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!
As the November 4th election draws ever closer and freshly mailed ballots face the likely probability of becoming indistinguishable from junk mail, Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe – both vying to replace the outgoing Adam Kline as the 37th District’s next state senator – have been making their rounds across several district neighborhoods in hopes of convincing the undecided amongst the electorate as to just why they are worthy of a vote come election day.
The next stop on the campaign trail is tonight’s West Hill Community Association meeting. The quarterly community affair gets underway at 7:00pm in the cafeteria of Campbell Hill Elementary School (6418 S 124th St, Seattle, WA 98178) and will feature both candidates taking questions directly from audience members.
The meeting will also include Rich Brooks from RAYS (Renton Area Youth Services) discussing the various services offered to the community at the Cynthia A. Green Family Center in West Hill and Michael Davie from Youth Source, who will be sharing an overview of programs offered by the organization.
The meeting is open to the public and scheduled to conclude at 9:00pm.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the following commentary are solely those of the author and do not constitute an endorsement of any particular candidate or public policy by The Emerald.
By Sandra Vanderven
Deepthroat, the high level white house official who served as an informant to the journalists who uncovered Watergate, famously said, “Follow the money.” It was true then, it is true now, and it will be true for years to come. So stay with me while I tell you what I see in the candidates and the donors who love them.
When Adam Klein announced he wouldn’t be running again to represent the 37th in the WA state senate, there was a lot of anxiety among residents and political insiders. Who would step up? Who could do this shitty, thankless job? Who would even want to? Senator Klein was about to leave some big shoes in Olympia. People talked amongst themselves. They started cutting up straws so someone could pull the short one. Then Pramila Jayapal announced she would be running, and there was a collective sigh of relief, “Oh good, this is handled!” Pramila has founded and headed impactful organizations like Hate Free Zone and One America. Her life has been dedicated for decades to making things better for others.
In this case, following her donations gives us a picture of broad based support. Individuals, organizations, businesses all over the map are maxing out their donations to her, giving as much as the law allows. At this point, she has $260,000, roughly quadruple the kitty of her opponent. So money isn’t inherently bad, especially when it comes from diverse sources and funds a good candidate. SEIU, Nick Hanauer and Mayor Murray don’t write checks for just anyone. These guys look for someone who can figure out how to operate in Olympia, and how to win in their district. She has smart, connected fans, and she will win. Be on the right side of history, and vote for her.
Louis Watanabe seems like a well-meaning guy. People who care about their fellow humans often think that the way we behave is due to a lack of information. The theory goes, if only we knew what he knows, we would have the same values he does, and we would act on them by voting for him. So his campaign seeks to educate us on Juneteenth, on internment, on Abraham Lincoln, and what the name Redskins refers to. All very important. What he unfortunately leaves out is a sense of how he’ll make a difference on our behalf. Lots of his donors live in California, many of them with the last name Watanabe. There doesn’t seem to be much organizational buy-in to his campaign, and judging from his website, no good advice coming from anywhere.
State House Position 1
Sharon Tomiko Santos: She is great on education, and doesn’t appear to slobber over Boeing as much as some of her colleagues, so she is probably on balance good for our state. But wait, what is this all about? Tons of donations from tribes… I hope they are not trying to put more entertainment at the end of that two lane highway that goes to the White River Amphitheater. Have you ever tried going to something there? What a mess. I will never do that again. I also see donations from airport concessionaires. You will recall that Seatac Airport is ground zero for the $15 minimum wage fight. I am curious about why she is getting all kinds of money from folks who are still looking for ways not to pay their employees a living wage. Other strange bedfellows: Pharma, timber, BNSF, insurance, alcohol distributors…I guess if I were running I’d take the money too, and laugh all the way to election day. Let’s hope that is what is going on, because her opponent, well, she doesn’t really have an opponent.
Daniel Bretzke has raised a cool grand for this election. Actually, I am rounding down, which isn’t fair. He has raised $ 1,239.88. Don’t you think it is crass to bring it down to money? And yet, a story is being told here. This guy isn’t going to win. Last red flag I’ll bother to mention is that he was endorsed by the Seattle Times. I have an idea! If you ever decide to run for something, just put an R next to your name. Ka-ching! Times endorsement received. An aside: What is that newspaper doing in Seattle?
State House Position 2
Eric Pettigrew: Oh shit–donations from education reformers. Has he drunk the Kool-Aid? People! If you don’t know by now that education reform is code for privatization, I just told you! Now you know! Eric Pettigrew should read this. Unfortunately he’s working across the aisle on the union-busting, education killing bullshit we call charter schools. For 100 years, our country has upheld our values by providing free, public education. Over the last several decades, conservatives have applied leeches to our schools’ budgets. After so much bloodletting education is dizzy and can barely stand, those same folks scream education isn’t working, and it needs to be “reformed.” Of course their solution is to start down the road of privatization; e.g., charter schools, to fix what wouldn’t have been broken in the first place if only it was properly funded. If we wake up one day with our public schools replaced by a private school system, I will blame Eric Pettigrew and all the rest of the gullible suckers who think charter schools are going to solve a problem created by chronic underfunding.
Eric Pettigrew has an opponent who isn’t going to win, and we wouldn’t want that anyways. Her name is Tamra Smilanich and she sounds like a tool.
I’m delighted that we are about to be represented by someone operating at the caliber of Pramila Jayapal, but the rest of the stable do not represent the people of the 37th. There’s only one thing to do about that. You lovelies have to start preparing to run for office. I’m not talking about posting some half assed website and running a losing campaign. It looks like some other folks already have a corner on that around here. I am talking about really finding out what it would take to run and win. There are resources for that, including Wellstone Action, which provides candidate trainings in Seattle once a year, and Progressive Majority, which exists to get people ready to run for office. There is no reason in hell we should be stuck with these folks. As the kids used to say, bust a move!
But wait, there’s more! Here are some of our juicy initiatives:
1351: Smaller class sizes are a good thing, and our kids need it. The Washington State legislature could go to the pokey for refusing to give our kids the education they need and deserve. True story. Voting yes on this will add more pressure which these assholes obviously need. Vote yes.
591: Don’t vote for this unless you think mentally ill people and spouse abusers should have it enshrined in law that they can buy guns too. Vote no.
594: There is a wide range of opinion about gun ownership, but the vast majority of us, including NRA members, believe that people who are mentally unstable and people who beat their spouses shouldn’t have ready access to guns. This initiative would seek to close loopholes so everyone trying to buy a gun in our state has to have their background checked. We should place a reasonable limit on who gets to have a gun. Vote yes if you think murder is bad.
Prop 1: Shall we, the owners and drivers of carbon spewing cars, spend $60 per year ($40 if you qualify for a rebate) plus a sliver more sales tax to protect bus service in Seattle? I like the bus and often intend to take it. I look at the schedule, figure out when I need to leave to catch the next one, take too long applying mascara, and end up driving. In this way I end up parking downtown at $20 a pop just to meet a friend for happy hour or see my shrink. For you mathematicians, I do this way more than 3 times a year. We drivers pay thousands per year for the car, gas, insurance, parking and maintenance. I spend almost $60 every time I fill up my tank. Please pony up to preserve service for people who have jobs and need to use buses to get to them. Pay $60 in an entire fucking year so that little old ladies can visit their grandchildren. Pay $60 to keep the buses running so I don’t drive to happy hour and accidentally drive through your yard on my way home. Vote yes.
Early Childhood Education 1A vs 1B:
First say yes to early education. No-brainer. Kids need it. Boom. Done.
The choices are 1A vs. 1B. Sweetjesusinheaven.
1A, invented by the organizations representing the people who are already doing this work; i.e., the real experts, stabilizes the workforce by ensuring wage parity with burger flippers (not that there is anything wrong with flipping burgers), and provides for continuing education as needed. This is good because next year at this time, 38% of childcare workers (mostly women, mostly mothers, mostly of color—so in other words the most poorly treated people in this country) will have quit their jobs and moved on to something else. We desperately need more stability in this field, which 1A would achieve. This will benefit all of the kids in pre-k.
1B is a pilot program which will eventually provide more access to childcare, but it is also more Kool-Aid. Early education is crucial for positive outcomes to kids, which is why we should not leave the planning in the hands of Tim “his eyes were silently begging me to help him” Burgess and a bunch of consultants. What about love, patience, creativity, and cultural relevance? According to Burgess, the hell with all that. 1B was forcefully kept separate from 1A so he doesn’t have to negotiate with unions. These ballot measures should never have been pitted against one another. They should both win. Do what the Progressive Voters Guide suggests and vote for both to send a message that we do not appreciate the shenanigans.
Whatever you do, please do vote on or before November 4th. People who do not have your best interests in mind have their hearts set on you becoming demoralized and no longer participating in democracy. If you don’t vote, they win.
Sandra Vanderven is a Community Organizer and Board President of the Backbone Campaign.
Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe will face off against each other for the 37th District’s state senate seat in November’s general election.
After a highly contested primary race that featured six candidates vying to replace the retiring Adam Kline, Jayapal and Watanabe emerged as the top two vote-getters in Tuesday night’s primary election.
With a low voter turnout indicative of most non-presidential year primary elections – Jayapal received 51.25 percent of the vote, to Watanabe’s 17.2 percent.
While Jayapal’s finish within the top two came as no surprise- the human rights activists was deemed the front runner almost as soon as she announced her intention to run – Watanabe – an entrepreneur and business professor from Beacon Hill- had to endure an uphill climb to place second in the race, fending off four other challengers (3 Democrats and 1 Republican) for the position.
The candidate frequently attended crime prevention themed walks in the South Seattle area, and was spotted at several Night Out events leading up to tonight’s results.
“I’m grateful to all the voters in the 37th District who voted for me, and I hope to make them proud come election day.”Watanabe stated.
With unemployment, economic development, and public safety being paramount in the minds of South Seattle voters, and the 37th District housing almost the entire area, Jayapal and Watanabe are sure to engage in a competitive race right up until election day on November 4th.
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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.
You would think Louis Watanabe would have long ago tired of the role of educator. While he has held the official title of professor for only a little less than ten years, the erudite Beacon Hill native has spent nearly the entirety of his adult life, whether as engineer, social activist or entrepreneur, imparting lessons.
However, his passion for pedagogy appears in a state of constant revival, and can be found on full display whether in a classroom fertilizing the minds of the next generation of business leaders, on the dance floor for those eager to learn the foxtrot, or on South Seattle’s streets. A place where he freely lends advice to those youth that most have cast off as beyond hope. Watanabe now hopes to extend his talents for instruction all the way to Washington’s State Legislature, teaching new lessons to an institution he believes is in desperate need of them as the 37th District’s state senator.
Emerald: You’ve had great success in the private sector as the company you founded was Microsoft’s very first business acquisition. What made you want to step into the public realm and run for state senate?
LouisWatanabe: For the past ten years I’ve worked with students from various areas, including in and around South Seattle. What I’ve come to worry about is that you work so hard to get them prepared for the future, and then once their education is complete you worry about whether or not they’ll be able to find a job that pays well enough, allows them to raise a family, and allows them to do the things they set out to accomplish. I look at my job as a professor being about people achieving their dreams.
The other thing that worries me is education, mainly that we are still struggling to amply fund K-12 education while we’re also now seeing tution go sky high. If people have to go way into debt to have an education then they’re basically sacrificing some of their future in order to be able to have one. That doesn’t seem right.
A few weeks ago the governor was talking to different state agencies about 15 percent cuts across the board. They say it’s a planning scenario, however, it is pretty alarming. First of all there are some things that are a part of our budget, such as our food programs, where a 15 percent cut would be a pretty significant thing as food banks are closing down. Another is our homeless programs; their number has actually expanded. Transportation is also a concern. We’ve struggled for ten years to attempt to get a transportation package. After prop 1 failed we still find ourselves in a hole. I live in this neighborhood and I travel all over the place, and people depend on buses for jobs and to get to doctor’s appointments so this is a real problem that needs addressing.
Emerald: What’s your proposal for enticing more businesses – and the employment opportunities they bring- to the South Seattle area and larger 37th District?
Watanabe: First of all I have over twenty years of economic development experience – in addition to my having started a software company. I also teach statistical analysis, business research, and marketing courses at Bellevue College. I’ve also served as the business counselor for the college’s entrepreneurial center on the north campus at the old Microsoft Headquarters.
What I have in mind is that I’ve had experience in this area through sending student teams to work with businesses. I’m very familiar with the Southeast Effective Development, and so what I first took a look at was the County Business trends. That revealed what businesses are actually in the district. A lot of businesses in the 98118 zip code are actually fairly small, meaning 1 to 3 people. So we need to figure out of our existing businesses if we can help them hire more people, but you need to be a certain size in order to do that. It would be ideal to have people commute within the district as opposed to having to commute outside of it, which is what we have right now.
The areas where we really don’t have that kind of thing, we need to encourage businesses to come in. Columbia City is a great story, because what we’ve seen is it has taken twenty years to get to where they are. There has been some discussion in Othello, Rainier Beach, and Seward Park about food innovation centers, where you can tie in urban food courts. We should really take advantage of the fact that we have great culinary programs at South Seattle Community and Seattle Central Colleges. Manufacturing is something we should look at, and having a light rail that exist would allow us to take advantage of that in this district. There are also new technologies we can bring in such as LED (Light Emitting Devices), that’s become a big thing in terms of lighting. LED manufacturing might be a possibility here. If you look all around the region we have businesses involved in the production of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner bodies. The question is, can we actually take advantage of the land we have to the south?
Emerald: Education is obviously something near and dear to you. How would you make sure that our area schools are adequately funded?
Watanabe: Right now we’re in a budget crises because what revenue we have has been allocated towards other things. Personally I believe that when we have crisis we have to say that everything has to be on the table. The most obvious things are to look at tax loopholes, and businesses certainly have preferences of various sorts. The question is which ones pay their way, and which ones don’t? Is it right that Boeing got as much as it did (in its recent deal with the state) and they pay fewer taxes than they did before? While they are a major employer in the region, the fact is that they benefit from the improvements that the region makes, but they don’t pay their fair share. Quite frankly, I don’t like the idea of someone being able to come and just use up the resources in our area and then leave everyone else with the bill.
Emerald: What ideas do you have for Washington State to generate more revenue in order to fix its budget woes?
Watanabe: Revenue has not been keeping up with the growth of the state. We have the most regressive tax system in the country with the sales tax. It disproportionately impacts the people who can least afford to pay taxes. The reality is that Bill Gates Sr. made really great arguments as to why we should have an income tax on high income earners, however it didn’t carry the day in the last election. I firmly believe that this is an educational process. If people believe that it is for a good purpose they would consider a tax, but there’s a lot of skepticism that they’ll pay the tax and it won’t get used for the purpose it was intended. We have to be able to establish the trust of the people in order to do that. I’m a straight shooter. When people have worked with me as a negotiator I really tell it like it is. I would try to do as a state senator, in convincing others of the necessity of a state income tax. A compelling case needs to be made for it, and I believe that I can do that.
Emerald: With the rise in crime across South King County, public safety has been a huge weight on the minds of community members. What do you feel is the best way to address the issue?
Watanabe: When I went to the South Precinct a few weeks ago they had just picked up a 13 year old with a gun from Rainier Avenue. I think about that and I say: “A 13 year old having access to a gun!” This is really problematic. How do you prevent that kind of free access? People say: “Well you need to prosecute people who steal guns.” There’s more to it than that. People need to take on a certain amount of responsibility if they’re going to have a gun. We’ve unfortunately had all kinds of mishaps, even with a police officer’s family.
We know that it isn’t a perfect world out there. Criminals know that because juveniles are treated differently under our system, the juvenile can get away with more. So, they’ll often give them a gun, or drugs. As that’s the case, we have a revolving door before we can do something. This needs to be addressed. The core problem is why do people use guns? They use guns because they don’t feel that they have any other way to assert themselves. Many of them are disconnected from our community.
Prosperity really hasn’t benefited the ethnic communities here and we need to change that. People find ways of surviving, and you can either do it the right way or the wrong way. We have had a lack of investment, and attention paid to this area for a very long time. The stark symbolism is that we have properties that our boarded up and graffiti all over them. You don’t see that in Queen Anne, or in other areas of Seattle. People are left with a sense that people don’t care, so as a state senator I think that it is really important that the state invest in programs that are going to solve these problems. We have a need for basic services, whether it’s food programs, medical care or homelessness.
That’s why we need to bring in manufacturing jobs, because those are skill building. We need not only to bring in the income, but the abillity to go onto the next step. People talk about bringing training to this area, but it’s not training that drives jobs, it’s the other way around. I don’t want to just simply invest in an education center with no prospect of getting anything out of it. Economic development is the best crime prevention tool we have.
Emerald: Assuming you were elected, what would you want a constituent to be able to say about you once your term in office was over?
Watanabe: I’d like them to be able to say that I gave this district hope for a better future because I brought in the means for being able to achieve that through more jobs and skill building. I’d also want them to say that I was able to bring the entire community together in a way that it hadn’t been brought together before.
Emerald: What most distinguishes you from the other candidates running for the 37th District senate seat?
Watanabe: I have the skills that matter to people because I started off in engineering, and so I can see the big picture. I can see the tasks that need to be done and I can sequence them. The order of how you do things is very important. I’ve been an educator at the college level. I see the problems that are going on in K-12. I know first hand what it’s going to mean to be successful in our technologically driven future. I have been a community leader, serving on a number of boards. I think I bring that practical approach to problems with a lot of different skills. There’s a lot of legislation that has been written by people who don’t have a lot of time in the field, so to speak. I have that time.
Emerald: What is so special about the South Seattle area for you?
Watanabe: I’m proud of the fact that my family started out in this area, farming along the Green River and selling vegetables at Pike Place Market. I feel a personal history to this area.
I also like that it’s large enough to do significant things, but small enough that it is very personal. If you want to meet someone you can. I also love the range of humanity we have in this district, whether I go to Columbia City, Rainier Beach, or Seward Park.
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle