*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
Jacquelyn is a community organizer with a Bachelor’s degree in Civic Engagement and Leadership and Master’s in Public Policy, both from DePaul University. Her passion for advocacy work and community organizer has led her to serve on the board of The American Civil Liberties Union of Central Illinois, and co-found Pangea Opportunities for Women, a non-profit that provides accessible and safe education to women in Uganda.
Additionally, she has worked with organizations like the YWCA, West Suburban Action Project, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and The League of Women Voters on a variety of different topics from immigration reform to the Equal Rights Amendment. As a graduate student, she participated in the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan and Urban Development’s scholar program and focused her research on poverty and equity.
Most recently, she also served on the Community Relations Commission, an advisory board to the Village of Oak Park. In July of 2020, the commission resigned en masse so they could more efficiently serve the community. This resignation led her to explore the work of the township and ultimately run for office.
Jacquelyn believes that Oak Park could not only be more equitable and inclusive, but that the township can and should play a large role in setting the standard. As a potential trustee, and as a community member, she has committed herself to meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Outside of campaigning to serve as township trustee, what experience do you have working or volunteering with the township?
I do not have experience working with the township as a body of government. The township as a community, I have been organizing and volunteering almost my whole life. As a teen I often volunteered with P.A.D.S, as it was called then, and various community events hosted by Ascension and St. Giles. These experiences shaped me into the advocate I am today. As of recently, I was a Community Relations Commissioner and have been organizing and fighting for racial equity on a near daily basis in Oak Park and the surrounding areas.
What areas of service provided by the township need expansion and how do you intend to carry that out, while keeping taxation reasonable?
The township youth services need to be expanded and reimagined. Currently, it accounts for less than 10% of the budget, and the programs run by the township are mostly punishment or intervention-based programs. It is entirely possible to move funding from other areas without sacrificing services or increasing taxes. All the programs funded, ran or partially funded by the township should have regular social impact assessments to ensure that it is an equitable and effective use of resources. That does not necessarily mean a small program will be cut or reallocated, it only means that we should make sure our budget is fluid from year to year rather than stagnant.
How as trustee can you help the township address and overcome the novel challenges of operating mid-pandemic and post-pandemic? What are those challenges?
The major challenge we face at the moment is our ability to reach the people who may need immediate help. I think the township is doing a great job at making calls and trying their best to reach people, but the problem began long before the pandemic. I believe that we have an incredible opportunity to learn from it all. As things begin to lighten, evaluating where the greatest need was, what was utilized the most and what changes can be kept long term are critical. For example, is the demand increase for senior meals due to the pandemic or a result of phone calls made by staff and should we bulk up those efforts? Moving forward, nothing can be done at the board table without starting almost from scratch. We are living in unprecedented times, being adaptive and willing to really evaluate what future needs may be is important.
How will you increase community engagement and awareness of township services?
We need to meet people where they are. We should be partnering with rental companies, hospitals and urgent care, and local businesses like laundromats and grocery stores. Quarterly or at least semi-annual mailers sent to all residents would be a great step in the right direction. Additionally, there are dozens, if not hundreds of organizations and community groups already having discussions and working on the same issues. We need to be reaching out and joining the conversation. Consistent contact is key.
How can the township increase the equitability of its services, considering the many different facets of equity?
The first step is to prioritize equity in the budget and board goals. This would include allocating funds for training, assessment, and development. This also includes dedicating time to understanding, discussing, and making action plans. Second, there needs to be an advisory board or committee dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusion. However, the committee would not be substitute for labor at the board table. They would advise and work with the board, but the board shall not rely on the committee to do the work for them. Equity can only be impactful when everyone is doing the work. Lastly, we must create and implement an equity impact assessment for all policy and partnership decisions.
These suggestions are only the start, they only begin to build a framework to help improve what already exists. Equity work evolves and, as mentioned in the question, is multifaced. We need to build solid groundwork first so that as new challenges arise, we can readjust while minimizing the potential for further damage or injustices.
How can the township improve its reach and grow its service offering without increasing the tax burden on citizens?
The township can grow and improve by assessing all of its partnerships and programs on a regular basis. In partnerships especially, the funding we provide can ebb and flow with the goals of that particular year. In fact, it should. If we are putting thousands of dollars every year into the same program run by one particular group, we are not equitably spreading our resources. Even amongst programs we want to continually support, we must never see it as a staple percentage in the budget. I believe that the township does a lot with very few resources, I would like to see that spread to as many diverse programs as possible, even if it means pulling back in other areas or rotating.