I never planned to become a politician. I don’t have a degree in public administration, I’m not a very polished speaker, and — although I’ve fundraised for causes like children’s literacy, animal rights, and environmental issues — I’m not very good at raising money for myself. I never envisioned running for city council as the next step in my career ladder. I’m a real person, not a professional politician. In a better world, I would be content living a private life with my family, trying to make things better in small ways: picking up litter, voting, being a friendly neighbor.
But this world is not a perfect one, and I haven’t figured out how to silence the voice inside me that demands I do my part. That’s why I am running for Olympia City Council: I’m done being patient. I’m done waiting for others to deliver a perfect world. The 2016 election has taught us that justice is not inevitable, that we cannot simply wait. Underrepresented groups — people of color, women, LGBTQIA+ people, the disabled — must no longer wait for the privileged to help us. We must insist that our voices be heard at all levels of government. We must make it clear that our vote can no longer be bought with empty promises of justice someday. Our support has been taken for granted. I can no longer stomach being told by the privileged to “be patient.”
I describe myself in many ways: a woman, an Asian-American, a first-generation American, an activist, a mother. My mother, an immigrant, taught me how to be an American. She has been a (proud union) postal worker for over thirty years, and a US Navy veteran before that. She taught me what being American means. She chose to come here, and raised me to believe in the American dream. She came from a country where the voices of most people, especially women, were not heard. She taught me that sometimes we have to fight to have our voices heard.
I want those in power to hear what I have to say. I want to ensure that they hear what you have to say.
To that end, I volunteer on the board of the Family Support Center of South Sound, doing whatever I can to amplify the voices of homeless families, and ensuring that victims of domestic violence are not silenced. I volunteer on the board of my local neighborhood association, to ensure that our neighborhood is fairly represented in the city. I volunteer with the Washington Trails Association, advocating for our planet, whose voiceless breath gives us all life.
Besides my volunteer experience, I was previously the director of operations for a nonprofit organization that built libraries in developing nations, and taught refugee children in the United States how to read. Watching these children learn to read, many of whom had only ever known war and poverty, brought home to me the fact that it is my duty to do whatever I can to fight for those who have not been as fortunate as I have been. Prior to that, I assisted children with learning and physical disabilities. That experience taught me how privileged I was, and obliged me to do whatever I could to give those children the same advantages that I had.
Most of us will never face such severe challenges. But we still wonder how we’re going to make rent, are unsure if we will have a job next year, and worry about the future of our community. I do not have all the answers. That’s why I’m running for city council — I think that you have the answers, you just need somebody to listen. Here are some of the ideas that I have heard so far:
- A $15 minimum wage that is indexed to inflation, to fairly compensate for annual increases in cost of living and inflation.
- Prioritizing union workers and workplaces, and lowering the barrier to unionization where possible.
- Creating an office of Wage Standards, to ensure that if workers are not paid fairly, they have somewhere to turn to resolve their issues. This office will educate employees and employers about labor laws and wage theft, provide a hotline to submit claims without repercussion, investigate those claims, and hold hearings to ensure fair treatment.
- Creating an office of Civil Rights to help lower barriers to equity by enforcing laws against discrimination in employment, housing, city contracts, etc. This office will be empowered to educate Olympians about their rights and obligations, as well as investigate cases of discrimination.
- Holding the city to its comprehensive plan for housing which develops housing along transit lines to encourage the use of public transportation, multi-use housing complexes, and protecting historic and cultural areas. I want to hold city government accountable for ensuring affordable housing is a priority, while also protecting green and public spaces.
- Addressing houselessness with housing first because a person can only succeed once they have housing.
- In support of the Green New Deal, I pledge not to accept contributions from fossil fuel industries. Companies and governmental organizations who pollute need to be held accountable with punitive fines that are actually enforced, and consequences such as not renewing city contracts with those who repeatedly violate standards. I want public buildings to adhere to sustainable standards, and old buildings retrofitted for energy efficiency.
- I have heard from many families about the need for affordable and trustworthy childcare in our city’s public spaces. One concrete step forward that I will push for is to provide childcare during council meetings so that families can be civically engaged.
I am not foolish enough to believe that I can fix every problem that afflicts every Olympian. I can promise that I will listen to what you have to say, and do my best to represent you. I promise that I will not only do what I think is best for you, I will try to empower you to do what you think best for yourself.