Two mayoral candidates so far have risen as frontrunners in terms of courting the Asian Pacific Islander (API) vote this upcoming election. One is the incumbent, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has secured endorsements from key API community leaders and hired APIs to serve on his staff, including Candace Inagi, the mayor’s senior advisor for external affairs, and policy analyst Heidi Park. Competing candidate Bruce Harrell is himself an API leader, and as city councilman, has built a track record of listening to API concerns.
McGinn and Harrell are expected to capture the lion’s share of the API vote. As of Feb. 3, 2013, six others have declared their candidacy for mayor, including city councilman Tim Burgess, Seattle resident David Ishii, former Greenwood Community Council president Kate Martin, Sen. Ed Murray, real estate broker Charlie Staadecker and Peter Steinbrueck, a current lobbyist and former city councilman. Each of these six have yet to garner significant support from API community leaders.
Another API leader, Albert Shen, is expected to enter the mayor’s race at the end of March. If he files for candidacy, the three may split the bulk of the API vote.
While other future candidates prepare to throw their hats in the ring, International Examiner asked McGinn and Harrell about their campaign plans and investments in Seattle. Here’s what they had to say.
About their campaigns
Mayor Mike McGinn, true to his history in public office, wasn’t and still isn’t going to play a politician, as he made clear in a recent phone interview.
“I think of campaigns as kind of the insider stuff,” says McGinn. “What really matters is having a dialogue with community members. Campaigns are just a method of holding that dialogue with the public.”
McGinn has many of the same campaign staff from his first mayoral campaign, but “I got more of them this time,” he said.
Unlike his first campaign for mayor, he’s hoping to hire a campaign manager instead of largely running his own campaign with volunteers. He’s also enlisted the help of paid political consultant, John Wyble of WinPower Strategies.
“We’ve laid out our priorities,” says McGinn. “We have a new emphasis on early learning in city government. We’re going to continue pushing on transit expansion. Broadband is another area where we’ve made great progress, and there’s more to come to get fiber optic cables in every home in the city.”
City Councilman Bruce Harrell, the self-described “Lucky No. 7” candidate to announce his mayoral candidacy, chairs Seattle’s public safety, civil rights and technology committee. In discussion of his campaign over the phone, he said his growing team of 40 will be seen all over evangelizing Bruce Harrell for mayor.
“Success to me looks like to me having my campaign in the city visible throughout the city wearing my colors — orange and green — and representing my leadership style, which is collaborative and authentic,” Harrell said.
His campaign manager is Monisha Harrell, his niece and the Columbia University graduate who successfully ran his last campaign to serve on city council in 2011. He’s also enlisted Vinh Tang to lead some campaign efforts outside of city hours. Tang’s one of Harrell’s legislative staff, someone that Harrell has mentored into the path of public service since age 10. “He’s been there every step of the way,” Harrell notes.
Other campaign leaders includes Jason Bennett, former consultant to 2009 Seattle mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan, former 2009 mayoral candidate James Donaldson, and Chris Stearns, chair of Seattle’s human rights commission.
Responses to police accountability, public safety and gun control
With recent shootings locally and nationally on the hearts and minds of many Seattle residents, gun safety rises to the top as a public safety concern.
Bruce Harrell proposed a ballot measure that will allow local jurisdiction of gun laws, and exempt the city or county from state preemption law, allowing county or city bodies more control.
“Once given that control, you can do things such as (write) gun control laws for families and children in parks,” Harrell explains.
The mayor, who supports local jurisdiction of gun safety laws, says it’s far too common for someone to feel like it is acceptable to walk into a bar with a gun, with a most recent Seattle bar shooting in mind. He says that many arguments that turn into fist fights would stop at fist fights with the appropriate gun safety measures in place — from gun ammunition clips to stricter background checks for gun ownership, to broader, more holistic community safety measures.
McGinn also pointed to domestic violence.
“A lot of our violent crimes actually occur in homes, and we need to take a closer look at what we can do there,” said McGinn.
Both mayoral candidates affirmed community centers as a way to curb youth violence.
“A lot of killings that we see our impulse shootings,” said Harrell, who points to anger management as one deeper source of the problem of gun violence.
His plan to connect neighborhood community centers to what he calls “empowerment centers” will involve partnerships with faith communities to provide anger management therapy and education that teaches respect for police officers.
“In many cultures and communities of color, we place a high value on the issue of respect,” Harrell notes.
After former Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer Ian Birk shot and killed artist John T. Williams in 2011 to the grief and outrage of Seattle residents and police reform advocates throughout the U.S., the restructuring and culture change of the SPD became a major priority the mayor and city officials had to tackle thoroughly.
After a full U.S. Department of Justice investigation into unconstitutional patterns of racial disparity and use of excessive force by the SPD, the city and Department of Justice signed a consent decree last July to create police reforms.
One major step forward, according to McGinn: “We’ve launched a community police commission. This is historic.”
McGinn appointed each of the 15 members of the commission, including co-chairs Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the Defender Association.
“We’re bringing together some of the SPD’s biggest critics. … If we bring them together, they’ll come up with solutions that work for communities,” McGinn posits.
Additional community dialogue has continued through the city’s Safe Communities Initiative, McGinn notes, where Seattle residents have the opportunity to have a facilitated community meeting with a police officer in their neighborhood.
Both candidates have stated they were responsible for investments to fund 20-some additional officers in the city to keep streets safer.
Harrell stressed training and cultural competency of police officers, particularly in some of Seattle’s most vulnerable neighborhoods such as the CID. In addition, cops should learn to take personal pride in neighborhood safety conditions, he says.
Other key investments in Seattle and the Chinatown-International District (CID)
Harrell mentioned that he specifically advocated hard for increased funds for the city’s technology matching funds in the biennium, and was key in bridging the digital divide in API communities and communities of color with his Great Student Initiative that will provide high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month and low-cost computer rental for students who qualify for free-or-reduced price lunch.
McGinn said his investment priorities in the CID are reflected in Seattle’s 2013-2014 budget, including expanded hours at the International District Community Center and other neighborhood community centers.
“The city council wanted to hold off on that,” McGinn mentions. Originally, staffing hours at community centers were being proposed for cuts.
Both candidates said they were proud to continue funding social services for many API immigrant and refugee communities in and around the CID, including those at Chinese Information and Service Center and Vietnamese Friendship Association. Harrell and McGinn were also both proud to report that they were able to preserve funding for the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience in the biannual budget.
In particular, Harrell discussed his commitment to bring the CID the Bruce Lee Action Museum (BLAM), calling this new cultural institution “an asset to the community.” Though he never met Bruce Lee, Harrell describes Lee as one of his mentors. Inspired by his agility, Harrell thought about his quickness and employed some of Bruce Lee’s training regimen as a Husky linebacker in his undergraduate days at University of Washington (UW).
“I spoke to Shannon Lee last night about her (BLAM) vision,” said Harrell. “(If elected mayor), I will deliver on that within my first four years.”
McGinn mentioned his investments in Hing Hay Park and the International Children’s Park being rebuilt.
Additionally, “we have granted $185,000 in funding support to focus on the things the ID cares about,” says McGinn, referring to neighborhood and matching grants concentrated in the CID.
McGinn hopes the Only in Seattle Initiative that helps business districts thrive through marketing and technical assistance, will drive business to the neighborhood.
As far as implementing downtown connectors according to transportation plans, McGinn admits: “Street cars (in the CID) are a little bit of a mixed bag for folks. I think it’s good for the businesses. I think it’ll bring customers to the ID.”
Harrell thinks there’s still much work to be done in the neighborhood.
“I don’t think we exemplify what a world-class city does in terms of supporting its International District,” he says.
If elected mayor, Harrell’s efforts to improve the CID will revolve around these questions: “Do we have the cleanest and safest CID? Are we promoting tourism in these areas to the level we need to promote it? Do we have a sense of urgency to deliver?”