Jawaharial “Omar” Williams, Illinois House 10th District Democratic candidate profile

His top priorities include gun violence prevention, jobs and school funding.

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Jawaharial “Omar” Williams, 2020 Illinois House 10th District Democratic primary election candidate

Jawaharial “Omar” Williams, Illinois House 10th District Democratic primary candidate and incumbent.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Jawaharial Williams

Running for: 10th District State Representative

Political/civic background: 10th District State Representatives, President Young Democrats of Illinois, President of Young Democrats of Cook County and 27th Ward 22nd Precinct Captain.

Occupation: Current State Representative

Education: Bachelors Degree-North Eastern Illinois-Criminal Justice

Campaign website: friends4jawaharial.com

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Jawaharial “Omar” Williams submitted the following responses:

Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community. 

As the current State Representative, I have supported the following legislation: The Women Reproductive Health Act, The Major Infrastructure Investment Plan which anticipates creating over 500,000 new jobs, the Fair Tax Plan which will provide stable funding for critical services for seniors, children with developmental disabilities, and much more. I also supported an initiative to expand job creation programs and Apprenticeships tax credits along with sponsoring the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act.

In addition, I host a monthly district night in an effort to stay engaged with the community, free Shredding events and sponsored several Property Tax Appeal Seminars for 10th district residents. I have sponsored coat drives, senior bingos and personally delivered turkeys and hams to over 500 residents in the 10th district. I also have financially supported many community organizations such as block clubs, Kell’s Park Community Council, Major Adams, and I am that Kid Foundation.

Lastly, as an active Precinct Captain for over 15 years, I assist my residents with accessing city resources such as street lighting, pot holds repairs and other city service referrals.

Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised. 

While walking door to door and listening to residents it is clear that my priorities lie in helping people get employed. Building and economy that supports fair wages, equal pay and career training opportunities.

Second is expanding gun violence prevention programs and working for strong gun safety laws so that we can keep our children safe. We need to build initiatives that crack down on illegal gun sales and straw purchasers.

Our children deserve safe schools and strong schools. My 3rd priority is to increase funding for our local schools and secondary education. Increased resources for secondary education such as financial aid and increased access to vocational and trade programs.

What are your other top legislative priorities? 

My top legislative priorities again focus on increased job opportunities and creating increased wealth in our communities. I want to expand opportunities for access in Union trade programs and assist residents with connecting with employers. This is why I am hosting a Career Fair in the Spring to connect over 100 employers and trade programs with our community.

It’s also important that our communities received a fair wage, which is why I supported raising the minimum wage to a $15 living wage, and an increase in funding for the creation of new career training opportunities.

The road to wealth begins with education. Its important for me to do what I can to strengthen our schools and make them safe. I supported legislation that will provide over $350 Million in new funding for local public schools and make college affordable.

Focusing on Mental Health in our communities is also at the forefront. Increased funding for those facilities, like Loretta Hospital and other organizations that work to provide resources/support services for individuals who suffer with mental illness and are battling substance abuse problems.

What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain. 

While I believe the middle class has to carry too much of the burden with our current tax structure, it’s important for voters to have a voice in this process. Putting the Fair tax before voters and allowing them to decide is a step in the right direction. The Middle class needs some tax relief.

Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $6 billion. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education? 

Illinois financial struggles didn’t happen overnight and will require me and my colleagues to roll up our sleeves and to really look at the budget. We need a budget that forces us to control our spending and to pay down our debt. Prioritizing those resources and services that are most important to our communities. We will need to make some hard decisions and work to develop creative and innovative solutions.

Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is? 

No, I don’t support taxing retirement income. Implementing the Fair tax is a step is in the right direction.

What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools? 

Our children deserve world class schools and it begins with the proper funding. Under the new state funding formula our schools will be properly funded. Our students need smaller class sizes, nurses and social workers, increase technology programs and state of the art facilities.

Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois? 

We are losing too many of our children to sense less gun violence which is why Illinois needs smarter gun safety laws. Universal background checks, banning of military style assault rifles and closing the gun show loop hope are just a few. Stronger gun laws are just part of the solution, there needs to be a collaborative effort among all stakeholders, including but not limited to lawmakers, law enforcement, and mental health professionals in an effort to develop solutions that speak directly to gun violence stemming from mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse.

Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain. 

While I may support term limits, I believe voters are the ultimate term limit deciders.

Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done? 

While some progress has been made to gerrymandering, when you begin to look at redistricting it’s important to protect minority voters and make sure their voices are heard. Empowering voters is bigger than one measure, and redistricting is just one option that needs to be a part of a bigger discussion that includes campaign financing and voter participation.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done? 

I supported the HJR 93 Reform, which establishes a Joint Commission and Lobbying Reform to conduct a thorough bipartisan review of laws governing lobbyist, elected officials and state employees. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still much work that needs to be done. We need comprehensive reform.

When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything? 

Consumer Protection should be a priority of the Legislature. Data breaches are not okay and when they happen they typically wreak havoc on those individuals who ultimately become victims of fraud, stolen identities and financial scams. Very little support, if any is available to such victims and these company’s need to be held accountable.

The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students? 

Illinois needs to make a college education affordable. I supported the budget that increased funding for the MAP Grants and providing such grants for all 4 years. Illinois residents need more access to financial aid, and trade school options. We need to invest not only in our secondary educational programs but in elementary as well. We want to make sure that our children are being prepared for college and understand all of their secondary education options.

What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment? 

Expanding renewable energy and reducing our carbon footprint. I am passionate about creating jobs which is why I supported the Clean Energy Jobs Act. An act that creates thousands of green jobs and that puts us on the road to 100% renewable energy.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain. 

If I had to choose one it would be Harold Washington, with Barack Obama as a close second. My first exposure to civic service was watching and helping my mom work on Harold Washington’s Mayoral Campaign. He was the first African-American Mayor of Chicago and it was exciting to be apart of history in the making. He also began his political career as a State Representative.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why? 

Good Times. It’s represents an impoverished black family dealing with the struggles of trying to survive in Chicago. While they didn’t have much, they survived on their love for each other, and they laughed most times to keep from crying. Constantly working to create a better life for their family.

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