By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Longtime state Rep. Monique Davis retired this week from office after filing the necessary paperwork on Dec. 23rd. Davis, 80, has been one of the longest serving Black politicians in Springfield in history. The South Side resident was first elected to office in the 27th District in 1987. Her retirement is effective immediately and has left some scratching their heads.
Davis ran uncontested in her last election two months ago. The Democratic Committeemen in her area will now get to name her replacement. Davis’ district is a wide one. It encompasses areas which represent parts of Chicago neighborhoods like Beverly, Chatham, Morgan Park, Roseland, Washington Heights and West Pullman, in addition to portions of the south suburban communities of Alsip, Blue Island, Crestwood, Orland Park, Palos Heights and Robbins.
A former teacher and administrator in the Chicago Public Schools, Davis spent much of her career trying to stave off cuts to CPS in Springfield. She had varying results. Davis was also one of the key Black legislators to bring the Dan Ryan reconstruction project to light. The $825 million project was one of the biggest expressway rebuilds in history. Davis often confronted those who were against the project, even those within her own community who complained Black contractors were not getting a fair share of the construction jobs. At one such protest when demonstrators were threatening to put a halt to the project, she interrupted a press conference demonstrators were holding and asked them point blank, “so you mean to tell me you don’t want this project at all?”
The project went on despite several protests that led to arrests and Davis summed it up at the time by saying that “you can’t please everyone I guess.” She also defended the amount of minority contracts that were being doled out.
But Davis also had other incidents when her vote or actions seemed against the best interest of the community. Davis was one of several Black lawmakers who voted against the now three-year-old concealed carry law, which would have given her constituents, many of whom live in crime-ridden areas the constitutional right to protect themselves. She faced harsh criticism in May 2011 for flip-flopping on her vote. She had reportedly made promises to vote for the measure but changed her mind and voted no.
“I’m from Chicago,” she told reporters after the vote. She went on to claim that the shooting of Chicago police officers was the reason she voted no, but could not explain how the shooting of cops by criminals had anything to do with the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens in her districts.
Davis also came under fire in two other incidents. She was accused of not paying rent at her political office and along with a male friend at the time took a statue without permission from Chicago State University and placed it in her office on west 95th street.
In 2011, the city’s Board of Education alleged Davis had not paid rent to Chicago Public Schools for eight years, failed to pay taxes on her lease with the county for more than 20 years and had consistently fought eviction from a South Side office building that housed her legislative offices since 1988. She was sued for over $600,000 in back rent.
The statue, which ironically was entitled ‘Defiance,’ showed the torture and indignities of slavery. It was purchased for $25,000 with taxpayer money in 2004 and was destined for display in the offices of the Student financial outreach center at Chicago State University. Davis’ friend Arnold Jordan, who at the time was the director of the office, said he found it in a warehouse on campus along with debris and took it to Davis’ office to protect it with CSU’s permission. The school denied giving permission and even went as far as sending campus police to Davis’s office to try to retrieve the artwork unsuccessfully. It led to a public dispute for months with Davis eventually relenting after receiving public backlash from citizens and CSU students.
“It was not to decorate the office of Monique Davis. I was protecting it from being discarded and disrespected,” Davis said at the time.
But the artwork, which weighed over 400 pounds, was indeed being displayed in her office, according to CSU officials at the time. Davis received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Chicago State. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and a master’s in Guidance and Counseling.
Davis has two adult children along with grandchildren. The Crusader attempted to reach Davis for comment regarding her retirement on Jan. 4. She was not in her office and the person who answered the phone took a message, but our call was not returned at presstime.