Yolanda Roth is a Twin Cities DSA member running for Hennepin County commissioner for District 1. A community organizer and activist who advocates for housing rights, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, and other causes, she has been with the labor movement for twenty years. She joined the Communication Workers of America as a telecom employee in 2000, where she took part in her first strike. Since then she’s helped lead a variety of labor campaigns, direct actions, and local movements.
While growing up in Milwaukee, a county initiative provided daycare, allowing her mother to go back to school. “I got to see her phoenix,” Roth said, describing the moment as an inspiration, showing her the power of county government to change people’s lives.
One thing that sets Yolanda Roth apart from other politicians is her emphasis on co-governance, bringing community members into the decision-making process through town hall meetings and other channels. “I don’t think elections are a mandate now,” she said, bemoaning politicians who are out of touch with their constituents’ concerns.
Roth has worked extensively on housing, and it’s an important part of her platform. She wants to rethink the paradigm, dating back to the foundation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which says 30% of income should go toward housing. With stagnant wages and increases in other aspects of the cost of living, she points out that this is no longer tenable. That’s why her housing platform includes rent caps and a municipal banking system that would lend money to build “smart housing initiatives,” including affordable housing units on bus lines to ease transportation burdens. She views transportation problems as inextricably linked to unaffordable housing.
Public transportation, she says, is the “wave of the future.” The twentieth-century urban model of ever-widening highways accommodating ever more cars is a thing of the past, she says. Her transportation platform will reduce air pollution and decongest our streets. By combining expanded bus lines, wider sidewalks, and protected bike lanes, Roth wants to not just reform our transportation system, but to “change the way we think about transportation.” According to her website, public transportation is not just “a way for us to get to work everyday. It is a means to bring people together…to strengthen communities and promote equity.”
Roth has been advocating for workers’ rights and the working class for twenty years, and she summed up her platform as a commitment to “rights, not privileges.” She has not yet been endorsed by TCDSA, and there will likely be an endorsement vote in the near future.