By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
There is a saying, “Men forget, but won’t forgive,” and “Women forgive, but won’t forget.”
Unfortunately, I represent both genders’ characteristics as a voter: I don’t forget and won’t forgive what the candidates have done. The Northwest Asian Weekly does not endorse candidates in the primary election, but will endorse in the general election.
I won’t recommend who to vote for in this election, but I will share with you some tips in eliminating those who do not meet my principles. You can develop your own elimination criteria.
The Seattle City Council races are tough since there are over 50 candidates for seven seats. However, if you want to change the direction of the city, this will be a good time to vote. It is time-consuming to study all the candidates’ backgrounds, records, and personalities. You may not always find the best one, but you can certainly discover clues to eliminate the bad ones. If you agree with the candidate’s qualifications and issues, you may still not be able to decide as some candidates say the same thing and copy someone else’s platform. Even if you are not a Seattleite, you can apply my criteria to choose candidates for other cities, such as Bellevue, SeaTac, Redmond, Kirkland, and so on.
1. Failure to listen
Listening requires politicians to have empathy and tact. They understand there is always another side to a story. You don’t make good decisions if you don’t examine all the facts and try to get valuable input from different sides.
For candidates who don’t listen to his or her constituency, vote them out. We don’t need elected officials who are closed-minded, egotistical, and never consider another point of view. We don’t want officials who have no time to meet with anybody, especially people who disagree with them. In this case, you can’t tell from some candidates, but some incumbents have already demonstrated that listening is in their blood if you follow the news. If you go to candidate forums or talk to people who are active in politics, they will instantly tell you who on the city council have no desire to meet with the general public, especially those with whom they do not see eye to eye.
Just because someone thinks differently doesn’t mean they are your enemies. Opponents can contribute refreshing ideas, too. After all, no one has all the answers to all the problems Seattle faces.
When I interviewed candidates, a few said in their opening remarks that listening is crucial. I take note immediately. Don’t be afraid to interview candidates, you would be surprised that candidates are often eager to talk to potential voters.
2. Don’t work well with people
If you are deciding between two candidates, you can talk to the candidates’ supporters and ask if she or he works well with other people.
The ability to work well with people reflects the candidate’s vision, maturity, and skills. You cannot get things done if you don’t respect others or cannot get along with people. We can’t afford to elect council members who intimidate, lose their temper, and insult others. I admire politicians who apologize for their mistakes. Recognizing their own flaws is not a weakness, but shows grace and strength.
3. The candidate’s knowledge of the Asian community
It is a plus when the candidate’s knowledge about the community is strong. Has the candidate worked with Asian community members? Is the candidate open to hiring Asian American staff when she or he gets elected?
Can candidates give you names of Asian supporters? Talk to those supporters and find out what the candidate is really like. Find out why people want to endorse the candidate.
4. Involved in issues irrelevant to city council business
It is appalling to have two Seattle council members flying to New York to testify against Amazon when it was considering the Big Apple for its HQ 2. How would they like it if New York City council members came to Seattle to tell Seattleites who to do business with? One of them is running for re-election this year. Such grandstanding behavior is not only inappropriate, but unprofessional.
Years ago, some Seattle City Council officials wanted to get involved in foreign affairs, by sanctioning the policies of certain nations. Seattle is not the federal government. Get real. The city has little impact when it comes to international politics.
The job of a city council member is to take care of the city’s business first—such as resolving the homeless crisis, improving public safety, ensuring a clean environment including water and streets, fixing roads, developing a vibrant economy, a good transportation system, and other sound livable conditions. Everything s/he does has to be focused on improving our city, and the quality of life for Seattleites.
5. The candidate’s voting records
When Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced his interest in running for U.S. president, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat exposed Schultz’s poor voting record.
It’s hard for many to support someone who, as a leader, can’t set the example in fulfilling the
most basic civic duty—voting.
Most people don’t have time to check all the candidates’ voting record. But if you can’t decide between two outstanding candidates, check who has the better voting record at the Office of King County Elections. It’s all public information.
It is also a lesson for ambitious young people who are interested in political office in the future. You can give all kinds of excuses about your past misgivings, but you can’t lie or hide your voting history.
6. Not fulfilling their term
In District 3, one candidate, who was a former Seattle School Board member, resigned his seat so he could run for City Council, which is more powerful than a school board position. It also pays a lot more. The city council job pays over $129,000, and school board members receive only $4,800 max a year. He might deny those are his real motives in pursuing a higher office. Don’t believe him.
I have a hard time accepting someone who made a commitment to kids, and then abandoning them. He shouldn’t have run for school board two years ago.
Once in awhile, I can forgive a candidate for not finishing his/her term for good reasons. In this case, it is obvious—the pasture is greener on the other side.
7. Inappropriate public behavior
What kind of public servant are you if you often lecture people at council meetings, including colleagues?
And in press conferences, a councilmember called a Seattle police officer, a “murderer.” It is already difficult for the Seattle Police Department to recruit new officers. Accusing them as murderers before you have all the facts won’t help. It is also unfair.
All council meetings are being videotaped, and you can watch which council member frequently bullies other people. Just do a Google search and you will know what I mean.
On Aug. 6, you can decide the destiny of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Redmond, Renton, and many other cities. Vote.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.