POLICY PRIORITIES

COMMUNITY SAFETY

Protecting small businesses and our community spaces is personal for me. I get my groceries from the Viet-Wah down the street. A lot of people don't know this, but Vietnamese people and Nigerian people have a lot of food in common. Each time I go there, I feel like I am walking through the market back in Nigeria. Small businesses provide me a safe space and a connection to home. We need to ensure that small businesses also have a safe space to thrive.

WE MUST:
  • Create a small business fund to ensure small businesses can recover from damages and break-ins.

  • Ensure that people feel safe to walk around in our neighborhood, cross Rainier Ave S, or walk from the light rail stop. People will opt to take their businesses elsewhere if they don't feel like they can safely get to the shop.

When I lived in Chicago, I experienced gun violence on a daily basis. I had to learn when it was safe to leave the house to go to the grocery store, where there were safe spaces to hide, and how to lie down to avoid bullets. I don't want anyone to go through that, especially our youth, but I know that gun violence is on the rise in our district.

WE MUST:
  • Create a holistic and restorative process around at-risk youth. We must support diversion strategies such as Choose 180. 

  • Create a strong school-to-work pipeline. 2-year community college should be free for those who want to pursue a degree, to give everyone equal access and opportunity to education. College isn't for everyone, so we must also support pathways to trade schools and apprenticeships. 

  • Invest in youth development programs and centers. In Nigeria, I was part of the initiative to create a youth development project that brought technological training to rural areas. It put youth in safer environments and helped them build skills, which in turn brought economic stability.

  • Build a wrap-around with Intensive Services programs.

We can only solve these problems by investing in our community, not jailing our community. I live right across the street from the new youth jail, and it breaks my heart to see money being used to keep young people from what they need most: their families and communities. In order to break the cycle of poverty, we have to ensure that there is hope and a path for a safe and secure future. Local organizations such as Choose 180 and Fathers and Sons Together (FAST) model how we might strengthen our communities rather than break them apart.

WE MUST:
  • Reform law enforcement to restore community trust. Through my role on the LGBTQ+ Commission, I pushed for more police accountability and transparency. 

  • Increase civilian involvement. 

  • Invest in education and training for Black and Indigenous people to become crisis responders. 

  • Create a crisis response program under 911 that centers around resolving mental health crises non-violently. Seattle has proposed a program modeled after CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets), which has been wildly successful in Eugene, Oregon. 

  • Support Community Courts to give low-level offenders support and a chance to choose a different path. Many re-offenders do so because they lack a strong social safety net. Community courts will connect people to services, ensure they can find work and housing, and provide navigators for our complex legal system.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

As an excited youth, I moved to Chicago for a new job, giving up everything I knew to start a new life. I only had a single suitcase and a backpack, both full of hope. But the economic crisis hit, and three days before I was to start at my new job, the job offer was rescinded.

 

I had no family support because I had just come out. With no job and no community in a strange land, I became unhoused. 

 

My experiences will allow me to craft policy and programs that are effective at combating homelessness, because I personally know what works.

WE MUST:
  • Keep libraries open and accessible. I was only able to get back on my feet because my local library gave me access to the internet to apply for jobs and services.

  • Make it easy to get identification. When I had an expired ID, it was very difficult to obtain services. But I was better off than a lot of people that didn't have any ID at all. They struggled to obtain identification because you need at least one form of ID to get another. It takes a lot of time and money, which makes obtaining an ID extremely difficult.

  • Invest in permanent supportive housing. When I was unhoused, I didn't only need housing – I also needed healthcare, mental health services, access to food, and a community to help me get back on my feet. 

  • Expand Seattle's I-135 "House Our Neighbors" initiative to the entire state, which would provide investments for public social housing.

After the pandemic hit, I lost over 60% of my income. I was only one paycheck away from being unhoused again. Thankfully, the eviction moratorium gave me enough time to apply for rental assistance from the government. I would not be able to stay housed without strong tenant rights.

WE MUST:
  • Amend the constitution to allow for rent regulation.

  • Remove barriers to more density, such as single-family zoning. If we do not build more housing units, rent will only continue to increase.

  • Remove barriers to using state dollars for housing, rental assistance, and wraparound services.

Losing my home was a deeply traumatic experience for me, and many in our district are facing the same.  People with fixed incomes can't afford to pay their rising property taxes, even though they've lived in the same house for their entire life. I can see my community disappearing because we're being priced out. We must allow our elders to age in place. Our increasing property taxes are extremely difficult on people with fixed incomes.

 

While these issues affect many in King County, I believe that our district has the most at stake. We are the most diverse district in the state, and historically our people have been systematically excluded from the opportunity to build wealth via housing by racist policies - redlining, mortgage and loan restrictions, exclusionary zoning, and even targeted uses of eminent domain. This is an incredible engine of poverty in our country, one that keeps generations of people locked out of opportunity and prosperity, and is a leading cause of our current homelessness crisis.

 

During the housing crisis, President Obama initiated the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). I worked as a HUD Certified Housing Counselor to help and guide people to stay in their homes. I understand what it takes to avoid foreclosure and eviction, both for homeowners and renters.

WE MUST:
  • Create a tax credit for Black and Indigenous first-time home buyers.

  • Provide a tax exemption for our elders and people with disabilities

  • Ensure folks have a Right to Return, when their communities are under development to increase density. Right to Return is a policy that gives priority to people who are forced out of their communities due to gentrification.

  • Allow our elders to age in place, where many of them have lived for decades and generations.

  • Support equitable upzoning and development so that communities of color do not bear the burden of population expansion. 

  • Create an anti-discrimination tax on old housing deeds that still carry discriminatory restrictions. This tax could yield $71 million to the state.

TRANSPORTATION

When I was diagnosed with AIDS, I didn't even know how to get to my appointments. I couldn't even afford a train ticket — to get to the hospital, I had to be given a voucher that would only allow me to take a single round-trip ride. Public transit needs to be accessible, frequent, and reliable for people like me who depend on it to get to my doctor appointments, buy my groceries, and get to work. 

 

As part of my work on the King County HIV Planning Council, I fought to ensure that people who get to the hospital via transit, taxis, or ridesharing services can have their costs refunded.

WE MUST:
  • Fully fund free transit. 

  • Stop privatization of our public transit system. We must not allow Regional Transit Authorities to privatize our public transit. . 

  • Hire more public transit workers. There are not enough bus drivers and ferry workers, and many of them are overworked.

  • Protect our public transit workers. Transit workers such as bus drivers are frontline essential workers, and every day they might face hostile passengers. As an airline attendant, I have been verbally and physically assaulted by passengers. We deserve hazard pay, and public transit workers need better safety barriers.

  • Accelerate investment in rail and electrified public transportation.

There is a bus stop right in front of my apartment building. Since I started living here, 2 pedestrians trying to get to the bus stop have been hit by cars and died. There is a lack of safety precautions: there is no stop sign, no zebra crossing, and no traffic calming infrastructure. 

 

The 37th Legislative District is home to the most dangerous street in Seattle: Rainier Ave South. Crossing this street feels dangerous because of how many cars speed and run red lights. At the same time, Rainier Avenue connects so much of our community together by providing a direct path to our schools, community centers, food banks, parks, and small businesses. However, I've been told that so many parents feel they can't let their children out by themselves because of the lack of road safety measures.

WE MUST:
  • Generate more funding for cities to build safe pedestrian and bike routes.

South Seattle isn't just home to Seattle's most dangerous street – it is also home to the region's worst air quality. I-5 dumps massive amounts of pollution into our air, meaning residents in our community have a much higher rate of asthma, heart disease, and cancer compared to the rest of the state. This is part of a continued pattern of low-income and marginalized communities bearing the brunt of pollution.

WE MUST:
  • Incentivize the transition to electrification of private and public vehicles with tax breaks and grants.

  • Plant trees and bushes along our roadways. Beyond literally green-ifying our city, plants clean our air.

  • Provide greater incentives and credits for drivers to purchase electric vehicles and retrofit diesel engines to make them run cleaner.

WORKER RIGHTS

As a frontline worker and the son of a union president, fighting for worker rights is fighting for my rights. I have been entangled in my own fight to unionize for the past few years, trying to move past the barriers put in place by my employers to become a member of the AFA. I commit to seeking guidance from and working closely with unions.

WE MUST:
  • Provide a clear path to unionization for ride-share workers, independent contractors, and other 'gig' workers who are often misclassified, and have little protection under federal and state law.

  • Legislate against attempts of corporations to improperly categorize their workers as independent contractors. Amazon has done this with their delivery drivers, which has denied them benefits and legal protections.

  • Prioritize contractors that employ unionized staff and have a history of supporting the rights of their workers.

  • Push for safe working conditions for all workers, which may require additional staffing and investments.

  • Provide a Just Transition for all workers as we transition from a fossil fuel economy to a green energy economy, which includes priority training and hiring practices.

HEALTHCARE ACCESS

When I was 21 years old, right after graduating from college, I tested positive for HIV. I didn't have access to healthcare or information on how this would affect my life. Six years later, I was hospitalized, and my doctors diagnosed me with full-blown AIDS. 

 

I was unhoused and didn't have insurance. The paperwork to get services was long and tedious. I was depending on a government-provided cell phone and hospital-issued train tickets to get to my appointments. There were times when I had to stop my prescriptions because I could not afford the cost. The hospital only offered subsidized care at a single time every week - 3pm on Monday. I noticed that most of the other patients there were also black, brown, or indigenous. 

 

As a front-line worker during the COVID pandemic, access to healthcare is one of the issues at the front of my mind. I am an at-risk individual working as an airline attendant, and not only have I had encounters with dangerous passengers, I have also encountered difficulty in getting paid sick leave. Even with the insurance that my job offers, my prescriptions are still over a hundred dollars a month. 

 

It is clear to me that healthcare affordability and accessibility will require a holistic approach, from universal healthcare to workers' rights to supportive housing. 

WE MUST:
  • Support Whole Washington initiative, and universal healthcare

  • Require more time and flexibility for sick leave for workers

  • Mandate holistic healthcare that integrates culture

  • Invest in patient-centered medical healthcare and community health centers

  • Support safety for front-line healthcare workers and ensure safe staffing

  • Protect reproductive rights and sexual health accessibility

LGBTQ+ EQUALITY

LGBTQ+ advocacy could not be more personal to me. My identity as black immigrant, intersects very deeply as a gay man. I have to navigate a lots of social and racial injustice and discrimination, I was fired in 2008 because my employer found out that I was gay, and he opposed my dignity - and my right to work - on religious grounds. During this time, I also lost the support of my family, and my coming out experience ended with me unhoused and in crisis. 

 

I emerged from this experience with a renewed passion - I wanted to become a champion for my LGBTQ+ community. I joined Delta Phi Upsilon, the first fraternity for gay men of color, and worked with them to provide scholarships to gay and trans youth and to provide hospice care to those living with AIDS. I’ve worked to support LGBTQ+ asylum seekers here in Washington in their path to becoming Americans. And now, I proudly sit as the co-chair of the Seattle LGBTQ+ commission. 

 

We’ve achieved incredible victories since I lost my job due to my identity as a  gay man, but there is still so much work to be done. We need to fight to protect these rights we’ve earned, to advocate for the dignity and prosperity of the LGBTQ+ community, and to create a society that celebrates my trans and nonbinary siblings.

WE MUST:
  • Protect LGBTQ+ students and educators - letting institutions like Seattle Pacific University prohibit the hiring of queer employees serves no one.

  • Prioritize and create pathways for gender affirming care and services

  • Protect and care for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence