2015 City Council Candidate Questionnaire: A Voter Resource

The election is now over but the answers to Interfaith Works questionnaire to candidates who ran in the four contested races in Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater are relevant as we move forward. The questions reflect issues of current concern to our membership.

Candidate answers are passed along without editing. Interfaith Works has shared these responses a resource for voters, and does not endorse any candidate.

 

City of Lacey

City Council, Position No. 3

Bill Frare (Did Not Respond)

Jeff Gadman (Unable to Respond Before Deadline)

 

City of Olympia

City Council, Mayor

 Marco Rosaire Rossi

1. Please state your specific plans to reach out to all citizens to increase real communication and access to local government. For example: How will you include our entire community, racial, ethnic and gender minorities, low income, homeless adults and youth in your planning for our community’s future?

The greatest thing the city can do to make local government more representative is to breakdown into electoral districts. Currently, we have city wide elections for council positions. The effect of this system is that people of similar geographical locations and socio-economic status get elected to the council each campaign cycle. Breaking down into districts means that seats will be reserved for certain locations. This increases diversity and guarantees that all areas of the city will have their own representative. Additionally, allowing candidates to run within districts means that candidates will need less money to run for office and can spend more time reaching out to voters. On top of this change, I have advocated for new citizen advisory committees that deal directly with the issues of marginalized population. Olympia needs to adopt citizen advisory committees on poverty and affordability, public health, and environmental sustainability. Advisory committees provide great opportunities for direct participation in local government, and, when implemented properly, provide a direct line between governments and the people that they are designed to serve. Finally, Olympia needs a city government that is focused on outreach to its citizens. So far, we have had an in-reach public process model that requires the public to come to city hall to be heard. City government needs to empower city staff to do outreach to various populations to ensure that their perspectives are taken into consideration when forming policies.

2. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been homeless? If not, how have you educated yourself on the needs of the homeless and how will that affect your decisions on social services that our community needs?

For years I have worked on homelessness issues here in Olympia. In that time I have come to know dozens of people living on the street, and I would be happy to refer to any one of them as my friend. In many cases, they are some of my closest friends. On more than one occasion, when their life was in transition, I have let people who would normally reside on the street stay in my home. For the past year, I have been volunteering at the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter. In that time I have gotten to meet some wonderful people. People who are on the street are struggling, but they are not helpless. We should recognize them for their resiliency, and not pity them for their circumstances. It is my belief that everyone has something to gain by reaching to someone who is less fortunate, not because those people need our sympathy, but because when we strengthen our bonds of solidarity we all do better. When we focus on policies that lift up the poorest among us we lift up society as a whole.

3. Have you or anyone you know personally ever experienced age, race, gender or economic discrimination? If not, how have you educated yourself on discrimination in our community and how will that affect your decisions on City ordinances and policies in this area?

There are several people in my life who have been discriminated against. I know of single mothers who were denied apartments because they had children. I know black people who have had racial epithets said right to their faces. I know people who were bullied because of the sexuality. I know people who were forced to leave their homes because of their gender identity. I know people who were harassed by law enforcement because of their housing status. All the incidents of unfair treatment of the people around me are too numerous to count and too depressing to ponder. Unfortunately, we live in a society where equality is not the default. All of us have struggled to overcome our own marginalization and the impulse we feel to marginalize and oppress others. I think it is imperative that governments work to end social oppressions. For that reason, I have supported adding new language to Olympia’s anti-discrimination ordinances, advocated ending ordinances that target homeless people, and want the city to make a greater effort in diversifying. I would like to see Olympia to be on the national vanguard when it comes to supporting affirmative action, strengthening the rights of workers and tenants, and passing policies that support equality and inclusion.

4. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been arrested? If not, how have you educated yourself about law enforcement in our community?

I have been arrested three times in my life. In each case it was for engaging in civil disobedience. I have also known several people who been in and out of the criminal justice system and know several victims of violent crimes. As a volunteer outreach worker for the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project I also met with police officers and discussed how to improve relations between the police and street populations. These experiences have made the failures of our criminal justice system starkly clear to me. It is often easy to take sides and blame others, but I fundamentally believe that the current system does not work to anyone’s benefit. As your mayor I will continue my education in our local criminal justice system by working closely with the communities that have poor interactions with the police and by dialoguing constructively with the Olympia Police Department on areas that need change. Dramatic reforms are needed, but I feel confident that by focusing on solutions and a willingness to work with everyone involved, positive outcomes are possible. All societies need to enforce norms, but we can enforce those norms using the tools of conflict resolution and peacemaking. We can show people the good they can do and not just the badness of what they have done.

5. Do you support a citizen review board for the Olympia Police department? Why or why not?

I strongly support the creation of an independent citizen review board for the Olympia Police Department. Citizen oversight of the police is as fundamental to a working democracy as elections and freedom of speech. The independent review board should have the power to discipline officers and its own independent investigator. Every few years the Olympia Police Department experiences a major incident regarding use of force protocols. Without an independent review board that is accountable to the general population there is no way for citizens to know that the Olympia Police Department is doing all it can to de-escalate situations and avoid violence. The prospect of a citizen review board strengthens the ties between the police and the communities that they serve; by creating more accountability within the police department we create more legitimacy for law enforcement.

6. What are some other specific ideas you have about law enforcement accountability?

I am convinced that swift and comprehensive reforms in our criminal justice system are needed. It is easy to scapegoat any one aspect of our system whether it is the police, prosecutors, judges, or legislatures. However, the truth of the matter is that the failures in our system are complex and compounding. Many of the players that currently have problematic roles could become potential allies in positive change if the right institutional changes are made. On a local level, we need to encourage community based policing practices. Policing should be seen as a public service focused on solving community problems. Myopically concentrating on crime prevention is counterproductive. In order to accomplish this we need to successfully train our officers in cultural competency, crisis intervention, and conflict resolution skills. We also need to continue the practice within our jails for reserving incarceration for only our most violent offenders. The vast majority of antisocial acts that police handle with can be dealt with more effectively and for cheaper through social service agencies. Making it more of the norm for police to go through these agencies will better serve everyone involved. Police officers in Olympia also need to start wearing body cameras, and reasonable policies that balance accountability with privacy need to be implemented. Most importantly, we need to fundamentally shift from a punitive justice model that focuses on the laws broken, to a restorative justice one that focuses on the needs of the individuals involved. The city should make room for thoughtful experiments in victim-offender mediations and family group conferences.

7. We would love to hear about your volunteer work in our community.

I have an extensive volunteer history. Currently, as mentioned above, I am a volunteer at the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter. I also volunteer regularly with my union, UFCW 21. I have been on the board of two non-profits in Olympia: the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project and the Cold and Hungry Coalition. I was an advisory board member for Partners in Prevention and Education. For years I volunteered with Bread and Roses and was an active member in the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace. I also was a regular volunteer with the Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center. Years of volunteering has engendered in me a sense of public service, of doing things for the greater good. When elected I will bring this sense of public service into office. I believe it is the responsibility of government to create greater equality and expand our realms of freedoms. As a public official it is my sacred obligation to ensure that Olympia’s city government lives up to that responsibility.

Cheryl Selby

1. Please state your specific plans to reach out to all citizens to increase real communication and access to local government. For example: How will you include our entire community, racial, ethnic and gender minorities, low income, homeless adults and youth in your planning for our community’s future?

I currently serve on the council General Government Committee where we are working to increase our outreach to all Olympia residents. Several ideas we hope to implement next year are:

A) Coffee with the Council – the idea is to take the council sub- committees (Finance, General Government and Land Use and Environment) out of City Hall for meetings quarterly. These meetings would be a more casual opportunity to dialogue with community members.

B) Town Hall Meetings – Hold quarterly council study sessions in each quadrant of the city. Each meeting would have a facilitator and convene around a topic submitted by the Coalition of Neighborhoods.

C) Establish regular use of “Oly Speaks” online surveys that would be a follow up to issues raised at the above events.

2. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been homeless? If not, how have you educated yourself on the needs of the homeless and how will that affect your decisions on social services that our community needs?

I’ve never been homeless but I have been rent burdened and qualified for public assistance in my 20’s and 30’s.

I took on extra work to make ends meet rather than accept public assistance.

When I was considering a run for city council in 2012, I knew I had to dig in and learn as much as possible about the street dependent population in our downtown. I had supported street outreach programs such as Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission in the past, but had started to hear good things about the work of Sidewalk and the “Homes First” approach. I met Phil Owen through a mutual friend and quickly became enthusiastic about their success in the rapid rehousing model. I currently serve on the Sidewalk board.

3. Have you or anyone you know personally ever experienced age, race, gender or economic discrimination? If not, how have you educated yourself on discrimination in our community and how will that affect your decisions on City ordinances and policies in this area?

As a white women of privilege, it would be insensitive for me to say I’ve experienced anywhere near the discrimination of many others. That said, being female and now in my mid 50’s, there are subtle forms of gender and now age prejudice I’ve had to overcome. Most notably, I repeatedly experienced work place harassment in the 80’s and 90’s when there weren’t many laws protecting women in the workplace.

4. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been arrested? If not, how have you educated yourself about law enforcement in our community?

I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid breaking the law. I worked in the Olympia Probation Services Department from 2003 – 2006 and administered the Victim Impact Panel and other diversion programming for DUI offenders.

I currently serve on the inter-jurisdictional Law and Justice Committee and we are looking at instituting a community corrections model similar to Hillsboro, Oregon here in Thurston County. Restorative justice programs that divert low level offenders from jail are the most humane approach to corrective action.

5. Do you support a citizen review board for the Olympia Police department? Why or why not?

The council has commissioned an ad hoc committee whose purpose is to study the dynamics between race, power and privilege as they relate to policing in our community. They’re charged with conducting 5 community forums on subjects of their choosing. Our hope, as a city, is that this group will provide direction on how to move forward with approaches to not only police accountability but also whether there’s merit in forming a police advisory committee.

6. What are some other specific ideas you have about law enforcement accountability?

The OPD is looking for direction from the Ad Hoc Committee to see where we should go with the administration and funding of installing body cameras on our officers. There is wide support for this amongst the agency and council. It’s more a matter of having a plan, a funding source and then an implementation strategy.

7. We would love to hear about your volunteer work in our community (Just the last dozen years, more available if requested.)

2013 – Present Sidewalk Rapid Rehousing – Board of Trustees, Former President
2011 – Present Olympia Downtown Rotary – Scholarship Committee
2012 – 2014 Parking Business Improvement Area – Board of Directors
2012 – 2015 Thurston County Chamber – Board of Trustees
2011 – 2014 Olympia Artspace Alliance – Board of Directors, 1st Vice-Chair
2010 – 2014 Thurston County Democrats – Executive Committee
2010 – 2014 Olympia Downtown Association – Board of Directors
2004 – 2008 Thurston County Boys and Girls Club – Board of Directors

 

City of Olympia

City Council, Position No. 2

 Judy Bardin

1. Please state your specific plans to reach out to all citizens to increase real communication and access to local government. For example: How will you include our entire community, racial, ethnic and gender minorities, low income, homeless adults and youth in your planning for our community’s future?

I believe that Olympia citizens are one of the city’s greatest assets. One of the main items on my platform is bringing more citizen’s voices into city decision making. If people are informed about issues that affect their neighborhoods they will show up and be involved in community decisions. Some of my ideas for increasing communication and access to the entire community include:

• Stakeholder groups – when stakeholders are invited for city groups or processes such as the “Downtown Strategy” it is important to make sure that the stakeholders are diverse and represent our community. This would also be important for city advisory groups. The city should actively recruit people from underrepresented groups. For example, the Utility Advisory Group sets utility rates. Increased utility rates can adversely impact those with less income. It would be important for someone of low income to be part of the discussion and decision making on rate setting.

• Improve notification on pending land use decisions by: increasing the notification period, plain-talking notifications so that they are easy for the lay person to understand, provide visual depictions of proposed zoning changes, and provide notifications not only to property owners but also apartment dwellers and other renters in the affected neighborhood.

• Translate notices and city documents into other languages such as Spanish.

• Form city advisory groups that address additional issues considered important to the community, such as: homelessness, wages, housing affordability, and community policing.

• Improve ways of giving public comment. We have to go beyond “three minutes at the mike and yellow stickies on boards”. Public comment should be more interactive. A town hall approach with an open discussion period could be considered as a way to both receive input and generate new ideas. A panel approach to giving public comment, where several people could provide testimony together on a given topic.

2. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been homeless? If not, how have you educated yourself on the needs of the homeless and how will that affect your decisions on social services that our community needs?

Yes, I dated someone who at one point in his life had been homeless. This person was a veteran and extremely hard working, smart and inventive. I felt that if someone as capable as he had become homeless, it would be possible for a similar situation to befall others.

During my campaign, I have met with the former and current directors of Community Youth Services, visited Rosie’s Place and attended fund-raising events for Sidewalk. In the past, I have also supported SafePlace. I spent considerable time reviewing the 2014 Thurston County Homeless Census.

3. Have you or anyone you know personally ever experienced age, race, gender or economic discrimination? If not, how have you educated yourself on discrimination in our community and how will that affect your decisions on City ordinances and policies in this area?

Yes, I have an adopted niece who is African-American. She has experienced racial discrimination, especially when she was not in an urban environment. At college, my niece’s car was vandalized by someone who put foreign substances in her gas tank.

I am well aware of issues facing women, minorities, those living with limited income, the young and the elderly. I did public health nursing and took care of patients in homes throughout diverse New York City neighborhoods. Many of my patients were either poor and/or of a minority race. Additionally, my work as an epidemiologist at the Washington State Department of Health informed me about health disparities (people of lower income have limited medical care options) and environmental justice concerns (minorities and the poor live in areas where they are exposed to greater pollution, such as traffic or dump sites). As an occupational health researcher, I also learned these same people are often assigned to jobs with disproportionately higher exposure to toxic chemicals.

I have been endorsed by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington and the Washington State National Organization for Women Political Action Committee. Issues of discrimination are important to both of these organizations.

4. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been arrested? If not, how have you educated yourself about law enforcement in our community?

Yes, I knew a relative of a friend who was arrested, prosecuted and had to defend themselves.

5. Do you support a citizen review board for the Olympia Police department? Why or why not?

I am in favor of a citizen review board.

A citizen’s review board could work with the community to provide input and to help insure fairness, accountability, transparency and thoroughness of police investigations process and enhance and improve community policing practices. It is important that a citizen review board be independent.

6. What are some other specific ideas you have about law enforcement accountability?

A police auditor could work in conjunction with a citizen’s review board. Eugene Oregon has used this model of police oversight. An auditor would receive and investigate resident’s complaints of police misconduct, audit complaint investigation results, analyze trends in complaints and make recommendation to the review board and police. The police auditor should be independent from the police.

I support the use of body cameras on police officers and cameras in police vehicles. Cameras can document police interactions with citizens. These cameras would protect individuals and the police.

Use of early intervention system (EIS). An EIS is a computerized data base of police officer performance. The data base can be used to analyze trends in policing and identify officers that may have recurring performance issues, such high rates of citizen complaints or use of force.

7. We would love to hear about your volunteer work in our community.

I am an Orchid enthusiast and the Treasurer of the Olympia Orchid Society.

I have five years of City of Olympia advisory committee experience. One of my proudest achievements was working on the City’s Comprehensive Plan and developing policies for urban green space and sea level rise for that plan. My city advisory committee experience includes:

• Utility Advisory Committee, 2010 – 2012
• Olympia Planning Commission, 2012-2015
• Olympia Planning Commission Finance Subcommittee, 2012 -2014
• Liaison from the Planning
— Utility Advisory Committee, 2012-2013
— Heritage Commission, 2014-2015
— Coalition of Neighborhood Association, 2014 -2015
• Urban Forestry Subcommittee, 2013 -2015

My life’s career has been in public health. I started that career as a nurse and worked as emergency room, critical care, and public health nurse. As a nurse I took care of minorities and people of different races and income levels. Later in life, I earned a Masters followed by a Doctorate. Upon completion of my graduate degrees, I addressed environmental health issues as an Epidemiologist for the State Department of Health. I have helped communities with environmental concerns, such as: pesticides, asthma, cancer causing agents, air pollution, and wildfires.

Jessica Bateman

1. Please state your specific plans to reach out to all citizens to increase real communication and access to local government. For example: How will you include our entire community, racial, ethnic and gender minorities, low income, homeless adults and youth in your planning for our community’s future?

It is imperative to include the perspectives of all citizens when planning for Olympia’s future. I support inclusiveness in the decision making process and value the feedback of all individuals. The city needs to conduct more meetings and dialogue outside of city hall and the traditional settings. I support increasing town halls, holding committee meetings throughout the community and utilizing innovative approaches to soliciting feedback from the citizens. It’s vital that we engage community groups in the planning process and include groups that are traditionally not heard from.

2. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been homeless? If not, how have you educated yourself on the needs of the homeless and how will that affect your decisions on social services that our community needs?

A colleague of mine was homeless as a youth, a relative of mine has been homeless and at least one student that I know at GRuB has been homeless. In my role as Community Impact Director for the United Way of Thurston County I work with the housing action team and various nonprofits focused on increasing affordable housing, providing street dependent individuals with housing and access to resources such as health care and other support. I believe housing first is essential and providing individuals with the services they need to be safe and healthy.

3. Have you or anyone you know personally ever experienced age, race, gender or economic discrimination? If not, how have you educated yourself on discrimination in our community and how will that affect your decisions on City ordinances and policies in this area?

While attending college I worked as a barista and cashier in the service industry. Working a minimum wage job, without a degree my opinion was often overlooked or disregarded. We must work to ensure all individuals in our community are treated equally and fairly regardless of age, gender, race or economic status. I will work to ensure that all voices are heard and that city policies and decisions reflect our community’s strong values of fairness and equality.

4. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been arrested? If not, how have you educated yourself about law enforcement in our community?

Two of my relatives have been arrested and have served time in prison and jail. I support restorative justice and supportive services for individuals who have committed crimes. I also participated in a police ride along and have visited jails and prisons to learn more about law enforcement and how criminal justice is carried out in our community. We must work to end the mass incarceration system by investing in our communities and the individuals living in them.

5. Do you support a citizen review board for the Olympia Police department? Why or why not?

I support a citizen review board created by stakeholders, with members of the public and police. A review board could investigate complaints about police misconduct and make policy recommendations on hiring, training, use of force and budget development. I also support increased de-escalation training, implicit bias and the use of body cameras to increase transparency in law enforcement and build public trust.

6. What are some other specific ideas you have about law enforcement accountability?

It is essential for our community’s safety that we have a functioning law enforcement system, that our community members feel safe and trust police officers. We must ensure that police officers are held accountable for any misconduct. National and recent events have highlighted the disproportionate use of force against communities of color. We must work to change the system that enables these outcomes so that all individuals can feel safe in our community.

7. We would love to hear about your volunteer work in our community.

I serve as Secretary on the board of the local nonprofit GRuB, which partners with at-risk youth, low-income individuals and veterans to empower personal & community food solutions. I also serve as chair of the finance subcommittee on the Olympia Planning Commission. I have also volunteered at the Olympia Food Co-op on the ecological planning committee and Lincoln Elementary.

 

City of Tumwater

City Council, Position No. 2

Tom Oliva

1. Please state your specific plans to reach out to all citizens to increase real communication and access to local government. For example: How will you include our entire community, racial, ethnic and gender minorities, low income, homeless adults and youth in your planning for our community’s future?

I believe that public policy benefits from a robust and inclusive exchange of ideas and perspectives. I am especially sensitive to Tumwater’s public policy discussions providing ample opportunity for public input. Of course, it is often difficult to get the public to come to city council meetings. The only alternative is to go seek out opinion from opinion leaders and first-person accounts. Wherever I go, I ask people what they think about our issues. I read everything I can online and in print to become exposed to perspectives other than my own. I am fortunate to have friends and acquaintances in various disciplines (and especially social services) who keep me grounded and ensure that I hear how policies might affect those without a voice. I believe in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

2. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been homeless? If not, how have you educated yourself on the needs of the homeless and how will that affect your decisions on social services that our community needs?

I have friends who have been homeless, and a family member who has faced homeless but for my family’s occasional support to prevent it. I understand that for people who live paycheck to paycheck, unemployment can commence a spiral of hopelessness. Thurston County is a compassionate place with a robust range of social services including help for the homeless, although our efforts do not yet satisfy the demand. I have been out on several homeless census counts and seen the primitive and unsanitary conditions in which some of our neighbors live. We can and must do better.

3. Have you or anyone you know personally ever experienced age, race, gender or economic discrimination? If not, how have you educated yourself on discrimination in our community and how will that affect your decisions on City ordinances and policies in this area?

I have experienced discrimination and it has made me more sensitive to the discrimination that others face. Working every day to overcome the prejudices that we grew up with is part of our responsibility of being human.

4. Have you or anyone you know personally ever been arrested? If not, how have you educated yourself about law enforcement in our community?

I personally know people who have been arrested. It has made me sensitive to the experience of being arrested, and also to the imperfect world in which our police officers work on a daily basis. We must work to train our police to do the best job they can so that our goals for justice are achieved.

5. Do you support a citizen review board for the Olympia Police department? Why or why not?

As a Tumwater official I will not comment on Olympia’s police department, but I think that police should have active efforts to integrate with the community and build strong community relations. The police form regional review teams after major incidents – I believe those should include citizen members. The time for an oversight or advisory board is before an incident occurs that requires one.

6. What are some other specific ideas you have about law enforcement accountability?

First, police departments should reflect the diversity of the community where possible. They should receive the best training available on diversity and truly live up to our community’s ideals for mutual respect. It is inevitable that police body cameras will become the norm throughout America, which benefits both police and the public. (The existence of cameras themselves often help calm interactions.) Policing is a difficult job, and our leaders must help set the stage for police work to be effective.

7. We would love to hear about your volunteer work in our community.

I have lived in Tumwater for 19 years and have volunteered for the past 15 years. I was on the board of Capitol Land Trust and Tumwater Farmers Market and was Board President for United Communities AIDS Network. I helped organize my neighborhood in forming a Lake Management District and cofounded the Barnes Lake Conservancy and the Old Brewhouse Foundation. I believe in volunteerism for the good that it does for the community and for the volunteers themselves. We are fortunate to have a community that is so full of volunteerism.

Stephen Ssemaala (Did Not Respond)