Environmentalist and community organizer Ma’Ko’Quah Jones files to run for Lawrence City Commission seat
photo by: Contributed photo
Sustainability Advisory Board chair and community organizer Ma’Ko’Quah Jones has filed for election to the Lawrence City Commission.
Jones, who has degrees in government, Native American studies and environmental law, said working in government has always been one of her goals. In addition to her role on the SAB, Jones is the founder and chair of the Kansas Democratic Party Native American Caucus, a coordinator with the League of Women Voters of Kansas, and a Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education board member.
Jones, a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, said that important issues for her include environmental justice, support for social service organizations and bringing underrepresented members of the community into politics.
“That’s a lot of the work that I do, is represent underserved voices,” Jones said. “Bringing underserved voices to the forefront of the conversation, in whatever conversation it is, and giving them a political voice.”
Jones, who is from Shawnee, Okla., initially moved to Lawrence with her family in 2009 to attend Haskell Indian Nations University. At Haskell she studied Indigenous and American Indian Studies and earned an associate degree. She went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in Government and Native American Studies from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in environmental law and policy from Vermont Law School.
Jones returned to live Lawrence in 2015, and worked until 2019 as the environmental/GIS technician for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. She said her political involvement began in 2016, when she was selected as a delegate for Lawrence for Bernie Sanders and attended the Democratic National Convention.
Jones said though her plan had been to go into governance, events of the past year made her decide that now was the time. She said that last year she was a victim of domestic violence and was homeless for a time. During that period, she got support from the Willow Domestic Violence Center, the Lawrence Community Shelter and other local organizations.
“I had already been involved in political work in Lawrence, and when I experienced that I started realizing what was needed here in Lawrence,” Jones said. “It was definitely a different experience, living on the other side.”
Jones said there is not enough support or advocacy for battered women in the legal system, who can also be charged if they’ve fought back against their abuser, and that the social service organizations require more support as well. When it comes to the environment, Jones noted the City Commission’s recent support for incorporating aspects of the Green New Deal into city plans, including goals related to environmentally sustainable jobs and infrastructure. She said she would like to see those plans put into action.
The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Stuart Boley and Jennifer Ananda are expiring this year. So far, Larsen is the only incumbent to file for reelection.
The filing deadline for the City Commission race is noon on June 1. Candidates will have an Aug. 3 primary, if needed, and the general election will be on Nov. 2. Primaries will be scheduled only if the number of candidates who file is more than three times the number of open seats.