Jane Kim joined Aimee Allison, host of Democracy in Color’s podcast to talk about how she got her start in politics, important political issues and “her mean flying roundhouse taekwondo kick.”
Listen to the podcast below and read more about the interview:
Article originally seen on Democracy in Color:
San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim is a true fighter. While serving on the Board of Supervisors, she has been fighting for affordable housing, for a $15 an hour minimum wage and to make community college free again. Now, Jane’s taking the fight to Sacramento, one of the most important legislative bodies in the country today. In this episode, Aimee and Jane talk about her journey into politics, pressing political issues and her mean flying roundhouse taekwondo kick.
8:40 Winning Her First Race
It was a big community win. We were able to do it through grassroots mobilizing. The one thing that I got from that campaign is that I actually became even more committed to my principles and the base that I came from because those were the people that helped me win. It was students. I felt even more obligated to make sure I spent my next four years on the School Board fighting for our young people.
12:24 Free Community College
It felt like a really big idea in December when we started brainstorming but when we looked at the numbers and we realized that we could do this, it became really exciting. This initiative is probably one of the most exciting proposals for my team. My team is all women of color who have all started their work in the community, like I have, and this is one of our most important initiatives. When this measures passes in November and we’re polling very well, we’ll become the first city in the nation to make community college free for all our residents without any type of income, age or GPA pre-requisite. That is exciting and we’ll also be showing the rest of the state and the country that we could make this work.
15:37 State Legislature
The state capitols across the country are increasingly becoming the most relevant legislative bodies. Sacramento passes two to three times as many bills as Washington D.C. today. In fact, Washington D.C. is increasingly in gridlock because of the partisan feuding. State capitols are deciding many of the most important issues that impact the lives of Americans today. Whether it is on healthcare, higher education, K-12, prison and criminal justice reform and previously gay marriage, all of these issues were actually being fought in the state capitols and so it’s incredibly important who we send to the state legislature.
29:02 Moving the Party Left
Right now, the route that I have picked is to help push the Democratic Party to be more progressive. I was very heartened by Senator Sanders’ run and I do think that he ultimately moved the Democratic Party because he showed that there is a huge base of voters that want the Democratic Party to become more progressive. In the past, the Democratic Party always thought that moving to the center was the way to win but Senator Sanders’ campaign showed that actually there’s a tremendous base of very progressive voters that want to see the Democratic Party move to the left.
42:18 Criminal Justice and Prison Reform
If we know who’s in our prisons, let’s instead build institutions that address these issues. We were able to successfully turn down the grant (to build a new prison in San Francisco) and we’re now asking the state to give us $80 million to instead build a mental health component to our criminal justice system and not put folks who are already suffering in jail. I have to say one of the hardest visits I’ve done as a Supervisor was visiting our county jail at the Hall of Justice. I was shocked by what I saw. First of all, I recognized folks who were in our jails but two, you just saw folks that were so sick and so traumatized being in prison and that they needed treatment. Prison was only further traumatizing whatever illness that they had already.
31:27 Follow the Dollars
I always tell voters, one of the most important things to look it is anyone’s budget document because it’s more than dollar signs and line items. It’s actually a statement of who a city, a state, a nation, a school district cares about. The budget is a collection of all of our taxpayer dollars. It’s an investment of our money back into our neighborhoods.
43:56 Struggling Within the System
When I was on the school board, it was very hard to accept the fact that we were part of a system that was disproportionately impacting African American, Latino and Pacific Islander students and that one of the top factors in our student outcome and achievement was race, not class, not neighborhood but race. That is the definition of racism; when race is the clear factor that defines who will succeed and who will fail. When you go into the system you go in with the hopes of changing it and it’s a very slow process but while you’re there you also know that you’re a part of it. It is a struggle I think for many of us — who are progressive activists — to really struggle within a system that we know isn’t right.