by Nura Ahmed
To help our readers make more informed voting decisions ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election, the South Seattle Emerald interviewed all four candidates for Position 2 of the 37th Legislative District. Each candidate’s Q&A portion presents their perspectives in their own words.
Born and raised in a struggling, working-class Black community, Chipalo Street grew up during the economic and social upheavals of the ’80s and the ’90s. Early on, Street developed a passion for technology, which led him to attend Brown University for his bachelor’s and master’s in computer science. He eventually moved to Seattle to work at Microsoft, where he helped the company develop software patents, which helped them innovate in the industry. He now works in Microsoft’s Office of the CTO, where he advises senior leadership on emerging technologies.
Despite his economic and career successes, Street understands how his educational opportunities fall out of reach for many Children of Color. He is a cofounder of the Teacher Scientist Partnership at Technology Access Foundation, where he developed and taught computer science curriculum in South Seattle.
“Our kids’ education has been hurt by the pandemic, homelessness is rampant across the state, and working class families are getting the squeeze,” Street writes on his website. “It’s critical that we have policymakers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help make our communities better.”
In addition to advocating for digital equity, Street also serves on the board of the Institute for a Democratic Future and the Public Policy Impact Council for United Way of King County. He is also the owner of a small real estate company; throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he managed to keep all of his tenants housed, though 30% of them lost their jobs.
South Seattle Emerald: Describe yourself as a community member of the 37th District, and why your story makes you a unique candidate.
Chipalo Street: I’ve been giving back to South Seattle for over 15 years through efforts to: close the digital divide; train the next generation of Democratic leaders; and increase economic equity by teaching our young people how to build wealth. I have unique volunteer and professional experiences that separate me from the other candidates and provide evidence that I’ll be the most effective legislator for the 37th.
SSE: What calls you to run for the 37th District?
Street: Serving in office was not something in my career plan; however, I knew someone had to step up when Kirsten Harris-Talley chose not to run for reelection. The 37th District is historic and deserves effective representation. I want to use this office to create equitable policy, amplify the voices of working people, and build power within our community.
SSE: What are the top three issues that are important to you and why?
Street: Affordable homes are the foundation of stable communities. We must stop displacement, ensure tenants have proper protections, and strengthen our safety net so temporary hardships do not end in people losing their homes.
We all deserve to feel safe in our neighborhoods. My experience getting beaten by the police drives me to increase accountability of those who serve, while also partnering with them to fight crime. We need to think comprehensively about public safety as more than just police officers.
Too many people are struggling to make ends meet, and the pandemic has only made this worse. As a professional soccer referee, I stood with our union to win fair compensation by using a work stoppage. I understand the value of the labor movement and support improved compensation, conditions, and benefits for all working people.
SSE: Why are you the best person to advocate for South Seattle in Olympia?
Street: As a former union member, I understand the power in the labor movement. As a member of the BIPOC community who has experience with important issues of our time (like education, housing, technology, and police brutality), I have unique insights that will help create more equitable policy. I have a track record of being effective at the highest levels, and my propensity to think at a systemwide level is suited to the type of work done in the legislature.
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Street: All kids deserve a quality education, regardless of where they live. My parents had to camp out overnight to get me into the best public schools. I want every student to have the opportunities my education has provided me.
SSE: Is there anything else you believe that South Seattle Emerald readers should know about you or your campaign?
Street: I wholeheartedly believe that diversity in teams leads to better outcomes. When I ran a product at Microsoft, I required that we interview a person from an underrepresented group for every position we had, resulting in a team of 40% People of Color or women. I have carried that ethos to my campaign: 83% of my campaign team (consultants, campaign manager, and candidate) are People of Color, women, or members of the LGBTQ community.
Support one of the 37th Legislative District candidates by voting in the Aug. 2 primary election. The deadline to register or change your address online is July 25, though you may also register and vote in person through election day. Confirm your voter registration now at VoteWA.gov.
This story was funded in part by a Voter Education Fund grant from King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation. The credit was inadvertently not included with the original publication of this story on July 20, 2022.
Nura Ahmed is an organizer, writer, and artist based in Seattle and South King County.
📸 Featured Image: Chipalo Street is running for the 37th Legislative District. Photo courtesy of his campaign.
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