Denika McMillen, Illinois House 41st District Democratic candidate profile
Her top priorities include mental health care, property tax relief and environmental issues.
Running for: State Representative for District 41
Political/civic background: I am not a politician but I have been advocate for many people. I am currently a Precinct Committee person for my community. I’m involved/ or have been actively in Lisle Township Democratic Organization, Naperville Neighbors United, District 203 Parent Diversity Advisory Council, Naper Pride, and Moms Demand Action.
Occupation: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Education: Master of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1998-1999
Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois, 1994-1998
College Preparation, Whitney M.Young HS, 1990-1994
Campaign website: mcmillen4u.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. Denika McMillen 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.
Being on the inaugural board for Naper Pride, we worked on many events but I specifically co-chair the “Health and Wellness fair” last Summer. While working on the Parent Diversity Advisory Council, we strongly advocated for a Diversity/ Inclusion Director, which finally happened in the Fall of 2018.
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.
1. Mental health and it’s connection to substance abuse. The opioid addiction related to overdoses in DuPage County.
2. The environment issues. Our energy source is about 90% coal but we need to find a way to make renewable energy sources more of a priority.
3. The amount of taxes being paid on our homes. This is a burden that can be changed.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
I think it is important to “Fix the FOID” law, working to repair the broken pension system, and providing services to those with disabilities.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I support the “Fair Tax” law because this is a start to trying to balance our budget and those with higher incomes should have their payments based on this premise.
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?
While we are still in the beginning stages of ‘Recreational Marijuana”, I believe it will bring in a lot of revenue. Also increasing the number of Casinos so people won’t go to neighboring states and boost their economy.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Yes. It would be the same as the federal government, which is working for other states. If you make more, you should pay more. It’s not right that it is the same flat rate for everyone, besides, it’s not working.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
I think that their should be more parental involvement. If we could somehow incorporate parents work schedules so that it allows for them to communicate more with teachers, it could bridge a gap.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
I think we have to look at the roots of this issue. Bullying, lack of community resources and jobs, learning better coping strategies for “anger” and “disappointment”. We need to fund more mentoring programs, increase employment opportunities in impoverished neighborhoods and areas, increase community mental health facilities, and create stricter guns laws.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I would favor term limits because a change in command helps the create a less restrictive atmosphere. This works in the business world, where a CEO spends at least 5 years in charge before a switch is made.
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?
Gerrymandering needs to be looked at further. It does create advantages for the party involved but is that fair to the community being represented? I’d have to think more about how that could be changed for the better.
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 believe that this was the right move since the investigating suggested corruption. I think we need to see how this law works before amending or adding more to it.
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?
I think the companies that is selling the information should pay for the identity theft protection of each individual that they gain access to. I’m not sure if it is possible but an amount of insurance should be set aside to assist that individual should their identity be stolen.
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?
They should offer more grants and scholarships as an incentives for In-state students and reduce the amount of the tuition. It was one of the reasons that I stayed here.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
I would work to continue the reduction of pollutants used in our cities and towns, such as ethylene oxide, a cancer causing substance. We still need to work on making Illinois energy 100% by 2050, which is the goal.
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.
Margaret Taylor-Burroughs. She was an artist, writer, poet, educator, and co-founder of the Du Sable Museum. She served as the first Executive Director of this grass-roots institution, which was historic in itself.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
This is a hard question because I’ve watched a lot of television. I’m much more of an action, spying, and fighting person. When “Alias” was on, I watched that show just to see Jennifer Gardner kick some arse every week.