When I was in college at Rutgers University, my roommate Theo Langason raved about Minneapolis and the neighborhood where he grew up, which was in Ward One. Fast-forward a few years and now I’m living here and working in the solar industry with my Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Minneapolis is as great as Theo said, BUT not for everyone. The racial disparities here are among the worst in the country. As someone who plans to make my career fostering strong, healthy cities, I believe the Minneapolis City Council must be progressive leaders and do more to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the existing disparities.
The first step is closing the educational opportunity gap. Our current City Council Member has done a lot to make Edison High School a green campus, but what has he done to address the basic needs of the students, 82% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch? This number is 20% higher than the district average. Intentional action must be taken to support our most vulnerable in the community: our kids.
To me, supporting kids includes raising the minimum wage to $15 so that everyone has housing they can afford and families have money for groceries so students can go to school ready to learn. Jillia's working families agenda supports these things.
Her experience clearly demonstrates that she will be a strong advocate for marginalized community members. She was active in the Occupy Homes movement to fight unjust foreclosures and help people stay in their homes. She was also involved in the passage of the Minnesota Homeowners Bill of Rights that protects families from predatory lenders.
At Project 515, Jillia worked alongside so many others to win marriage equality for same-sex couples. And, as a staff member at OutFront Minnesota, she was part of the coalition that was responsible for passing the Minnesota Safe & Supportive Schools Act, the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the country.
As you can tell, Jillia doesn’t sit around and wait to see what will happen. She takes action to improve the quality of life for all of us. Her grassroots, people-powered campaign is focused on empowering and engaging residents in our ward, many whose voices aren’t being heard at City Hall.
Cameran J. Bailey