Sep 12, 2019

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Legislator’s love for her community reflected in her economic justice work

by | Sep 12, 2019

Note: Colorado Center on Law and Policy will honor Rep. Dominique Jackson with a Champions of Economic Justice Award during the sixth annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast on Oct. 17. This year’s keynote speaker will be Mehrsa Baradaran, Esq., professor of law at University of California Irvine. Seats are limited, so register now

Rep. Dominique Jackson didn’t aspire to run for public office while growing up. Raised in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood in the 1960’s, the second-term Colorado District 42 legislator is intimately familiar with the struggles that she now works to mitigate statewide — especially in the realm of housing and economic security.

In fact, as a teenager, Jackson spent time being homeless, walking the streets of Denver and Aurora. That firsthand experience with poverty, she says, has made her viscerally understand what it means to live in a constant state of fear, panic and pain. “Life came quickly when I was growing up,” Jackson said. “I was mistreated by my landlord and ended up facing big housing challenges.”

“I realized that you can’t study for school, you can’t cook, you can’t bathe, can’t do anything without a stable and safe place to life that you can afford,” she recalled. “And honestly, until you walk in someone else’s shoes or go through that, you don’t have an understanding of those challenges.”

Because she has walked in those exact shoes, however, Jackson’s career as a legislator has been characterized by her deep understanding and compassion for those who struggle. This past year, Jackson championed House Bill 1118, researched and co-led by Colorado Center on Law and Policy and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, this bill gives tenants 10 days of notice prior to an eviction, up seven days from the previous notice period of just three days. Jackson worked tirelessly on the House floor to convince her colleagues that the bill was not only worthwhile, but fair, just and equitable.

Jackson’s passion for legislative work mirrors her community of Aurora. Her summers are spent giving back to the community and enjoying everything it has to offer. For example, in just one day this summer, Jackson started by giving away backpacks for kids going back to school, then attended the Aurora Pride Festival, then visited the African Market, then visited the Asian Pacific Development Center.

“My community is beautiful,” Jackson says earnestly. “There are more than 130-plus languages spoken at our public schools alone. We’re a beautiful community of people from all walks of life and socioeconomic levels that coexist together wonderfully. There’s no place like it.”

However, after three legislative sessions, Jackson has established herself in the House as someone who cares fully about the whole state, not just her own district. “This is my state. I care about the agricultural community deeply, the mountain and recreational communities deeply. Everyone is just trying to find an affordable place to live and that is something true in both rural and urban areas.”

To get a better sense of our state’s priorities, Jackson has taken the time to meet with people where they are statewide. In this way, she has figured out what and where certain issues matter most. From these visits, she’s gleaned concerns about the lack of hospitals in many rural communities, the tough transition to clean energy jobs, and the fear that comes from having dealt with a natural disaster.

“The essence of the issues is the same everywhere,” she said. “Every community just needs a different set of solutions and resources to address them, but as a Colorado community, we all struggle with the same things.”

Jackson feels passionately that every person in the legislature –from lobbyists, staff and community members — works together to create and pass every piece of legislation.

“We can all be on different sides, but as long as we try and talk to each other, we can find bits and pieces to make everyone understand,” she said. “All of us admire everyone else for the ability to do what we’re able to do. I don’t think many people understand how bipartisan our legislature truly is.”

Rep. Jackson sits on two House committees and the legislative council, so she understands the intersectionality of different issues. Her proudest moment from this past session was the Climate Action Plan bill (HB 1251), which she sponsored alongside Speaker of the House KC Becker.

“To have worked on a piece of legislation that will hopefully positively impact people’s lives long after I’m gone from the legislature is beautiful,” she said.

Yet, legislation alone doesn’t solve every issue.

“A win feels great, but that moment is really fleeting, and you have to immediately turn around and deal with something else. You give people the ladder, the rungs in the ladder are going to have to be built by everyone else. I’m not the expert here – the answers always rest in the community. Always.”

Outside of the legislature, Jackson is deeply committed to her own family. This summer, in fact, Jackson celebrated her husband’s remission from cancer. “My mother and my husband are my touchstones,” she says. “They keep me grounded outside the legislature.”

It’s no surprise that Representative Jackson is the 2019 legislative recipient of CCLP’s annual Champion of Economic Justice Award. To hear Jackson’s acceptance remarks, and to get a deeper look into groundbreaking economic and racial justice issues, RSVP now for our Pathways from Poverty Breakfast this October.

– By Duranya Freeman

Recent articles

Five takeaways for work after COVID-19

Supported by a generous grant from the ECMC Foundation, Colorado Center on Law and Policy set out to track how the experiences of unemployed Coloradans have changed since February 2020. By analyzing economic and labor force data, as well as conducting interviews with...