Editor’s Note: We invited both candidates running for State Senator in the 37th District to make a case for themselves as to why they deserve your vote on or before Election Day (November 4th).
by Louis Watanabe
As business professor and counselor, my greatest joy has been helping students and small business owners realize their dreams. As state senator, I am passionate about helping the people of the 37th District in Southeast Seattle, Skyway, and North Renton realize their dreams. That’s because I’m not satisfied with business as usual. I want to unlock the potential of a diverse district that speaks over 60 languages through smart investments. My focus is on jobs, education, and protecting vital services.
Jobs: I believe that the best social program is a job and that the best crime prevention tool is economic development. For too long, our community has lacked jobs and investment which came to a head in the wave of recent gun violence. When it’s easier to get a gun than a job, that’s a problem.
My approach starts with helping existing district businesses to grow so that they can hire more people, supporting the creation of new family businesses, recruiting new industries that bring skills and family wage jobs and developing training programs to emphasize apprenticeships and skills in the trades. Achieving this requires dollars to fix and improve our neighborhoods, providing technical assistance to new business owners, negotiating packages involving land and incentives, and partnering with educational institutions. Best of all, we create the opportunity to live and work in our own neighborhoods and increase our own self-reliance so that we are no longer held hostage by public officials.
I’m a workhorse, not a show horse. I value hard work and am proud of my historical connection to this district because my family once farmed along the Green River and sold vegetables at Pike Place Market. I have over 20 years of economic development experience that includes starting my own software company that became Microsoft’s first acquisition, coaching a variety of students and small business owners, and having served on the board of the University of Washington Consulting and Business Development Center.
Education: I believe that every student has unique gifts and that it is important to help them reach their full potential. For me, this meant that on my first day of class, I needed to know as much about my students as I could. I’d tell them that it was important to let me know if there were impediments to their learning such as problems at work, problems at home, or problems with a personal relationship. I’d also tell them that they could ask for help and feel empowered to use whatever was available. I say this because education doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s intimately connected with people’s lives and experiences. One of my biggest shocks was to discover that students were living out of their car on the campus parking lot due to homelessness.
One problem is that we have a one size fits all educational system that values only certain intelligence, abilities or cultural traditions. Your educational success shouldn’t depend on what community you come from. Even as we face a shortage of high paying skills like welding, carpentry and electrical work due to retirements, there is a bias toward molding students primarily for college degrees and computer skills. If that wasn’t enough of an issue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once argued that reasoning ability wasn’t enough but that character and moral development were a necessary part of one’s education.
As your state senator, I realize that government decisions on how to amply fund education whether it’s pre-K, K12, or advanced education is more than about budget, it’s about how we address the needs of our community for the 21st century. As an educator, I am prepared to ask the right questions, make thoughtful decisions about our educational future and then fight for the necessary revenue to fund it.
Vital Services: I am guided by simple human dignity when it comes to vital services best expressed in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s message to Congress on his Economic Bill of Rights: “We cannot be content, no matter how high that standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fourth or one-tenth – is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.” I’m also practical because in many cases, it’s far cheaper to address problems earlier than later. As someone who has taught managerial accounting, I’m prepared to make the case to protect vital services.
This campaign is about who represents you in the state senate. As state senator, I will continue to be the guy who enjoys attending community events and meeting my neighbors. I have the experience and expertise to address matters of importance to our communities. I will be thoughtful, deliberate, and honest about decisions that affect you. Please vote for Louis Watanabe for the State Senate, 37th District. Thank you!