By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
Councilmember John Okamoto invited the ethnic media for a question-and-answer session May 15. Okamoto was recently appointed as councilmember as a replacement for Sally Clark’s seat. The appointment is unusual because Okamoto will not be able to re-apply for re-election after his seven-month term.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish most during this limited period of time?
Okamoto: There is so much to do, and so little time. There are some big issues already on the City Council’s agenda that will consume a considerable amount of time: renewal of the transportation levy, housing affordability, and adopting a balanced budget. In addition, I would like to reexamine the effectiveness of our homeless programs, highlight the unmet needs of our seniors and unmet health needs of our residents, promote youth employment opportunities, advocate for full funding of public education, and take our domestic violence programs to the next level.
Of particular interest to the API community and communities of color, I would like to create a policy framework that would require the collection and analysis of data at the subpopulation level, and use that data for resource allocation purposes. As the City moves toward “results driven” services, it is imperative that we disaggregate population data to make sure the needs of subpopulations are getting the services they need and deserve. I am pleased to announce that we’ll be bringing on Audrey Buehring. Before a short time at One America, Audrey was the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where she spent five years working to improve health, education, and economic development for Asian America and Pacific Islander communities. She has a policy background on the issue of data disaggregation.
Q: What are your reflections on the grilling by Kshama Sawant now that some time has passed?
Okamoto: I have said her actions were disappointing and unnecessary. Councilmember Sawant and I have discussed this. She remains unapologetic and believes her conduct was acceptable. We’ve come to agree to disagree about her conduct. But at this point, both she and I will need five votes to move any policy issues we sponsor and advance. She may need my vote, and I may need her vote on a policy issue. To be effective, we will need to work with each other and our colleagues.
Q: Once you are eligible again, is there a chance you would run?
Okamoto: Applicants for the position were asked to pledge they would not run for City Council this fall. While many have encouraged me to run in the future, my single focus at this time is to serve the best I can through the next several months. (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at email@example.com.