Tag Archives: 37th District State Senate Race

The Case For Pramila Jayapal

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 Pramila Jayapal

We are reaching the final stretch in my campaign to represent you in Olympia as your next State Senator. We have knocked on over 24,000 doors and called over 10,000 voters.  We have had over 250 people volunteer their time, including dozens of young people and others who have never been involved in democracy before. We have garnered almost every single endorsement from a broad coalition of groups, from labor unions to environmental groups to women’s groups to community leaders and elected officials. There is only one thing left to do: vote!  Today, I want to ask you for your trust and your vote so I can represent you as the next State Senator for this beautiful 37th district.

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life fighting for justice on numerous fronts.  I tutored African-American kids in the Cabrini Green Housing Project in Chicago back when I was getting my MBA, and learned first hand the challenges and critical nature of education, all the way from early learning to higher education.  I worked in economic development in the south side of Chicago, understanding how to revitalize urban neighborhoods and bring in jobs.  I worked on public health issues across Africa, Latin America and Asia, helping people to address the basic health of their communities.  And here in Washington, I founded and served as Executive Director for OneAmerica, now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the state, where we registered over 25,000 new immigrant citizens to vote and helped push for federal immigration reform and the state Dream Act.

These diverse work experiences have convinced me that our agenda is broad and specific, together. And to achieve it, we need people to engage in democracy, not just for an election but for the long-term.  I’ve lived in this district for 19 years and I believe we have so much to teach the rest of the state with our diversity, resilience and creativity. I’ve said from the beginning that this campaign is not just about electing me—it’s about electing us.  I’m going to fight for you in Olympia, but I also want your participation to make this the most vibrant democracy we can make it in the 37th.  Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, black, brown or white—whoever you are, there is a place for your voice in the 37th.

I’ve heard from talking to you that too many people feel like we do need government but for too long, the system has been rigged against working families. As your next State Senator, I will work to level the playing field and help build an economy that works for everyone. This means everyone pays their fair share, women get paid equally to men, we cut outdated tax loopholes and reform our tax structure so we can pay for education, health, transportation and other supports.  Our state is slowly crawling its way back from the great recession, but too few people are sharing in the progress.  It’s time that we make sure working families, not just the wealthiest few, share in hope and opportunity.

I also know how critical public health and safety are in the district. As a leader on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s taskforces on the minimum wage increase and Police Chief search, I have worked to responsibly foster environments that are good for small businesses, workers and public safety. Both task force objectives had the potential for divisiveness, but we brought diverse groups together and created the best solutions. I’ve built my career on helping to reach principled compromises on the toughest of issues—from immigration to racial profiling to building alternatives to incarceration—and I do not shy away from fighting to get the best outcome.

The 37th district is also crying out for jobs and economic development. As your Senator, I’ll use my relationships to build partnerships for opportunity, work with business, labor and government to ensure that we address affordable housing, incentivize employers to come to the district with good jobs, and provide assistance to small businesses to grow.

And – most importantly – as a mother of a public school student, I believe our greatest responsibility is the legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren. We have a court-mandated and constitutional responsibility to fully fund our schools—but not through cutting the other supports that kids need.  We have to reduce class sizes, pay teachers adequately for the important work that they do and support programs for early childhood education, all the while making sure we continue to invest in healthcare, support and safety net services.  That means raising new revenue, and I intend to make sure we do that.

I am so grateful to each one of you who have offered me support over the years for my activism and my campaign. I know that, together, we can make change happen in Olympia!  Please vote for me—and join our movement for justice and opportunity!

The Case For Louis Watanabe

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).

Louis Watanabe
Louis Watanabe

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!

Image Courtesy Louis Watanabe

Claude Burfect: “I Do, I Don’t Promise”

Editor’s Note: This is the last in our series of interviews with the candidates- 5 Democrats and 1 Republican- who are vying to replace retiring State Senator Adam Kline in the 37th District. The top two candidates chosen in the primary election-  held on August 5th-  will continue on to the general- which takes place on November 4th. The winner of which will represent the 37th District in the Washington State Senate. The 37th currently comprises almost the entire South Seattle area.

Claude Burfect
Claude Burfect

Claude Burfect’s never been one to sit idly by and wait for others to attend to problems that needed fixing. It is this attitude, forged from his time spent fighting against segregation in his home state of Louisiana during the civil rights period, that the Vietnam veteran and political science major has brought to the task of community organizing within South Seattle. With a track record of impacting local legislation that rivals that of any area elected official, it’s no shock that he’s often taken for one. It is a position he would like to hold officially as he competes for the 37th District’s State Senate seat.


Emerald: You’ve been a community organizer in the South Seattle area for quite some time. Why are you now running for office?

Claude Burfect: What has me running for office is the crime in this district.  I’ve been living here for over 36 years and it’s never been worse. A large part of that is we have a 40 percent black male unemployment rate in the District. When you have that type of unemployment you’re going to get a lot of crime.


Emerald: What are your ideas for addressing both crime and unemployment in the 37th District?

Burfect: One of the things that I’m advocating is that we need to come up with programs in high schools that will benefit a lot of the kids who are not college bound, or who don’t want to go to college, or are not college material. We need to put trades back into both our high schools and the prison system. Currently 4 out of every 6 kids who do not graduate from high school graduates into the prison system.

Putting both high school kids and prisoners into apprenticeships, and giving them a trade, allows them to become viable citizens within the community. They become productive taxpayers, and they begin to reap the American Dream. That’s why trades are so important because so many kids who come out of college can barely find a job in their profession. Employment reduces crime and that creates livable communities.

When a guy comes out of prison he has no skills, so what does he do? He re-offends. It’s a cyclical thing. He goes right back into prison because there is nothing else for him to do.  That’s why I’ve worked with a great deal of community youth in making sure that they get a good education, and skills that will allow them to become employed. There is no child that should be left behind.


Emerald: What conversation do you have with businesses to entice them to come to South Seattle?

Burfect: First and foremost, I’d tell them that this is a thriving area with a great deal of opportunity. Let’s focus on an area like Skyway where I happen to live. There aren’t as many businesses there as there used to be, so people in that area are usually forced to go to Rainier Beach or Renton to shop. However, there is a great opportunity for anyone who wanted to come in and open stores to scoop up all the people from Skyway, West Hill, Lakeridge and the surrounding areas. Who wants to drive far away when you have something right next door?  I would love to see a shopping plaza in an area like that. Despite what some people have said, we have the market for it here.

I wanted to also say that I would like to make sure that African Americans play a huge part in the businesses that come back to the community.


Emerald: You have been adamant that Washington State’s tax structure is extremely unfair, especially to low and middle income earners. What ideas do you have for altering it?

Burfect: I wanted to say that I’ve been the initial advocate for a state income tax on the top 1% in Washington for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until fairly recently that all of the other candidates in the 37th race, with the exception of Rowland Martin, jumped onboard with me. It wasn’t so long ago that they were all afraid to talk about it because it failed the last time it was put to a statewide vote.

The fact is, we are one of 7 states in the country that does not have a state income tax. Again, I’ve advocated for and also been employed on putting the logistics of one together. I believe that if the last state income tax bill that was put to a vote had been written in language that appealed to the people we would have it today. Bill Gates, Sr. (who led the support for a state  income tax) wrote it in a way that was anything but.

A state income tax would help us reduce a lot of these incidental taxes that affect the poor and middle classes most. One of my opponents is saying that we need to add another gas tax, and I’m saying that you have to be kidding me! We can’t add another gas tax, gasoline taxes are exorbitant today.


Emerald: In such a packed race what makes you stand out from the other candidates?

Burfect: Out of all the candidates I am the one who initially spoke up about how to address crime and our income tax structure. Everyone else was silent about them until after I said something. These are issues that I’ve been dealing with long before I decided to run.

Over the last 15 years I have been to almost every single legislative session that has been held in Olympia. I honestly have a better attendance record during the three month sessions than most of our current elected officials.

I’ve also been organizing the community for a long time. When the Senate Bill 5541 came down, which was going to close Rainier School along with other institutions, I organized the community to fight against that bill,  and we ended up defeating it.  I know how the legislative process works. As an organizer, I’ve done that, been there, and seen everything.  So I feel that my lobbying knowledge gives me an upper hand on everybody.


Emerald: Assuming that you’re elected what would you want someone to be able to say once your time in office was up?

Burfect: I want them to say first and foremost that he worked for the constituents and not for any other interests. That he was a doer, and not a promiser.


Emerald: You’ve lived in New Orleans, which is known as one of the most vibrant places on earth, but you’ve chosen to make South Seattle your home for much of your life. What is it about the area that is so special to you?

Burfect: South Seattle is a place where I’ve found a home. I’ve lived in Beacon Hill, and now  Skyway. What’s so special to me is how vibrant this place used to be. I would even say that it was more so than New Orleans at times. The community of South Seattle has gone through some rough patches in recent years, but what remains special about it is that we can recapture that vibrancy if we commit to doing it.

Sheley Secrest: “A Bulldog With a Smile”

Combating challenges is anything but new to Sheley Secrest. The former N.A.A.C.P Seattle Chapter President, current litigator, and long-time Rainier Beach resident has faced down several in a public service career spent advocating for gender equity, livable wages, and police accountability. Her largest challenge to date looms on the horizon as she vies to emerge from a hotly contested race as the 37th District’s State Senator. However, it is one that the candidate believes herself ideally equipped for.

Sheley Secrest
Sheley Secrest

Emerald: In a race cluttered with Democrats what do you feel sets you apart from the other candidates?

Sheley Secrest: I’m the only candidate who has actually sat down in the rooms with the people that I’m fighting to represent. So, when we’re talking about changing sentencing laws, I was in the jail cell with the 16 year old boy who was being charged as an adult for a non-violent crime. When we’re talking about reforming education, I’m the mother that’s sitting in the front of the classroom who has seen a brilliant little black boy be sent into special education instead of on a track for advanced placement.

When we’re talking about funding for public schools – I’m the advocate who was fighting for Rainier Beach High School when they didn’t have text books because they didn’t have the budget to provide them. That’s what disassociates me. I’m from this community, and though I haven’t advocated for policy on a national level, I’m on the streets, in the homes, and on the blocks of the very lives that are affected.


Emerald: There’s a lot of anxiety in terms of slow job growth and economic development within South Seattle, and the larger 37th District. What ideas do you have for job creation at the state level?

Secrest: I can tell you what I’m doing before I promise you what I’m going to do. Like my grandmother used to teach me: “Don’t promise a better tomorrow, until you can show what you’ve done today.” We have to take that same position in selecting our candidate. Right now I run the job program at the Urban League. It’s Seattle’s first race based initiative, with a particular focus on African-American males. We have a 13% unemployment rate in King County for black men. We have to take an emergency crisis attitude to bring in jobs, and not just survivor jobs, but living wage jobs to our community.

I’m a mother of three and a single parent. The fight for an increased minimum wage in Seattle, while benefiting everyone, most starkly affected African-American women and Latino males. These folks were raising their families off of meager incomes. When you’re talking about the people of the 37th District, 60% are employed in low wage jobs. They subsists on pennies.

In addition to my work for the Urban League, I’m chair of the Economic and Development Department for the N.A.A.C.P, both on a local and statewide level. We have to turn economic development back into a civil rights issue. The plight of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer is a civil rights issue. We used to understand that better than we do now. Some have recovered from the recession, but most have not. They’re stuck in low wage jobs. So, how do you fix that?

Let’s look at the Seattle Tunnel Partners and the SR 99 Tunnel Project. That was implemented off of the idea that it would bring in new jobs. $91 million was supposed to go to minority contractors and businesses who would then hire other people of color. The idea was to lift up power from the bottom up, instead of a trickle down. Those were missed opportunities. We have the Department of Justice demanding reform of how Washington State is creating jobs on simple construction projects. It’s those missed opportunities that we have to take advantage of and make sure we’re pulling in people from the bottom up.


Emerald: Per the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary decision, what are your ideas on adequately funding education for all students in the state, so that a student in Rainier Beach receives a level equivalent to a student in Issaquah?

Secrest: That issue hits directly home for me, as a lot of the Rainier Beach parents were a part of that case before it went to the Supreme Court. Politicians have to make certain that we stop using our children as pawns – kissing the babies before they get elected. We have to make sure that we hold our elected officials feet to the fire and start to demand that they actually fund education. No excuses.To sit there and do nothing is a sin of omission.

How do we get the funding? The first thing we hear is that, “We love our children, and we’d love to educate them, but there’s just no money.” We’ve got to change who we’re currently giving the money to. That means changing tax loopholes. The example would be the classic Boeing tax exemption. They received that exemption under the promise that they were going to create more jobs. We have to make sure that we have state tools to look and see if that promise is being fulfilled. Those who are not doing what they said they were going to do should stop getting a tax exemption.

Other creative ways to fund education is through job creation. If more people are able to purchase things then Washington’s revenue base increases – since the majority of our budget comes from sales tax. If we allow more people to make money by doing things like increasing our minimum wage that’s going to get people back into spending. Right now they’re taking out pay day loans just to cover their basic necessities. There’s no spending going on by the majority of working people.


Emerald: What are your feelings on our state’s current tax structure?

Secrest: We have to change the way we are currently doing things. Right now the burden of taxes in our state falls heavily on the working class. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in our nation. How do we change it? I know that there’s discussions of implementing a state income tax on high income earners that would offset some of the inequities embedded in our system. That’s something we should do. We need to explore and put all ideas on the table about how we can equally contribute instead of forcing the poor to contribute the most.


Emerald: As I’m sure you’re aware, crime and violence in the South Seattle area has been a hot button issue as of late. One of many solutions has been to have an increased police presence in the area, however that’s been an extremely polarizing issue amongst residents. How would this be addressed by you as our State Senator?

Secrest: I believe that every single person wants to make certain that when folks walk out of their homes they feel safe. How do you do that? Everyone believes that racial profiling is wrong and that it should not take place here in Washington State. Even though it is illegal in our state, we don’t have any mechanisms to make sure that it isn’t taking place. The Seattle Police Department has civilian oversight, as does the King County Sheriff’s Department, however we need to also have that at the state level.

Every single person also believes that we should make sure that our officers are well trained. We should give them the tools that they need, so that they can go home and see their families at night. We should be concerned with if they know how to police communities of color? We need to ask questions like: What is their training mechanism? Do they police in a particular area, but live far away where they have limited to no interaction with people of color? Let’s train them so they can. In my work with the N.A.A.C.P we are working to implement state wide solutions for public safety. Data collection and training are just two of the many.


Emerald: If you were elected, what would you want people to be able to say about you once your term was over?

Secrest: She was a pitbull with a smile, and a watchdog giving voice to the issues that mattered most to our community.


Emerald: Being someone who has deep roots in this area, could you pin down your top 3 favorite things about the South Seattle area?

Secrest: 1) Diversity. 2) The fact that the South Seattle area will take on challenges that other areas won’t even touch, such as education reform, which began in South Seattle. 3) The sense of community. We have not lost that!

John Stafford: I’m Not A Band-Aid Politician

Editor’s Note: This is the third in our series of interviews with the candidates- 5 Democrats and 1 Republican- who are vying to replace retiring State Senator Adam Kline in the 37th District. The top two candidates chosen in the primary election- held on August 5th- will continue on to the general- which takes place on November 4th. The winner of which will represent the 37th District in the Washington State Senate. The 37th currently comprises almost the entire South Seattle area.

John Stafford has lived a life almost as diverse as the district he’s campaigning to represent. The one time Ivy Leaguer, Wall Street Maven, Tomato Truck Driver, and South Seattle Substitute Teacher has cast a wide net in his collection of experiences. It’s this breadth of knowledge and penchant for reinvention that the “every man” candidate- so called because he eschews the artificiality often identified with political aspirants- hopes to bring to the 37th District, transforming its economic and educational fortunes for the better.

Emerald: You have a very assorted background, going from the penthouse to the outhouse, in going from a high salary Fortune 500 consultant to a substitute teacher at some of the southend’s toughest schools. How do you think your diverse experiences would help you in representing the 37th district as its State Senator?

John Stafford: From a policy standpoint when a candidate is dealing with a range of issues such as how much to spend on roads, how to tax people, how to deal with the existence of non-profits within a community, how to deal with marijuana policy and violence, having an intellectual background -where you’ve studied these things and understand their interrelationships- in my opinion is extremely important because everything is so interlinked. The breadth of experience- where you’ve actually been involved in seeing these things play out in a tangible way rather than just reading or in an intellectual endeavors -is equally important, and I believe that I have both of those perspectives.

So taking that and extending it into the 37th district, where there are people from every conceivable background in this place -which is one of the things I love about it the 37th district- I think having a very broad background like I do, is very important for policy, very important to understanding people’s concerns and understanding the vastness of how policy plays out in real people’s lives.

Emerald: Your campaign has harped on economic growth. With South Seattle having the highest unemployment in the city, how would you make sure at the state level that a rising tide does indeed lift all boats, and the 37th experiences more economic vitality?

Stafford: That brings up a very important societal thing which is this notion of income equality. That’s not some sort of academic problem, that’s a very real problem and if that’s not addressed a lot of other endeavors are going to be undermined by not addressing it.

Taking education as one example, I support the McCleary funding. But, let’s just say that’s funded without income inequalities being addressed – you would have neighborhoods around the district, some very affluent, and some very poor, and you’d be embedding the achievement gap. That’s going to cause the achievement gap to persist even though you’ve put in funding, so my point is that in dealing with policy, you need to be addressing specific policy in such a way that starts to address the societal issues.

So for the McCleary decision for example, I advocate funding a considerable percentage of it from the repeal of corporate tax breaks which starts to deal with, a little bit, the income inequality. I would also favor a state income tax on high income earners, I don’t know how practical that is because it’s been defeated so many times, but the point is that there is an important connection on dealing with societal issues and policy issues at the same time, that’s key.

As far as near term job creation, things like the transportation package that’s coming up for a vote – and was passed by the (Washington State) house in the supplemental section but not the senate- are positive, as not only do they support infrastructure, which helps business in the long term, but they also provide economic stimulus in the short term. Some of the projects associated with that have a mildly favorable impact for the 37th district. For example SR 167/ I4105 interchange is slated to have considerable investment. That is in the southern part of the district but that would be positive for here. SR 509/SR 167 corridor has improvements which would also disproportionately help here.

Are these going to be huge deals? No, but by providing construction jobs and that sort of thing, there is some short term benefit. In dealing with job opportunities, it’s important to see the short term stimulus, and long term impact, and I have policies I favor that start to get at both. I’m also a supporter of the minimum wage, which isn’t a job of course, but once you do get a job it increases your livability.

I will say, that there aren’t magic bullets for jobs, because if there were everyone would know what it was and we would all do it. It’s a challenging thing, but if I had to elevate one thing I would say that it would be education. It’s better to approach job creation from a fundamental standpoint than a band-aid. Transportation is great but you really want to bring in everyone in society, get them with a vision, and education is a key part of that.

Emerald: Speaking of education, it is at the forefront of most voters minds in terms of ways to improve it for area youth. Is the answer vouchers? Charter schools? More testing? What policy do you favor?

Stafford: Vouchers I’m opposed. Charter schools, lets say opposed is on the far left and highly supportive is on the far right, with neutral being in the middle. I’d say that I’m slightly negative. So, I won’t spend one minute supporting or advocating for charter schools. On the other hand do I think that charter schools are going to destroy the public education system? No.

This notion of education choice is very, very interesting, and people are tempted in my opinion to drink down what they hear in terms of explanations all too quickly without thinking about them too carefully. So, let’s take this idea that there are failing schools, until recently they used to call Rainier Beach High School one, though I wouldn’t. But, when it was failing what was going on there? You had an unbelievably high percentage of people who had no money, and were on free or reduced lunch programs. They had every conceivable family life issue, which was largely a function of the nation’s history. I mean you can’t have slavery in a country for 200 years and then pretend that there’s not going to be after effects along with all odd the injustices that followed it. Socioeconomic differences are profound drivers of what happens in schools.

I go to Rainier Beach and I see one student a month with a violin. I go to Eckstein Middle School and I see everyone coming in with a trumpet case. It’s very, very sad. My point is, to call that a failing school, is very simplistic. We as a society are failing in terms of how we deal with income inequalities and in terms of how we deal with providing opportunities. Those are the core issues, so to come in after the fact without dealing with any of these issues and say that Rainier Beach is failing, and Eckstein is successful, is really a dangerous narrative.

So then why don’t we fix that with school choice? Well some of the more motivated students are going to choose to go to Eckstein and, candidly, if too many went, then the people who live in that community would say, “Jeez, we’re not sure we’re in favor of this policy.”How many people in that community are going to choose to come back to Rainier Beach? Very few. So, you end up eviscerating the Rainier Beach community even further.

One thing that’s proven successful is this notion of providing established track opportunities for students. I get students all the time who say I want to be an automotive mechanic, so why do I have to study Robespierre and the French Revolution? I can give them an answer to that, but on the same token I empathize that there are different people out there.

For instance, when someone wants to get a PhD in business, and someone wants to drive a bus, those are both wonderful things, and certainly we don’t want to go in and tell students, you’re going to do this or do that, it needs to be all their choice, but it makes a lot of sense to start having tracking opportunities for students, who say I want to go to technical college and have a high school experience that meets those needs. We should start to develop tracking coupled with increased counseling, something akin to the highly successful Rainier Scholars Program. We need to provide a little bit more support to kids so they can envision what they want to do and how that’s going to play out. That can lead to improvements in efficiency, productivity, student motivation, and all of that can happen with additional funding.

Emerald: You’ve been extremely open in your stance on Climate Change.That’s still a somewhat polarizing topic, especially at the local level where many ask, “How does that affect my daily life?” Why has the issue been such a prominent part of your campaign?

Stafford: It goes back to why am I running? I’m running to make an attempt to address things substantively and address and advocate for the key issues of our time, climate change being one of them. If they aren’t popular, and if they aren’t at the forefront of peoples minds, and it doesn’t connect up with what is clearly a big issue, then I’m willing to pay the price for that. That doesn’t mean that I want to pay the price. I want to try and convince people that they should care, but I’m not going to say: “Don’t worry about climate change, it’s okay!”

Let’s talk about climate change- 97% of scientists say that the sun comes down, heat reflects, and if you put too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it traps the heat, which has big impacts on the ecosystem and the consequences are extremely devastating. When will these things occur? Is it 100%? Those are some issues for debate, but 97% of scientists agree.

So, I view the scientific debate as totally over. It has nothing to do with me. I remember interviewing with another paper and they asked, “What ‘s your views on Climate Change?” As if my views mattered. They don’t. I attend lectures, I read books, but do I have a PhD from Berkeley, with over 10 years in the field? Have I reviewed 30 articles? No. So, therefore given that this field has 30,000 equations that document everything, my views don’t matter, and neither does the editorial board of a paper. Scientist are telling us that this is a clear issue, with huge potential implications, so I would feel remiss as a candidate not to adopt it.

My proposal to deal with it at the state level is to implement a carbon tax – which a huge percentage of both economist and environmentalist support and that is normally impossible. The way it works is that you go to a gas station, you feel up your tank and there’s a sign on the pump. You’re paying 10 cents per gallon extra carbon tax to begin to address climate change. The idea is that you start thinking that: “There’s a little pain here, so maybe I should start looking for some other things.” The magic of it is that 10 cents you pay, comes right back to you. You lower your property tax rate, and your sales tax rate, so you don’t pay more. You pay basically the same. You start to focus your activities in such a way that aren’t carbon intensive, so unless you’re driving 2 gas guzzling SUVs, you don’t get penalized. It comes out being revenue neutral so it’s not even a tax. This has worked in British Columbia and Finland. I view it as an indicated solution.

Emerald: Public safety is the topic du jour in the South Seattle area. What would you do at the senate level to address issues of crime and violence?

Stafford: These issue need to be seen from a long term perspective that starts to address causes as well as from a short term measure. Education, again, becomes critical. Before and after school learning programs become critical in order to provide additional opportunities for youth to participate in meaningful ways. Minimum wage is also important as is expanding the affordable care act. So all of these things that start to build communities and deal with income inequality those are the key, and their needs to be a constant eye on addressing structural issues.

One also has to acknowledge and start to deal with things from a short term perspective. One is that the Seattle Police Department has had a long, troubled history with disproportionately dealing with minority groups, so that needs to be addressed. There is the Department of Justice agreement, that I do believe that the SPD should be compliant- as if you’re caught doing things wrong for long enough, then you shouldn’t then quibble with the details.

There’s a whole host of issues, community policing, neighborhood policing, having officers get out of their cars and spend time at community centers to forge ties, as opposed to driving around and arresting people. Am I an expert in police tactics? No, but I am familiar with the fact that there’s a whole world of strategic practices that can be considered and applied in an appropriate way.

I’m also a supporter of drug courts. Let’s say that we go out there and find someone who has x ounces of cocaine on them. Instead of saying we’re going to break up your family and send you to prison for five years, we adopt a different approach and establish a court that’s conjoined with an existing superior court. The defendant comes in and he is given an offer, he can either go to prison or he can agree to the following program: He goes to counseling for x number of times over the next year – we do need to find him not in position again because that would be flouting this opportunity – but he can stay with his family. It creates an opportunity and less incarceration. It becomes more appropriate when you look at the stats and the chances of an African- American with cocaine going to prison for drug possession is about twice as much as a Caucasian guilty of the exact same offense, so it starts to make a little bit of progress in that.

I’m also in favor of a host of gun control measures.

Emerald: If elected, what would you hope a constituent would be able to say about you once your time in office was over?

Stafford: That he approached his job from a totally substantive perspective. He developed meaningful proposals that could have major structural impacts on society. That he wasn’t a band- aid politician or a feel good politician. He wasn’t a, “I have 3 extra dollars for this program politician”, but that he was someone who looked at things from a structural standpoint and tried to have a reconfiguring impact. If someone said that about me I would etch it onto my tombstone.

Emerald: You’re extremely active around South Seattle. In addition to being a substitute teacher, you consult for area nonprofits, volunteer as an elementary school janitor, and umpire area baseball games. What do you love about the area and what are your favorite places?

Stafford: I adore South Seattle. First of all I love rough and tumble things. I love the rough and tumble spirit found here!

It’s hard to settle on just one place I love. I’m a golfer and a member of a local golf club, which is predominately African American. They set up weekly events all around the city, including at Jefferson Park Golf Club. I play there quite often. So, Jefferson and the golfing community at large, I love!

I adore Columbia City and I realized that there isn’t one restaurant I haven’t been to there. I also love the Royal Room. There’s a few times they allow me to actually play drums onstage. I love participating in the music scenes. I also love the area’s parks.