“UChicago has been a leader in intellectual pursuits, academic research, basically thought leadership. As an anchor institution in the area, UChicago needs to invest in the community in a more direct way,” said Grace Chan McKibben, one out of seven Democratic candidates vying for Illinois 25th District state house seat.
Current 25th District State Representative and majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie is retiring after thirty-nine years in office, leaving the race for State Representative wide open. On the March 20 primary elections, voters will choose between McKibben and six other Democratic candidates to represent the district that includes areas of Hyde Park and neighborhoods on south down the lakefront.
McKibben said that she stands out because she is an immigrant Asian-American woman, a demographic barely represented in government. There has so far only been one Asian-American in the Illinois legislature: Theresa Mah (A.M. ’93, Ph.D. ’99), another ex-UChicago administrator elected just two years earlier. McKibben noted that she also has extensive experience in both the private and public sector. After receiving her A.B. and A.M. from the University of Chicago, McKibben served as Associate Dean of Students at UChicago from 1998 to 2003. She has also worked in government, as Chief of Staff of the Illinois Department of Employment Security from 2003 to 2005, and now works as a community leader, as Development Director at the Indo-American Center.
I have been a supporter of LGBT rights and an advocate of LGBT rights from very early on. In the early 90s my husband and I were sponsoring LGBT student groups to talk to other students in residence halls, but even before that, I grew up in Hong Kong. This is one of the things that I emphasize quite a bit throughout the campaign trail—that I did not grow up in the U.S, so I don’t take a lot of rights and the liberties we have in the US for granted, because in a lot of the other countries, you don’t have that. In Hong Kong there is nondiscrimination for the LGBT community, but there isn’t very strict enforcement of nondiscrimination and to be sure that people are able to have equal opportunities in employment and education and housing. Growing up in that environment and coming to the US in the 80s, when the AIDS crisis was going on and LGBT issues were just coming to the forefront, I had high school friends that joined the early LGBT movement. I have a very close high school friend who dropped out of college to be a leader in ACT-UP. So this is a long history.
More recently among my own children there are LGBT kids. I’ve also been working with the Chicago Gay Men’s chorus for this past year as the acting executive director, helping them with the strategic plan. A lot of it, helping a historical organization like that that has significant impact on the LGBT life in Chicago, makes you realize how important history is because current chorus members are not as much connected with that history from the 80s and 90s.
I think there’s a lot of misconception from the outside world, particularly from the non LGBT community, you know, now that there’s marriage equality, and now that there are less overt discrimination in some circles, that there’s no need for groups like Chicago’s Gay Men’s Chorus to continue to do what they do anymore, and that’s absolutely not true. It’s such a fragile balance, and there’s so many issues, particularly since the last election, that have come to the fore. There’s still not equality; for the trans community it’s definitely still not equal. There’s still a lot of battles that still need to be fought.
In a recent interview with The Chicago Defender, I talked about my background, experiences, and ability to build relationships across traditional barriers. ““My experience as an Asian woman, an Asian American woman, is that I am usually the only Asian wherever I go,” said McKibben. “I’m used to being the only person that looks like me in various different arenas and I can’t change the way I look, I can’t change my background, but what I can bring is my own unique story, my own unique set of experiences, skills, personality, story, and everything to the table.””
Just came from the Kenwood Academy walkout, I’m so proud to stand with these incredible students who have brought such passion, eloquence, and organizing prowess to the gun debate. Their idealism stands in stark contrast to the cynicism of our politicians, as exemplified by Governor Rauner’s veto of the gun dealer registration bill yesterday. I was also extremely heartened to hear the organizers call for similar protests around school closures. These kids are living proof of the kind of citizens our public schools and our communities are capable of producing when we properly invest in them.
In this interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Grace talks about her qualifications and policy positions for Illinois 25th District Representative. “My top three priorities are to ensure there is adequate funding for public education and having an elected school board and also adequate funding for social services for the needy community. And finally, to have a budget that makes sense for Illinois.” You can read the complete interview by clicking here.
I am proud to receive the endorsement of Illinois National Organization for Women, based on my strong record of support for women’s issues. I look forward to working with IL NOW in Springfield for women’s rights, equality, and justice.
We have less than 2 weeks until the March 20 Primary Election. Please volunteer or donate! With your help, we can get a progressive woman who fights for social justice for all in the State House!
When I’m out speaking with voters, there is one issue comes that up over and over. Residents are extremely passionate about the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. I feel that it’s critically important for the residents of the 25th District to understand how I would approach this and future development projects, if elected.
Communities which host major tourist attractions face certain sacrifices and uncertain benefits. Sometimes the sacrifices are too great: casinos in Chicago, for example will never bring enough benefit to outweigh the costs. In other cases, including the Obama Center, we must develop an approach that articulates the benefits, creates benchmarks to guarantee them, and take steps to minimize the costs.
While it would be an honor for our district to host such a prestigious institution, the decision to locate the center in Jackson Park creates numerous complexities and more discussion is needed.
I will insist that any development projects in the district take the following steps: engage in a fair, open, and transparent design and acquisition process; ensure that the benefits are fairly distributed and largely kept within our community; and demonstrate that the project will be physically and economically integrated into the community.
There are many community concerns that have not been adequately addressed, including the proposed closing of Cornell Drive, the reduction of nature preserve land, and the use of public funds. There also has not been a comprehensive plan bringing together all the proposed enhancements to Jackson Park including the Obama Center, the new golf course, and other new development. I propose that all stakeholders take the time and resources to develop a unified and comprehensive plan for all of Jackson Park, discussed in open community meetings, including an open question and answer period in which community voices are not only heard by Park District and Obama Center officials responsible for their respective projects but also other members of the community. Further, there should be an opportunity for official public comment online for those unable to participate in in-person meetings to add their comments order to ensure full transparency and to ensure that there is a coordinated plan moving forward.
The second condition, ensuring that benefits are fairly distributed and kept within the community is more straightforward. I believe we cannot afford to commit public money to the construction of the Obama Center without a satisfactory community benefits agreement detailing procedures on local hiring, living wage, and the use of neighborhood contractors.
Finally, the center must be integrated into the community, as a hub, an organizing principle, a place of real local impact. I think of Boston, which hosts the John F. Kennedy library, a fantastic museum and research center which has no connection to, or presence in the troubled neighborhood of Dorchester which hosts it. The library is both economically and physically separated from the community, located on a peninsula, a 25-minute walk from the nearest public transportation station. We must avoid this fate for Jackson Park, as it would waste a massive opportunity to develop some of the economically depressed areas around the park and leave an ugly stain on the legacy of a man I and many other Chicagoans consider truly great.
Beyond the scope of any agreement between the community and the Obama foundation, but still critically important, we must take broader steps to mitigate the possibility of displacement of existing residents through gentrification. I’ve proposed a comprehensive renter protection package to shield all of our neighborhoods from displacement, and no agreement for the Obama Center should move forward without consideration of the lives of current residents in the immediate vicinity.
For decades the South Side was the industrial heart of Chicago. The steel plants and railyards brought prosperity and growth to the rest of the city while our residents bore the brunt of these industries’ environmental degradation, in our homes and in our bodies. Our communities can no longer afford to drive the rest of the city toward prosperity, while receiving little ourselves.