What's your solution?
Jay Travis: First and foremost, the budget impasse is indefensible. It's held vital services to some of the most vulnerable folks throughout the state hostage to an agenda which seeks to undermine the rights of working people. In January of 2015, Rep. Mitchell and his colleagues in the legislature had an opportunity to say 'let's not allow this temporary tax increase to roll back when we know that a governor with an austerity agenda is moving into office.' If Rep. Mitchell cared deeply about protecting public services, he would have spoken out in a forthright way about not allowing that tax increase to expire. It's also important to note that Rep. Mitchell shares Gov. Rauner's education agenda point-by-point. We need to close corporate loopholes so that corporations pay their fair share as well. HB 4300 is a step in the right direction which could generate some of the money we need to address the challenges we're facing in terms of state funding.
WCT: You have accused Rep. Mitchell of not "walking the walk." So what does that look like to you?
JT: I think a good legislator is responsible to listening to their constituents. It's been a weakness of Rep. Mitchell. The first step is to hear the voices of the people on a regular basis and take action on the issues those folks care about. That sense of accountability to people is a core part of my platform. I will be responsive to the needs of people making sure I hear what they are and taking action on them.
WCT: How are the problems LGBT kids still face in school and the cycle of abuses they are subjected to in the criminal justice system to be addressed?
JT: There needs to be more support for services for LGBT youth in our schools. Often young LGBT people are ostracized by their families and sometimes the only support they may have is what they could receive in schools. In terms of the criminal-justice system, we need to strengthen laws that protect folks from crimes such as sexual assault within the system and crimes in general that are committed against people based on their sexual orientation. There is a great deal of work to be done in the criminal justice system but also to prevent people from entering [it] in the first placesupport for LGBTQ folks in schools and strengthening laws that prevent discrimination in terms of employment.
WCT: Illinois has employment nondiscrimination statutes on the books but, particularly in the cases of transgender individuals of color, people can't even get a job. Employers are under no obligation to explain why they choose not to hire someone and often trans people are turned away. How do you address that?
JT: The first step is to sit down with people who have been impacted by this problem, then to figure out what kind of policy changes we need to make to address the issue and, more importantly, when we pass the policy what the steps are to implementation that we can take to make sure the issue is effectively addressed.
You can pass a law that says "don't discriminate" but if people are still doing it, that gets into how these laws are being implemented. The policy process needs to be participatory and ongoing. If we pass legislation that is not getting the job done, we need to strengthen that legislation and implement it in a way that makes sure people aren't being discriminated against.
WCT: But the feeling in Springfield seems to be that LGBT issues were all solved with marriage equality. So what are the most important problems facing the LGBT community that you believe must still be addressed and how do you ensure legislation or budget initiatives will not be stymied by a governor who has appointed some outspoken anti-LGBT individuals?
JT: Support for homeless LGBTQ youth is a critical issue. As someone who has come out of youth organizing, I've had a sense of how young people who have the potential to be great leaders have been affected by just the trauma that they experience in coming out and in some cases not being embraced by families and loved ones and ending up on the street. We need to make sure that we get more funding and support for homeless services for LGBTQ youth. In terms of Gov. Rauner, we are going to have really push and build the kind of coalitions we need to move him on a whole host of issues. We can't let legislators say 'we passed marriage equality so now we're off the hook in terms of addressing other critical issues that affect the LGBT community'."
For more information about Jay Travis, visit: jayfor26.nationbuilder.com .