By Janice Nesamani
Northwest Asian Weekly
Ringing in a new term
For Mayor of Tacoma Victoria Woodards, being elected to a second term is the opportunity to continue to do the work. And there is a lot of work as the city recovers from Covid—addressing affordability, homelessness, and bringing businesses and jobs to Tacoma are high on her agenda.
“The blessing and challenge of being reelected is that you don’t stop, you just keep right on going,” Woodards said. Her second run comes at a crucial time for a city that is trying to balance affordable housing with a real estate boom while Manuel Ellis’ police-related killing looms large in public memory.
Recently elected Mayor of Seattle, Bruce Harrell may have until January to take office, but he has already put together his transition team and administration from the ground up and is ready to hit the ground running.
“From Day One, we are going to show a new urgency that addresses issues in our city with action and compassion—changing the narrative in Seattle and delivering needed progress on homelessness, public safety, and economic revitalization,” Harrell said.
Building equitable cities
Racial equity was at the heart of Woodards’ campaign. Tacoma passed a resolution with a commitment to become an anti-racist city.
“It means looking at all the systemic barriers that keep people from achieving their destiny. Too often, the conversation is around law enforcement and the criminal justice system, but they are on the back end of what happens,” Woodards said. She believes if the city can go upstream to keep people from getting into the criminal justice system, everyone can thrive.
“I believe in equity, not equality and will continue to support our office of equity to ensure everyone gets what they need to achieve their destiny.”
She alludes to a study the city is conducting on home ownership.
“That will tell us what we already know: the BIPOC community is underrepresented in home ownership,” Woodards said. “This study will highlight these disparities so we can focus on them and move forward.”
Woodards points to Tacoma’s equity index that will allow her administration to overlay varied data points and information to enable the best decisions of where they can spend the limited resources they have.
The city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights will begin outward facing projects that help Tacoma.
“We also have our Heal the Heart coordinating team working on equity,” she said.
As someone with mixed-race heritage, Harrell understands representation matters.
“That’s why we’ve put together the most racially and ideologically diverse transition team in Seattle’s history, making sure every voice is heard and every community has a seat at the table,” Harrell said. “That will be a priority throughout my administration, celebrating what makes us different while uniting around shared values and mutual progress.”
Harrell’s work on the city council with programs like the Race and Social Justice Initiative, Great Student Initiative, and Seattle Promise has always had an equity lens as did his campaign proposals.
“I’ve led with an equity lens that puts opportunity and inclusion first. Expanding access to jobs, housing, education, healthcare, childcare, and healthy food are all key items of my agenda. I also believe Seattle must prioritize mentorship and lifelong learning, ensuring people have the tools and resources to succeed and thrive throughout life.”
“Growing up the biracial son of two working class city employees, overcoming hardships and challenges, and then making history by being elected mayor—shows it is possible in Seattle for anyone to achieve their full potential,” Harrell said. Now, he wants to bring leadership to ensure all people, no matter their background, age, race, gender identity, sexuality, religion, or any other factor, can do the same, so that Seattle is a place with plenty of opportunities, where every person is encouraged, supported, and able to thrive.
The BIPOC community has amped their voice of protest over the past year, and for Woodards, those voices are imperative.
“I want those people who were out on the streets to know they should continue to raise their voices and continue to hold people accountable.
Woodard would also like residents to know that the city has a lot of boards, commissions, and ways for people to engage in system change.
“My job is to open the door to make sure there are places for people to be engaged, but it is the community’s job to be ready to step up.
With a variety of challenges on her plate, Woodards’ mantra to get her through is, “I hold sacred the 217,000 people who call Tacoma home.” One of her guiding principles is to hear from and engage with as many people as possible.
“I lead with compassion and believe in partnership. We are going to have issues. Nobody expected the pandemic. It is not necessarily what you know about an issue but how you are going to lead it. It’s the principles and values you bring to the work.”
In an earlier interview, Harrell explained that in the first six months, his administration would build 1,000 housing units and within the first year, 2,000 units to move people off sidewalks out of playgrounds and parks and into transitional housing. In addition to advancing these new homelessness strategies, he will now focus on reimagining Seattle’s approach to public safety, and putting into motion initiatives around jobs, open government, and health care for all.
“I will begin as mayor with a defined and positive vision for my administration and our city’s future,” Harrell said. “Just as important as the solutions we put forward to the challenges facing Seattle is how we reach those solutions, approach problems, collaborate, set expectations, and analyze and review progress.”
Harrell’s priority as mayor is to set a new standard for accountability, transparency, unity, and problem-solving, and putting that approach to work taking on the crises facing Seattle.
This holiday season, Woodards feels grateful for the opportunity to serve Tacoma for four more years.
“I’m grateful and excited for those who voted for me and those who didn’t vote for me. I have been re-elected to serve as mayor and ensure people come together to make Tacoma the city of destiny for all of us,” Woodards said.
Harrell is thankful for his family and is excited to spend time with them over the holidays.
“Their devoted support made this victory possible, and it’s only with their love and ongoing support that I can be successful as mayor.”
He is also grateful to the people of Seattle, who voted to embrace his vision for a city that is welcoming to all, and responds to challenges with urgency and action and Seattle’s AAPI community who chose to uplift and celebrate diversity, culture, and heritage in the face of bigotry and hate.
“We can bring that same resilience and positivity to City Hall.”
Having worked with Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on state legislation previously, Woodards said, “I look forward to putting our heads together and being leaders locally, regionally, and nationally for the Pacific Northwest.”
Since both Seattle and Tacoma have huge issues around homelessness, transformation, and policing, Woodards believes she can work together with Harrell to get support from the state and federal governments.
“The idea that we are competing for companies to locate to Seattle or Tacoma is not true. We are looking for companies to locate to our region,” she said.
“Bruce and I have made a commitment to each other. We are going to work together because as the two largest cities on the I-5 corridor, we can leverage each other and have an opportunity to work with other cities in the state.”
“People always ask me what makes Tacoma so great, and I tell them we have a beautiful downtown, waterfronts, the mountains, wonderful neighborhoods, and business. But what really makes Tacoma great is its people and the diversity that is reflected in our city,” Woodards said. “I just want to make sure that everyone who calls Tacoma home really has that opportunity to be their best selves.”
“I’m so excited to get to work, but I cannot do it alone,” Harrell said. He added that to make needed progress and deliver a better future, he counts on community members to stay active and engaged. “Together, we can and will restore our city and move Seattle forward.”
Janice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.