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Get to know Iowa’s Black candidates. Black Iowa News emailed a candidate questionnaire to RJ Miller, who is running as an independent for Iowa House District 34. Miller said he prioritizes restorative justice, mental health resources and public education. The community and youth advocate wants to amplify the voices of the community and put “people first.”
Black Iowa News: What motivated you to run for office?
RJ Miller: “My motivation to run is to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight for those who are in the urban community who are struggling to pay rent, to fight for funding public education resources and to transform failing public schools into succeeding ones. I want to fight for more funding for mental health resources. I want to implement more restorative justice within the criminal justice system.”
Black Iowa News: What difference do you hope to make if elected?
RJ Miller: “I hope to create a policy that’s going to translate into power for the people.”
Black Iowa News: What are the key issues you feel passionate about and why?
RJ Miller: “Education, mental health, restorative justice and community control of the police.
Education: Investing in a strong and equitable public education should be Iowa’s top priority.
- Repeal the “Students First Act,” which would take money out of public education for private schools
- Increased funding for all public schools
- State sponsored tutoring program
- Reinstate collective bargaining rights for teachers
- Autonomy for school districts (as opposed to interference from the state of Iowa)
- Repeal the transgender ban in sports and other discriminatory practices
- Support the teaching of the 1619 Project
- Increase the number of counselors, therapists and community workers in schools
Mental health is an issue that’s not often talked about or addressed. (Some) people have mental health issues and don’t know, or they are scared to ask for help, and some people self-medicate themselves with drugs. I believe people who have mental health issues need to have access to resources so they can get help.
Restorative justice. The American criminal justice system does not know how to be restorative. They fail in their ability to rehabilitate. They don’t give people who have been jailed the resources to transform their lives and be successful. Thus, it’s a contradiction to say it’s correctional and it doesn’t truly correct anything. Restorative justice deals with restoring something that is broken and building community and relationships — if people see themselves as being a part of the community and are connected to the people within that community. People have a better opportunity to resolve conflicts within the community (as a community) vs being punitive by allowing those who have been harmed to address the person who did the harm. Then, the person who did the harm can now make it right.
Community control of policing is about the community having a say about who is hired as a police chief and how policing looks within our community, and if there is misconduct from the police, the community will oversee the investigation vs the police investigating the misconduct.”
Black Iowa News: Why does your district need new representation, or for you to be elected?
RJ Miller: “Our district needs hope. They need someone who will truly get in that ring and fight for their issues. They need someone who will advocate for them who is of the people, for the people.”
Black Iowa News: What are at least two areas specific to Black Iowans that you would identify as troubling or problematic, and what will you do, if elected, to address it?
RJ Miller: “Racial and economic disparities. Failing academics.”
Black Iowa News: Where were you born?
RJ Miller: “Minneapolis, Minnesota.”