Jessica Jackson Sloan is the National Director and Co-Founder of #cut50, Vice Mayor of Mill Valley, California. As a member of the city council, I was nominated to serve as vice-mayor, where I act as liaison to communities and neighborhoods and advise the Mayor in agenda setting. I’m also a human rights attorney and a mom of two.
What is one important thing that we Americans can do together that we can’t do alone?
It will take the entire country to get people involved again. I was looking at poll members last night about how displeased people are with our government. Approval ratings are down to 19% for national government, so people are discouraged and don’t get involved or vote. Together, we can encourage people to go out in their communities, to get involved, and to vote, and to make change.
What about your country, state, or community makes you proud? How do you think government interacts with that?
We have seen an emerging movement for reform in our criminal justice system. This has long been one of the worst human rights issue in America. We are finally seeing people put aside their personal politics, agreeing that there is a problem and digging in to offer productive solutions.
What do you think it means to be a good citizen?
A good citizen is vigilant. They pay attention. They watch what’s going on in their community and get involved. They vote and show up when their community needs help, whether it’s by building a new play structure, voting for a new community center, or frequenting local business. Being a good citizen means showing up and being a part of your local community.
What one word describes our government as it is?
What one word do you wish described our government?
If you could run any government program or agency, real or imaginary, at any level of government, what would it be and what would you do there?
I would love to run the fictional Department of Alternative Sentencing for California, where I would investigate and help people understand the underlying reasons for crimes. I would divert people from going to prison and instead get them the resources they need to be productive citizens.
What thing that government does do you think would surprise most Americans?
We now have a lot more information about the incarceration industry, but most Americans don’t know how many people in our country have a criminal record or a family member who has been incarcerated. They don’t know that we’re spending $80 billion a year to lock people in cages, instead of looking for ways to rehabilitate people who need our help. People would be surprised to know what’s going on in our prisons, the abuse, the financial kickbacks, the terrible conditions, and how people are actually being treated behind bars.
What is your first memory of an interaction with government?
My first direct experience was during the Clinton campaign when I, at the age of 9, called the campaign after seeing a commercial and left a message asking to volunteer. I had called when my mom was out, so when they called back and asked for Jessica, she said they could talk to me, but that I was 9. They laughed and said that I had called to volunteer. They agreed that I could leaflet our neighborhood. I liked making a difference in local politics, even in a small way, and that experience really stuck with me.
What was your most recent government interaction?
Last night, I went to the Marin County Mayor’s Committee meeting, one of my favorite events. All of the mayors get together once a month to talk about the major issues affecting our nation, our state, and our communities, including what’s going to be on the California ballot. Even though many of our towns are similar in nature and we come from the same area, everyone has such different perspectives. It’s great to be able to network with and pick the brains of other mayors for new ideas.
What is your favorite thing that government does?
Who is your government hero who is not an elected official?
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
ImagineGov: If government could be anything, if government was what we want and aspire for it to be, what would it be or do?
Our government would be based on equality, treating everyone the same whether you had 5 cents in your pocket or $5 million in your pocket. You’d have the same access to your elected officials and you’d be able to contribute ideas to what is needed in your community. That government would treat men and women the same, so we had sufficient parental leave. I was sick during my pregnancies and was surprised by how few resources there were and how much discrimination there is against women. There are other countries that handle these issues for parents so much better. Our government doesn’t do this well, but it could. An ideal government would also treat people in prisons like human beings, not animals in cages.
Why is the work of Indivisible so important?
A lot of people have lost hope in government. It’s not just that they have a negative outlook on government, they’ve completely lost any hope that it can get better. We need organizations like Indivisible to remind us that this is our government, so we can be inspired to make it better. It also reminds us that if we want something to change, we need to use our voices and our bodies to make that happen.
Name someone whose answers to these questions you would like to read.
That’s easy. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
An Interview with Indivisible.