Oct 18, 2022
On this midweek show, Crystal chats with Chipalo Street about his campaign for State Representative in the 37th Legislative District - why he decided to run, how he would approach legislating and his thoughts on addressing issues such as housing affordability and zoning, data privacy, public safety, homelessness, and climate change.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find Chipalo Street at @ElectChipalo.
Campaign Website - Chipalo Street
South Seattle Emerald’s 37th LD Representative Position 2 Debate (October 4, 2022) - Moderated by Crystal Fincher
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Today, I'm excited to welcome Chipalo Street, who is running for 37th Legislative District State Representative. Welcome to the program, Chipalo.
[00:00:49] Chipalo Street: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:50] Crystal Fincher: Excellent - so what made you decide to run for office and what are you bringing to this race?
[00:00:57] Chipalo Street: Yeah - the two second answer is I came to this race through a program called Institute for a Democratic Future. But I think - as I look back on even how I got to IDF, which is the shorthand term for Institute for a Democratic Future -
[00:01:12] Crystal Fincher: Which we are well aware of - and I am on the board of, as are you, full disclosure.
[00:01:18] Chipalo Street: Yes, it goes back to how I have tried to give back to different communities throughout my life. And so - I grew up in D.C. and was very lucky to have a family that valued education - going to college was not a question for me. I actually got to go to my grandmother's college graduation because she had to drop out to have my dad and his family, but education was so important to her that she then got a job at Akron University and took night classes slowly to graduate, even though her kids had already gone to college and graduated. So when - I think I was in junior high school, going to my grandmother's graduation - whether I was going to go to college or not was not an option for me. But I didn't really understand why I wanted to go to college or what I would do with that degree. And so my parents had made sure to get me into the best public schools in D.C. And I was thankful for that because by the time I got to high school, I was in a school - the only public school in D.C. - that had a computer science department. And that's where I really learned that I loved computers, loved programming. And then that sort of motivated me, and I knew what my purpose was for in college.
Went to Brown University and realized that there weren't a ton of people in engineering that looked like myself. We had a lot of folks in pre-med that had created a group that would support each other through the pre-med process, but we didn't have that at Brown University. And so I co-founded our chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers so that we had that support group to help folks go through engineering. After I left Brown, I came out to Seattle and again, realized there weren't many people that looked like myself in computer science. And so I worked with a woman named Trish who founded Technology Access Foundation - and myself and three other Microsofties created a computer science curriculum down at TAF and taught that for six years to a school in South Seattle. And that sort of pattern is - finding ways where I can use my time to give back to the community, but also leverage it. I think there's a 100% place for direct service, and I am so grateful for folks who do direct service. But for myself, I've always tried to figure out - hey, if I put an hour in here, how do I get five hours out? If I put two hours in here, how do I get 10 hours out? And so starting our chapter of National Society of Black Engineers, creating curriculum and teaching that at TAF - I thought would create a legacy that lived on past me.
Again, then start looking around - hey, these state laws and policies really impact and shape our society - how can I help get involved in that? And so I went to United Way of King County - served on their Public Policy Impact Council. And while we did advocate for laws and policies, it was frustrating because that's a very - we had to advocate for very middle-of-the-road policies because we didn't want to alienate our more conservative donor base, and so that felt like my time was not best used. At that same time, I was going through this program Institute for a Democratic Future - they were really pushing for progressive policies and training a next generation of Democratic leaders. And so - I loved that program and then started serving on the board after that point. So I've been on the board for maybe six or seven years - and that has been a very fulfilling experience because I love the work that they did, but one of the things I did not see was as much equity and inclusion. So I've been trying to push for more board members of color, and also more fellows of color, and also geographic diversity - because we are a statewide program and so having folks east of the mountain is really important.
And that's a long way of saying that's how I've gotten actually to this opportunity because through that board service - when this opportunity came up - some of the board members approached me and said, Hey, you match the district really well, you should consider running. I was like, Oh no, you got the wrong guy - I love my full-time job - I don't think I'm ready to take on that type of extra work, my ego couldn't take the loss if I was to lose. And so we talked about all my bad reasons not to run. Senator Nguyen - he serves in the Senate, he works at Microsoft - he's able to do it. So talk to him, talk to your boss, see if they're both supportive of that - they were, that conversation went well. And I was like, Oh well, you just retired from being a pro-soccer referee, you have some extra time - so what about that? I was like, Yeah, I know - the work is an excuse, I always do a good job of what I do - I will put my all into it. It will be fine. But my poor little ego couldn't take a loss. And they're like - Look, ego-based decisions aren't how you should be making your decisions. And even just running would help the community - you'd learn it better, you'd expand your network. And we think you'll win because you have great experience. It's - Man, I'm not really excited to do this - it's changing my plans for all of my summer and fall. So since then, I've just been knocking on doors, fundraising, attending candidate forums, talking about the different experiences that I think I can bring to this district. And we could go into that, we could go somewhere else - all these things are great. And I know that was a long-winded way of answering your question.
[00:06:22] Crystal Fincher: And so I'm wondering what are you running to accomplish?
[00:06:25] Chipalo Street: Yeah, for sure. So there are things that - there's some really major issues that are affecting everyone, and then specifically the 37th. So for example - housing. I think housing prices are going up across the country, but it is impacting the 37th District in specific ways. So we're a historic district - we have been generally a district - we were the most diverse district in the country for quite some time. However, as those housing prices are rising, folks are getting displaced, neighborhoods are getting gentrified, and it is having unique impacts on our district. So fixing housing, I think, is super important. And the way I think about that is - three buckets of solutions. One is how do you stop harm now? How do you get more units on the market in the long term? And then how do you tide ourselves to the point where those units are on the market?
So stopping harm now looks like anti-displacement measures - so we can't stop people from moving to the 37th. However, we can make sure that the folks who live here have an opportunity to take part in the evolution of that community. So seniors who are on fixed incomes - making sure they have tax breaks so that as the property values rise, they can afford the taxes. That generational homes that have been passed down through families - those families can afford the taxes and aren't forced to sell. And then we also need increased renter protections. There's some pretty crazy things that landlords can do from the types of fees they charge, to who they provide housing to, and who they discriminate against based on prior felonies or involvement with the criminal justice system. Or even just lifting the statewide ban on rent control so that municipalities have different tools in their tool belt to address housing affordability. So that would stop harm right now.
Investment in low-income housing through the Housing Trust Fund will get more units on the market and that's something the State has to do. There's also - we need to figure out something around workforce housing. We underpay our teachers, but even two teachers living together can't afford housing in the area. And then we also need to invest in mass transit so that we can increase density. Mass transit gets us towards a greener climate future, which is a whole 'nother set of issues that we can talk about. But also increasing density around that transit allows more units to get on the market. And those are three things that are going to take a while to come to fruition. And so we also need means to tide ourselves there. So increasing temporary rental support, I think, is important so that a short-term hardship doesn't snowball and turn into someone losing their house - makes it harder for them to work, makes it harder for their kids to go to school. And then making sure that we have a robust voucher program so that working people can live in existing market rate units without spending their full paycheck.
So housing is super important - it's the number one issue I hear at doors. Then there's things around criminal justice reform. Climate justice is really important in that, again, if we don't have a habitable world to live in, it doesn't really matter. But the 37th itself gets disproportionately impacted by our environment - like we have planes flying over Beacon Hill, one of our large borders is created by I-5 - and so we have air pollution, noise pollution that impacts our district on top of all of the other things like climate change and global warming and stuff like that.
And then there's some unique experiences that I bring that I think are necessary for our society. For example, I work at Microsoft. I think it's really important that we have people who understand technology in the Legislature. And we could snicker about that - six months ago, where you'd see federal hearings where you have senators saying, Why didn't my tweet go to my inbox? And it's just, Oh, God - no, you should really understand this. But with the Roe decision, we're getting tangible examples of how our data can be used against people. So I think it's really important that we don't have our data used to go after folks who are seeking abortions, but it also applies to our providers as well, right? Telehealth is a thing - providers can work across state lines. And if they're working in a state that has banned abortion, what does that mean for their ability to be sued, to be subpoenaed, to possibly lose their license? So making sure that we can protect everyone involved in the abortion ecosystem through our data and technology legislation, I think, is really important. It's given us a tangible reason why this is so important to us today. So that's a quick way of saying there's many issues - I would love to support on all of them, and then bring unique experience and to solve things and apply them to things like data privacy.
[00:11:13] Crystal Fincher: So now you mentioned housing, you mentioned a number of things, lifting the ban on rent control and rental assistance. There is a bill that has been attempting to make its way through the Legislature, the middle housing bill, to address the housing shortage - up-zoning in single-family zoned areas, which would impact several neighborhoods around the City, including those in the 37th district. Do you support that bill? Would you be a yes vote on that bill?
[00:11:39] Chipalo Street: Yeah, you're talking about Jessica Bateman's bill - the missing middle one. Yeah, I think that's a great bill. What's interesting with any of these conversations is understanding how it will impact the existing communities and my impression is that that will not have a disproportionate negative impact on the 37th - because Seattle has already done some pretty progressive zoning reforms in terms of land use, in terms of ADUs and detached - with DDUs, or ADUs and DDUs - but what's really important about that bill is that it enforces it statewide, right? So that we can't just allow Seattle to increase density. And then when Seattle increases density, it really gets pushed into a neighborhood in Seattle because certain enclaves within Seattle say, Oh, no density in my backyard - let's push it down into - usually communities like Black and Brown communities. And so doing it at a statewide level makes sure that we're all in density together. And understanding what those impacts are, I think, is really important. And luckily, I don't think it would increase displacement given the existing zoning laws of Seattle, but that is the one area that I would want to dig into that bill and make sure that we aren't, again, increasing displacement within the 37th. But at a statewide level, it's 100% necessary.
[00:13:00] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely at the statewide level. And some would argue that within the City, as you - I think - alluded to, that there are disproportionate impacts of development and the 37th Legislative District is being more negatively impacted to date than others are. And the 37th having accepted more density already, already having a lot of development and redevelopment that has resulted in the way that it's done in displacement. And so how do you balance looking at that within the district and the need to build more housing in the city overall, but to do so equitably throughout the city - and other districts that have a much higher percentage of areas zoned for single-family and that are basically exempted under current zoning laws from additional development and not having to deal with some of the impacts of that the 37th is? How do you manage wanting more density, but making sure it is equitable throughout the city and doesn't displace more people in the 37th?
[00:14:04] Chipalo Street: Yeah, I think this is an example where the devil's in the details. So here's my understanding, and I would love to make sure that my understanding is correct as I move into the Legislature. But one of the things that has been so harmful to the 37th is upzoning. And so let's separate upzoning from, say, increased density on single-family lots - whereas upzoning is, Hey, here is a small area that we can build extremely tall buildings on. Generally, I believe they've been called urban villages - I think there are four or five areas within the city that were zoned for urban villages. Compared to - okay, any single-family lot can be built up to four units - you can put a very small garden apartment there or a set of townhomes on there. So Jessica Bateman's bill is the latter, the any single-family home can be built up to four or six units, whereas serious upzoning for urban villages is large apartment buildings. And the difference there is - our current tax code taxes property based on highest and best use. And so the tax on the highest and best use for something that's zoned for an apartment building is different than zoned for a single-family house, even if single-family house includes a small fourplex. And that's where a lot of people have been displaced because the CD contained one of those urban villages. And so everyone who was within that urban village - their property value skyrocketed and they had to figure out a way to pay the taxes. And so - why I'm hopeful that Jessica Bateman's bill won't exacerbate that is that Seattle already has allowed ADUs and DDUs on single-family lots. And so I don't think that should make the tax rate jump as much as upzoning did for these urban villages. And so I don't think we should necessarily be having urban villages in the 37th - additional ones - unless that comes with a way to allow existing homeowners to afford the taxes. And so understanding the difference between urban villages and additional density on single-family lots, I think, is important. And that's how I would start to think about that equity, because to your point - those urban villages aren't equally distributed around the city.
[00:16:27] Crystal Fincher: And also, relying on just urban villages to increase density does not seem like it would get enough housing stock on the market to eventually make a difference. So it seems like allowing single-family, currently single-family zoned areas citywide, would be more of an equitable solution - not just areas that are disproportionately in the 37th district - might help to, if people with higher property values can have a higher and best use, and not just people clustered in the 37th or other already very dense areas, then that helps to spread out the development and where more dense development can happen. But appreciate hearing your thoughts on that. I'm also curious - we had a legislative session this past session where there were rollbacks of a number of public safety policies that had been previously passed. Do you agree with those rollbacks? What was your evaluation of the session and those rollbacks?
[00:17:33] Chipalo Street: The thing I do agree with is some of the processes that went into it - I was very happy to see Representative Johnson do ride-alongs with police to understand how the new legislation impacted their ability to provide public safety. I personally have a hard time believing that I would have voted to roll them back.
[00:17:52] Crystal Fincher: Well, I guess that is the question. Would you have voted to roll them back?
[00:17:56] Chipalo Street: I don't think so. I would - that said, I did not do those ride-alongs, I did not, I have not sat there and listened to debriefs on exactly how the minutiae of these policies are implemented or did it impact the police's ability to provide public safety. But what I will say is - the reason I say I have a hard time believing I would roll them back is because I think those types of policies would have saved me from the situation I went through. So when I was at Brown, myself and my best friend were walking around campus, which was a public campus, so anyone could be there. We were actually walking from campus onto a public street. And Brown police asked us for our IDs. And it was like, Hey, I'm on a public street. I didn't do anything. Why do I need to show you my ID? I kept on walking. My friend actually stopped, showed him his ID, and told the police who I was. So they knew who I was, I hadn't done anything wrong. So it should have ended there. It didn't. They called out an APB for me - Providence police picked it up. And they beat me so badly that I ended up in the hospital before they took me to jail. And so I believe that the regulations that were implemented and rolled back would have prevented the police from even having that interaction. And so that is something that's near and dear to my heart. And one of the reasons why I say I think it does provide trust with the police to make sure that there are - when we are having interactions with them, that it is for a valid reason and it's not based on a hunch, it's not based on a best guess by a police officer. But that said, I also do realize that the legislation that we passed has unintended consequences. And so working with the police department to understand what those were - I am open to the option that I could have voted to roll them back, but without some very, very strong reasons to do so, I don't think I would have.
[00:19:54] Crystal Fincher: Okay. So looking at the issue of homelessness, which is related to housing affordability - but also because it has been so criminalized, also related to public safety. In your capacity as a legislator, what would you do to reduce the amount of people living without homes?
[00:20:15] Chipalo Street: This is one of those issues where understanding different populations of our unhoused people, and then making sure that we are targeting money at solutions that are needed by each of those populations is really important. Whereas just sometimes we throw money at issue and say, Hey, we upped homeless funding by 10%, but we didn't see a drop in 10% - what's happening? It's probably because we didn't really understand where that money was going or fund the right programs. And when we look at our different populations - the supports that someone needs who has addiction issues is different than the support that, say, a family who just got evicted needs, right? Cash assistance to the family will probably go a lot farther than cash assistance to someone who has an addiction issue. Or someone having mental health issues needs different support than say, an LGBTQ teen that got kicked out of the house, right? They all need different support. They all need shelter, but the shelters that they need are probably different - I don't think teens need the same shelter as someone going through mental health crises either. Or families shouldn't be staying with folks with addiction issues and may choose not to have shelter if they are all housed together. So really understanding the different populations of our homeless brothers and sisters, and then making sure that the money that we're providing actually is going towards services that address the root cause of their issues, I think, is important.
And then making sure that these are sort of buckets that pour into each other. If we start with a Housing First solution, then that can start to stabilize people. Once they either get clean or can address some of their mental health issues, then they can move into a different type of shelter with other folks. And making sure that we have a sort of pipeline that can bring them back into being productive members of our society, I think, is really important.
[00:22:07] Crystal Fincher: So as we look at that, there's obviously lots of different kinds of programs, as you just talked about, that could be helpful in stabilizing people and taking a Housing First model. Right now, there seems to be a lot of competition between money and resources being allocated towards criminalization that could be used, and would otherwise be used for things like providing housing first and allowing people to be stabilized. So in terms of where your votes would be to appropriate money, would you appropriate or vote for anything that advanced criminalization before providing housing?
[00:22:46] Chipalo Street: No, to your point - in some ways, we are going to provide housing in one way or the other. Either we provide it in a humane way, or we provide it through the criminal justice system, which doesn't address any of these issues and is super expensive. And so I think that making sure that - as we look at housing and criminal justice reform in a more comprehensive way - towards what are the things that get us the outcomes that we want. Even if they haven't been necessarily labeled as housing or criminal justice in the past, I think, would be really - Republicans do great jobs at labeling things, and I think Democrats do a horrible job at it. But there's so many ways that we could think of expanding criminal justice or "criminal justice" or "homeless housing" or funding for homeless and homelessness and housing that would get us to these better outcomes. And wouldn't then end up paying on the backside in the form of increasing people in jails - the number of people in jails - and the very, very large cost that goes along with that. So I think solving those root problems is the first thing that we should be doing, and then we'll see the savings in other systems. And just understanding how we're appropriating that money is really important.
[00:23:59] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so you would not vote for any appropriation of money that would go towards criminalization or penalization of homelessness.
[00:24:06] Chipalo Street: I don't think so - what are some examples of some of these? We can easily talk about bills, but no, that does not make sense. I would rather prevent that so that it's not even a question about - are these people criminals or just trying to live and get by?
[00:24:24] Crystal Fincher: So you also mentioned environmental justice. Obviously we are facing significant challenges in both the mitigation of climate change, the impacts that are disproportionately felt in the 37th Legislative District. As you evaluate the Climate Commitment Act, do you think it goes far enough? And if not, what additional steps or what other things should we be doing right now to meet our climate goals and mitigate the harm being committed right now?
[00:24:52] Chipalo Street: Climate, for me, is something like racial justice and economic justice. I think we should use a climate lens for all the bills that we pass because there is no one or two things that we can do to solve climate - that ship has sailed a long time ago and it's like a all-hands-on-deck mission. And it's critical that we understand how to get ourselves out of this. There are certain things I love to see - like in the HEAL Act, there is additional money for collecting data so that we understand what harm has been done so that we can target again the money in better ways to undo that harm and move towards a greener climate future. I was glad to see that we passed our carbon tax - making sure that gets implemented and stood up, I think, will be one step towards moving the business community towards a greener future. We need to invest in mass transit like we had mentioned before so that we have places where we can increase density and people can access that, but also because it's towards a greener climate future.
I personally am a proponent of trying to get out of cars as much as possible. I've tried to bike to work twice a week and that sort of exposed the patchwork of dangerous roads but really nice bike trails. And making sure that any transit network is well connected, I think, is really important. Even roads - people wouldn't use roads if we had dead-end roads to nowhere, so why are we surprised that people don't use bike trails or other types of mass transit when they don't connect? We have a monorail that goes from downtown to a stadium a few blocks away. What are we doing? Why are we surprised no one uses it? We have streetcars that finally are starting to connect to stuff but for quite some time the different lines didn't connect to anything else - so they were set up for failure in the first place. So making sure that all of our transit infrastructure is designed in a way that people will use it is really important.
And again that sort of overlays on the 37th again - when we're talking about getting people out of cars and increasing bike safety and pedestrian safety. We have two of the most dangerous roads in the city in MLK Way and Rainier Ave. And so making sure that those areas are safer is paramount. We have 10 or 11 schools around there so that's protecting our children. I think it's another place where we could gain common ground with business community because there's studies that show that businesses that are in walkable and bikeable areas get more foot traffic which leads to more sales. And especially for businesses that are small businesses - like restaurants and things like that that are especially common in immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC communities - creating a great business environment for folks to create these legacies is really, really important. And something that you see in the 37th and which is why people are moving here because we have great culture. We have a diversity of food, a diversity of people, a diversity of shops and small businesses. So I think that's another area where we can marry climate, business, safety for our kids - all in one go.
[00:28:06] Crystal Fincher: Well and this is another area where there are tensions in different areas of funding. Absolutely - I agree with the urgent need for more transit, better transit that better serves more people, that is more accessible for more people. But it is competing for funding currently with highway expansion. And obviously we need to maintain the roadways that we have, but there are still projects being planned and even - there was just coverage of one in South Park the other day that may jeopardize healing the division and the cleaving of that community basically with a highway. And so, highway expansion projects which lots of people talk about - well, we need to address traffic. Unfortunately, it has been shown that expanding highways does not reduce traffic. In fact, it does increase it. So would you vote for any package that does expand highways, I guess, first off?
[00:29:11] Chipalo Street: No, with the exception of instances where it helps freight mobility - we need - freight mobility helps union jobs, and so making sure that if there's something that helps the Port, I think that's really important. I think keeping our highways intact as people get displaced outside of the urban cores - that just adds to folks' commute, unkept highways adds to car maintenance and things like that. So no I don't believe in highway expansion. We should be funding transit and to your point, there's competing funds within transit like as we do light rail expansion. Again affects the 37th - we're talking about light rail expansion through the CID. How are we going to do that? Are we going to do a deep bore tunnel or are we going to do that at grade? Doing deep bore is, I think, 30% more expensive - however, it doesn't disrupt the CID, a community that has been disrupted multiple times with the streetcar going through it, with I-5 going through it - just continually disrupted. But it costs more and so the question always is - at what expense are we going to do this? And so something like that, I think we should go deep bore - we should make sure that this community that continually bears the brunt of expansion and transit-related issues can not be disrupted yet again even though it will cost a little bit more.
So that's one thing - I think another issue, or many issues, that vie for funding - that comes back down to our most regressive tax code in the country, despite how progressive and liberal Washington State, we claim we are - we have the most regressive tax code. We force our tax burden onto people through sales tax. We force our tax burden onto homeowners through property tax. We force our tax burden onto small businesses through the B&O tax and then let larger corporations get away with not paying much through tax loopholes. And so that's another area that I would love to improve is - closing our tax loopholes so that corporations pay their fair share, but also implementing - ideally an income tax - that is not either super popular or necessarily doable through constitutional issues, but I do think income tax is the best way to balance our tax code because a income tax is predictable, it can be withheld, it has been done before. But given all of the barriers to it, we'll probably have to try something like a billionaire tax so that every individual and business does pay their fair share to fund the services that are important for our state.
[00:31:52] Crystal Fincher: So now in terms of transit - just one more question there - Sound Transit and the plans that they have, plans around the state for increasing transit - a number of them are suffering from delays and setbacks which obviously is a challenge towards adoption. If people are not getting what they're paying for or already being taxed for, it creates more opposition to transit, frankly. Would you support making legislative investments to accelerate light rail transit implementation, bus rapid transit connectivity?
[00:32:29] Chipalo Street: Interesting - I assume you would do that as part of one of the big transportation packages? Yes, it seems reasonable. I am not 100% clear about how all these things are funded - that's one of the things I'm really interested, when I and if I get into the Legislature, of understanding where money is coming from and where it's going to. One of my lifelong models is follow the money and you'll get answers. And so really understanding all those funding mechanisms is important. It does seem like something that would be valuable. However, I could imagine the pushback that we may get outside of the Puget Sound region for folks wondering why their perceived taxes are going to light rail within the Puget Sound region, even though when you look on net, my impression is that tax dollars actually flow out of the Puget Sound region to the rest of the state than vice versa - but sometimes perception is reality and that may end up being a harder sell for a large number of legislators outside of Seattle, King County, Pierce County.
[00:33:35] Crystal Fincher: I guess that opens up a philosophical question in how you see your role and what your approach is. Do you generally see yourself as - Hey, you're operating based off of data, we know that these things would be helpful - you talked about more transit is beneficial, we need to invest more, we need to have more. And so if there's opposition elsewhere, do you view your role as compromising with what other people think, or maybe addressing - just anticipating - what their challenges may be and stripping down your proposal to something that may be palatable to your colleagues in other parts of the state? Or do you see your role as being more of a spearhead, I guess - would be there and saying, This is right, this is what we need to do. I need to figure out how to build the coalition, how to bring my colleagues along - and maybe not everybody is coming, but can I build a coalition to pass it? Are you starting from - we need transformative change and I need to push for that, or we need change and we need to get what we can given challenges that other colleagues may have from it? Lots of people see pros and cons with either approach - what is your approach?
[00:34:56] Chipalo Street: I don't know if this is a cop-out - hopefully it's like a And - quite frankly - I think there are certain issues where I could be that spearhead, where I hopefully can help influence and it may end up taking a longer time to get to where we want to go without compromise. Whereas there are other issues that I think are - I want to say better-suited for data - one of the things I do pride myself on is bringing a data-oriented solution to things. I think we need to elect more scientists because we are trained to use data in decisions. But there, I think, incremental compromise is a lot easier. And I'll give you examples - so we talked about the police reforms. There, I see myself on the tip of the spear there - I've gone through this, I know people who've gone through that, it affects my community specifically. I want - we need a productive relationship with the police force, but that doesn't mean that I can't push for exactly what we need to do - racial justice - we had parole rolled back in 1984. Why can't we bring back the option of parole? Why aren't we doing a better job of training people as they come out of the correctional system so that they have a chance to be members of our society - productive members of our society? Why are we discriminating against them and not allowing them to get housing easily? I think those are things that we can be the tip of the spear and push for and fight for hard, whereas other things we can do more incremental change and work based on data.
And I think if you have both of those - when we're compromising and working based on data, we are also building relationships with the folks that may completely disagree with us on the issues that we are tip of a spear. And that gives us a better opportunity - if we have a relationship with them - to start to change their hearts and minds on those issues. So I really think it's - it can - I hopefully think it can be a And - judiciously choosing what issues we fight for and want to get to what is just and right right now versus slow incremental change, I think, is important based on who's being impacted and what the harm is being done.
[00:37:16] Crystal Fincher: And I guess that leads into another question just based off of what you talked about earlier - as you were considering running - Hey, my ego may not be able to take it. This is hard and rough. And campaigns are rough and it's a very brave thing to stand up and run, but sometimes I think it's - you're so stuck in this that it's easy to miss that governing is tougher.
[00:37:45] Chipalo Street: For sure.
[00:37:46] Crystal Fincher: And the pressures get magnified and you talk about hits to the ego - you got special interest groups looking over your shoulder and are in your ear and saying good and bad things about you publicly. As you're going through legislation, you have pressure from within the caucus to vote the way that the caucus wants you to vote. You have pressure from the community, you have pressure from your donors and businesses. And so as you think about even the consideration of - I don't know if my ego could take losing - and you win, so you don't have to deal with that in the campaign - how do you deal with the pressures of governing? And how do you navigate the different pressures from people who were part of your winning coalition and the community and those in the Legislature versus what your community needs?
[00:38:46] Chipalo Street: Yeah, yeah - I think it's a good point where the ego consideration is a point in time of did you win the election. And then how you deal with the wear and tear on your heart is very different as you govern because there are so many things - the power to change our society lies in the Legislature and the policies that shape our state. And not getting to where we want to go in Day One and seeing the effect of that on people in the community, I think, is going to be very hard. And the folks in the community want change immediately - rightfully so - and talking about how we are getting there and maybe we won't get there immediately on every issue is going to be hard. And so I think for me, it's number one - understanding where I come from, understanding that I am part of these communities that I am trying to help serve. And then also understanding the wins that we get and seeing the progress that we make so that it is not just a futile effort of - hey, we are advocating for what's right, but not actually making any change - I think is really important and quite frankly one of the things that scares me is how much compromise is good? The legislative process is built around - to be slow - and you have to compromise, but at some point you can compromise out of any progress at all and you can start to compromise out of your morals and things like that. And so really understanding where you come from, what you're trying to change, what progress you have made - so that you understand that you are making progress towards your goal - and who's being impacted, I think, is what will get me through it because I - when I look at professional experiences - people in general tend to focus on the negative and what we can do better. But when you take a step back and say, Okay, let me look at everything that has gone right and has gone well - that adds wind to your sails - and so making sure that we have that comprehensive view of what has gone well, as well as where do we need to go - I think will make that journey give you stamina to continue that journey and continue fighting. And if you get to the point where you don't care anymore and it's just - okay, we have one more session, then I think that's the time when you need to get out - you need to have that fire and it should be wearing in some degree, because if it's not wearing then you probably don't care enough, quite frankly.
[00:41:25] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it makes sense. So now as you talk to voters and people are trying to make a decision between you and your opponent Emijah Smith, what do you tell them in terms of the advantage that you offer as a candidate, what sets you apart, and how their life will be different if you are elected to be their State Representative?
[00:41:46] Chipalo Street: Yeah, the thing I say is - we are lucky, we're in the 37th, we're a very Democratic district so we're only going to elect a Democrat. So I just start with being thankful for that baseline because it's more than can be said in many districts. However, once you get to that point then it really becomes who's going to be the most effective legislator and I think there's some specific examples - I have experience that the other candidate doesn't with tech - and we talked about earlier how it wasn't quite clear how - it was clear that technology was impacting us, but it wasn't really clear exactly how it impacted our daily lives. With Roe, I think it's really important that we have people in the Legislature making sure that folks who are either providing or accessing abortion care are not persecuted because of that, or prosecuted because of that. I am the only candidate who's been a member of a union - I stood with that union during a work stoppage, so that provides evidence that I will strongly support all of our other working brothers and sisters as they're trying to improve compensation, benefits, working conditions. I have lived experience with our criminal justice system unfortunately, and so that really - it is near and dear to my heart - Emijah is a Black woman - she has sons, so she also understands it as well. That is no takeaway from her lived experience as well, but that is something that is core to how I've come up in my worldview. And then I say these next things in half-jest, but part of the job of a legislator is establishing trusted relationships with your other legislators so you can move them towards your point of view. And that's especially important in the Democratic caucus as our majority is likely going to be narrowed - everyone in the Democratic caucus doesn't vote the way we want them to and so our ability to move their points of view really impacts how what type of legislation we can move through Olympia. And that's exactly what my job at Microsoft is - I advise our executives on emerging technology. I don't control their headcount - I don't control how many people they have to work on stuff - and I can't tell them where to put their people, so the only way I can get them to try and do the things that I would like them to do is by establishing trusting relationships with them and then moving them towards my point of view. That's exactly what you have to do in Olympia and it - that's also what I did as a professional soccer referee in some ways - there's one thing that 22 players on that field can agree on is - is that you suck and so my effectivity as a referee increases drastically if I can quickly establish relationships with these 22 sometimes prima donnas at the pro level and get them to understand that - hey, I am trying to ref this game fairly and objectively and that is what you want. So we are in this together and being able to admit my own mistakes helps build those relationships with them because if I can't be objective about my own performance, how am I going to be objective about their performance? But my relationship with those 22 players on the field really does have an impact as to how I can officiate that game and get it to - get them to play in a manner where it is safe, where it is enjoyable for the crowd, and really just and also abides by the laws of the game. So these - this relationship building is something that I do daily and I think will be very important in Olympia as well.
[00:45:21] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much for joining us today, Chipalo - much appreciated.
[00:45:24] Chipalo Street: Thank you for having me.
[00:45:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler, our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng, and our Post-Production Assistant is Bryce Cannatelli. You can find Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks and you can follow me @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered right to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
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