On Jan. 22, Anthony V. Clark appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic seat in the 7th Congressional district of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Anthony Vincent Clark. In regards to my political and civil background, I’m a special education teacher by trade, but while teaching I started a non-profit known as Suburban Unity Alliance. Our platform essentially attacks equity issues within the community, our motto is “fights are not mutually exclusive” so we’ve one a lot of work within the community in regards to restorative justice practices, engaging and addressing racial and other discriminatory issues within communities that are in our institutions and small businesses. We’ve hosted scholarship opportunities, various initiatives, purchased security systems for churches that are being harassed by white supremacist organizations., been trained in DACA to support our dreamer population in filling out those application processes, and most recently we also formed Neighbors United LLC, where we employ at risk youth in the Austin Community. We bring them into Oak Park to work with lawn care and home care services so we’re literally everywhere. We believe that issues are interconnected so we try to engage and attack with interconnected solutions. Beyond that, in regards to politics we are heavily involved in local political community in regards to pushing progressive candidates, candidates that believe in equity, candidates that believe in diversity. So I pushed and put forward many local candidates through the school board races and the local village races and we also partnered with PASO, West Suburban Action Project, in regards to passing the most progressive welcoming village ordinance in the nation in Oak Park, Illinois. And most recently as well, I got Columbus Day eliminated and now we have Indigenous People’s Day in Oak Park, Illinois, as well, so that’s some of my experience and background.
Top priority, again as I said earlier, I believe issues are interconnected, so solutions are interconnected. So my top priority is bringing opportunity back to the 7th congressional district. So in order to do that we need to invest in our educational systems. I think we need education reform and criminal justice reform, those are two of my top priorities.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Congress a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Anthony V. Clark submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: As a member of the House from Illinois, please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: I believe it is time for transformative, grassroots leadership focused on creating liberty, justice, and opportunity for all people. Issues are interconnected and to reach the goal of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all, we must fight for and support causes that treat the root causes of the interconnected systemic issues we face as a society.
Legalization of Marijuana – Social benefits of legal marijuana include removing a negative opportunity for youth and community members, addressing high incarceration rates and lose loss of life over drug territories, and utilizing the funds from taxation to create positive opportunities. Medical benefits of legal marijuana include treating physical ailments like arthritis and cancer symptoms as well as mental health issues like PTSD, depression and anxiety.
Medicare for All – H.R. 676, Free College Tuition – H.R. 1880, Worker Rights – H.R. 15 (want to eventually tie minimum wage to inflation), Women’s Rights – H.R. 771, Environmental Justice – H.R. 3671, End Citizens United, Amendment 28, Community policing.
Middle Class and Small Business Support – A tax plan that places middle class and small business owners above the 1% & corporations.
Immigration reform – A clean Dream Act.
Veterans job training -Earned benefits, ending homelessness.
Education Reform -End to the privatization of our educational systems, end to the inequity in public education funding, investment in before and after school programs, investment in vocational and technical training, investment in the preparation for changes due to automation.
Criminal Justice Reform – End to mandatory minimums, end to cash bail system, end to the privatization of prisons, end to the war on drugs, proactive mental health treatment.
Anthony V. Clark
Running for: 7th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: I am the founder and director of the nonprofit Suburban Unity Alliance. Suburban Unity Alliance’s mission is to promote unity through the realization of equitable community practices that showcase diversity. Our vision is that each member of a community will have equitable opportunities and experiences no matter their demographic background.
I truly believe the health of one individual or community directly impacts the health of another individual or community. I tell people, “if you do not help your neighbor in their time of need when oppression is at their doorstep, it may not be tomorrow, it may not be next month, but eventually there will be no one left to stand for you when oppression is at your door!” For those reasons, my organization dedicates our energy to building bridges between communities and individuals.
For too long, communities have operated as if they are on islands or behind a metaphorical wall. Utilizing intersectional practices to build relationships, SUA has led efforts in tapping into intersectionality and empathy to transform singular movements into mass movements.
SUA has also held institutions and business accountable in regards to discrimination. When issues have arisen, SUA utilizes restorative justice practices in efforts to repair harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders.
SUA has engaged in additional multiple activities including: collaborating with PASO West Suburban Action Project to pass the most progressive Welcoming Village
Ordinance in the country in Oak Park, IL/surrounding areas, the passing of Indigenous Peoples Day in Oak Park, IL, free financial literacy classes for families, employment for at risk youth, the purchasing of a security system for a church being harassed by a white supremacist organization, and training SUA members in filling out DACA applications to support Dreamers.
I previously mentioned our efforts to employ at risk youth. Perhaps the civic effort I am most proud of is starting and co-owning Neighbors United LLC, a lawn/home care business that was started to employe at risk youth in the Austin community. I believe that as communities, we have to stop waiting on others to make the change that we can make for ourselves. Through grassroot efforts, national systemic change will occur through the support and fight for local systemic change.
Occupation: Special Education high school teacher at Oak Park and River Forest high school, Director of nonprofit Suburban Unity Alliance, and co-owner of Neighbors United LLC.
Education: BA in communications from Pacific Lutheran University, MA in criminal justice from University of Phoenix, MA in special education from National Louis University, and a MA in educational leadership from Roosevelt University.
Campaign website: anthonyclark2018.com
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: The current unemployment rate of the 7th congressional district is more than double state and national average. The home vacancy rate of the 7th congressional district is about double the state average. In many communities in the 7th such as the Austin community, 30% or more of the residents live in poverty, storefronts are shuttered, food deserts exist, high schools are under-resourced, and gun violence continues to plague community members.
Property tax issues along with no community being immune to systemic issues, has lead to increased concern in many of the suburban communities in the district as well.
Considering the issues facing the 7th congressional district, many of the same issues faced on a national level, I believe three district-specific needs that will be my priorities include community investment, job creation, and criminal justice reform.
For too long, many communities within the 7th have suffered economic hardship because important businesses such as supermarkets have relocated operations or shutdown. Residents are forced to travel outside of their communities for quality shopping, entertainment, and job opportunities. This has further led to a lack of reinvestment in the communities most in need as the money is spent and invested elsewhere. There must be a focused placed on economic development that creates a business stimulus, fosters economic growth, and creates financial empowerment for neglected minority and urban communities.
As a leader, I recognize the interconnectedness of gun violence. I truly believe that, “nothing stops a bullet like opportunity.” While gun control is extremely important, it is not enough. We must focus on how investing in communities, investing in creating opportunity for our youth and families, will lead to a decrease in gun violence. Supporting before and after school programs, job creation, mental health treatment, and community bridge building, gun violence can be better addressed.
Furthermore, criminal justice reform which includes the ending of mandatory minimums, cash bail systems, war on drugs, privatization, and reactionary practices is essential. We must focus on creating proactive strategies in which we focus on treatment and rehabilitation.
QUESTION: If you are running as a Democrat, what is your best idea for getting any initiative you may propose advanced if the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections?
ANSWER: I believe in putting people before politics and profit. Placing people first should be a post partisan effort as representing the people should be the primary function of representatives.
As the next representative for IL 7, I am willing to work with anyone no matter their party affiliation if that individual truly has, “what is best for the people?” at the forefront of their minds. There are numerous issues at the forefront of the American consciousness that transcend party affiliation. Medicare for all, the environment, and the tax bill are issues that no matter an individual’s demographic background, they care about.
As a 100% grassroots candidate, my only special interest group is the people that make up the 7th congressional district. The people have the power in who they vote for and the actions they engage in to influence representatives. I would use that power to encourage fellow Democrats to support and advance an initiative as well as the minimum number of Republicans needed through influencing representatives in districts with constituents who recognize the overall GOP agenda is not what is best for the people.
Serving in the military, I served alongside individuals of diverse backgrounds. My military experience along with my nonprofit work which focused on building bridges through empathy and intersectionality are valuable skills in building collaborations. Whether partisan or postpartisan, the power of connecting with voters and utilizing grassroots efforts to influence change is essential.
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TOPIC: PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: My father taught me the most important thing to understand when fixing a problem is the difference between a “root cause,” and a symptom. A symptom is a sign that a problem exists. If you resolve a problem by just treating the symptom and not addressing the root cause, the same issue while arise again.
Donald Trump is a symptom of the the various forms of oppressive ‘isms and phobias that have been utilized throughout history to maintain power in the hands of a select few. Forms of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia,
Islamophobia, capitalism and nationalism, have all manifested throughout his campaign and presidency. These ‘isms and phobias are also the root causes of who he is as an individual.
As a nation, we cannot simply focus our efforts on ridding our government on one individual. The issues we face are systemic, which means systems are built upon them. We have to continue to hold Trump accountable, but realize a more comprehensive effort is needed to create an intersectional mass movement to address the root causes that created Trump.
Trump engages in fear mongering through ‘isms and phobias to garner support.
He recognizes that a large portion of our nation fear how diversity will impact the disbursement of power. If a poor white farmer can be convinced to support agendas that harm him, because he believes those pushing said agendas is ensuring that being white and poor is better than being middle class and black, people like Trump win. Through the stoking of nationalistic fervor and misinformation, Trump and the GOP push their agenda forward.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: I do believe that there is indeed a swamp in our government that unfortunately, Trump has added to. On both the Republican and Democratic side, it is time for overarching change as current political leadership focuses on self-interests, profit, and party ideology over the people.
I cannot identify any actions the Trump administration has taken that I support (there is no most).
In regards to the three actions that I oppose the most:
I am in opposition to the travel ban. Though the latest version is not as overtly discriminatory (still discriminatory) against Muslims as past versions, I do not believe limiting the travel of the countries listed will have a benefit to Americans’ safety.
Judges have found that the ban not only went against the statutory scheme laid out by the Immigration and Nationality Act, but also failed to meet the act’s requirement of “finding,” based on reason or evidence that travel from the eight countries identified would harm the U.S.
I am in opposition to the GOP tax plan. I do not believe that offering huge tax cuts on business profits will lead to a trickle down effect that will produce benefits for the middle and lower classes. Not only has this tax plan added trillions to our national debt, but it further attacks middle class families and those most in need of support as social security, welfare, medicaid, and medicare will be cut to pay for it.
How the hell can we accept a tax plan from a president who refused to release his own taxes?
The third Trump Administration action that I oppose the most is their stance that any deal on DACA must include money for a border wall.
I have been an ally of immigrant rights and have collaborated on the passage of progressive Welcoming Village ordinances in my district.
Canceling DACA would place over 800,000 young people at risk of losing their jobs and being deported to countries they have never known as home. The Trump administration wants to use human being as bargaining chips and that is not acceptable. Trump is willing to risk live and families for a wall that will not be effective at stopping immigration.
I am 100% in support of a clean Dream Act.
QUESTION: What is your view of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Does Mueller have your support?
ANSWER: Accountability is extremely important and I believe that U.S. individuals and in this instance a campaign colluding with a foreign government is an important issue to uncover. Mueller’s investigation is important as Americans have the right to know the extent of the collusion and how that collusion may have placed our country at further risk of hacks and foreign influence.
I do believe that we cannot utilize the possibility of collusion as a scapegoat to real systemic problems we face. Trump did not win simply due to collusion.
There are systemic issues in our country that if go ignored while Democrats place majority of focus and hope on the Mueller investigation will only exacerbate. As a nation we have to stop just pointing fingers, but look in the mirror as well.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: I believe Congress must step up and expand “domestic terrorism,” as while it is defined, the punishment for committing an act of “terrorism,” under federal law only covers crimes that occur outside the U.S. or are led by people outside of the U.S. Similar forms of violence should not be treated differently based on the background of the perpetrator.
Through this expansion, resources for countering domestic terrorism would increase. Violent elements within radical groups and individuals who preach violent, radical rhetoric should receive greater focus.
In terms of ISIS and beyond, in an era of social media, I recognize that domestic radicalization and lone wolf attacks cannot be eliminated by military and law enforcement strategies alone. We must engage in proactive measures focused on preventing terrorism just as much as responding to it. Violent extremists must be discredited and the appeal of terrorism must be blunted. We must work with all stakeholders from family members to teachers in grassroots efforts to create a strategy to educate on what would lead an individual to extremism, to identify warning signs, and how to appropriately work with law enforcement to proactively address the situation.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: Recognize the interconnectedness of issues and eliminate the idea pushed by gun rights donors that any attempt to make gun laws stricter amounts to the government eventually coming to your house and confiscating your guns.
QUESTION: Do you favor a law banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” that increase the firing speed of semi-automatic weapons? Why? Do you favor any further legal limits on guns of any kind? Or, conversely, what gun restrictions should be done away with?
ANSWER: “Bump stocks,” should be banned, because any device that has the capacity to turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon should not be in the hands of the public. There is no justification for a civilian to own a fully automatic weapon, which provide the ability for mass shootings. All loops holes should be closed to improve records and background checks. I do not support conceal and carry across state lines and believe our government must do more to improve the ATF’s ability to address gun crime.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
QUESTION: As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation supported by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but it does not look to us like the “silent hand” of the market is functioning properly, rewarding merit fairly. We are troubled that the top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 90 percent own just 22.8 percent of the wealth. Tell us how we are right or wrong about this. Does the growing income and wealth gap trouble you?
ANSWER: Your editorial board is absolutely correct in your assessment. In regards to the GOP tax bill and continued efforts that further increase wealth inequality, I picture America being a dystopian future in which the wealthy and fortunate live inside walls that protect them from the poor.
Despite the fact the the middle class grows the economy and not the rich, corporations and the top 1% continue to reap the benefits of the backs of our lower and middle classes. The bottom 90% make less than half of the country’s income. The economy that we live in literally kills people due to inabilities to maintain the cost of living and that is not acceptable.
TOPIC: International affairs
QUESTION: Do you support the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? How will this help or hinder efforts to secure a lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors?
ANSWER: I do not support the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Israel to Jerusalem. This decision undermines any ability for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. East Jerusalem was envisioned as the future capital of a Palestinian state, as many have pushed for a two-state solution. The U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel damages that vision.
QUESTION: Is military action by the United States a plausible response to the nuclear weapons threat posed by North Korea? How might a U.S. military response play out for South Korea, Japan and China? What alternative do you support?
ANSWER: History has shown that the U.S. has made the business of other countries its business for way too long in the name of promoting democracy and security. Yet, we have failed to do so through true diplomacy and the result of our government’s actions has often led to opposite results. The U.S. must reorient our foreign policy to include more cooperation, and stop acting like the world’s police.
The North Korean regime has nuclear weapon and that is a fact that cannot be ignored. These weapons pose a threat to South Korea, Japan, and in time the U.S.
North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a serious issue in which all steps of diplomacy must be exhausted through working with the
State Department and allies in the region, before rushing towards war. Diplomacy is hard difficult work, but we have yet to truly invest and put are full faith in a diplomatic process. Our current president is impulsive and bombastic, two traits that can lead us directly into war.
There must be a balancing act when dealing with North Korea. The U.S. must be open to talks with North Korea without upfront conditions and we must be willing to accept that a negotiated outcome through diplomacy could eliminate the risk of nuclear war, but not fully denuclearize North Korea. As a nation, we must continue to play an active role in the international community in order to advance peace, support democratization and human rights and protect the global environment, without being the world’s police.
If the last resort of war was chosen, China would be greatly impacted. Not only would China have to prepare for an influx of refugees, but also would have to evacuate citizens from impacted areas, defend its borders, and work with UN to secure weapons of mass destruction. South Korean forces would join in supporting American forces in fighting North Korea with further support coming from Japan and South Korea as the U.S. has substantial air, land, and sea forces station in both countries.
QUESTION: The Supreme Court has ruled that the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on eight countries with predominantly Muslim populations can go into effect while legal challenges against the ban continue. What is your position on this travel ban?
ANSWER: Seeing how Trump’s travel ban discriminates against Muslims and that not a single individuals has died in a terrorist attack on American soil carried out by a citizen of the nations covered by the ban, it isn’t justified. The ban does not help national security and leads to additional bulletin board material for extremist groups recruiting members.
QUESTION: Has the United States in the last decade been accepting too many immigrants, and does this pose a threat to the American way of life?
ANSWER: Outside of Native Americans and the forced migration of Blacks, the United States in a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have had a positive impact on our society and I support a path to citizenship, humane and ethical treatment of undocumented immigrants, and a clean DACA bill. Immigration in my eyes doesn’t pose a threat to American way of life, it is the American way of life. As with anything, it is important to establish a comprehensive policy that supports immigrants while addressing any workforce issues (which immigrants should not be blamed for).
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: The wall is ridiculous proposal and should not be built. The wall would be a waste of taxpayers’ money as it is clear Mexico will not be paying for such an idiotic proposal. The building of the wall would accomplish nothing but feeding Trump’s ego and driving a further wedge between race relations.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: The tax reform plan created by Republican majorities in the House and Senate would eliminate the Obamacare “individual mandate” that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Does this threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act? What more on this, if anything, should be done?
ANSWER: The ACA is still alive as coverage guarantees, subsidies, and Medicaid expansion still exist. However, the tax bill does repeal the individual mandate which in my opinion will increase premiums. By ensuring the millions of Americans had health insurance or paid a penalty, the insurance risk pools were widened to include a diverse mix of Americans.
The only viable answer that is receiving bipartisan support is a push for Medicare
4 All. The U.S. spends more per person on health than any other comparable country. For example, our spending was 22% higher in 2015 than Luxembourg, the next highest per capita spender. Any solution outside of Medicare for All, is essentially, ‘kicking the can down the road.’ The only way to avoid eventually collapse is to work with the majority of the public that supports medicare for all and make it happen. I believe that healthcare is a human right, regardless of their ability to pay. No one should go without proper medical care in such a prosperous country. Private insurance companies have been allowed by generations of corrupt politicians to become monopolies with the power to extort many hundreds of billions of dollars from the American people each year. The health insurance industry spent $150 billion dollars last year in lobbying expenses alone, to protect their monopolies — money that could have been spent on providing care and saving lives. Medicare for all would also save the government through efficiency savings and providing benefits for all residents at a lower cost to most individuals, families and businesses.
TOPIC: Your opponent
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I am a progressive candidate who in practice has shown I am willing to risk it all for the liberty, justice, and opportunity of all people. I recognize the importance of treating root causes and truly taking a progressive stance in the fight to place power back in the hands of the people. I am a 100% grassroots candidate as I believe it is impossible to represent the people and court corporate interests. I also believe that in 2017, voting is not enough. We need congressional representatives that are boots to the ground working with and fighting alongside local grassroots efforts to impact local systemic issues, while pushing for national systemic change. I am a fighter!
The incumbents willingness to take corporate money, lack of support for the legalization of marijuana, and lack of understanding of the importance of local efforts means he is not the best option to represent the 7th congressional district.
He is a status quo maintainer.