My questions in bold, Jessyn Farrell’s answers as they were sent.
1) The state’s paramount duty is education. Do you feel the state is living up to that duty? If not, what needs to happen to live up to it?
I am the mother of two small children. I went to public schools (in Lake Forest Park and the Shoreline District) and so will they. I want to reinvigorate our state commitment to public schools. I believe we need to provide adequate resources for all our schools and ensure that every child is healthy, safe, and prepared when he or she comes to school. The good news is that with the State Supreme Court McCleary decision there is a mandate in place to develop solutions. But a significant question is how do we build the political will to fully fund our paramount duty to our students without gutting the social safety net that helps our most vulnerable kids?
We will do this by building broad coalitions that support child-centered education and social safety-net policies, organizing community members across the state, and talking to voters about what their tax dollars pay for. My experience at the forefront of the transportation debate for nearly a decade, as an advocate at WashPIRG and as the Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition, gives me optimism that we can forge a path forward to comprehensive changes to how we fund education. A decade ago, the transportation discussion was characterized by big, seemingly intractable problems, but a decade later, we have made great progress, and are now doing things like building a light rail system across the region. We did this by working in coalition, organizing, and winning with the voters and I want to apply these same skills to the challenge of making sure we provide all kids in the state with a great education.
2) Washington State voters recently rejected an income tax. Most of the revenue that the legislature might be able to pass is quite regressive. Will you push for revenue, and if so, how will you make sure the burdens don’t fall on the poorest Washingtonians?
I have worked for almost a decade to reform transportation funding, which is regressive and constrains much of our investments to car-centric policies. In the last several years we have had some successes in finding more revenue sources to support transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure but the majority of transit funding still comes from local sales tax, which is volatile and regressive.
Similarly, the state sales tax is unfairly regressive, and we must find alternative ways to fund public services. I want to participate in that discussion and am willing to pursue alternatives, such as closing tax loopholes. What I am NOT open to is the status quo. In my experience with passing eight transportation initiatives across the state is that voters do support taxes when they know what they are paying for and believe that government is accountable, transparent, and efficient in the delivery of programs.
3) There is a good chance that the State Senate and/or the Governor’s Mansion will be controlled by Republicans after the next election, and certainly most legislators will be more conservative than people who would be elected in a Seattle district. Given that how will you get your agenda passed?
Part of being able to win on behalf of King County and Seattle is being able to build strong relationships with legislators across the state. If elected, I would like to develop an “Urban Caucus” with colleagues from Spokane, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Vancouver to develop a joint agenda around education, transportation and social services. We simply need to make the pie bigger and end the zero-sum game that funding for important programs has become. We can do that by building broad coalitions, developing compelling messages for voters, and organizing communities across the state.
4) You’re running in a race with many Democrats who share similar positions. What separates you from the rest of the field?
There are three qualities that make me different: perseverance, the ability to build consensus, and optimism. I know that social change, especially in the legislative framework, can be agonizingly slow. It takes time to build and sustain coalitions, community support, and political will. The effectiveness of these characteristics is proven in my track record of getting things done.
As the Executive Director of the Transportation Choices Coalition and an advocate at WashPIRG, I led efforts to build broad coalitions of business, labor, public health and environmental leaders to advocate for major policy and funding victories including:
– over $25 billion in new funding for bus and rail transit, trip reduction incentives, and walking and bicycle infrastructure.
– Reforming state transportation goals to be people-focused instead of car-focused
5) Seattle and King County give more to the state than they get back. Part of this is reasonable things like the cost of providing education and social services in rural and suburban areas, but part of it is a lack of respect for Seattle and King County with the legislature that treats us as an ATM. How will you make sure your district gets its fair share of revenue without harming education or social services throughout the state?
As mentioned above, the key thing Seattle legislators can do is build relationships with other urban legislators across the state to build a consensus agenda for the unique needs of urban areas.