Politics

Former Obama aide Jaylin D. McClinton seeking south suburban 5th District Commissioner seat

The fresh face to south suburban politics previously served as an aide to the Obama administration and fought against state budget cuts to make college more affordable.

"I am confident that residents of the 5th District want economic stability; positive community engagement; quality education; access to affordable, accessible healthcare; clean drinking water; fresh air; healthy fruits and vegetables; and a sense of security," said 5th District Commissioner candidate Jaylin D. Clinton. Courtesy of Jaylin D. McClinton
"I am confident that residents of the 5th District want economic stability; positive community engagement; quality education; access to affordable, accessible healthcare; clean drinking water; fresh air; healthy fruits and vegetables; and a sense of security," said 5th District Commissioner candidate Jaylin D. Clinton. Courtesy of Jaylin D. McClinton

Last October, longtime Cook County Board of Commissioner (5th) Deborah Sims announced she would not seek reelection this year for a seat she’s held for 28 years. Current candidates include Hazel Crest mayor Vernard L. Alsberry, Jr. and Monica Gordon, who currently serves as Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations at Chicago State University.

“With an open seat, this is our first opportunity in nearly 28 years to reject politics of the past to ensure that long overdue resources are finally delivered to the South Side of Chicago and across the Southland,” said Jaylin D. McClinton, a Chicago native who previously served in the Obama administration at the Office of Management and Administration, who’s also running to replace Sims.

McClinton, from the Roseland neighborhood where he still lives, also worked for then-Illinois State Representative and current Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. McClinton recently received his law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology.

He’s received endorsements from several national and local organizations and figures, including Illinois State Senate Black Caucus Chair Robert Peters, Illinois State House Black Caucus Chair Kam Buckner, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Democracy for America, Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee (G-PAC), Teamsters Local 700, Chicago alderwoman Jeanette Taylor (20th), and the Illinois chapter of Sierra Club.

While McClinton has never held public office before, he served as a student trustee for the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. There, McClinton organized against former governor Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts and for college affordability.

The Board is the County’s governing and legislative body. The 5th District largely covers south suburban areas including Harvey, Riverdale, Phoenix, Hazel Crest, and Country Club Hills, and Altgeld Gardens, Roseland, Pullman, and Morgan Park on Chicago’s South Side.

As a local independent news organization, the Harvey World Herald does not issue political endorsements. But to keep our readers informed as Illinois heads into its primary this week, the HWH posed a series of questions to all Cook County Board of Commissioners 5th District candidates. Both the questions and answers for those who responded are provided.

For decades, Cook County leadership has neglected south suburban communities, particularly poor Black and Brown areas. Promises for engagement, public input, and substantive policy change have gone unmet. Why should residents trust that you will be any different?

Residents should trust that I will be different when it comes to engagement, public input, and substantive policy change because that is exactly why I decided to jump in the race for 5th District Cook County Commissioner last November after seeing the field form. For far too long, our region of Cook County has been plagued with absenteeism, neglect, and corruption. With an open seat, this is our first opportunity in nearly 28 years to reject politics of the past to ensure that long overdue resources are finally delivered to the South Side of Chicago and across the Southland. My commitment to public service and the communities situated within the 5th District are unmatched and on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I will show up for this region of Cook County with the energy, intellect, and hard work ethic required to move us forward.

In 2020, the Budget for Black Lives Coalition called upon Cook County Board of Commissioners leadership to redirect upwards of $157 million from the Cook County Sheriff's Office into the social safety net to fund, including but not limited to, mental health, affordable housing, restorative justice, reentry support, and jobs. The 2021 budget that was passed ultimately reallocated $25.9 million. What are your thoughts on the Defund the Police movement?

This is a very, very important question and topic to discuss because in recent years this battlecry of defunding the police has been hijacked by Republicans, the GOP, and conservatives alike to scapegoat people into thinking liberal cities are the bogeyman when it comes to public safety. The truth is, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has not been defunded and that is a reality for most other public safety apparatuses across the country at this time as well. For decades though, we have actually defunded education, our healthcare system, housing, and people out of access to clean drinking water and jobs with a livable wage. These are all things that pertain to ensuring residents have a sustainable quality of life. I know first hand that there are areas with an increased police presence, yet crimes and shootings in those aforementioned areas are still off the charts. This is because the current approach is just not working.

On the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I will be a tireless advocate for policies and resources that focus on actual prevention instead of the reactionary models, which have prevailed to-date. For example, we subject police officers to serving as mental health counselors when people call 911, are having a breakdown, and then it ends in chaos because police officers are not equipped with the tools to handle the given situation. Our investments have to be rooted in prevention, not simply reacting to a situation.

I fundamentally believe, we are not going to punish or police our way into public safety and will work to usher in more opportunities for trauma-informed, community specific care; inclusivity training to ensure local law enforcement have a wide-array of tools to address the issues present with diverse populations entangled in the criminal legal system; tackle the root causes that contribute to community-level violence; ensure that Maslow’s basic needs are met for all Cook County residents; and empower young people to have a larger stake in curating a better life for themselves.

What does a safe community look like to you?

A safe community is one where equity and justice are the norm. To be more specific, a safe community is one where residents have what they need. No matter your political affiliation or background, I am confident that residents of the 5th District want economic stability; positive community engagement; quality education; access to affordable, accessible healthcare; clean drinking water; fresh air; healthy fruits and vegetables; and a sense of security. How we design the communities where we rest, work, and play leads to safety and the communities that are safest are ultimately those communities where people have what they need.

The further south one traverses the southland, the more white and affluent communities become. Racial and economic segregation of the south suburbs is, while pervasive, a topic political leaders have long avoided. How does racial and economic segregation impact our daily lives? What policies would you work to acknowledge, repair harm associated with, and create tangible change regarding segregation?

As a Black man, community organizer, lawyer, and student of African-American Studies, I have seen the detrimental effects of racial and economic segregation on the South Side of Chicago where I live in Roseland and across the Southland. When elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I will be laser-focused on this issue with a surgical precision. Specifically, naming the fact that the 5th District is overwhelmingly populated with African-Americans, senior citizens, and others from working-class backgrounds and making clear that an equal distribution of resources is simply not enough.

I will work on implementing policies rooted in equity (getting back to the idea of making sure people have what they need) and justice. Most notably, through combating crime and reforming our criminal legal system; providing economic development and economic relief for 5th District families; tackling climate change and ushering in environmental justice; and advocating for accessible and affordable healthcare.

These are the ways in which we can rectify the harm caused by racist, White supremacist policies that have continued to hold generations of people, specifically Black people, back.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which made abortion a constitutional right in the United States. While abortion is legal in Illnois, access to things like abortion clinics or pills, contraception, or even affordable healthcare remain out of reach in Cook County. If elected, how would you work to further reproductive justice as a Commissioner?

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey will go down in history as one of the worst days ever. I am the only candidate in the 5th District Cook County Commissioner race that has worked on reproductive justice in a plethora of capacities before ever deciding to run for public office including as a former legal intern at the ACLU of Illinois and as a founding board member of Men4Choice, the only organization in America focused exclusively on activating, educating, and mobilizing male allies in the fight for reproductive freedom. In addition, I happen to be the proud son and grandson of two phenomenal Black women, who have advocated for and taught the importance of autonomy over one’s own body my entire life. Because of my past work, I am very proud to be endorsed by Personal PAC and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy, the chief architect of the Reproductive Health Act, which established a fundamental right to reproductive healthcare here in Illinois as noted in the question. On the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I will do everything in my power to ensure access to reproductive justice is realized through our local lever of government and take the fight directly to Springfield, Illinois and Washington, D.C. to reject the right-wing extremism we saw displayed in the opinion released last week.

Weeks before the primary, Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a 10% salary increase for themselves, with 3% annual increases. The first salary increase in 20 years, those who voted in favor argued the move accounts for inflation. It’s a move some criticized because of a provision that makes the increases indefinite. What are your thoughts on this move, which also affects the County President, assessor, clerk, circuit court clerk, sheriff, and three members of the Board of Review?

While I am incredibly grateful to those who choose public service as an opportunity to do the most good, this was a mistake particularly at a time where the masses are suffering financially. Elected officials should not be padding their pockets at the taxpayer’s expense, especially when we are still in a global pandemic, despite folks acting like it is over, and our economy is not working for the everyday person.

The global coronavirus pandemic has reshaped life forever. What does the future of work look like? Going forward, how do we create an economy that actually works for those pushed to the margins and into invisibility?

The global coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the day-to-day livelihood of far too many Cook County residents. And, as much as we pretend like COVID-19 is over in certain pockets of the state of Illinois, we know municipalities across the 5th District are some of the hardest hit. With that, there has been a shift in how things are done.

I believe the future of work will be further automated and digitized giving people the chance to work from home or where they feel most comfortable on a regular basis as well as the creation of new jobs that did not exist previously. Because of this, access to technology and broadband services will become increasingly important.

In addition, it will be important to make sure that traditional union jobs are still available and we put our region of Cook County to work in a way that will produce a stronger local economy. The commercial and retail industries have been some of the hardest hit, so developing strategies to re-think how services are offered will be critically important as well.

Lastly, in creating an economy that actually works for those pushed to the margins and into invisibility, we need to be laser-focused on those people. The lack of investment and strategic disinvestment over the years across the South Suburbs is negligent. I believe the 5th District should have a spotlight put on it when it comes to job creation, economic development, and encouraging businesses to adopt a community-oriented approach in how they root themselves in Cook County. Further, the economic relief initiatives being offered up through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding like the guaranteed income pilot are a necessary action to jumpstart the financial and economic engine of a region with a moribund tax base and dearth of jobs.

Correction: An earlier version of this questionnaire incorrectly listed the Illinois State Lieutenant Governor’s first name as Liliana. The Illinois State Lieutenant Governor’s name is Juliana Stratton.

Correction: An earlier version of this questionnaire did not fully state Illinois State Senator Robert Peters role as the state senate’s Black Caucus Chair. The story has been updated to reflect Peters’ role.

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