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Seattle mayoral candidates respond to API community questions

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Twenty-one Seattle mayoral candidates were invited to the Mayoral Candidate Forum for the Asian Pacific Islander community on June 22 at Nagomi Tea House at 7:00 p.m. (Food and refreshments will be provided at event, which opens at 6:30 p.m.)

In order to participate in the forum, the candidates were asked to fill out a questionnaire with five questions pertaining to the Asian Pacific Islander community. Of the 21 candidates, 10 responded and are scheduled to participate in the June 22 forum hosted by API Candidates & Issues Forum—King County.

The participating candidates include: Gary Brose, Tiniell Cato, Jenny Durkan, Jessyn Farrell, Bob Hasegawa, Mike McGinn, Cary Moon, James Norton, Larry Oberto, and Nikkita Oliver.

Here are their responses to the questions.


Gary Brose

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

  • Traffic and infrastructure in the Chinatown/International District area.
  • The effect of Seattle legislation on API small business
  • Citizen safety

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

Create a regularly scheduled forum for the Mayor and City Hall to attend for frequent discussion of issues that concern the API.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

Attended and spoke at the June 4 Tiananmen Celebration.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

I am not a politician. I’ve been a small business owner for 40 years in Seattle and I have   not been in a position to resolve any issues.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

Seattle’s attempt to micromanage business in the form of minimum wage controls, sick leave, sugar taxes, and other issues, affects all businesses in Seattle, but primarily impacts small business. The API community is very innovative and entrepreneurial and all these steps taken by the City add an extra layer of complexity to small business and I don’t believe that is right. Add what I perceive to be the lack of support for business promotion in the District and I believe what we see is a Mayor’s Office and City Council that has turned a deaf ear to the API Community.

* * *

Tiniell Cato

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

Need for families and friends of undocumented Asians and Pacific Islanders to address and solve the problem related to legal status.

1. Need for social equity.

2. Need for economic equity.

3. Need for political equity.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

The strategies that will be used to engage API community is as follows:

1. Fix the clerical errors that are that are in the Government, State, Local, District, Federal Agencies, Courts, Businesses, Nonprofits, Land, Documents, Contracts, Process, Procedures, and Policies, resulting to discriminations that Violate Civil Rights in the “Equal Opportunity Act” pertaining to jobs/employment, education, medical, housing/homelessness, loans, grants, policing, and crime.

2. Rewrite the application processes and policies that Violate Civil Rights Act pertaining to oppression, murders in our communities, immediate end to police brutality, and crime. For example, remove what has nothing to do with skill or experience, like race, creed, sexuality, income, or crime.

3. Remove what has nothing to do with skill or experience, like race, creed, sexuality, income, or crime out of all the application processes and policies that Violate Civil Rights Act pertaining to oppression, murders in our communities, immediate end to police brutality, and crime. This includes labor law as well.

4. Make sure the government, state, local, and private economic, social, educational, and cultural funds available for the communities businesses, nonprofits, schools, and holistic wellness centers are received equally for all people pertaining to jobs/employment, education, medical, housing/homelessness, loans, grants, policing, and crime.

5. Meet human, educational, environmental, safety and community public health needs by building a successful business developed community to create jobs and resources through our business and economic development strategies  and techniques that builds and constitutes a healthy climate so businesses succeed in the city. (Through the businesses, nonprofits, and holistic wellness centers)

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

I spoke and participated in the Commemoration on the 28th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Pro-Democracy Movement June 4, 2017.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

Today, we have three cases in courts challenging the clerical errors in the Equal Opportunity Policy that violate human and civil rights because our community members are suffering from suffication and oppression. The POWER of the people is coming with a class action if they are not heard.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

Until the clerical errors that violate human and civil rights are evaluated, rewritten, or removed, I am not happy with anything the City has done. The process and procedures that do not uphold the Law are discriminating against all people’s civil rights especially in the 37th district, which consist of the Central District, Seattle District, Renton, SeaTac,Tukwila, and Burien, etc.

This is “An EVOLUTION” for all People. United We Stand. Divided We Fall.

* * *

Jenny Durkan

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

As mayor, I will lead the fight to ensure that immigrants and refugees from Asia, South Asia and the Pacific Islands are made to feel welcome here in Seattle. This includes support for citizenship classes, funding for seniors, and translation and interpretation services. Most importantly, I will continue to support efforts to fight President Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban and ensure that those living in Seattle can stay united with their families. I will oppose the American Health Care Act so API community members can continue receiving the health care they need. I will work with other mayors around the country to fight President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant and the Department of Housing and Urban Development so we can continue providing affordable housing. In the end, I am the candidate running for mayor that can best and most effectively fight back against President Trump’s harmful agenda and its impacts on the API community here in Seattle and around the country.

In addition to standing up to Trump, I will work with the API community on the following issues:

1. Homelessness and affordable housing.​ We are a generous and compassionate city. But our approach to the problem has not moved enough people out of tents, off the streets and into housing. We must treat the homeless with compassion, dignity and respect. But the causes of homelessness are complex and varied and cannot be solved with a one size fits all approach. We have pathways we can follow. As mayor, I will continue to build public/private partnerships to solve this problem; I will focus on making sure no kid ever has to sleep in a car, or on the street. And we will direct more resources for mental health and drug dependency treatment and support.

We have to address the fact that housing in Seattle has just become too expensive. Too many people just cannot afford to live here. Houses are too expensive and rents are sky high. And those that are lucky enough to own homes see their property taxes increasing to amounts that just are not affordable.

Because of Mayor Murray’s leadership on HALA, we will build more affordable units and millions of dollars targeted for affordable housing options. As mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. I will also explore ways to go to Olympia and reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.

2. Public Safety/Police reform:​ Public safety is one of the highest priorities for city government and I will work to keep all parts of our City, including the Chinatown International District, safe for all including API residents. More importantly, I will ensure that the Seattle Police Department has culturally competent services to work effectively with the API community. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will make our city a safer place because we need full community partners and must ensure no one is afraid to report crimes. As U.S. Attorney, I lead efforts for police reform in Seattle. I will work to make sure we continue on this path. We are now a national model for police reform, particularly in the areas of crisis intervention. Our police all have been trained in national leading crisis intervention practices. They partner with mental health professionals and de-escalate situations every day. This has saved lives, is making a difference on the streets, and has improved the relations between the community and the officers that serve them. I am proud of these improvements. As mayor, I will make sure progress continues. We will not go backwards.

3. Education:​ I will work with Seattle Public Schools to ensure that API students have a safe, welcoming environment to learn. From early learning through high school, I will work to close the opportunity and achievement gap. We cannot look at the API community as a monolithic group and we must remain vigilant about disproportionality to ensure that students in every sector of the API community have the resources they need. This includes looking at disaggregated data in order to find the best ways to serve sectors of the API community. Finally, we need stand up against the cuts in education that are being proposed by the Trump Administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

As mayor I will work to engage the API community in Seattle in a variety of ways, which will include working to:

• Hire API staff in senior positions in the Mayor’s Office, as department heads, and in other city departments;

• Name API community members to city boards and commissions;

• Engage API community members wary of government officials and workers in safe spaces. I know all too well that some API immigrants and refugees fled oppressive regimes. As mayor, my staff and I will work with API long-standing and emerging community leaders to engage the community in culturally appropriate spaces and ensure their voices are heard by city government. City government should be going to the API community, not the other way around;

• Conduct regular outreach meetings with the API community, including walking tours in neighborhoods (including the Chinatown International District) and making visits to API service providers throughout Seattle;

• Provide sufficient translation and interpretation services at City meetings and city publications like newsletters and flyers;

• Support API small businesses and helping small, immigrant-owned businesses so they can thrive in Seattle;

• Utilizing the racial equity toolkit for community outreach so all API community members are heard.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

As U.S. Attorney, I wanted all members of my office to better understand issues related to Japanese-American Internment and how decisions they confront should be informed by that time period. I brought in Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, author of Looking Like the Enemy—My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps, to talk about her life and internment during World War II. Mary’s story is more than instructive to our post 9/11 world. The whole terrible chapter of internment tells us why we today must resist attempts by the President and others to prey on fears and xenophobia. In addition, every year our office had a special lunch to celebrate API awareness month.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

As U.S. Attorney I worked on a number of issues impacting the API Community. On police reform issues, I was actively engaged with leaders in the API community including: Robert Chang, Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality Mary Nguyen, Co-Chair, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – Seattle Diane Narasaki, Executive Director, Asian Counseling and Referral Service Michele Wong, President, Asian Bar Association of Washington Alaric Bien, Executive Director, Chinese Information and Service Center Sharyne Shiu Thornton, PhD, Executive Director International District Housing Alliance Working together, we were able to reach agreement on police reforms. Also, while U.S. Attorney, I worked to protect vulnerable API immigrants from human trafficking. Our work included indicting six co-conspirators who were running a multi-state trafficking operation.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

I am happy that the City of Seattle has made good progress on the consent decree, which will ensure that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has the needed training in order to respect the civil rights of all communities of color including the API community. As U.S. Attorney, I worked extensively with community leaders from throughout Seattle, including leaders in the API community to hear how SPD can better engage the community. I know that the progress could not have been made without hard, collaborative work of community members, police officers and their leadership, city leaders, the Monitor and the DOJ. I know first-hand that the API community leaders were key to this work and am grateful for it.

* * *

Jessyn Farrell

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

Equal, multilingual, and culturally sensitive access to education and social service for all Seattle area residents, especially immigrants and refugees; civil and human rights, especially as they affect education, racial profiling, and immigration, and economic opportunities for small business owners.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

I don’t make decisions unilaterally; I bring voices to the table and keep the channels of communication open. Most importantly, I will ensure that the city communicates with the API community using culturally competent and linguistically accessible materials. This is especially important for materials that come from schools to parents. I will listen to the community at forums, in meetings, and in people’s homes. I will keep in touch with API community groups, faith communities, and service organizations. And I will be open and accountable with API media about what is going on at City Hall.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

Recently, I attended the 7th Annual Ethnic Media Candidates Meet and Greet at the Nagomi Tea House.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

When I was in the legislature I passed landmark cellphone usage while driving laws. some members of API community in my district where concerned community members would not hear about the law if it was only announced in English. I then worked with the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission to make sure that they are currently developing educational information in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog and other languages about the law. I also worked to make sure they will do person to person multi language outreach within the API community to make sure there is an understanding of the new law

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

Declaring Seattle a Sanctuary City is one of the most important things our city has done as it affects residents across our city. As Mayor, I will ensure we remain a Sanctuary City and protect against national cuts to services and resources, threats to the safety and opportunity of residents, and stand up for all who come to make Seattle home. But our city has a long way to go.  Our affordability, housing, and homelessness crisis affects the API community and API owned business and we must take action now. Similarly, Seattle Schools have an unacceptable opportunity that is leaving students behind. We can and must do better.

* * *

Bob Hasegawa

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

1. Communication with the mayor’s office. Ex: No heads up that the Women’s March would go STRAIGHT through annual Lunar New Year parade, New multimillion dollar high rise on 12th and Jackson, navigation center surprise, etc.

2. Immigration and sanctuary cities.

3. Public health and safety—We need extra cops and good response times, rapid city clean up services and services to support the population that’s being ushered here, especially with incoming Navigation center.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

Be present in the community.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

API Summit.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

Funding the Kip Tokuda Washington State Civil Liberties Education Fund.  We ended up getting the full requested amount for the biennium.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

I am not happy with how the city decided to drop the navigation center into the ID without any input from the community.  This is symbolic of the larger problem in how the City leadership makes top-down decisions and imposes them onto the neighborhoods. The decision-making process needs to change to reflect the involvement and will of the people.

* * *

Mike McGinn

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

Preserving communities: ​In the face of rising housing prices and higher taxes, many API residents and businesses are getting squeezed or pushed out of town. We need a renewed emphasis on affordable housing, support for small business, and preservation of neighborhoods that are historically home to our API community.

Public Safety:​ Our police department and other city agencies must build stronger relationships in API communities and have staff that reflect the communities they serve. This includes sustainable funding for ​CID Public Safety Steering Committee and staff ​and increase their presence to improve safety, as well as improved outreach city-wide.

Education: ​The myth of the model minority hides the opportunity gap that exists for many in the API community. We need look deeper to understand the specific groups that need more support, and then take action.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

I would be in the community, have clear lines of communication from the Mayor’s office, and hold community meetings to hear directly from individuals, whether residents or business owners. Seattle should also improve translation services, and hire culturally competent individuals to conduct outreach. Finally, a mayor must personally meet with community leaders to address issues as they arise.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

I worked closely on public safety and development issues as Mayor. Since then, I’ve attended numerous events, and my wife Peggy is currently on the board of the International Examiner.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

We established the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. As part of our Youth and Family Initiative we used translators meeting with small groups of community members to get input from API community members. That helped shape our Family and Education levy, and other city programs. Metered parking was a highly contentious issue in CID. I brought together business owners and SDOT staff to work out a mutually acceptable resolution.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

I am concerned that the city is not doing enough to respond to concerns about public safety. CID has expressed specific concerns—which require hands-on management to ensure the city responds.  Gang disputes and shooting appear to be increasing, which will require renewed attention to youth violence prevention and gang intervention.

* * *

Cary Moon

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

1. Engagement, voice, and representation in the political process. API folks comprise a large and growing population in Seattle, and Asian voices have historically been left out of the local political process. The City must do a better job hearing the communities’ priorities and including their voice in decision making processes; the community is also working to ramp up their advocacy and organizing more robust political engagement.

2. Investments in infrastructure, economic development and public safety in Chinatown, Japantown, the ID, and Little Saigon. These historically API neighborhoods do not get sufficient resources and services. There are particular needs: helping community-owned small businesses with technical assistance, ensuring the upcoming transit changes are planned with community needs at the center, increasing culturally competent public safety resources, and increasing affordable housing. Our city’s rapid growth is putting particular pressure on these vulnerable neighborhoods, and the City must work carefully with community leaders to ensure community members thrive in place, instead of being displaced.

3. Social justice and racial equity. Seattle’s long history of racial injustice has created a condition of vast inequality in power and wealth between marginalized communities of color and white communities. Emerging leaders in API communities are building solidarity and strengthening their voices with leaders from other communities to achieve a more inclusive and intersectional movement for social justice and racial equity in Seattle.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

I would establish direct relationships with leaders of the many community development organizations, advocacy groups, service providers and directly with community leaders to understand priorities and build ongoing communication channels. I would ensure that the API community is well represented in staffing in the mayor’s office, departmental leadership, and across boards, commissions, and all decision-making bodies in the City. Having a seat at the decision-making table is essential. I would make sure that all city processes for budgeting and allocating resource use a racial equity lens to ensure we invest equitably across race and socioeconomic status and geography. Good intentions are not enough; we must measure allocation of resources and outcomes to ensure we are following through.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

Via my role on the board of Progress Alliance, I directed funding for civic engagement programs at APACE and ACRS via grants to both organizations. Meeting with leaders from APACE and ACRS, I was able to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and ambitions of the organizations for increasing the voice and power of API community. (And I recently attended Asia Pride in Hing Hay Park, which was fun!)

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

Via my role on the One Center City Advisory Committee, I was able to see how the Chinatown/ID community was being left out of the planning process for the significant reorganization of transit service that is coming when the bus tunnel closes to bus routes. I pushed SDOT to both immediately work with community leaders to address their concerns about the impacts of potentially expanding the already busy transit hub in the ID, and to do more outreach, in language, with community members well in advance of the changes to make sure folks understand what is coming.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

I am frustrated with the City’s apparent lack of communication with, and indifference to the Little Saigon community regarding the siting of the “Navigation Center” shelter. The city should have done more advance outreach and communication directly with the community about the process and proposal.

I am impressed with the work SCIDpda is doing to assist the API community with business development in Chinatown/ ID, partially funded by the City’s Office of Economic Development. Recruiting and retaining businesses that are a good fit, and working hands on with building owners and tenant businesses to help them get or stay on their feet is a good example of how the City can ensure community based businesses can thrive in place. I would like to expand this program, and use it as a model for other API communities facing the threat of gentrification.

* * *

James Norton

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

Homelessness and how it impacts the API community, the need to have the API community have a voice in city government, and how some API members of the community are having housing concerns.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

I would ensure that the API leaders and Advisors were consulted with at all times to address their concerns before they become a reality. I would make this a monthly meeting and offer an open forum for the entire community every so often. All communities should have a strong voice in anything that effects them.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

I recently spoke at the Chinese Democrats for human rights rally at Hing Hay park.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

As a Seattle police officer I have worked with many API families to try and reach a good resolution depending on my reason for being called.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

I am unhappy with the way the International District is losing its community, culture, and history so quickly with our recent local officials.

* * *

Larry Oberto

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

Safety, Affordability, and Opportunity.

Having lived in Seattle all my life and having a business in Rainier Valley I see first hand the continued challenges. What I lack and will learn is an understanding of how these challenges affect the API members directly.

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

Specifically, I feel nothing is better than human interaction and direct talk.  There will be a focus to know the community directly so that there is honesty in how we solve concerns and measure meaningful success.  The measures need to be agreed and understood by both the City and the community.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

This is my first API event.  I hope to learn rather than bring any preconceived notions.

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

As this is my first event. I will research and meet with the community so that I have better baseline before the forum.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

My focus and method if I am to be your mayor is to understand what has worked and has not worked to affect the challenges the API faces. My methods feel it is more important to serve than to tell others what I may think.  Usually the people most involved have the most useful information and cost-effective ideas to solve problems.

* * *

Nikkita Oliver

Name the top three issues that are of concern to the API community in Seattle.

A. (safety) With unsolved murder of My-Linh Nguyen and Donnie Chin and contentious relationship between the City, the CID, and homeless encampment, safety is top concern. Fear for public safety as many API folks walk and/or catch the bus has been expressed by residents.

B. (drugs, cleaningness) With not enough City resources allocated to address trash and human waste (stadium games, tourism), the Chinatown-International District seeks refuge with hope that from new development would bring different crowd while could also drastically change the CID culture.

C. (housing/services) Affordable housing and elderly care facilities. Being pushed south means less access to culturally aware and culturally trained service providers. Additionally, development which does not align with CID cultural and community values/goals is threatening the culture of the CID. Historically the City has not served API communities well, thus Uncle Bob’s generation created their own service programs and grassroots safety groups to address community needs. The cultural shift of this generation is asking for more police presence and houseless sweeps. While those transactional services provide temporary relief, how can the City offer resources for more sustainable and long term resolutions while allow autonomy for API communities to identify and address their needs?

What strategies would you use to engage the API community in Seattle?

The Peoples Party have held/co-hosted six public and private Community Listening Posts thus far. These Posts are how we engage with various neighborhoods, ethnic communities, and marginalized identities to learn about their concerns and how the City can better to serve them. For API community, we would co-host Community Listening Posts with API grassroots organizers, non-profit service providers and API elders. For example, we are hosting our first Chinatown-International District Community by partnering with CID residents. The Listening Post is at Nagomi Tea House on Monday, June 19th. We are hiring six language interpreters and also offering ASL interpreters. We are planning a southend Pacific Islander Post in July.

Name one API you were involved with or one API event you attended.

API Chaya—API Chaya’s Annual Vigil at the King County Courthouse (I was the opening poet and storyteller for the vigil), API Chaya’s Annual Gala, and currently in partnership with Priya Rai from API Chaya through Creative Justice. Also, Got Green’s Just Transition Assembly: Human Rights, Dignity, and Power with API Chaya and FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together).

Name one API issue you were involved with, your role, and how did it resolve.

A. When the City was targeting Hookah Lounges in Seattle I worked with the Hookah Lounge owners and Ayan Musse to ensure they had proper legal representation. The city ended the attack on the Hookah lounges after substantial organizing and coalition building work by local grassroots advocates.

B. Partnered with numerous “No New Youth Jail” advocates and coalitions members from the API community to stand up for community based solutions and alternatives to incarceration. This is still unresolved and we continue organizing. Numerous API communities, especially Pacific Islander communities, are deeply impacted by the lack of criminal legal reform and as a result are falling into the school-to-prison pipeline at rates similar to black residents in Seattle.

Name one thing the City of Seattle has done to the API community that you are happy or unhappy with, and tell us why.

Unhappy: The City continues to pit the CID communities and API communities against other marginalized or disenfranchised communities in Seattle. This sort of posturing only creates tension between already struggling communities and allows the City to act unaccountably. Examples of this includes, the Hookah Lounges, the Navigation Center imposed onto CID/Little Saigon without proper discussion, and hotels/zoning issues in the CID.