Activist Chasten Buttigieg joined state Rep. Lamont Robinson for an online conversation about the political life of the LGBTQ community Dec. 9.
The event, which was moderated by Brian Johnson, CEO of the Equality Illinois LGBTQ advocacy, was a fundraiser on Robinson's behalfhe is the first openly gay Black state representative in Illinois history. Among the issues participants discussed were stoking voter interest in local elections and Mercy Hospital, the closing of which has been the subject of much controversy recently.
The 2020 presidential election brought out more voters than in any previous U.S. election. But, as Johnson noted, many voters who were emotionally invested in the presidential race likely left down-ballot races blank, an oversight that can potentially have catastrophic longterm side-effects.
"Understand that the local elections affect us in our day to day lives, particularly in a state like Illinois," said Robinson. Local politicians have their "eyes on the streets and their ears to the ground" to affect positive change for the community, he added.
Policies implemented by local officials are likely to have a more immediate political and economic impact than decisions made in Washington, D.C., but are often determined under the public's radar. Buttigieg noted that even as his husband Pete was both running for President, than appearing as a campaign surrogate for President-elect Joe Biden, an openly anti-LGBTQ individual went on to the city council of South Bend, Indiana, the city where Pete was once mayor.
"That's why those races are so important," Buttigieg said. "... It's extremely important that we invest [political capital] in the red and purple states. You don't give up on the places that we love."
Robinson was blunt in his assessment of the failure of Illinois Democrats to pass a progressive tax referendum on the November ballot. Such a pivot would have meant an eventual end to the state's flat tax, which many Democrats view as regressive. They've long had passage of such reform as a goal, but the notion was trounced by voters.
"We did not do a good job of educating people" about tax reform," Robinson said, adding that state officials will now have to be diligent about refraining from irrevocably harmful budget cuts. "It's important [to admit] that we did not get out in front of this."
Robinson has been advocating against the closing of Mercy Hospital, a facility primarily serving Black and Brown Chicagoans on the city's South Side. Mercy's owners, based in Livonia, Michigan, have said they want to shut down the Bronzeville hospital next year, but stakeholders say that will only exacerbate health disparities for a community that has already seen its healthcare options dwindle.
Robinson noted that colleagues government had been relatively silent on the issue, and specifically called on Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to get involved. Illinois regulators were scheduled to meet about the issue Dec. 15.
"We say that Black Lives Matter, and if Black Lives Matter, Black healthcare matters," Robinson said.
Musician Ray Silkman closed the Dec. 9 presentation.