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Toshiko Hasegawa on the Power of the Port of Seattle

Hacks & Wonks

Release Date: 07/07/2021

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More Episodes

Today on the show Crystal is joined by Toshiko Hasegawa, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner, to discuss how the Port of Seattle can modernize and prepare our region for a greener future. They cover the misconception that economics and equity are at odds, the importance of the Port of Seattle in improving air quality and health of South King County residents, and how the Port can actively work to encourage fair and equitable treatment for workers.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s guest, Toshiko Hasegawa, at @HasegawaForPort. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.

 

Resources

“A woman of color has never been elected to Seattle Port Commission. That could change this year” by David Hyde: https://www.kuow.org/stories/generational-battle-over-the-port-of-seattle-s-is-also-about-its-future-a-generation-from-now

“Activists push back against rising air pollution from Sea-Tac Airport” by John Ryan: https://www.kuow.org/stories/activists-push-back-against-air-pollution-from-sea-tac-airport

“Seattle’s port is greener than ever. That may not be enough.” by Joshua McNichols: https://www.kuow.org/stories/seattle-s-port-is-greener-than-ever-that-may-not-be-enough

“Duwamish Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis” from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition: http://justhealthaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Duwamish-Valley-Cumulative-Health-Impacts-Analysis-Seattle-WA.pdf

“Competition, not just COVID-19, eroding business at Tacoma and Seattle ports” by Bill Virgin: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/article245469505.html

“Seattle and Tacoma are a rarity among U.S. ports right now, with room for more ships” by Brendan Murray: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/international-trade/seattle-and-tacoma-are-a-rarity-among-u-s-ports-right-now-with-room-for-more-ships/

“Cruise ships returning to Seattle as pandemic restrictions ease” by Gregory Scuggs” https://crosscut.com/news/2021/05/cruise-ships-returning-seattle-pandemic-restrictions-ease

“King County Council bans use of facial recognition technology by Sheriff’s Office, other agencies” by David Gutman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/king-county-council-bans-use-of-facial-recognition-technology-by-sheriffs-office-other-agencies/

“Federal agencies need stricter limits on facial recognition to protect privacy, government watchdog says” by Gerrit De Vynck: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/federal-agencies-need-stricter-limits-on-facial-recognition-to-protect-privacy-government-watchdog-says/

“How airport scanners discriminate against passengers of color” by Gaby Del Valle: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/4/17/18412450/tsa-airport-full-body-scanners-racist

“The high cost of child care and lack of paid leave are holding back many working parents” by Michelle Fox: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/12/child-care-costs-and-lack-of-paid-leave-hold-many-working-parents-back.html

Toshiko Hasegawa campaign website: https://www.hasegawaforport.com/

 

Transcript

Crystal Fincher:
Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm your host Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk to political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and provide behind the scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhackandwonks.com, and in our episode notes. Today, we are so excited to be welcoming Toshiko Hasegawa candidate for port commission. Thank you so much for joining us.Toshiko Hasegawa:
Thank you so much for having me, Crystal. I'm so honored to be here.
Crystal Fincher:
I'm really excited. I'm excited about your candidacy and I am just first off wondering what made you decide to run and especially, what made you decide to run for port?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
People ask why the port, and it just is a testament for people really not having a comprehensive view of everything that it does. Not only is it the economic driver of our state, the point of entry for people from around the world to our country, but it's also, for example, one of the top polluters of carbon emissions in the state. It has, by my count, at least eight law enforcement agencies operating there. It touches civil rights issues and can set precedents in the court cases for other jurisdictions across the land. It is one of the most diverse counties in the entire nation with more languages spoken. And the port commission itself has some really important and unique powers. For example, to be able to levy a property tax, which we all also recognize as a regressive tax. And so, bringing community voice, bringing an equity lens, bringing perspective of people who are going to be impacted by these policies is going to be so important.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
But it's also noteworthy the context in which I'm running. Currently, I head a state agency. It's called the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. We advise the governor and the legislature and other agencies on issues impacting historically marginalized communities. And in this moment, as we recover from COVID-19, we've taken to account mass unemployment like we've never seen before, businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, entire industries at a standstill. And we will recover, but it's not just what we do, it's going to be how we do it that's so important. And right, now we're seeing a port that has not necessarily centered the perspective or the values of the community at large. Indeed, it's been operated as a business at an expense to the people at large. And so, I'm so honored to give people a choice.
Crystal Fincher:
You know what, and that's such an excellent point. And I think you've hit the nail precisely on the head in that a lot of people just don't know how consequential the port is. It's the second largest jurisdiction in the state really, tied for the second largest. You are in charge and in control of so much and touching so many areas of life. It's not necessarily top of mind and apparent to people, but my goodness, once you learn everything that's involved with the port, it becomes easier to see how you can make such a difference if you have someone pushing for the right things.
Crystal Fincher:
So, I guess, in terms of the issues that you just mentioned, we're coming out of a recession, we have an employment crisis, particularly among women, particularly among low wage workers and people of color. We have a wage crisis in terms of just the wages that people are receiving, minimum wage needing to be adjusted, people needing paid leave, healthcare. The way that we're keeping our residents safe in our communities and that entire conversation around public safety. So, what can you do? What are your plans and how can you impact all of those issues that people are feeling right now?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
Well, in fact, the port has a tremendous role to play in responding to the compounding crises of our time. Not only is it economic devastation or climate change, but there's also public health issues. There's the pervasive issue of misogyny and racism that permeate both our society and our institutions. And if you look at the port, we really think of it as having three strengths and that's aviation, that's maritime and it's also real estate taking into account the different things that we can do. But all three of these industries are historically white and they're also historically male. And so, the port is really uniquely positioned, I think, in this critical moment with such dire need, to be a leader in bringing together folks in industry, in business, in labor and in community to rebuild a model and be stronger and more inclusive, more lucrative than we were before.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And really what that looks like is having a continuum of care that's going to make sure that all people have access to the prosperity yielded by the port. On the front end, that could look like ensuring that there are folks, in particular, from historically marginalized geographies in south King County, who are also predominantly people of color or immigrants or limited English language speakers to be able to contend for and have access to opportunities either in joining the workforce or accessing contracts that are offered by the port.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And once folks are there, having a supportive environment with expanded benefits, incentivizing using mass transit for the workforce, a zero tolerance policy for racism or sexism or discrimination in any form. I think about women who are off at sea as we try to have a more inclusive and diverse maritime economy, for example, those things matter and making sure that people are institutionally and structurally supported that there's accountability behind that. But really, it's not just about at the entry level or in management, we also need people at the decision-making table writing these policies and centering that lens, creating access for that voice. And I think it's noteworthy that if elected, I will be hopefully alongside Hamdi as well, one of the first women of color ever to serve in this capacity. And there are a lot of things on a policy level or on a programmatic level that we can do to support people.
Crystal Fincher:
You raise a lot of great points. In particular, as a woman of color, looking at being one of the first women of color on the port commission, if you're elected and being able to take an equity lens, especially based on your life experience and lived experience, just what you're able to make sure is carried through in policy. Now, a lot of people, there was a bad article written and a lot of people still have the mindset that there is economic policy and then completely separate there's equity and justice. And those are different things and we actually need to prioritize the economy, and the economy as an actual thing, somehow separated from that. How do you address those kinds of criticisms or analyses of just how to approach equity work? Do you think that they're necessarily separate? How do you evaluate that as you're considering all of these issues?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
The answer to that, Crystal is “yes and.” Equity is more than a one-time investment. It's more than a program. It's even more than an office. Equity work is a lens that you are going to apply to every single thing that you do. And so, that's why perspective and actually knowing how to meaningfully gain public input so that you are authentically accountable and representative of the people that you serve, but also equipped to be able to effectively push information out so that things aren't getting clogged up and that the opportunities are actually being distributed fairly through society.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
It's about both outcome and procedural fairness. And I think that's really important, and we have to put our money where our mouth is and we have to make sure that the office of equity that does exist at the port of Seattle has the resources that they need in order to do systemic reviews, in order to create robust recommendations that we can take and apply in order to create more fairness within our workforce and the way that we're hiring and promoting and giving raises to women and people of color and LGBTQ+, the way we're becoming more accessible as an industry to people living with disabilities.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
We have to make sure that we are actually equipping the Office of Minority and Women Owned Businesses to be able to adequately evaluate the bids, and that we're empowering them with new policies that could actually create a better playing field for the folks who want to be able to engage and do business at the port. So, we're not pitting ourselves and wanting justice, social justice against growth or advancement. In fact, if you do it right, it's only going to have positive returns for the big picture.
Crystal Fincher:
Absolutely. I happen to agree with that. I'm also wondering, you mentioned earlier just how critical the port is in terms of pollution and that it is a major contributor. Aviation is a major contributor to pollution in our area, and particularly in south King County, where there currently are not any port commissioners that are from South King County. Communities are seeing the impacts of pollution from aviation, and there have been increasing studies coming out about how air pollution is contributing to asthma, to lower life expectancies, to heart disease and lung issues. And so, these south sound, particularly communities are absorbing this in addition to noise pollution and other issues. So, what are your plans to address and deal with this and really stop this from killing people in South King County?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And this is where we have the really important, but also really inspiring opportunity to dream big for what our future is going to look like. And we know that we're getting support from the state and from the, what our allocation will look like in the transportation package from the federal government. We have contracts on the horizon. But currently, our infrastructure is supporting a fossil fuel paradigm, when what we can be doing is taking meaningful steps into one that embraces renewable and sustainable energy sources. And I mean modernizing the port so that it goes fully electric, so that not only are we advancing our sustainability goals or creating jobs through their construction, but we're actually becoming better contenders in the global marketplace. Currently, folks are circumnavigating around the Pacific Northwest because to the south, LA and Long Beach have already gone fully electric or up north, BC or Prince Rupert are already fully electric.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
We're not there yet. We're getting left behind and we physically need a place for some of these emerging norms, the emerging cargo ships to be able to hook up. And so, modernizing is going to be able to really effectively bring together folks, not just in their environmental advocacy, not just on the community representation front, but also in labor and also in industry. We've got to think big about what it means to meaningfully connect our region through long-term goals like, for example, high speed rail, which would be from the north south position, would be able to not only reduce the number of short flights that are coming in and out of Sea-Tac airport that lead to the sound pollution and the air pollution that you're talking about, but also issues of congestion and mobility. Those five miles in, and those five miles out coming from either airport or Seaport, it's horrific. It impacts the quality of life in so many different ways. And airlines don't even really turn that much revenue from those short trips. So folks, I think there is space to be able to bring them together to think about what our solutions can be. And thinking about infrastructure is a long-term goal. In the short term, we can also offer incentives, right? We can incentivize some businesses to be able to make this transition, and we can subsidize the cost to make that transition for independent contractors or smaller businesses so that it's not going to be a situation where conglomerates are eating up smaller businesses that can't afford to make this transition that we're now asking of folks. The port currently offers a clean trucks program. I would love to see a clean boats program, so that both recreational and commercial fishers, small businesses, independent contractors can convert away from diesel engines towards electric ones.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
There's a case to be made for using Cares Act dollars for some of this stuff, given the precarious position that we find so many small and micro businesses in. And so, we don't lack opportunity. And I think that's what we really need to take into account is we have a plethora of opportunities to be able to make good decisions, but we do need people with the right values and the right priorities to call the shots.
Crystal Fincher:
Right. And a point that you made, I don't know that a lot of people know, is that ports do compete with each other. They're not just these ubiquitous entities and ships just happen to come there and planes just happen to come there, especially for shipping, ports are in competition with each other up and down the west coast. And you talk about, "Hey, other ports have modernized a lot of their facilities. A lot of them have moved to electric and different types of more green energy that they're using." And they've gotten a competitive edge. And so, a lot of these investments need to be made.
Crystal Fincher:
I don't think there's a lot of people arguing that, "Hey, we don't need to do something to make sure that we keep our port modern and competitive." It really is about prioritizing how we spend those dollars and how forward-looking we are. The other thing is, you're running against an incumbent who has been there and who is making his own case for reelection. I think my biggest question is helping the people out who are listening and trying to make a decision and understand what the differences between you two are. How would your term and the actions that you take look different than what he has done?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
You know, Crystal, I have nothing but respect for anybody who chooses to make a life in public service. And the incumbent himself has a long history of giving his time, his efforts, his energy to the members of the public. What I'm offering people is a choice. And there are some, I think, some pretty significant ways, if you would want to point to policy differences that speaks of differences also in our value sets. Look at the way we're campaigning, for example, I'm not taking any corporate PAC money. I've signed the no fossil fuel pledge. And that's important to me because I know that when I'm a port commissioner, we're going to have to disentangle the interests of big money corporations from the important policy decisions that we have to make as a commission, because they're going to impact the lives of the people who elected us to be there.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
I just fundamentally do not believe that cruise is the future of our region's economy. I would love to see us in import and export and expanding our shipping operations, becoming globally competitive and having a presence and really leading on what it looks like to have a sustainable and inclusive blue economy. I would love us to be a model in mass transit going well in America. I would love to be a place where rich and poor people alike take public transportation, right? I would love to be able to be a proactive thought leader with partners in labor about what it means to holistically support people, particularly in a time where they're struggling to strike a work-life balance.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And so, what folks really need is somebody who's going to bring the sense of urgency to this position and a sense of urgency for their perspectives to be valued at the port. And it's important to note that communities are not absent from the conversation. They have ideas, they have priorities and they have demands. But currently, they've been screaming into the wind with very little accountability. They want transparency and they want access. And so, it's just not too much to ask to have a seat at the table.
Crystal Fincher:
It doesn't seem like it should be too much to ask. Now, you're also running this campaign while you have a newborn. You have a baby. You're a new mom, and you're in the position that many people are in everyday in working and trying to juggle a child, their family and making this work. How do you one, how do you even navigate that? And how's that going? And how do you think that informs how your view on how to treat workers on issues like family and medical leave? And worker conditions have been a huge issue everywhere, including the port. How does that inform your perspective and how do you think that helps you take care of workers at the port?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
As a candidate, I have to tell you that it's not easy. But you wouldn't believe the wild comments I've gotten about, in specific, one conversation I had with a certain elected somebody who not be named was, "I'm surprised you're running because you just had a baby. Don't you see that as a challenge?" And I responded, "Well, I'll let you know what some people might see as my challenge, I see as my reason." And indeed, becoming a mom during a pandemic was one of the most challenging experiences I've had. And really, she is my guiding light and my compass as to what it means to build the urgency of building a better tomorrow. And as a policy platform, I will tell you as a working mom, the only reason why this is possible is because I have paid medical leave, is because I have benefits, is because I have a supportive family, is because I have the privilege and access to be able to hire help.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And that working from home has actually really worked for me as a mom. And the pandemic has changed things of what those norms look like. At the port, one thing that I can tell you, ground zero, we need onsite childcare available. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. This has been done at King County. There's a program being piloted at the state. I would love to adapt that for the port of Seattle. Paid family medical leave, people need to be able to strike that work-life balance. And it's not just people who are unionized who deserve access to this sort of balance, we need it for all workers at the port. We need to be able to have space for this sort of grace and this accommodation, because by God, it has been women who have largely been impacted, the data shows, in having to decide between working and staying at home with their kids as they're at home all the time.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And if we're already looking at an equity gap in opportunities in the workforce at the port, well, that equity gap has deepened. And so, we really need to take prudent steps to be able to holistically support families, working parents at the port. And so, it looks like addressing the pay gap. And we really need to start actually just collecting demographic data at the port about who our workforce is and how they're being promoted and how they're being rewarded and how they're being retained and really use that as a starting point in order to have some meaningful outcomes in the short and the long run.
Crystal Fincher:
Those are great points. The port also has so much property, so many contractors, so many organizations who are relying on the port who have contracts with the port. Do you also support making some minimum quality of life and workforce standards, a requirement for port contracts?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
Yeah. We really have to be careful, particularly during times of economic crisis to make sure that businesses are not going to be trying to make their bottom line or stay afloat off the backs of workers. This is exactly where economic exploitation could happen. And so, that that means supporting things like prevailing wage on the job. That means things like priority hire so that companies are actually giving these opportunities to our community members, our workforce, our neighbors and they're their families who deserve a sense of economic stability right now. It should be said that we're in a position here at the Port of Seattle to think globally and act locally for meaningful outcomes. We need to take into account our supply chains long before you're ever plucking your product off the shelf at the grocery store, we can make sure that the folks that we're doing business with have been able to demonstrate at least three years compliance with international labor laws.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
So, you can have the confidence that what you're consuming is from a clean supply chain. So, there's really a lot to be said about workers' rights. There's also a lot to be said about civil rights for people who are passengers or otherwise seem to be clients of the port. And we're talking about the use of facial recognition technology. We're talking about the operations of immigration enforcement. The port has its own police force, which had a task force that issued recommendations. How will those be implemented? How are we ensuring that the use of facial recognition technology isn't stepping the line on what people's civil rights are, but actually we're going to be pushing back and making sure that we're protecting them to the fullest extent possible. So, there's a lot to be done.
Crystal Fincher:
Yeah, that's a huge issue. And especially, just the issue of facial recognition, which the King County government, King County Council just outlawed its use for the county, but especially federal entities are using those and federal entities are onsite at the airport and at other port locations. I know that the port is currently working on trying to make sure that there are some guardrails put around that. But in that conversation, in the use of biometrics, even one of the issues is, "Okay, you can help drop someone off at the airport. You're not even ticketed or needing to go through that type of security. Does the fact that you step outside your car or drive your car on port property anyway, mean that you should wind up in an ICE database or an FBI database with all of your information?" Do you think the port is doing enough with that, and how would you address public safety and policing there?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
If you have already, in the last year, taken an international flight, they have already scanned your face in lieu of checking your passport. And that is actually not done by law enforcement, that's actually done by the airlines. They are a private entity collecting that information with no protective clauses on how that data is going to be shared or retained. How's the port commission pushing pack on that? And this is where people don't understand the port. It has tremendous repercussions for people everywhere. If they're going to take it to a lawsuit, can we win? And it sets precedence for the way airlines are going to be able to use facial recognition technology in other jurisdictions. So, we have to be really careful, and really what it boils down to is public interest.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
And so, no, the port is not doing enough. And so, it's not just for incoming flights, but also for outgoing flights internationally. And it's a slippery slope, as you know when we're talking about people's civil rights. So, public safety at the port, what comes to mind for me is the repercussions of racism and xenophobia and the discriminatory Muslim ban, where we physically showed up down there and shut it down at Sea-Tac airport. We were standing arm in arm singing, chanting, whereas the port commissioners were in the back having a conversation. Of course, not enough is happening.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
Law enforcement is required by a will of the voters to be in compliance with a minimum set of training and crisis intervention and deescalation, and also in implicit bias. And so, it's more than just the Port of Seattle police were there. How are we making sure that the other law enforcement entities are also going to have that same training when we know that there are issues of discrimination happening by private security like TSA, when we know that there's disproportionate stop and frisk of people wearing religious indicators, or that African-American men with common names get held up because there's 20 other people, maybe with a warrant out for their arrest? This is exactly how institutional racism plays out, and we have got to do more.
Crystal Fincher:
Well, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. I guess in closing, I would just ask you, for people helping to make a decision, why should they choose you? And what difference can they expect to see in their lives as a result of the action that you take?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
The port has such an important role to play in answering to the dire needs of our time, but it is going to require doing something different. And doing something different from the status quo means we need new leadership with a bold vision for the future. And if elected, I will bring a perspective that has never before been represented at the port of Seattle. And it's not just what you do, it's how you do it. And that's why I'm so proud to have the bid of confidence from every single democratic organization that has endorsed so far in this race, including the King County Dems and the Young Dems and the Stonewall Dems, happy pride, y'all. Including from partners in labor, like the Teamsters and SCIU local six and the machinists and people from local elected government all the way up to Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck all of whom who know that the urgency of now requires doing something dynamic. And it really boils down to whether you want more of the same, or whether you want to do something different. I'd be honored to have folks vote.
Crystal Fincher:
Thank you so much for joining us. We'll certainly be keeping an eye on this race. And where can people find out more information about your campaign?
Toshiko Hasegawa:
Hasegawaforport.com.
Crystal Fincher:
Well, thank you so much, and we look forward to speaking with you next time. Thanks for listening.
Toshiko Hasegawa:
Such a pleasure. Thank you.
Crystal Fincher:
Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones, Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. You can find me on Twitter at @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. And now, you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in Hacks & Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced during the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.