State rep offers students and residents free coffee

By Shira Weissman

Christine Won

Staff writer

Whether it was the fact that it was free, or that a politician was conversing with them, or that “politician” and “free” were being used in the same sentence, surprise was the reaction of the day for the crowd of people who came to Espresso Royale Thursday morning.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, was at the coffee shop, 1117 W. Oregon St., shaking hands with students and residents and offering them a free cup of coffee-regular or decaf.

“Coffee Shop Stop is an opportunity for constituents to know I’m available,” Jakobsson said. “I want to be here, get in touch with the people and learn what’s on their minds.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., customers waiting in line were taken aback when the representative in red approached them, but responded to her smile with one of their own.

Some knew her face, some admitted they had no idea, and others were skeptical.

“My first reaction was, ‘Who is this lady, and what does she want?'” said Alena Zidlicky, junior in FAA. “But this is really cool — if she wants to buy me free coffee, that’s fine with me.”

More than 30 customers took Jakobsson up on her offer.

Kentaro Kawate, an exchange student from Japan majoring in LAS, got a mini-review session of how the state government operates, in addition to free coffee.

“The image I have of politicians is them working in their offices, but I like that she’s visiting coffee shops,” he said.

Jakobsson’s monthly Coffee Shop Stops began in 2003, shortly after she was elected to office in 2002, in coffee shops around Champaign, Urbana and Savoy to encourage constituents’ involvement in the government. In addition, Jakobsson hosts ice cream socials and holds citizen advisory committees to better connect to her constituents.

However, Jane Marshall, graduate student, said Jakobsson’s gesture seemed superficial.

“There was coffee, but no connection,” she said. “I would have liked her to tell me about herself and why she’s doing this.”

Jakobsson said the free coffee is provided for by her campaign funds. She plans to run for re-election in November.

“It was a little strange, but it’s a nice gesture,” said Sarah Esgro, graduate student. “She’s doing what she needs to be doing, canvassing, getting her name out there and increasing publicity.”