Jul 29, 2022
On this bonus episode, we present our Hacks & Wonks Candidate Forum with Andrew Ashiofu, Nimco Bulale, Emijah Smith, and Chipalo Street - all running for State Representative Position 2 in Seattle’s 37th Legislative District, which includes Beacon Hill, the Central District, Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Rainier Beach, and Skyway. This was originally live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter on July 11th, 2022. You can view the video and access the full text transcript of this forum on the 2022 Elections page at officialhacksandwonks.com. We hope you enjoy this forum, and please make sure to vote by Tuesday, August 2nd!
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Find the host, Crystal, on Twitter at @finchfrii.
Register to Vote, Update Your Registration, See What’s on Your Ballot: MyVote.wa.gov
37th LD Primary Candidate Forum Video and Transcript: https://www.officialhacksandwonks.com/37th-ld-candidate-forum-2022
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Hello everyone, this is Crystal Fincher, host of Hacks & Wonks. This is a bonus podcast release of our Hacks & Wonks Candidate Forum with candidates for State Representative Position 2 in Seattle’s 37th Legislative district, which includes Beacon Hill, the Central District, Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Rainier Beach, and Skyway. This was originally live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter on July 11th, 2022. You can view the video and access the full text transcript of the forum on the 2022 Elections page at officialhacksandwonks.com. We hope you enjoy this forum, and please make sure to vote by Tuesday, August 2nd!
All right. Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the Hacks & Wonks 2022 Primary Candidate Forum for Legislative District 37, for State Representative Position 2.
We're excited to be able to live stream this series on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we're recording this program, this forum, for rebroadcast and later viewing.
We invite our audience to ask questions of our candidates. If you're watching a livestream online, then you can ask questions by commenting on the livestream. You can also text your questions to 206-395-6248. That's 206-395-6248, and that number will intermittently scroll at the bottom of the screen.
All of the candidates running for 37th Legislative District State Representative Position 2 are with us tonight. In alphabetical order, we have Andrew Ashiofu, Nimco Bulale, Emijah Smith, and Chipalo Street.
A few reminders before we jump into the forum: I want to remind you to vote. Ballots will be mailed to your mailbox starting on July 13th - that's this week, you will be receiving your ballots on Thursday or Friday of this week. You can register to vote, update your registration, and see what will be on your ballot at MyVote.Wa.gov.
I want to mention that tonight's answers will be timed. Each candidate will have one minute to introduce themselves initially and 90 seconds to answer each subsequent question. Candidates may be engaged with rebuttal or follow up questions and will have 30 seconds to respond - I will indicate if that's so. Time will be indicated by the colored dot labeled "timer" on the screen. The dot will initially appear green, and then when there are 30 seconds left it will turn yellow, when time is up it'll turn red.
I want to mention that I'm on the board for the Institute for a Democratic Future. Andrew and Chipalo are both IDF alums and Chipalo is also on the board. We've not discussed any of the details of this campaign or this forum and are expecting a lively discussion from everyone tonight.
In addition to tonight's forum, Hacks & Wonks is also hosting a 36th Legislative District State Representative Position 1 candidate forum this Wednesday, July 13th at the same time - 6:30-8PM.
Now we'll turn to the candidates who will each have one minute to introduce themselves, starting with Nimco, then Chipalo, next to Emijah, finally Andrew. Nimco.
[00:03:19] Nimco Bulale: Hi, thank you. Good evening and thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to you all. My name is Nimco Bulale and I'm running for the open seat in the 37th Legislative District. I immigrated to Seattle from Somalia at the age of eight, a child of a single mother of nine. I know the importance of education, opportunity, and being supported by a strong, safe and nurturing community. I'm a lifelong community organizer, small business owner, university educator, and education policy expert working every day to help marginalized people in communities. As a woman of color, I'm acutely aware of the issues facing Black immigrant people of color communities and I'm excited to bring a systematically underrepresented perspective. I've spent my career working with marginalized communities and focused on creating a more inclusive, multicultural education system. I've largely worked in education policy, so this is where most of my experience on the issue lies. However, as a legislator, I will have the unique opportunity to look at this issue through a much broader lens. I am the co-founder and CEO of South Sound Strategies, a consulting firm focused on -
[00:04:26] Crystal Fincher: That was time. Next we are headed to the next candidate - go ahead.
[00:04:41] Chipalo Street: And I'm running here because I want the 37th to have the most effective representation possible. I've seen what education has done for my life and I want every kid to have the same opportunities my education has provided me. Police accountability is near and dear to my heart - during college, I was beaten by the police and so I want to make sure we have an accountable police force, while still working with them to make sure that we increase public safety. I've been a union member, so I would stand with our unions as they fight to make sure that working people can increase their compensation and benefits. In my professional life, I work for Microsoft for the Chief Technology Officer, where I advise our executive leadership on emerging technology. I think it's important we have legislators who understand technology, especially so given Roe, so that we can make sure that data isn't used unintended for people who are trying to get abortions. Serving in the legislature would allow me to magnify my efforts to improve our community. As a former union member, I understand the value of empowering the labor movement. As a BIPOC community member, I have experience with the important issues of our times like education, housing, technology, and interactions with the police.
[00:05:50] Crystal Fincher: That is our time - next Emijah.
Oh, you need to unmute, Emijah.
[00:06:01] Emijah Smith: I was told that your staff would be muting us and unmuting us. So thank you. So my time starts now, or am I using my time?
[00:06:12] Crystal Fincher: We'll start now and a reminder to everyone that if you mute yourself, we can't unmute you. If we do the unmuting, then we can unmute you.
[00:06:20] Emijah Smith: Thank you. My name is Emijah Smith. I am a lifelong resident of the 37th Legislative District. I have the historical and current perspective of the 37th. I am a mother and I am a grandmother. I am focusing here on - ooh, this is good - I am focused on education policy ever since I was a senior in high school, surviving the War on Drugs - growing up in the Central District in South Seattle, I made a commitment to make sure that we get resources to our community to heal the harms. So I've been doing that - I'm the Mercer PTSA president, I'm the chief of staff of King County Equity Now, and I sit on the board of Tubman Health. So I've been doing the work currently in the Legislature for many years - going to Olympia with families, utilizing the power of our voice to bring meaningful change into our community. I walk with integrity - the integrity I walk in the community doing this work as a community leader - I will take that to Olympia. I have championed and been alongside the families that got us some current wins that is community reinvestment dollars for marijuana. Thank you.
[00:07:28] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - and Andrew.
[00:07:31] Andrew Ashiofu: Hi, my name is Andrew Ashiofu. I'm coming to you from a lived experience. I'm from - I was born in Houston, Texas and my family's Nigerian. When I came out, I lost my comfort zone. I got kicked out, lost my house due to depression, I couldn't keep up at work, and I was diagnosed with AIDS. And that was a - it was a tough process because I had to navigate ideologies and policies not created for people like me. I always say it was a good Samaritan that gave me accommodation. I have lived the experience currently in Seattle - I'm a coach of the Seattle LGBTQ commission. Here in the 37th district, I sit on the Harborview Medical Community Advisory Board, I am on the Seattle-King County HIV Planning Council. I have done immigration, LGBTQ rights advocacy on a local and global level with the Department of Homeland Security. For me, it's - we talk about healthcare, it's very important. I'm a renter also, so housing is important. But I have lived the experience, I have advocated in that experience and I'm here to serve you. Thank you.
[00:08:37] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much. And with those introductions, we will get to the questions. We're gonna start by talking about housing. Housing affordability is not very affordable these days. We are at a crisis level. Lots of people are losing their housing, people are facing this all over the place. So beyond extending - beyond ending exclusionary zoning and making further investments in the Housing Trust Fund, what else do we need to do to address housing affordability and to prevent displacement? And as a reminder, everyone has a response time of 90 seconds. And we will start with Chipalo.
[00:09:19] Chipalo Street: So a bunch of things we can do - in the short term, we can add housing vouchers so that working people can live in existing market rate housing without spending their full paycheck on their shelter. We should have short-term rental assistance so that a temporary hardship doesn't end up in a situation that snowballs - like once you lose your house, it's harder to go to work, it's harder for your kids to go to school - that just gets worse. In addition to those, we need more renter protections. And so some tenant protections that I support are preventing landlords from using past criminal history to discriminate against prospective tenants, limiting the types of fees that can be charged by landlords. And David Hackney has a great bill that would provide recourse for tenants against a landlord who's looking to take some kind of action against them - you can already do that, but it takes a long time and so what's the point of taking action against the landlord if they've evicted you already. The harm has been done, we need to make sure that tenants can make sure that landlords are treating them well. Looks like I have more time, so those would be the main things. What would be some other things that we could do - I think you mentioned the exclusionary zoning - lifting the ban on rent control statewide would also be another option that would allow different municipalities and give them another tool in their tool belt for fighting housing costs.
[00:10:44] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. And next we're gonna head to Nimco.
[00:10:47] Nimco Bulale: Thank you for that question. I believe housing is a human right. As somebody that had to - when we moved to the United States to Seattle specifically, that was pushed out of the 37th and more specifically the Seattle Central District - I'm keenly aware of the precarious of housing affordability, similar to many folks. The cost of housing is a major crisis facing working families in Washington State. Affordability is an issue, not only for persons facing or at risk for homelessness, but working families also struggle to ensure that they have secure housing as costs increase, especially around job centers. There are many actions that the state can take to address this. We've already mentioned the Housing Trust Fund, we've talked about land use regulations, encouraging low income and working workforce housing, as well as protections for tenants. But I also want to say that it's necessary to update, as mentioned, our land use laws to move past zoning that privileges single-family homes. Additionally, I think that we need wraparound services such as behavioral health, substance abuse services, as well as providing resources to local jurisdictions to bring their services to scale. I read recently that Black renters can't afford 93% of the zip codes in the top US cities and I think that that's a travesty. I think that those are just some of the ways that we can think about it. And also knowing that 16% of zip codes in the list, on the list had rents that were unaffordable to Latinx households - again, that is unacceptable. And when I do get to the Legislature, I believe that there's things that the state can do.
[00:12:31] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much - next we're headed to Andrew.
[00:12:35] Andrew Ashiofu: This is very personal to me. That's why my campaign - we signed on to the Initiative 135 - social housing is a key. One thing I've been privileged is to see social housing work in Europe and in Amsterdam, they have the 40-40-20, where 40% of the building is social housing, and another 40% is affordable mid-level housing, and 20% is commercial or community space. I'm big on community space because I play dodgeball every Tuesday in the community space. But it's also very important that we protect - in the 37th district - we protect our housing through preventing gentrification. Property tax for the elderly and people living with disabilities should be eliminated - that's where I'm coming from. But also we have a lot of land in Washington state in cities where the downtown is empty, with population of less than a hundred - we should, we can utilize that to create social wraparound services for teenagers and youth at-risk, for domestic violence victims, for people going through mental and drug addiction. We need to invest in those kind of services as well. Thank you.
[00:13:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much - and Emijah.
[00:13:52] Emijah Smith: Thank you. As we've heard that housing, healthcare, food are human basic rights. And so the way I would look at how we have to address housing, which is a very complicated issue, but when I think about being a survivor of the War on Drugs, the gentrification displacement that happened in the Central District and has been happening throughout the 37th currently, we have to look at the policies. The home I grew up in was taken from my grandfather due to some bad crime bill policies, but also we want to look at the Housing Finance Commission, most definitely, to make sure there is enough money in there that can come back into the community for housing development. And not just affordable housing, but stable, affordable housing. We have Africatown Plaza, Ethiopian Village, as well as Elizabeth Thomas Holmes - that came from community voice that I was part of to make sure that that money was sent down to the community. It wasn't gonna come to the community a couple years back without the power of our voice. In addition to that, we need to look at the barriers that are in the Department of Commerce, in terms of the application process, to even provide housing developments that could be stable for our community. There's so many loopholes that oftentimes it's the BIPOC and marginalized communities that don't get access to those resources. And although shelters and emergency housing is important to get someone off the streets immediately, it is important that we can provide some stable housing - if it's gonna be temporary, it needs to be temporary for at least a year. As a payee for my uncle who was dealing with addiction, it was because I was able to provide him stable housing for that year that helped him get stable. Thank you.
[00:15:28] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Just a reminder to everyone that you do have 90 seconds to respond. It's up to you whether you choose to use that entire 90 seconds or not. If you want your answer to be shorter, feel free. We welcome that. The next question is we've seen - excuse me - significant increased investment in programs meant to reduce homelessness, but a lot of people are saying that they're not seeing the problem get any better despite the increase in funds. A lot of people attribute that to the continuing affordability crisis. Do you agree that this crisis is not improving? And if so, what needs to happen to get results? And we are starting with Emijah.
[00:16:11] Emijah Smith: Thank you for that question. I think that's an ongoing issue and I think it's an ongoing issue that has to do with our regressive tax system, our property taxes - people who are being pushed out are low-income working class families that cannot afford the rent, right? So it's a cycle of an issue that is occurring. When that cycle occurs, it's like - the burden of property taxes going up fall onto the renter who is then also gonna continue to be pushed out. So how are we solving the problem if we're not addressing some of the root causes of the issues. The root causes of the issue is also about having fair wages and wages that - where people can actually live in the 37th and pay the mortgages, buy the homes. So also these temporary three-day opportunities just - they're not long enough. And we're pushing people more into being renters who are carrying the burden of even homeowners who want to rent rather than providing stable housing, like I said, for at least a year in some place - so that people can build themselves up, not just go for three three days and then you have to transfer and go to another place, and eventually you're gonna get pushed out of the 37th going south, which is actually having its issues as well as our homeless population. We have the resources, we have the money, the 37th and Washington State can correct this issue. We need to correct the issue and we need to address the root causes of homelessness, not just providing people a three-day motel stay here or there or putting people in tiny home villages. Thank you.
[00:17:44] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[00:17:47] Chipalo Street: Yeah, I also agree that it's an issue. And it's great that we're increasing funding for it, but I don't think the funding is keeping up with the magnitude of the issue. There's many things that are contributing to this - like Emijah mentioned, home costs for someone who's trying to buy a house are skyrocketing. That's pushing up property values, which then increases someone's tax burden. So if you're a low-income person and your property taxes rise, you have less spending power. If you're a senior on a fixed income, you have less spending power and sometimes get forced into selling. We also have insufficient tenant protections. And so if you lose - if you're a renter and you lose your housing, then you end up on the street and that snowballs. You can't go to work, your kids can't go to school, and the issue gets worse. So not only do I support all of those, or means to fix all of those, I also would like to see better paying jobs. So for example, I think it's crazy that after K-12 school, we don't elevate the trades. The trades provide a great means of well-paying stable jobs for everyone. And traditionally we have denigrated the trades like - oh, you went to the trades 'cause you can't hack it. No, these are great jobs that people enjoy. Two of my best friends from junior high school went through four-year college, hated the jobs they got, came back, became electricians, and now love those jobs and get paid more than they did before. So I think this - we need to think of this comprehensively, not only in how do we fix the housing market, but how do we increase job stability and the paying of jobs?
[00:19:16] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[00:19:19] Nimco Bulale: Thank you for that question. Homelessness affects all of our communities in Seattle and King County and as mentioned before, it is a very complicated issue, but I think that we all have a role to play. Homelessness represents a multisector, multi-system failures and requires a whole of community solutions. Many of the strategies, connections, and services needed to support individuals experiencing homelessness are managed outside of the homeless service system or in geographically separated systems. So I think as a solution, we need to think about creating long-term institutional alignment across systems serving people experiencing homelessness. We must also ensure that community leaders in business, philanthropy, and those who have lived experience with homelessness and advocates can coordinate and align with regional and state level homelessness initiatives to cultivate share and promote solutions to homelessness. I think, while at times, efforts to support the unhoused in Seattle can appear scattered and disorganized - oftentimes initiatives and task force are renamed, replaced, discontinued. I think that every day we encounter people who are living on the street, often without a reliable place to store possessions, clean clothes, take a shower, and get a solid night of rest. Moving forward, I think that we must continue to invest in housing, supportive housing for people with serious mental illness, emergency housing, and affordable housing. The solution to ending homelessness is to provide more options for housing and that Seattle and King County will need private business to take an active role in housing the unhoused if efforts to end homelessness must be -
[00:21:01] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - and next Andrew.
[00:21:07] Andrew Ashiofu: Thank you for this question. As I said earlier in my introduction, I was able to come out of being homeless by someone giving me somewhere to stay. We've been approaching homelessness in - we'd say one-size-fits-all solution and that's wrong. Homeless has various degrees - from mental health to drugs, to PTSD with the vets, to domestic violence, to people like me that lost their jobs, to youths that are kicked out for coming out. We have a huge problem in the LGBTQ community. The first thing I think we should do is - I'm not a fan of shelters because it's just for overnight. Again, we need more. So we need things like investing in transition housing. We just had one open up right here on 12th. We need to, again, back to wraparound services, housing. We have the space, but we also - people talk about density. We have a lot of high-rises apartments coming. The problem why it's not affordable is one, it's not affordable. Also, it doesn't - it's all one bedroom studios and two bedroom. What about families? What about town homes? We don't have that kind of investment. So we need to create legislation that brings about things like right to return, but also invest in multi-family units, not just one bedroom or studios. We need more, more, more. Thank you.
[00:22:37] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. So families have been facing increased financial pressure. The cost of necessities like rent and childcare has been skyrocketing for years. More recently, gas, food and other prices have noticeably increased and people are having to make financial sacrifices. What can you do in your capacity as a state legislator to provide tangible relief to people who are struggling with bills? And we are starting with Andrew.
[00:23:05] Andrew Ashiofu: The first thing is we need a tax relief for low-income families, working class families. Two, I think we need a gas tax break - for now - because of the high prices of gas. When it comes to childcare, we - I always say we need childcare vouchers, but also making it applicable whereby people can give what I call family, friends and neighbor - a part of childcare, but it's highly overlooked. So we need to create those vouchers as - oh, I can pay my family, I can pay a friend, I can pay a neighbor to help me take care of these kids. In campaigning, we see childcare as a huge need for people campaigning with children. We have that law that they cannot even use campaign phones for childcare. And a lot of people, especially women, have to drop out for running for office because of things like childcare. So we need that. And for - I think we need transportation, free public transit. I'm a transit - I use the transits occasionally. I've been endorsed by the Transit Riders Union, but we also need to invest in accessible transit and make it free for people to move around and reduce dependency on gas. Thank you so much.
[00:24:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[00:24:29] Emijah Smith: Thank you. I think on a state level, the state can provide some relief. They can give credits of some tax credit - we need to address our regressive tax code, period. That will give a lot of relief. Our state is receiving revenue of our marijuana tax dollars. We have the money to make some different choices and we really need to release the burden off of our low-income and working class families. So I definitely just think that there should be some type of package that is offered. But I do agree that I think that things are starting to be cut back because of COVID, coming out of COVID. So we should still be making sure that our students are receiving free breakfast, free lunch - that should not be something that's gonna be cut - the feds are cutting it, the state needs to pick up on that. The state is doing a great job by supporting covering some of the healthcare costs and help for the insurance, but that needs to be extended. It needs to be covered because just to try to buy some food, to go in there and just try to buy fruit and be healthy - the 37th has a lot of food deserts. It costs a lot of money to be healthy and to thrive in this community. So our basic necessities, I think that the state should utilize some of that revenue and give us all some level of a break based on our income. I am a single parent, I have raised my kids, I have found innovative ways to survive and get through that paying through childcare. Definitely advocating for childcare, increasing the income levels for families to be able to access that - this screen is killing me, but - the state can do it. We have the money, we need to take care of our basic needs we need to give food vouchers to our community members. Thank you.
[00:26:13] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[00:26:15] Chipalo Street: Sure. So one of the places that childcare is provided is in the schools. We have a program for early childhood learning. I think it would be great to expand that, not only because that would provide some relief for childcare, but also the earlier we get a kid into education, the better the outcomes. I think there are some other good ideas thrown out there around like a gas tax holiday, but a gas tax holiday is really a short-term band-aid on the solution where we really need progressive tax reform. Washington State has the most regressive tax code in the country, which is crazy given how fortunate we are in this state to have very good-paying jobs and we need to make sure that everyone pays their fair share. So I would love to see income tax implemented. Unfortunately it seems like there's some issues with that in the constitution, so we need to fight to keep our capital gains tax. There's some corporate tax loopholes that we could close and in doing so, we could then reduce some of the sales tax, which contributes to our regressive tax code. So I think we should look at this a little more holistically in terms of progressive tax reform, because so much of it comes down to where we fund different programs in our state.
[00:27:23] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[00:27:26] Nimco Bulale: Thank you for that question. I believe that Washington's economic climate is one of the best in the nation. And this is because unlike other states, our minimum wage is more reflective of the current economy and workers are offered generous employment benefits. However, this is often negated by the fact that we do have the most regressive tax code in our country. Our economy only works for the top, our economy works the best for the top 1%. I believe that workers and small businesses are fundamental to the health of our economy. I think that as a small business owner, we need to create an economy that fosters the growth of these businesses. And we need to invest in apprenticeship programs and strong unions to grow our economy and safe, living-wage jobs. At the same time, we desperately need to reconsider, like I said, our regressive tax code, which exploits working people by lowering taxes on low-income earners. And by requiring the wealthiest in our state to pay their fair share, we can spur economic growth and relieve this population of its economic burden. As a woman of color, centering the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color is of the utmost importance to me. I'm committed to explicitly centering the perspective and the needs of marginalized groups who are so often underserved by being left out in the policy I work to craft. In addition to this, I support policies that specifically or functionally address the racial wealth gap, including affordable housing that helps people of color generate generational wealth, as well as the universal basic income, which has been shown to reduce the racial wealth gap. I think in addition to cutting taxes, we also - in addition to creating more taxes, we need to also cut taxes for low-income workers.
[00:29:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. We are sitting here after the Dobbs decision that struck down reproductive rights protections and the right to an abortion for women. According to Axios, 41% of hospital beds in Washington are located in religious hospitals. So although we are not one of the states that has an abortion ban immediately occurring because of the decision, we do have some issues with access. Would you vote to make the continuation of abortion services a requirement of mergers involving religious hospital networks? And we are starting with Nimco.
[00:29:49] Nimco Bulale: Can you repeat the last part of the question?
[00:29:52] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to make the continuation of abortion services a requirement of hospital mergers, which we're having a lot of - involving secular or religious hospital networks. And what more can we do to protect abortion access?
[00:30:08] Nimco Bulale: So I don't have a paddle, but I will say absolutely Yes, I would support that. I'm pissed - I think access to healthcare, reproductive, and gender-affirming care are at the forefront of my campaign as our nation continues to face an onslaught of threats to the rights of people of marginalized genders. And this is not okay. I think that we need to work harder to make this part of our constitution - the right to bodily autonomy is fundamental and I will always fight to protect these rights, especially in a state like Washington, which is soon to become a safe haven for birthing people in states looking to outlaw abortion entirely. As a longtime education policy activist, I understand the need for comprehensive sex education and I will continue to fight for that when I'm elected in office. I'm firmly committed to creating a world in which all people can decide when, if, and in what manner they decide to have children. Reproductive justice means we must also work to create a world in which those children are born into communities that are safe, healthy, and just.
[00:31:09] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - and next we're going to Andrew.
[00:31:15] Andrew Ashiofu: It's a Yes for me - we need to protect the right to choose. And we also need to call a special session to codify this in our constitution and create bills that would protect anyone that comes into our state to seek an abortion - currently there's been an increase. Now, when it comes to hospitals' merger, we need to protect the right to choose as part of this merger. And this is not just - this covers - because some of these hospitals also could choose not to treat me as a gay person because they believe - they might say - because of anti-LGBTQ rhetorics in some of these places. We need - healthcare is very important for everyone. We all deserve healthcare and there should be no barrier against healthcare. I have done a lot of advocacy, I have fought for my right to survive, and I know the red tape and the obstacles. We don't need that now. We need to create access. As a state, we need to call - I call on Governor Inslee to call a special session to codify abortion into our constitution here in Washington State. Thank you.
[00:32:30] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[00:32:33] Emijah Smith: Thank you for the question. And just going directly to it - healthcare is a right and I believe having access to abortion is part of our basic healthcare. And so I definitely believe that we would have to interrogate, and I think that with this merger, those type of access - abortion access - should be available to all - to birthing parents and birthing people who need that. I also am in agreement with our Washington State really looking at our constitution and making sure that if we say we're gonna support and having access to abortion and it is a right for people for that choice, then we need to lock that in now and not be worried about a session or two here and somebody trying to undo that. That's the world that I grew up in and I totally support that no matter what I would choose in terms of if I want to have a child or not. I also want to just say healthcare equities are real. And particularly for Black women, we have the highest risk of death at birth. So this is a real issue for us around trying to have choice and just getting care in general. COVID just lifted up the top of how these he health equities are a real problem in our healthcare system. And too often, some of our healthcare systems are just moving for profit. We need to be moving for health. It is a basic right for our community. Thank you.
[00:34:00] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[00:34:03] Chipalo Street: Yes, I'm a hundred percent supportive of this. If we didn't have enough issues at the state level to deal with before, the Supreme Court has given us a whole host of new issues to deal with, abortion access being one of them. I would love for my first bill to be a bill to enshrine protections for the right to choose into our constitution. Above and beyond that, I think we also need people who understand technology in the Legislature. So I work for the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft and I think having folks who understand technology is incredibly important, especially for things like Roe, where we don't - where we want to make sure that companies' data can't be inadvertently, or even maybe specifically, used to target people seeking abortions. And then I also agree with Nimco that we need to increase funding for our abortion centers, because we will have an influx of folks coming from our surrounding states where they do not have access to it anymore. So we have to make sure that our folks have it, we have to make sure that we are a beacon of light for other surrounding states so that we can make abortion a option that people have when they consider their overall healthcare.
[00:35:09] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. So this next question is a little bit of a question. So crime has been increasing across the state. People are concerned about their safety and whether we're doing the right things to address the current levels of property and violent crime. According to a recent Crosscut/Elway poll, Seattle voters were asked what they think are major factors in the crime rate. The top three answers were lack of mental health and addiction services - that was 85% of Seattle residents gave that answer. Second answer was homelessness at 67%. And the third answer was economic conditions at 63%. When asked specifically if they could direct where their tax dollars were spent, the top three responses were at 92% addiction and mental health services, at 81% training police officers to deescalate situations, and at 80% programs to address the root causes of crime. Those were Seattle residents' top answers. Given that the Legislature has already voted to increase public safety funding, largely devoted to policing and prisons, do you feel that we should increase funding for these things that Seattle voters have requested like behavioral health resources, non-police intervention services, and rehabilitation services before passing further increases for police spending? And we will start with Chipalo.
[00:36:34] Chipalo Street: Yeah, public safety and police accountability is a issue that is near and dear to my heart. In college, I was beaten by the police for not showing my ID so bad that I had to be taken to the hospital before they took me to jail. It was so bad that a student who was watching it said that she was traumatized. And so I, 100%, believe that we need an accountable police force. That said, I think police are part of public safety. They should be partners that we can work with and should not be afraid to call to come to violent crimes, to solve robberies. They are part of public safety and I want to work with them to make sure that we have a - we have more public safety. I also encourage our society to think more holistically about public safety - we ask police to do too much and things they're not trained for. So we should have counselors in schools, not cops. We shouldn't be sending police to respond to nonviolent mental health crisis, we should be sending professionals who are trained to do that. And so I think that reflects a lot of what you're seeing Seattle voters say is - yes, we need more addiction counseling, we need more mental health funding - so that we first prevent these issues from starting. And then if they do happen, we want a person who is trained to deal with that issue responding to it. So I would 100% support more of these services to get at the root causes of some of these issues while making our police accountable, just like any other professional accountability. We have professional accountability for lawyers and doctors. We should have the same thing for police.
[00:38:07] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[00:38:10] Nimco Bulale: Thank you for that question. Regarding public safety and police, I absolutely believe that we need more law enforcement jobs that need to be reassigned to social workers and other service providers. I believe that the police are equipped with limited and largely punitive tools to handle many of the crises they're called to address. I support protecting our public safety by investing in broader emergency response teams trained to handle mental health, interpersonal, and addiction crises. Additionally, the police have jeopardized the public safety by systematically inflicting violence, surveillance, and fear on communities of color. I support deescalation, crisis intervention, and accountability in service of protecting public safety. I believe we need a justice system that makes our community safer and healthier. We need proactive policies that emphasize crime prevention and support for vulnerable communities instead of reactive policies that emphasize punishment. I also support setting up effective systems for crime prevention, including mental health and addiction resources, policies that tackle scarcity, and social work. Effective public safety comes from community and requires community healing when harm is done.
[00:39:27] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[00:39:30] Andrew Ashiofu: Thanks. I'm gonna talk from the other side - from someone that has walked through the shoes of the other side, where people think otherwise about you. I tell people I had a mental crisis in 2020, and 'til now I'm still on a wait list to talk to a mental specialist. And what does that tell me is - we don't have enough trained, diverse mental health specialists even in our clinics that are affordable and accessible to many people that really need them. Most of them work for very expensive hospitals or clinics or practices. We, as a state, we need to invest in that form of education. And also when it comes to drug addiction, I tell people I am for safe injection or safe sites. And people say why? I said, because one, it brings these people to a place where you could personally reach out to them. And it also reduces diseases and spread of blood-borne diseases. And our police force - I think we've invested enough. We need more civilian engagement, more social workers, more people that are not violent. We need the police to go back and address sexual assault victims. We need more civil engagement. That's what I think we need in Washington State. Thank you.
[00:41:04] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[00:41:07] Emijah Smith: Yes, thank you for the question. We definitely need - our state needs to invest, provide mental health investments. As a PTSA president at my son's middle school, every year we check in with the families and ask them - what type of resources, what do you need? And for the past few years, especially with COVID, everyone a hundred percent has prioritized social, emotional health and wanting some mental health support for our youth. So mental health supports go across the gamut - I know you were speaking to public safety, crime, and what the poll had indicated, but I want to say it's across the board. Recently had spoke with the leader of the If Project - a police officer who was also sharing - in the past that our police officers weren't even getting properly mental health care. And so how we're trying to look into how they are trying to look and making sure that police officers are getting behavioral health. So the behavioral health is across the board. We, as families have been impacted. And so our state should invest regardless - whether it's those who are having addiction issues, who are untreated or others. And if our youth are not being serviced well, then people are gonna go try to self-medicate and it's going to create a cycle. And we wanna interrupt that cycle of harm. We wanna interrupt that cycle of being untreated. I definitely believe that we need to make sure our resources are equitable, right? So the police force budget is way much larger than our education budget. And so we need to take a look at that. So I definitely believe in police accountability - all the things - deescalation, all the things, the training that's needed.
[00:42:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Next, we're going to go with a question from a viewer. I'll read it verbatim. We've just found out that Starbucks is closing our CD neighborhood location on 23rd and Jackson due to crime concerns. That's a quote from them. I would be interested to hear candidate thoughts on this decision and how this loss affects a community gathering space. And we will start with Emijah.
[00:43:19] Emijah Smith: I appreciate that question - you probably see my eyes. I'll honestly say I'm a little bit heartbroken about what's happening in the Central District. I was just talking with the new development complex about looking at that parking lot just this morning, saying the result of the people who are in that parking lot is a result of the poor policies that have come when you displace and gentrified a whole community. This is a place where people find to be their community. This is sometimes a place where people who are unhoused feel most safe - in that space - because someone will come and smile at them. So crime and different things are happening across not only our City, across the 37th, but across our nation. So to remove something as a community space that we need - so people can come together, come problem solve, come be a support in some way or another - I think that that is not the best move. I think it's like you came and you put your footsteps there, but then you're gonna step away and leave the problem. You need to resource the issue, bring in investments. I would rather Starbucks do that, especially when you look at the racial justice context and how they maybe even came into the community. So I'm disheartened about it, but at the same time, we as community and advocates work in solidarity - are working to address that issue. But I will say I've talked to those people in that parking lot, I've seen people I've grew up with in that community, and I know even a unhoused, homeless woman sleeping in the bench there said that was the safest place for them because they're amongst at least their own community. Thank you.
[00:44:53] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[00:44:55] Chipalo Street: Yeah - if they wanna leave, they can leave - and I don't understand why they would leave for safety concerns. What I hope is that we can have another community business come in and take that spot - let's have Boon Boona Coffee, who has a place down in Renton and a place down on 12th Ave, come in and take that shop because I believe you can do good business in that location without vilifying the people who are in the parking lot. There are definitely issues with unhoused populations choking out businesses. You can see that down on 12th and Jackson where they've moved in front of Lam's Seafood and there's EBT fraud going on there. I would not put 23rd and Jackson in that same bucket. I quite frankly, wouldn't be surprised if there's a little bit of bias or racism going on in that decision to shut down. And Starbucks has shown that they want to do some union busting in other places, so losing Starbucks - to me - isn't the end of the world. I'll bet you that a better business will come in and replace it really soon because that's a booming area - they just opened up a bunch of housing around there. Yeah, that's their decision, that's fine. We'll get a better business in there.
[00:46:01] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[00:46:04] Nimco Bulale: I'm disheartened by the closing, to be very honest - I remember as a young child growing up and meeting my grandfather at that Starbucks because he lived right at a senior center close by. And so I'm gutted to hear that that's happening. And it's unfortunate that - we know that oftentimes communities of color, the ones that are disproportionately impacted by these travesties and by gun violence and public safety - as a representative, I will lead with racial justice being central to the fight to end violence and specifically support policies that are common sense and that reduce police interactions and increase accountability for our communities. I think, as Chipalo mentioned, this could be an opportunity to have a community cafe there, an opportunity to really invest in the Central District and in that area. And I think it's a missed opportunity for Starbucks to leave in this condition and to say that it's because of safety concerns. I would've hoped that they would be a part of that solution in really being able to continue to invest and rehabilitate the community. Yeah, so it's unfortunate, but I think there's more opportunities to be - to really invest in that corner of our community.
[00:47:22] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[00:47:25] Andrew Ashiofu: I'm going to address this in various forms for - when they say public safety, I think I go again with what everyone said - is based on racial bias. I really hope Brian of Tougo Coffee down here at Yesler opens another branch there. But also - I, as a frontline worker that has been working hard to be unionized at my airline, I think this is also a form of union busting, as Chipalo said, because we've seen that nearly all the stores that unionize at Starbucks - they close it down. And there's a huge - this is the time, the moment for the unions to come together. And Starbucks is - Okay, we're going to punish you. But also, I think as a state representative, or as on the state level, this is why we should invest in small businesses and among minorities and Black communities, immigrant communities, because - I used to say those are our safe space, even the LGBT community, but reality - those are our brave spaces where we could be who we are. We could be - so we need to invest in small business there and take back what was ours. Thank you so much.
[00:48:38] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Next we are going to a question about the Dobbs decision that eliminated the right to abortion. But in Justice Thomas's concurring opinion, he went further and he identified decisions he felt should be reevaluated after their ruling in Dobbs - cases that established our right to same-sex marriage, rights to contraception, and rights to sexual privacy. What can our state legislature do to proactively protect these rights? Starting with Andrew.
[00:49:13] Andrew Ashiofu: Ooh - as a gay person and someone involved in the LGBTQ+ community and advocacy, this is really hard. It brings back memories of when I was kicked out, it brings back memories of being bullied and being called a f*gg*t. As a state, we need to create constitution that protects all those things. Contraception is part of healthcare - it's important, it's not an option. You can't tell me that - as a states we need to provide - contraception should be free, condoms should be free, Plan B should be free, IUD should be free, menstrual pads and all those tampons should be free - should not be for profit. We need to protect and make it accessible, not affordable - accessible for free - because again it's criminalizing minorities. Then when it comes to privacy and this is the whole LGBTQ witch hunting all over again. In this day and age, we need to create that as a protective class in our constitution, in our schools, we need to protect them in our workplace. We need to protect them - I want to walk down the streets and not have someone call me a f*gg*t. So this is something very dear to me. And I would walk hard to codify all that into protection in Washington State. Thank you.
[00:50:39] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[00:50:41] Emijah Smith: Thank you. This is an opportunity for Washington State to really walk its talk. We talk about being progressive, we talk about all the things, and this is an opportunity for us to get in front of it. This is why I want to go ahead and be a state representative - because I do not wanna see us go back, turn the clock back. I'm there to push, hold the line, and take us forward - because this type of it's - I have no understanding for it. I'm triggered, right? We're here in the 37th and we talk about the progressiveness and I'm tired of talk and we need representation and leadership that will hold the line and also push the line forward. This is about safety in my opinion. This is a safety issue. If a person cannot show up who they are, then how can they be safe? They're going to be a target of violence. This to me is policy violence, and this is not acceptable. So this is who I am and how I wanna show up moving forward. We leave this place better than the way we found it. I do not need my children or my loved ones, or my neighbors, fearful of their own safety, because they cannot show up as who they need to be - because they don't have the proper resources or then we're gonna be stereotyped in some form or fashion, then more policies and that systemic racism will fall on those who are most marginalized. It's this type of rhetoric that has to come to an end. You have to be about action. Thank you.
[00:52:21] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[00:52:24] Chipalo Street: Yeah, I can't agree more with what folks are saying. To me, what's interesting about this and ironic is that this is an example of extreme privilege. My understanding is that he left one issue out that is also built on Dobbs, which is interracial marriage, and he is married to a white lady. But yet he cited every other thing that he wants to take back. So why is it that this person in a position of power over so many people can just selectively exclude it? So I think it hits home for all of us in very many different ways. Personally, this hits home because I'm half Black, half white. And so even though he didn't include it in there, you know it's next - it just means that you can't trust what they say. And it means that you need to elect leaders to state representatives, to Supreme Court - I guess we can't elect people to Supreme Court, but Senators who confirm justices up and down the ballot - who support everyone's right, to see people as equal, who are with us on this march towards equality.
[00:53:31] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[00:53:32] Nimco Bulale: Thank you so much for that question. I don't wanna re - I agree with what everybody said. I think additionally, Washington State needs to be in the business of justice. And when I say justice, I really mean the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social wellbeing of all people. It can only - I think that this can only be achieved when everybody has that economic, social, and political power, as well as the resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, about their sexuality, about their reproductive - reproduction - for themselves, their families, and their communities in all areas of their lives. I think that this is the kind of foresight that we need to have as a state and we really need to lead in these issues. If we say that we are beacon for supporting reproductive rights and other rights of all people, I think that we need to be leading in that. And we need to show the rest of the country that we are an example of folks that take that business of justice seriously.
[00:54:36] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And with that, we are actually gonna take a short two-minute break to give our candidates a chance to grab some water - it's a hot day. And grab their Yes and No paddles because we're going to be back with a lightning round. So two minutes is starting now and we will see you on the other side.
All right. We are getting ready to begin our lightning round. So you all have paddles with - that are green on one side, red on the other. Green is what you show to face - that faces the camera - if your answer is Yes. The other side - red, if it's No. We will do these in rapid succession. And following the lightning round, following all of - the totality of the questions - everyone will have one minute to explain any of the answers that you want to. But we will go through this quickly, so I'll ask the question and then ask you to hold up for people to clearly see the Yes or No to the answers to these questions.
So we're starting out - regarding housing and homelessness, are there any instances where you would support sweeps of homeless encampments? Yes or no?
It looks like we have two either giving a No or a thumbs down for No. Looks like everybody is a No on that question.
Next question. Will you vote to end single-family zoning in order to create more housing density and affordability? Yes or no?
Everyone is a Yes.
Next question. Would you vote to end the statewide ban on rent control and let localities decide whether they want to implement it? Yes or no.
Everyone is a Yes on that question.
Next, do you support Seattle's social housing initiative, I-135? Yes or no.
Everybody is a Yes.
Would you have voted for the legislature's police reform rollbacks in the last legislative session? Yes or no?
A mixed answer. So keep your paddles held up for that. So Emijah is a Yes, everyone else is a No - that's Chipalo, Andrew, and Nimco.
Next, should the legislature pass restrictions on what can be collectively bargained by police unions? Yes or no. Repeating the question - should the legislature pass restrictions on what can be collectively bargained by police unions? Everyone is a Yes in that question.
Would you vote for any bill that increases highway expansion? Yes or no?
Chipalo is a Yes. Emijah, Nimco, and Andrew are No.
Do you support calling a special session this year to codify reproductive rights and access into law? Yes or no?
Everybody's a Yes.
Would you have voted this past session - for the session before last - for the Climate Commitment Act? Yes or no?
Everybody's a Yes on that question.
Do you think trans and non-binary students should be allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities? Yes or no.
Everybody is a Yes.
Will you vote to enact a universal basic income in Washington? Yes or no.
Everybody is a Yes on that question.
Our state has one of the most regressive tax codes in the country, meaning lower-income people pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the ultra-wealthy. In addition to the capital gains tax, do you support a wealth tax? Yes or no?
Everybody with quick Yeses to that.
Do you support implementing ranked-choice voting in Seattle? Yes or no.
Everybody is a Yes to that.
Do you support implementing approval voting in Seattle? Yes or no.
These are slow answers. We've got some waffling. We've got a lot of waffling. The only clear answer was Andrew with a No.
Do you support moving local elections from odd years to even years to significantly increase voter turnout? Yes or no?
Quick yeses for that.
Is your campaign unionized? Yes or no?
Every - I can't see your answer there, Andrew. Everybody's a No.
If your campaign staff wants to unionize, will you voluntarily recognize their effort? Yes or no.
Everybody is a Yes.
Would you vote to provide universal healthcare to every Washington resident? Yes or no?
Everybody is a Yes.
That concludes our lightning round. Now we will give each candidate one minute to explain anything they want to explain about their answers or their waffles. And we'll start with Nimco.
[01:00:47] Nimco Bulale: About my waffles?
[01:00:49] Crystal Fincher: About any of your answers or the answers that were a non-answer - is there anything that you'd want to explain?
[01:00:56] Nimco Bulale: Yeah - maybe if I didn't vote on the question - it wasn't the ranked-choice question, it was the question after that. I wasn't familiar unfortunately with that idea. And so my only explanation is - is that I need to learn a little bit more about - can you explain, can Crystal, can you repeat what that question was?
[01:01:15] Crystal Fincher: It was about an approval voting initiative that had been collecting ballot signatures, may appear on the ballot. However, we actually just got some breaking news today that there may be an effort from Councilmember Andrew Lewis to actually put ranked-choice voting on the ballot, which would supplant the approval voting process. So tune in there, but there is a possibility for approval voting, which is where you just vote for everyone that you like. And we've discussed it certainly, there's other people discussing it - lots of lively conversation about - the people and interests supporting and opposing it, and the differences between the two. But just an interesting question there.
[01:02:02] Nimco Bulale: Yeah - I just will commit myself to learning more about that. Obviously I support ranked-choice voting and will get myself knowledgeable about approval voting.
[01:02:13] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[01:02:17] Andrew Ashiofu: Yeah. I am not in support of approval voting. I'm more in support of ranked-choice voting. Also this very initiative has had a bit of scandal while gathering the signatures and all that - I've heard from them, I've listened to their ideology, which I truly appreciate in creating more voices in - more voices of the people voting in the approval, but I think ranked-choice voting is the right way to go.
[01:02:55] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[01:02:59] Emijah Smith: Yeah. I wanted to share more information about my answer with regard to the rollbacks, when you spoke about the police legislation initiatives. I define rollbacks as taking us backwards, so I'm not sure how you were defining rollbacks, but when I think about the fact that there's Terry stops now - from the past legislative session, there are now Terry stops. Terry stop is where a person can just be pulled over, asked for their ID, they can be interrogated by the police - without probable cause. And I think that that's a huge problem. And so I'm not in support of things like that - the use of force - and how those things are defined. So I will - I push and want to champion police accountability that's going to make us more safety and bring more balance, not take us back to the 80s, 90s, and 2000s that I'm surviving from right now with overpolicing in our community.
[01:03:58] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[01:04:00] Chipalo Street: Sure. So I think the one that I was different from folks was highway expansion. I think the key word to me in that question was "any" - there are times where I could believe you need to expand highways for freight mobility and those support our union jobs. So I would want to make sure that we could at least consider that. In general, I don't think we should be expanding highways. We should be investing in mass transit. But I do want to make sure that we can support our unions and freight transit, 'cause that is - that diversifies our economy and it's one of the strengths that Seattle has. Approval voting - yeah, similar to Nimco, I had no idea what that was. It'll be interesting to learn more about that. And then the police accountability stuff - I have a hard time believing I would've voted for it. The thing that I think that went really well is that Jesse Johnson did ride-alongs with the police - I think we have to be their partners, we have to understand the impacts of our legislation. And so I'd be open to partnering with them to understand how that impacts them and their ability to provide public safety. But given my experience, I have a hard time believing that I would've. But I do believe they're are partners and would like to partner with them to improve public safety.
[01:05:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. We'll now move on to our regular type of questions. We're currently not on track to meet our 2030 climate goals, and I'm going to ask a question from someone who's watching because of that and because transportation is the biggest polluting sector. They're asking - how can we shift people out of cars while making sure we don't hurt those working class people whose commutes are too long for transit or bikes? And we will start with Chipalo.
[01:05:38] Chipalo Street: And one more time for me, please.
[01:05:41] Crystal Fincher: Sure. How can we shift people out of cars while making sure we don't hurt those working class people whose commutes are too long for transit or bikes?
[01:05:52] Chipalo Street: For sure. So I think one of the things that we have to do, that we saw last cycle when we passed Move Ahead WA, was investing in transit and forms of non-single-occupancy vehicles into our suburbs and rural areas. Mass transit is great, but we can't just focus on our cities because there are people who have longer commutes that need to get to jobs. Often, these are working people who have been pushed and displaced out of cities and into suburban and rural areas. So I want to make sure that whatever we do for transit thinks about the state comprehensively in conjunction with cities and our exurbs.
[01:06:36] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[01:06:37] Nimco Bulale: Thank you for that question. I believe that to quickly reduce transportation carbon emissions, we need to fundamentally shift our planning, our policy development, and infrastructure investments to prioritize public transit, walking, and biking over personal vehicles. I think often communities of color and working class communities lack access to reliable forms of public transportation or live in areas where bus systems lack sufficient funding. As legislator, I will support any and all legislation that helps expand public transit to be more reliable, accessible, and affordable for Washingtonians, especially for those who currently live in areas with limited access to public transportation and are forced to be more reliant on cars. I think that this will not only reduce carbon emissions, but it'll also help mobilize our communities and promote fuel efficiency. I do support a just transportation package to ensure that when planning transportation systems, there is a focus on people disproportionately harmed by our current transportation choices. No one should be burdened by pollution from transportation or unable to access - unable to access groceries or school without a car. This package must be a catalyst towards protecting future generations from the climate crisis today.
[01:07:59] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[01:08:03] Andrew Ashiofu: One, I think is - we need to invest in the expansion of public transportation. There's no rail from here to Tacoma, there's no rail from here to Olympia - that's a red flag right there. We also need to invest in hiring public transport workers, especially bus drivers, to help us with our interconnection with cities, with urban areas. We also need to create incentive for environmental friendly rideshare programs. I have to give a kudos to a company like Microsoft, where they use economic, environmental friendly buses to commute their workers. But we - not just the private sector, but we also have to look at cities in a public sector. In the city of Houston, they actually have what they call mass transit where people in suburbs drive to the car park and they use environmental friendly electric buses to take them downtown and to various places. We need to invest in things like that - invest in our ferry system, invest in hiring workers, and investing in green initiatives in form of transportation. Thank you.
[01:09:20] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[01:09:26] Emijah Smith: Thank you. I definitely agree with what has already been shared. I just want to say that it's imperative that we do reduce this carbon imprint. As a healthcare worker out of high school, I worked in the asthma and allergy clinic. I was diagnosed with asthma myself as well as my children, so I understand the impacts and who tends to have higher rates of asthma in our City and across the country. And as our Black and Brown and low-income families who happen to have to live in spaces and places that are impacted - so the 37th is definitely impacted on - MLK is a, it is a way that a lot of our trucks pass through. So our air quality here is poor as well as our soil quality is poor. So not only looking at - I love the buses and making sure that transportation costs are lowered for families. The Sound Transit, I believe, is moving to not only Tacoma, but also towards Olympia now - but it's on top, so it makes the driving a little more hazardous. So people wanting to get out of cars - sometimes being in a car is more safe than being on public transportation because too often the fare enforcement officers target young Black males and then they end up being arrested and getting records for just trying to get from A to B. So I wouldn't wanna see those inequities increased as we increase public transportation, but I'm a firm advocate for increasing our public transportation options. And I'm also thinking about the density that's coming into the 37th, where they're knocking down our trees and we need our trees to keep our air quality good. So I'm an avid proponent of that as well, trying -
[01:11:10] Crystal Fincher: And that is time. Next question is - sometimes the reality of being a legislator is that you'll be put in positions where you'll be asked to put aside your stance on an issue in order to get legislation passed. There might be moments where you have to advocate for something you feel is right, even when leadership or your fellow legislators feel differently. Is there a time you can tell us about when you stood up against power of those around you instead of saying silent and not making waves, and how do you think that will help you stand up for what you believe is best for your district while still maintaining good relationships in the Legislature? And we will start with Emijah.
[01:11:52] Emijah Smith: Thank you. When it comes to justice reform and our tough on crime policies, that's always the place where people have to question their values. And so for me as a community advocate and going there with families and understanding the issues and being a strong voice around justice reform - I will refuse to settle when it comes to doing what's right around justice reform and racial justice - and really moving us forward. Now it's a majority vote, you only get one vote up there - so I think utilizing your voice and utilize your power for what's right to allow us to walk our talk - we need to do that. And then you need to - I will be checking in with the base in the community that I have relationships with, 'cause it's not about me - I'm there to represent the 37th, so I need to check in with the constituents and who are representing me and get advice about how to move when the going gets tough up there. The Legislature needs some transformation, like a lot of our institutions need transformation, and that's why I believe I'm the perfect representative to go there to be that bridge for voice from our community. Because if we just do status quo, the status quo is going to continue to put the foot on our neck, the knee on our backs - and that's not what we want. We're looking for progression. And I think that our community members want to see that in Olympia and would champion me forward. Thank you.
[01:13:20] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[01:13:22] Chipalo Street: Yeah, so when I was a professional soccer referee, the union that I was with went through a strike. And so while management, the people who assigned us games, wanted us just to continue working and not advocate for increased compensation, better benefits, and better working conditions - I realized who I represented. I represented myself, I also represented the people who come after me. And so I wanted to make sure that I took a stance to make sure that my compensation was improved and that the folks who came after me, their compensation was improved as well, even though it hurt my chances for getting games at higher levels. So after that strike, you could see differences in assignments. And so despite that possible backlash towards me I stood up against our bosses. I stood with other people who I saw as constituency that I shared with, which were the other referees and the people coming behind me to do what I thought was right. And I think that's what you have to do in the Legislature as well.
[01:14:22] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Nimco.
[01:14:26] Nimco Bulale: Equity has been at the heart of my work as a community organizer, and I believe as legislator I will remain - it will remain at the forefront of my advocacy in Olympia. I will fight for the resources my constituents need, and I will also always make sure that I'm checking back and making sure that I continue to keep the perspectives and experiences of my neighbors at the center of my advocacy. I think that equity work is what drove me to run for state representative, and I stand firm in my solidarity with marginalized communities and ensuring our students, workers, and the elderly have access to the basic necessities that they need for a quality of life that all Washingtonians are entitled to. I think an example of that is actually in Olympia, when I was able to help pass a community-based pathways budget proviso for childcare workers who are mostly immigrant women and who are oftentimes not compensated adequately for the work and the important work that they do to keep our economy going. We know that during the pandemic we saw how important childcare and childcare investments were, and I was able to work with legislators across the board, both bipartisan, in order to pass these investments so that we can fight for low cost, if not free, community-based pathways for certification for childcare providers.
[01:15:45] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[01:15:46] Andrew Ashiofu: Oh my gosh - I love challenging status quo. Even me running for office is challenging status quo because I've been told you're not from here, you don't have roots here. I love challenging status quo. My survival is based on that, but a very good example is when I joined the Seattle King County HIV Planning Council, one thing I kept on hearing from people living with HIV that needed help was food. It might be - mind you - oh, food is important when it comes to healthcare. And I kept on hearing from my, especially the immigrant community, how they don't get - have access to the food they could identify and they need. And people with direct needs didn't. And so every meeting I would bring it up, every meeting would be like this is how it's always been - we have the food banks, we have the this, and I kept on. For two, three months I kept on bringing up food. So finally they were like - Okay. We created a special food committee for six months, where I was the chair, to do analysis, data, and research on food. And at the end of the day, we now have a policy that all food providers for people living with HIV should have food - special food based on ethnic needs and dietary needs - because I challenge the status quo. I love challenging status quo because that's how you create change.
[01:17:17] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. The next question - we asked candidates to submit some questions to ask to the other candidates. And this is one such question, and it's gonna go to everybody. What changes can be made at the state level to increase access to quality healthcare in the 37th district, for those who are currently not receiving it? And we will start with Nimco.
[01:17:42] Nimco Bulale: Can you repeat that one more time?
[01:17:44] Crystal Fincher: What changes can be made at the state legislative level to increase access to quality healthcare in the 37th district for those who are not currently receiving it?
[01:17:57] Nimco Bulale: I think one thing that I think about is - as a Type 1 diabetic, I think about how increasingly inaffordable insulin is. I think that there are a lot of healthcare factors and social determinants of health that contribute to that. In the 37th, we have higher rates of of diabetes, of things like that - and I think as a person that is experiencing that firsthand, I think that the cost of life-saving insulin is something that I would be very interested in making sure that we have more of. I want to make sure that folks that are having health conditions such as that are being supported and that the state is taking care of that. Same thing with the elderly - making sure that medication is something that continues to stay affordable and that it is not a burden on folks' fixed incomes.
[01:18:55] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Andrew.
[01:18:58] Andrew Ashiofu: One thing I - this is where I figure things out to make a quick one. We need more access for - language access to healthcare - not just we need affordability and accessibility, but we also need language and ethnic access to healthcare. Two, we need to be realistic. We live in a very diverse district and we need to acknowledge and accept non-Western form of healthcare. A lot of communities, immigrant communities, depend on other forms of healthcare that are safe, but once we identify it, we can also help regulate it to make it safer. Like we did doula this last year. Another problem is accessibility to healthcare. We need more health centers in the district - not just First Hill. We need more health centers and we need more education around healthcare to communities, and we need to improve on the Apple Healthcare program we have on the states to make it more, to bring more to create more access to healthcare. We need also to create a state prescription affordability program - my medication amount is $3,500. I am privileged to have a job, but healthcare should not be tied to having a job. Thank you.
[01:20:18] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Emijah.
[01:20:21] Emijah Smith: Yes, thank you. As a board member for Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, I do understand the necessity of having more healthcare clinics in the 37th and also across the state that will allow for culturally relevant care, that will allow for community to be safe, be welcomed and be - their healthcare needs taken care of. And we're - as a board member - we are hoping to bring that here, not only to the 37th, and create it as a model across the state. That is the goal. Also, I believe that our healthcare, which - I was part of being a champion for Apple Health for kids, which now has been moved to Apple Healthcare for adults - it needs to include dental care. And people need to also have - be able to utilize that healthcare for their mental health and behavioral health services. So we offer that for our young people, our children - but we need to offer that for the adults as well - because our teeth and our mouth is part of our whole body. I also want to share with regard to - I agree with the medications and we need to, the state needs to have a program available. So not only our seniors, but our low-income and working families can have access to medication. With the inflation, everything's going up and you shouldn't have to choose, like myself, needing an inhaler or paying a bill. Or somebody needing to get their diabetes medications and strips, or paying their light bill. That should not be our burden to carry. In addition to that, around the healthcare pieces - my time. Thank you.
[01:21:59] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - Chipalo.
[01:22:00] Chipalo Street: Yes. I completely agree with the topics that folks have brought up, like prescriptions drugs cost too much - whether it be insulin, whether it be medications for HIV or other expensive medications. Healthcare also shouldn't be tied to employment, so I think the biggest thing that we can do to facilitate all of those and move to a better future is exploring a single payer healthcare system that would allow that system to negotiate drug prices with large drug companies who will price gouge individual customers. It makes sure that healthcare isn't tied to employment, and so I would love to look at that sort of comprehensive system that will improve healthcare outcomes for everyone. We just got done with the pandemic, right? Public health requires healthcare, regardless of whether you're working, regardless of whether you can pay for it, regardless of whether you're getting a stipend from the government to be a part of ACA. So single payer healthcare to me seems like the most interesting option to comprehensively look at healthcare.
[01:23:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And with that, the forum comes to a close. I want to thank our candidates for participating and making this an engaging and informative event. To those watching online, thanks so much for tuning in and sending in your questions. If you missed any of the discussion tonight, you can catch up on the Hacks & Wonks Facebook page or on Twitter where we're @finchfrii. Special thanks to the coordinator for this evening Shannon Cheng, to Bryce Cannatelli who is on the Hacks & Wonks team, and to our wonderful volunteer Ilona. Most importantly, I want to remind you to vote. Ballots will start arriving in your mailboxes in just the end of this week and we are due to have this election - you must vote by Tuesday, August 2nd. You can register to vote, update your registration, and see what will be on your ballot at MyVote.wa.gov, that's MyVote.Wa.gov. Be sure to tune into Hacks & Wonks on every Wednesday and Friday, subscribe to get the midweek and Friday show in your inbox, and if you want more information, you can visit officialhacksandwonks.com. I've been your host, Crystal Fincher, and we will see you next time.