fbpx Press "Enter" to skip to content

Candidate Questions: Racial Equality in Auburn

Recently we reached out to the City Council Candidates to get their take on racial topics being discussed by the current city council.  When asking these questions we did not inform the candidates about the email sent to Mayor Backus, but instead referenced the recent remarks made by Washington State Senator Mona Das. We featured one response from these questions in this article.  Here are the candidate’s full answers to each question.
Candidates are featured in alphabetical order by last name.  These answers are direct, unedited, responses from the candidates.

Anthony Ase

Auburn Examiner: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Anthony Ase, Anthony Ase Auburn Wa, Auburn Wa City Council,
Anthony Ase, candidate Auburn City Council position No. 5 | Courtesy Photo

Anthony Ase: Not at all. That’s one of the reason’s why I felt now was an appropriate time to run. And looking at the rest of the candidates, I think many of them felt the same.

AE: Do you feel a council member’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

AA: Members of the council are doing what they feel is in the best interest of Auburn citizens, but they just happen to be far removed from the average citizen. Whether that distance is because of their socio-economic status, age, gender, race, or nationality is nearly impossible to determine. Personal demographics don’t automatically make someone better for office, but our demographics do provide a specialized lens and perspective to approach problems. A well-rounded council better represents a diverse population.

AE: Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.     How do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

AA: That’s on a situation by situation basis. Practically speaking, as a 35-year-old black man, I’ve got plenty of practice in dealing with racism and being able to handle it and keep my job and my own sense of pride. I’ll handle it as tactfully as the situation calls for. For a frame of reference, I believe Kamala Harris handled herself very well on the debate stage.

AE: If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

AA: Toward myself, well, I tend to roll with the punches. However, if that misogyny or racism is directed at staff then I have zero tolerance for it. I stand by and support my staff. Even still, that’s on a case by case basis. If you misgender my staff, then I will simply be obvious in my next sentence and use their correct pronoun. If you break out hate speech or things that cross the line, then prepare to be escorted away from whatever function we are at.

AE: Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city.  Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

AA: Ultimately, a city can’t be a sanctuary city if its residents don’t provide a welcoming environment. This is not something you can push onto people who don’t want it. However, I will say that I was a bit disappointed to hear how many of my neighbors were against becoming a sanctuary city.

AE: Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

AA: If I had my druthers, yes, we would be. But as I stated above. You can’t just be a sanctuary in name alone. The citizens have to want to provide that welcoming environment. This is not something you force on the unwilling.

AE: With an increase in reported hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?*

AA: Follow up. Often times when concerns are brought up, it seems like people in positions of power just pay lip service. I want to follow up with the people. Give them a time frame of when they can hear back from me and I will let them know what actions have transpired since our initial meeting. It’s a simple thing to do and it really ensures that people don’t just feel heard, but they’ll know that their council is doing something. Follow up also give citizens a chance to provide updated feedback and options so they feel more connected to local solutions.

Robert (Bob) Baggett

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Elect Bob Baggett , re-elect bob baggett, bob baggett auburn wa, bob baggett, robert baggett, robert (bob) baggett, councilmember bob baggett
Robert (Bob) Baggett | Courtesy photo, Elect Bob Baggett Facebook page

Robert Baggett: The current city council, while mostly Caucasian, has very diverse backgrounds that might not be readily known to the outside observer. To begin with, our City of Auburn is a very diverse community made up of many different cultures and ethnic groups, all of which should be represented and treated with equal respect and without judgment or bias. I believe that the current slate of candidates have the potential to diversify even more, and is something that will benefit the city, our people, and further represent the city’s demographics as a whole.

AE: Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

BB: I believe that demographics themselves are not a qualifier as a stand-alone. I feel that we are all diverse, in one form or another, be it race, gender, faith, age, vocation, gender identity, ethnicity, skin color, disability, or national origin and, as stated above, should be treated without prejudice but with respect, dignity, and compassion.

AE: Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.

BB: I cannot comment on the concerns or feelings of Senator Das with regard to her fellow legislators; however, I thankfully have never had the experience of a fellow elected colleague that was sexist, racist, or one who dislikes, distrusts, or has a hatred of women (misogynistic).

AE: How do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

BB: Given the specific situation, I would mention to that person the inappropriateness of their behavior and, if it persisted, would recommend that our Human Resources and City Attorney be advised of the repeated offense and to take appropriate disciplinary action.

AE: If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc., toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers, or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

BB: Please see my answer to the above question.

AE: With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?*

BB: I believe that my role as an elected official is to first represent all of the people and be their voice as a city councilmember. I have spoken to many of my constituents over the years and listened to their concerns regarding many different issues. I profoundly believe that our residents and business owners want to feel that our city is a safe location to raise their families and conduct business, without fear of their lives and property. Most of the issues that I have personally dealt with fortunately have not involved hate crimes, but mostly with homelessness, affordable housing, growth, the opioid crisis, street and infrastructure conditions, taxes, code enforcement, healthcare, and assuring the public that our city is prepared in the event of an emergency or major disaster.

Ryan Burnett

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

ryan burnett, ryan burnett auburn wa, auburn wa city council
Ryan Burnett, Candidate Auburn City Council position No. 5 | Courtesy Photo

Ryan Burnett: The median age in Auburn in 35 years old, if this is the demographic that we are using to answer this question, then I would have to say no, it does not. I would also say that the current council does not have much diversity. I do believe in a diverse approach to managing in my restaurants and strive to achieve that when possible. I work with many different people from many different cultural, racial backgrounds and core belief systems. I believe that this strengthens the teams I build, adding perspective and shedding light to areas missed by more traditional approaches to leadership and should be practiced in today’s politics.

AE: Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

RB: You’re asking for my opinion on this subject, so let me start by saying that this is my opinion, not based on any research done. I do believe that it has an effect on a person’s perspective and decision making. Depending on the stage of one’s life, their gathered experiences and their current goals, one’s decision making could be based on beliefs or policies and procedures that are not viable options for the future of the community. To further this a bit and to clarify, my goals and visions as a professional chef with many years left in my career, a father of young children growing up in the Auburn community and a citizen concerned with the future of our community, country and the world in general are surely different than an individual that is retired and intent on preserving a way of life that may, at this point, not be the best path for us.

AE: Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt, her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.

RB:  Before you brought this to my attention, I was not aware of the incident. I did a bit of research, although not extensively, and I wound up reaching out to her via email on Saturday night (AE: June 29th). I have yet to receive a response, and half expect to never receive one. (Revision: earlier today I received an email from someone from the legislative office stating that they are not sure where the conversation was headed, but since I am a candidate, they were attaching themselves to the thread. I’m assuming that is to protect the integrity of the process). I don’t believe that these issues are the only issues plaguing our government, but I do believe that these issues do plague our government. I believe that these issues are driven by ignorance and fear, needs to cease for us to see through the eyes of our community. The benefit of having multiple belief systems, religions, cultures, races, sexual orientations and all other types of individualism is that they all combine to provide the widest array of solutions to problems that need to be addressed. There are serious issues facing our world today that need creative solutions, solutions that are outside of what we have always done, and I believe that these types of solutions are discovered when many points of view are brought together to solve problems.

AE: How do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

RB: These accusations are quite serious and should be investigated to ensure these types of biases are not present in our government. I truly believe in looking at all sides of the story before making judgments, and in the circumstances described above, I would urge this be done.

AE:  If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

RB: I admit that it would be difficult to keep emotions in check, but that is exactly what needs to be attempted in order to find solutions in the face of bigotry. These types of behaviors need to be exposed and expunged for us to advance our society, rather than holding it back as it is doing now.

AE: Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

RB: The council needs to address the concerns of the citizens that voted them in office. There needs to be open communication with the community on these important issues. Time should be spent analyzing the concerns, weighing all angles and looking for creative solutions before making these decisions. Is it too far outside of the box to take a vote from the city’s residents on these types of issues? Maybe that’s too creative to some traditionalists, but I believe one of my strengths is questioning what is and what has always been done in favor of finding new creative ways to combat the issues facing our current society.

AE:  Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

RB: Our immigration system needs to be reformed, it is muddy at best. With that said, before committing to that course of action I need to do more research on the overall effects on other cities who have become sanctuary cities. Only after more clearly understanding the pros and cons on a community would I then make a recommendation.

AE: With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?*

RB: I have recently spoken to a local business owner, who shall remain nameless for now, who told me that none of the current leaders of the city have attended any of the monthly meetings put on by the ADA or the BIA in the recent past. These business leaders in our community have concerns about the state of the city and the direction the development of our city is taking us but feel unheard and undervalued. Perhaps that is a good start, looking for ways to engage with our city like attending their meetings our cooperating to form open forums to discuss these topics with our residents.

James Jeyaraj

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

James Jeyaraj, city of auburn, James Jeyaraj for Auburn City Council, Auburn City Council, auburn wa
James Jeyaraj | Courtesy Photo, James Jeyaraj Campaign

James Jeyaraj: Our city has grown in the last few years, but our city council doesn’t represent the city’s current demographics. Only one of our current council members is a person of color, and only two are women. When the city council doesn’t reflect our community’s diversity, the voices of those who aren’t represented too often go unheard.

AE:  Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

JJ: To effectively represent Auburn, the city council should reflect the diverse life experiences of those that live here. It’s the first step toward equality and equity.

That being said, a councilmember’s race, gender, or sexual orientation isn’t their main qualification. A councilmember must be willing to share their opinion and listen to others with an open mind. They should celebrate the multiculturalism of our community and strive to see that we are more alike than we are different. This is the diversity that helps makes us better neighbors, strengthens our community, and attracts residents and businesses to Auburn.

AE:  Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt, her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.

JJ: I’m not familiar enough with the situation to comment at this time.

AE: How do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

JJ: While I am not familiar with Senator Das’s situation, I believe that part of my role as a city councilmember is to build bridges between people, not to divide them. Prejudice, both conscious and unconscious, stems from people believing others are inherently different from themselves. I would not automatically assume the worst. I find that actively listening to each other, finding common ground, and leading with integrity is our best way to fight bias.

AE: If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

JJ: I’ve faced racist words and behaviors throughout my life. Too often, people speak out of anger, fear, and ignorance. They unintentionally say hurtful things. That in itself doesn’t make them bad people, but doing nothing isn’t the right answer. And if you’re not listening to one another, you can’t have understanding. Confronting anger, fear, and ignorance takes understanding. Without it, tempers flare too quickly, and the situation can spin out of control.

I would try to diffuse the situation by asking targeted questions and actively listening to the constituent’s responses. This would help me understand the constituent’s frame of reference, and give me more information about how to effectively communicate with that individual without amplifying hostility. Without understanding, we will never bridge the gaps that separate us.

AE: Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

JJ: As a councilmember, I would have emphasized that we’re here to protect all of our residents, not just some of them. Allowing police officers to randomly stop anyone because of their skin color and ask them for their papers, never ends well. I was glad to hear that our police officers don’t do that and have been actively working in all our communities to build trust.

AE: Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

JJ: I agree with Governor Jay Inslee’s actions when he signed the statute making Washington a sanctuary state on May 22, 2019. Two years ago, our City Council took up the resolution affirming that we are an inclusive and welcoming city. That resolution was to protect basic human rights that will not be infringed by any city employee, that includes the police.

AE: With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?*

JJ: A city council that embraces diversity demonstrates the strength of unity when we come together and devise constructive solutions. We can lead by example and spread our message of unity in schools, businesses, and public events. Education is key to racial harmony, understanding each other’s culture, and celebrating both our differences and our similarities as human beings. Public holiday celebrations for different cultures where all are encouraged to participate can better expose us to each other’s food, customs, and beliefs. Only through familiarity can we begin to accept each other as partners in Auburn’s future.

Resolution No. 5427 is important for our city to adopt it, it allows the city to hire a consulting group for racial equity training and policy development. Instead, our City Council members have been debating this issue for some time. It is time for some of the council members to step out of their bubble by standing behind their words to show the community we are a welcoming city for all people and we are making an effort as a City Council. This training will bring us closer to serve all people without prejudice or judgment and bring us closer to being more perfect society.

Robyn Mulenga

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Robyn Mulenga, auburn wa Robyn Mulenga, auburn city council
Robyn Mulenga candidate for Auburn City Council position No. 5 | Courtesy Photo

Robyn Mulenga: The council should reflect the diversity of the city and each city council member should be a representative for our whole community.

AE: Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

RM:  It’s important for all leaders to be educated on equity so they can view policies from an equity lens and fairly represent the interest of our entire Auburn community.

AE: Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.  How would do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

RM:  I would create an open environment where people can respectfully communicate so that we can discuss issues that are important to our community.

AE: If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

RM: I would create an open environment where people can respectfully communicate so that we can discuss issues that are important to our community.

AE: Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

RM:  I believe families should stay together.

AE: Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

RM: We have a duty to respect all of our residents and I agree with the resolution that the City of Auburn passed.

AE: With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?*

RM: It’s important to create a welcoming environment where residents want to live, work and see their businesses flourish. And to provide awareness that we want a diverse, inclusive community where all people feel accepted.

Vera Orlandic-Hodak

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Vera Orlandic-Hodak, Vera Orlandic-Hodak auburn wa, Vera Orlandic-Hodak city council
Vera Orlandic-Hodak candidate Auburn City Council position No. 7

Vera Orlandic-Hodak: No. This is a city that’s almost 130 years old. I was so pleased when a Latina was elected to Council but she was the first considered ‘non-Caucasian’ in all that time. The same goes for the number of women who have been elected to Council and our mayor today is the first woman mayor in all our history. We need to make a real effort to bring in more women, more immigrants, more people who represent the diverse community of Auburn.

Look at me. A successful woman who owned her own company. My country Yugoslavia went through a disastrous war. I dealt with the consequences of a war in my country, at my front door. My son an I immigrated here. I swept floors and made beds in hotels. I worked for my son’s future. He graduated from college and I went on to get additional degrees. I’m now a project manager at Boeing. How can the current Council every really understand my journey and my perspective as a woman, a mother and grandmother.

AE: Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

VOH: Make no mistake these are good people on our Council who have devoted themselves to the community. But there’s a great difference between saying you understand and living it. For that reason we must have more diversity. It is a new century and there are new needs and issues that have never been addressed before in our history and that requires more diversity.

AE:  Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic. How would do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

VOH: My job is to represent all the people of Auburn regardless of sex, race, religion, culture or any other consideration. First, I would not allow any comment or actions to go by unnoticed or unanswered but I will always try to do so in a constructive manner. 

AE:  If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

VOH: As above, the position is as the representative of all of our people and that will be my standard for all my actions.

For both of these questions, we do need to work together as a Council to determine real diversity training. That includes allowing all of the people to have input and then put a well-formed request out for bid for long term diversity training.

AE:  Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

VOH: First I would have worked with Council to develop a better process for listening to the people we represent. This is not a matter for a single council meeting but a decision with community input.

AE:  Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

VOH: The Auburn City Attorneys felt at the time that this was a problem with federal law. The concern was for federal funds for streets and human services. While big government with big incomes can afford to make such decisions we really need to involve our citizens before making a decision.

AE:  With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have?*

VOH: Council makes policy and passes laws. There is no independent voice of Council but rule of law through Council votes. I’ve been told that over and over and in some communities individual Councilmembers have taken public actions independently of Council but for the most part that doesn’t result in long term change.

Citizens, all citizens, need to know by our actions that we answer to them, we are there to protect them and we can change policy and laws to continue to reaffirm those statements. It is only by our actions that we will be seen as their representatives. We cannot be antagonistic on Council and expect our community to act differently. We must set the example.

Kenneth (Ken) Pearson

Opening statement:
I’m going to see you as a child of God. My brother, my sister. I’ll look into your eyes in hopes of getting a glimpse into your soul. The color of your skin, much like the color of your hair, makes no difference to me. It’s superficial, and doesn’t become an issue until you make it one.

I refuse to reward the ‘race baiters’, and politicians who benefit from creating division between people by taking the bait. We are not strong because of diversity, we are strong because of our unity, despite our diversity. United we stand, divided we fall. “e pluribus Unum”, from many, one!

AE:  Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Ken Pearson: The short answer is no. Even when dividing the question into two separate parts, age, and race, the answer is still no.

If I may elaborate, my education in broadcasting refers to demographics as age brackets. Including the mayor, plus the 7 seats on the council, at least 75% of the council is 55+. So, no, that does not reflect the diverse age brackets of Auburn, but, that’s not important. Briefly speaking, in the history of human kind, going all they way back to the days of clans, and tribes, the chief had trusted advisors that consisted of the sage, and wisest of the clan, or tribe. “With age comes wisdom.” I would not trust a 16 year old with managing the business of the city.

When it comes to racial demographics, the face of the city council will change this election. Position 1, we have a member of the ‘First Nations’ community running unopposed. The city of Auburn has a symbiotic relationship with the Muckleshoot tribe, therefore, I feel they should be represented on the council. Position 3 will replace the deputy mayor who is stepping down. Both candidates are under 60, one was foreign born, the other…is me. Position 5 replaces another councilmember, and will go to the primary. Position 7 is a woman competing against an incumbent.

The Auburn City Council will look different in January.

AE: Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the city of Auburn?

KP: Wisdom is not the sole propriety of any given race. Truth is not the sole propriety of any given ideology. If someone tells you they have all the answers, don’t believe them. They probably didn’t understand the questions. Do I need to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. here?

“Judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.”

AE: Recently, Wa. state senator Mona das made remarks stating that, while not overt, her fellow legislators were sexist, racist, and misogynistic…

KP: In journalism, there are 5 questions that need to be answered in any story: who? what? when? where? and why? The senator does not answer any of those questions, and only hints at a couple of them. Therefore, at this moment in time, there is no credibility in these accusations. As a former news director, I would not have run the story.

AE:  How do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a council member, or other representatives) behaving in this manner, or not?
(plus)
If a constituent was, (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc. toward yourself, your fellow city council members, or city staff members, how would you respond?

KP: People are imperfect, yours truly included. Being a Chaplain, I understand some times people do, and say things they know are wrong. I would give the offender a awy to gracefully ‘save face’, apologize for the misdeed, and ‘take it back’.

If that wasn’t sufficient, I would discreetly council them. Explain to them the error of their ways. If I can’t change what’s in somebody’s heart, I can at least teach them how to show respect.
(When someone shows disrespect towards another, it’s usually because they lack respect for themselves.)

AE: Two years ago, the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at the time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council? Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

KP: The sanctuary city/state is a horrible idea! It makes no sense to import poverty, and the criminal element that accompanies it. We have 10’s of thousands of homeless people, homeless vets in the city of Seattle alone. Seattle can’t absorb them all. So, they are overflowing into the surrounding communities, and into our streets along with all the social ills that follow. How does this fix anything? We need to take care of our own, first!

Tax dollars are limited, and our tax payers deserve to have their concerns addressed before their money is spent on foreign nationals.

I don’t begrudge anyone trying to improve their position in life, but, if your coming here, respect our country, respect our laws.

AE: With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have?*

KP: (If you would like to discuss ‘hate crimes’, that’s a separate issue.)

When it comes to assuring residents, and business owners that their concerns are being heard…I’m a Chaplain, that’s what I do, I listen. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. One can hear a voice without listening to what’s it’s saying. For example, hearing a voice in a foreign language without listening to their words…their thoughts.

Referring to my days in sales, the best way to sell someone, is to shut up and listen. They will tell you how to sell them. The secret is listening, not just hearing. Depending on the concern, city council is limited to what they can do. However, city council can assure residents, and business owners that the laws will be enforced.

Chris Stearns

AE: Reflecting on the City of Auburn’s population, do you feel the current city council represents the city’s demographics?

Chris Stearns, Christopher Stearns, Gaming Commissioner Stearns
Auburn City Council Candidate Chris Stearns | Courtesy Photo

Chris Stearns: It appears to me that our Council, like most every city council across the state and our nation, is evolving with the changes in our demographics. We have many more people of color, immigrants, and Native Americans living in our city than ever before. We also have a more highly educated workforce. Auburn, like the rest of Washington, is moving forward and adapting and I believe that City Council will be reflective of those changes.

AE:  Do you feel a councilmember’s demographics make them any more or less qualified to represent the best interests of the City of Auburn?

CS: The most important thing for me is the ability to listen, be open-minded, and compassionate. Those I believe are the most important qualifications for a representative. But life experience, being able to directly relate to all of your constituents is important too. I can’t pretend to have lived through everything that other people have, but having someone on the Council who does understand your background and your experiences is important. The fact that we come from many different backgrounds, faiths, countries actually makes us stronger. The idea of representation embedded in our country’s Constitution is vital and still important today. I am excited to serve on a Council that lives up to those ideals.

AE:  Recently WA State Senator Mona Das made remarks stating that, while not overt her fellow legislators were sexist, racist and misogynistic.  How would do you believe you would handle a fellow Auburn representative (be it a fellow councilmember or other representatives) behaving in this manner – overtly or not?

CS: My work on the Seattle Human Rights Commission brought me close to the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative which is designed to educated city workers on what is institutional racism, as well as steps to reduce or eliminate institutional racism. King County has a similar initiative. And there are many cities across the country are adopting a model similar to Seattle’s. When citizens and lawmakers work together to undo institutional racism, the outcome is better justice and equity for all.

If someone was acting overtly racist, sexist, or misogynistic then I would take the appropriate steps under our City’s laws to make sure those actions were addressed. There really is no room for that in the 21st Century.

AE:  If a constituent was (overtly or not) openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, etc. toward yourself, your fellow city councilmembers or city staff members how do you believe you would respond?

CS: See above answer.

AE:  As a candidate running unopposed, do you feel you remove the choice from voters as to who they are electing to their council?

CS: No. Deciding whether or not to run for office is a highly personal and important decision, and that is up to each individual to decide for herself or himself. I have great respect for those who have thrown, or will throw, their hat in the ring. Ultimately, we are a government of the people and it’s up to the people themselves to decide whether or not they will want to run for office. That is the beauty of our democratic form of government – Its foundation is based on individual choice and freedom.

AE:  Two years ago the city council was approached to make Auburn a sanctuary city. Had you been on the council at that time, how would you have addressed the concerns of the residents who came to the city council?

Candidate declined to answer

AE: Do you feel Auburn should be a sanctuary city?

CS: I do believe, especially at this point in time, that the rights of immigrants, workers, and their families must be taken seriously.

AE:  With an (at least seeming) increase in hate crimes across the nation, what do you feel the city council can do to help residents and business owners feel heard when they have concerns?

CS: Hate crimes must be seriously investigated and prosecuted. It is important for all citizens of Auburn to feel safe and welcome.

*Editor’s Note: This question was phrased “With the increase reported hate crimes across the nation, What do you feel the city council can do to help residents, and business owners feel heard when they` have concerns?” to candidates Ase, Burnett, Jeyaraj, and Pearson.  Here’s why we altered the language.

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.