Catching Up with Newly-Elected Burien City Councilmember Hugo Garcia
Release Date: 04/12/2022
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On this midweek episode, Burien City Councilmember Hugo Garcia and Crystal catch up on how his first term as a brand new elected is going. They discuss an action-packed onboarding period, including building relationships with fellow councilmembers and an important vote extending Burien’s eviction moratorium. Hugo shares his hope of building out “the office of Councilmember Garcia” to bring community along in having a voice in local government and outlines his first-term priorities around park infrastructure, public safety, and housing. The show wraps up with words of advice for those considering running for office and the importance of setting oneself up for both success and sustainability.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
City of Burien - Councilmember Hugo Garcia: https://www.burienwa.gov/city_hall/city_council/hugo_garcia
“Burien City Council extends eviction moratorium through COVID-19 state of emergency” by Nicholas Johnson from The B-Town Blog: https://b-townblog.com/2022/01/13/burien-city-council-extends-eviction-moratorium-through-covid-19-state-of-emergency/
Twitter - Hugo Garcia: https://twitter.com/CMHugoGarcia
Facebook - Councilmember Hugo Garcia: https://www.facebook.com/CMHugoGarcia
Burien’s Recovery Roadmap Survey - How to Invest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BurienARPACommunitySurvey
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Today, I am thrilled to welcome Burien City Councilmember, Hugo Garcia - welcome to the program again.
[00:00:46] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, woo woo! I like to be here, Crystal - thank you so much for the invitation from you and all your powerful squad of ladies that help make this magic happen. So, very much -
[00:01:01] Crystal Fincher: I do have an excellent squad of ladies who make Hacks & Wonks happen. It is - they are spectacular and awesome, and it wouldn't happen without them.
I am excited to have you back on the show, 'cause the last time we talked, you were running for office. It was your first time running - lots of candidates aren't successful in their first campaigns, and you just went out and you won the thing - galvanized community, got it together. What was it like to win that election?
[00:01:34] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, it was super intense, amazing, a ton of work - probably one of the most intense lifts of work that I can recall doing. Something that it was just like - you put every ounce of sweat and effort to it. So, it does feel like you won a - some sort of like championship when you're in Little League or something like, yes, let's go, we did it. But it does impact every fiber of your life - relationships, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your pets. So it was intense, but at the same time, it was super gratifying, being able to get an opportunity to continue to do the work.
[00:02:25] Crystal Fincher: To do the work. And to that point - so I talk with a lot of candidates about - it's like, man, as harrowing as the campaign is, as you just described - the real work actually begins after you win, and you actually start to govern, and you start to handle your responsibilities, and flex your power. And first, just getting acclimated to everything that you need to get caught up on. What was that process like for you?
[00:02:53] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: It was super intense - so it's very much like - I would say it's like starting your first big job with a company and you get onboarded for this new position, but times like a thousand, because it's all extremely short, quick. We had our first meeting from the beginning of the year 'cause you can't really do anything until the first of the year. So, I mean, you can prep up your administrative side of things, you can prep calendars - but at the same time, you just went a full year campaigning. So from November to January 1st, you're going to take a breather, there's also the holidays. The City can't really communicate much - they tell you, they send you links in advance of workshops and webinars to prepare to take. But then once that January 1st date comes in, it's a ton of training and websites and webinars and reading packets. And then getting to schedule meetings with directors of all the different departments of the city, so that you're aware of staffing, so you're aware of projects, emerging issues - and that's just to get ready for your Council meetings.
And you also have to start building or rebuilding relationships with councilmembers - some of them that you maybe ran against or in opposing to, potentially. So it's an intense first three months to say the least, but it's super exciting. When you first get a job or you first make a team, you're hyped, you're full of energy, you're like - let's go, let's get it, this is what it's about. It was a super stressful first meeting for us, but we were able to get some really great work done in our first week.
[00:04:55] Crystal Fincher: Did you extend your eviction moratorium - was that what happened in your first week?
[00:05:01] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, that was pretty much one of the big - as we're learning, as you just get started, we had our first meeting - you select your Deputy Mayor, Mayor because we're a Council-led form of government, so the councilmembers vote on who the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are. And it tends to be a pretty intense discussion. And one of the deadlines that I saw on the agenda was that we had our eviction moratorium that was due to expire that Saturday - so I think it was Saturday, the 15th or 16th. Our first meeting was January 10th. And because we were all so focused on Mayor, Deputy Mayor, I didn't see that we - anybody brought up extending the moratorium. So we asked last second before the meeting went over to have a special meeting - a second meeting - before that moratorium extended to discuss it. And we were able to bring it back and have discussions on it. It was intense because when you're new, you haven't been in these meetings before - it can be intimidating. It can be a new space for you to, as a new incoming councilmember, ground your voice.
But we did - we were able to extend that moratorium in January when things were still really scary with Omicron and well, I think we were at that point, maybe one of three or four cities that still decided to extend theirs. And at this point we're the only one that has one. Yeah, but it was super rewarding - it was stressful, I was nervous. I remember feeling the same way when I played my first game of middle school basketball - man, this is nerve - you get those butterflies. But then you did some work and you feel like it was representative of the work that you - I campaigned on - and it just felt really rewarding. Like, man - this is it, I'm doing it. I'm doing what I said I was going to do.
[00:07:10] Crystal Fincher: That is what you said you were going to do and it was a really big deal, because you were a new member on the council. You did step up and say, Hey, we actually need to talk about this and address it. I know other cities are letting it expire, but let's talk about that. We shouldn't do that.
And the way that you approached your first meeting - I appreciated - because you took the time to break down to people who may have been part of your campaign or just paying attention to you for the first time, since you are a new councilmember - of here, let me actually walk you through what it means to - like what we discuss in a Council meeting, this is what goes on, this is how you sign up to testify, this is how you see what's on the agenda and keep up with what we're talking about. And just took the time to just make things as accessible as possible for people who maybe didn't have the exposure to Council meetings and to help the community - it just really felt like you were very intentionally bringing the community along with you, which I definitely appreciate.
[00:08:14] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, it's something I really was - I did not know anything about Council meetings myself prior to maybe six years ago. I didn't know how they ran - I knew they existed, I knew they were our electeds, I knew I voted for folks to be there - but it took me a few years to get a bearing of how to have a voice in your local government. And I know that it's a - for those that are not in it - it's boring and it's complicated. It's like what - comment for only two minutes, but you can't really have a conversation with the electeds, what? So I've tried to think back about how I learned about how City Council works here in Burien and try to explain a little bit more of it.
It is something that I want to keep doing going forward, though I will be upfront - it has been a challenge. I wanted to make sure that within my first few meetings - as I'm learning - to be hyper focused on making sure I'm present for the meetings and not doing too much crossover on my current social media. It is a gift I'll give my predecessor, Krystal Marx, a lot of credit - she was amazing at doing the meetings and live tweeting information during the meetings. And I find myself not doing it as strongly as I wanted to, or sufficiently - so I said, hold on, let me focus on these meetings, focus on getting these policy decisions on place. And then I can get back to the social media aspect of things.
And at the same time, I'm rebuilding my office of Councilmember Hugo Garcia, because I realize it took a village to get me to win the election, but it also takes that community to also be an efficient elected. So I'm in the process currently of - sorry, that's my little puppy - I'm in the process of actually hiring and having some interns, essentially interns - sorry, not hire - getting a couple of youths from a local LatinX club at our only public high school to assist a little bit on some of the projects that the City is doing outreach on. Making sure that the communication - whether it's digital, whether it's Facebook, whether it's social - it's more palatable to just non-heavily involved civic residents. 'Cause I want to make sure that it's not just my own lens, but it's also the lens of folks that aren't super - that aren't able to attend focus groups or outreach events - things like that. So, yeah - and I actually bring back some of my campaign team to assist on a sort of office of Councilmember Garcia, even though we don't really have that structure in place for small cities.
[00:11:35] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, no, that's really good. And the more people can get ingrained in how things work and get an eye into how things move on the inside, the easier it becomes to figure out how to create the kind of change from inside and outside that people need.
You talked about - hey, when you were running, you were a strong, progressive candidate. You talked a lot about your values and being rooted in community, which not every sitting councilmember has the same kind of perspective. So once you're elected and you talked about building new relationships with your fellow councilmembers, who maybe agreed with some of what you ran on and maybe didn't - what has that process been like in building those relationships and talking about policy and coming to decisions, as you try and stay rooted in your beliefs and your positions, while still being a member of the Council and needing to give and take sometimes when it comes to negotiating policy?
[00:12:44] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, it is an art, not a science - on navigating exactly what you just described - on staying true to the things you campaigned on, on your values. Fortunately for me, the Council that I came into was somewhat progressive and majority Democratic. We only, after the last election, we only have one councilmember that I would say identifies as conservative. So all of our - six of our seven are all local, whether it's 34th or 33rd Dems - endorsed candidates. So I think it's - the lift is not as heavy, but there is a separation and I'm learning that it's just constant effort in connecting with my other councilmembers, right? I initially tried to set up at least a weekly touch base - 20-30 minute spot for us to connect with Zoom and with remote - we're used to it. So it's worked out okay with the more progressive leaning councilmembers - I think it's a little easier 'cause we already campaigned together.
With the others, instead of maybe weekly, we're just catching up biweekly 'cause it's so hard on the scheduling of things - you're navigating two jobs, everybody's navigating two jobs, some people are navigating three. So being able to connect with folks routinely to share that, Hey, this is where I'm thinking when it comes to our upcoming pipeline of agenda items for a work plan, which is all public. So we discuss the same items - Hey, this is coming up in a month or two months. What are your thoughts on this? And it's really about having those early conversations, which the first two, three months have not been easy because it's all been about how to run the meeting smoothly, like the logistics of Robert's Rules and getting to know how - I hate to correlate this to sports but that's just what I do, or food - I would say we're getting to know how to play with each other, right? If we're in basketball and the basketball team - we're all on the same team and we have similar goals, but just with some players - you gel quicker, you're able to get some give and gos. And with others, you just have to make more efforts.
And I think we're getting there. I'm excited with having gone to a National League of Cities event with a couple - with our Mayor and Deputy Mayor, who were not - did not have to campaign. So since they didn't campaign, I didn't have a chance to really build relationships with them as I did with the others. And that really gave me an opportunity to get to know them more. When you travel with people, when you're out doing workshops together, opportunity to discuss things in both, not just on the city council stuff, but personally, too, 'cause these are personal relationships. So it gives you a better lens of how we're all trying to use our lived experience as best as we can to make these decisions on the Council.
[00:16:15] Crystal Fincher: Well, that makes sense. And I mean, the sports analogies are welcome. I am a Laker fan and we were just eliminated from playoff contention last night. It is a sorrowful time.
[00:16:29] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, nobody saw that one coming - that's not expected from the greatness of LeBron and Co.
[00:16:34] Crystal Fincher: Well, when you talk about a team having members and just not playing well together - sometimes you have a Russell Westbrook on your team and you just gotta figure it out a little bit, a little bit better than you do.
[00:16:46] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah. That's exactly it - and on our end, the Russell Westbrook is probably the conservative councilmember. And I actually made a strong effort to touch base and we actually have - we text, we're rescheduling our 1:1s to do more bi-weekly - now that we're three weeks in, we understand more when we're making motions, when we're gonna bring up issues or thoughts. So, it's been an intense three months, but it's like preseason - I see it as preseason and I have four quarters. This is my first quarter - getting ready for four - keep trying to do good work. It's challenging because there's a lot of fires that you're putting out, so making sure that I'm intentional about reserving time to work on the projects that I really campaigned on and want to do - like investing more in our parks so that our parks are safer, more welcoming, more lights, more events, more features - but all those kind of things take time, right? We have 25 parks, we're doing letters of support route currently - one of the small projects that we're working on is to acquire a very big park that the City has, but it's shared with the school district. The school district actually owns the land, but the City has agreements with the school district to maintain it. And now we want to acquire it - full ownership - in order to secure the future of this park long-term, because once you lose a park - if it's developed or not, it's lost forever in essence. So, it takes a little bit of time to make sure that you get support, you connect with your school district to make this happen, and then you find additional funding to invest that. And currently that's one of the big projects that I'm excited about, which is our ARPA allocation funding.
[00:18:53] Crystal Fincher: Okay, and so - certainly a lot to do. I think you bring up a good point and you've been able to have conversations with the conservative - with your Russell Westbrook - the conservative member of the Council. And on a city level, there's actually so many opportunities to do that. I think sometimes it might surprise people in that you're dealing with pretty immediate and visible and apparent problems. And at the City level - you're living in the City, you guys are driving on the same roads, passing by the same parks, looking at the same areas to develop - and there's so much more of a shared context and understanding of the facts on the ground, I think to a greater degree than other levels of government. And so even with different perspectives, it does provide a basis to start a conversation and find places where perhaps you can agree or to start a conversation from, because there's not a Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole. Some solutions just require listening and responding to community. And what I love about government at the municipal level is that you can be responsive in that kind of way that sometimes strips away the labels. And if you just focus on helping people - what ends up getting put in place is progressive, but it's just the focus on helping people with their problems on the ground.
[00:20:25] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, literally - some of the first things I remember - there was a slide our first two, three weeks in. A neighborhood had a slide in a road - luckily, nobody got hurt, no major structure fell - but a road got blocked off that in essence, blocked off a portion of the City to the main shopping, to their food, to whatever they need. And I heard it was very close to someone that I met through campaigning and some of my fellow candidates. So, you feel like, Hey, let me check in on them. So I know that not only I, but a couple other councilmembers swung by - all of them did to a certain extent. We get a report from our City Manager - Hey, this is what's happened, this is the situation. These are the crews that are in place, this is the timeline when it's getting fixed - but you still - you know the people because you're so close. So you connect with that person, right?
There's another incident where a resident sent in an email saying, Hey, there's a property in our block that is seeing disruptions at night, there's all kinds of foot traffic and littering. It just was an enforcement code situation and you just double-check - you come in and you get reports from your staff on what they're doing to address it, but you - I called the homeowner 'cause they put all their contact information in their letters. I'm like, Hey, I'm sorry, you're dealing with this, understand it's a complex situation. Here's what I'm making sure that - and our staff had already done the work to address the issue, but I know that there's a good chance, and I've seen this resident at events and shopping. So I just wanted them to know that - yes, and I'm going to check in and just follow up to make sure that our staff continues to do that great work they're doing, which is to try to resolve the issue as best possible. So there is more of that personal touch on the things that you're deciding.
And another aspect of that is - that particular block is close to a hospital. The hospital emergency exit tends to address a lot of folks that have behavioral health issues, that are experiencing homelessness - and they don't have the capacity to take folks, once they address their emergency health issue, to take them to a shelter or take them somewhere. So they're released, and a lot of times they just end up passing out in the neighborhood. And this is another issue that the homeowner or resident brought up - Hey, more than anything - just for their safety 'cause sometimes they just pass out. So addressing it - it just connects the issues that we talk about - about homelessness, about affordable housing - to people, to our neighbors. And it gives you a bigger sense of urgency to try to come up with both the immediate solutions, whether it's connecting with our LEAD program to find out if there's a bus service that can, or a van service, that can be taken to nearby shelters for folks to better communicate with hospital staff. But you also need to address the root cause, right? That's one of the things I think I really wanted to try to focus on - on my campaign - that we can't keep trying to just do Band-aid fixes on issues, and we're going to be spinning our wheels if we don't address the fact that there's just not enough housing and the root cause of our homelessness crisis is on that. We're going to be spinning our wheels like we have been for the last 10, 15 years or so. [Dog barks] I know, Maya - I agree. We gotta get to the root cause.
[00:24:37] Crystal Fincher: So what are you going to be focusing on - talking about having to address those root causes? What are you hoping to be able to address here in your first term?
[00:24:48] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, so, after getting a lay of the land on where we're at, one of the things that helped me is that I learned about our planning and zoning and land use - and have seen over the last four years - some of the affordable housing developments that have come into the City. There's a - what we called a affordable housing demonstration project - that was actually something that we worked on in the planning commission and eventually the Council accepted and used. But I realized that even if you support affordable housing developments within the City, it's not enough - some of the housing affordable housing developments that we have are still in construction - they're places that won't be ready for two years or so.
So I followed a lot of the state legislature because we have to see how the state is providing resources and what their plan is. One of those things that I saw was Representative Bateman, who proposed a bill to address the missing middle - and with my own experience on the planning commission, we actually did a similar study on the missing middle here - middle housing, which is in between affordable housing and market rate housing. You have apartments that are high density - a couple hundred units or more, and then you'll have single family homes - a single family home for a family - and there's a lot of both of those. And usually you're trying to just help support affordable housing because the private market doesn't really cover that. Missing middle is duplexes, triplexes, sixplexes, cottages, townhome developments so that it's in between. It's not all about having 200 people in a block, but it is an in between. And I firsthand live in that housing - I live in a duplex - 15 years ago, my brother, my sister-in-law and I were able to get the duplex here - we're in Burien - and right now we're able to afford to stay here. That's the reason I campaigned too 'cause I was like - Hey, I live here. I'm a part of this community, I grew up here. I want to be able to have a say in how more of those folks that have lived - are starting to grow up here - can stay here, have options to stay here.
So addressing the missing middle, I think, is something long-term that I'd like to really focus in my first term - and start to do that by advocating within the state legislation. I was able to, within the first month actually, go up and speak my experience and support that. It wasn't very popular, because others cities in the region prefer to address it on their own terms, but from what I've seen in my own five years here - in local government - both commission, working for King County, and now as an elected, and just having lived here - is that we're not addressing it fast enough. So we need to build more homes in the fixed amount of land that we have. So that means that we just have to build something in between a big apartment and single family homes. So I think that's something I'm going to look to work on.
[00:28:26] Crystal Fincher: So are you looking at potentially rezoning, expanding density within single family - single families owned areas?
[00:28:35] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, exactly. Allowing for duplexes, allowing for quadraplexes, for sixplexes. Recently the state passed a very strong ADU policy - it won't impact Burien because our ADU policy was already as good, if not better than the one that the state passed. But I want to do the same thing when it comes to multi-family, working family housing - my brother's a teacher, his wife is a dental assistant, my partner works for healthcare doing administrative IT development. It's not like we're making $400,000 a year - we need more housing for folks that are just making average salaries here in the county. And we need housing to cater to that, to support that. So that's one of the things I would like to address in my first term.
Investing in our park infrastructure for public safety - we have a lot of parks and a lot of the feedback that I got is that sometimes families didn't feel comfortable - when I knock on doors - families didn't feel comfortable just letting the kids go by themselves, not all the parks have lights, not all the parks have features, not all the parks have speed bumps near them. So there's a lot of investments that we can do there, so I'd really like to make sure that our parks are fully developed in a way that supports neighborhood economic development, whether it's having food trucks come in, not just ice cream trucks - those already come through - but art spaces, events. Things like that - I think would be super, super important to show that it's not all about just - public safety's all about the number of deputies that you have, but it entails access and providing that sense of security, which can be done within our parks and neighborhoods. So really developing neighborhoods.
[00:30:48] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - designing and activating spaces makes them safer, and is a great investment in resources that then makes everything else in the public safety conversation easier, and increases the safety of people, and is a wonderful feature to have in the community. As you have started this journey yourself right now - where we're in another election cycle, where a number of people are currently running for the legislature, you just got done looking at the legislative session, you just got done being a candidate, and are a new elected. What advice would you give to people who are now running for office - looking at becoming legislators or even County Councilmembers in different jurisdictions - what advice would you have to candidates running right now?
[00:31:40] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Definitely do it - run. I waited to run, I thought I wasn't "qualified enough." I said, let me do two commissions - so I did two commissions. Let me finish working and getting my feet under this County job that - I work doing economic development for King County. And I thought I needed to be more qualified to do the job, but now that I'm seeing how everybody goes about making, reviewing data on packets of policy on decisions you have to make - yes, it's helpful to have that experience - but my own lived experience prior to that, working in finance, working with small business owners, applying for loans, helping them navigate permits - things like that really give you a good sense of what makes sense. So I would say don't be intimidated by resumés and just do it.
It is going to be something that your whole family's going to entail, so it's going to be something that I would make sure you have consistent conversations with your loved ones. I had a few at the very beginning, but not as many - because once you get going, you get going - it's non-stop. So more consistent - just to make sure that you check in on how your campaign is impacting your family members 'cause it does - even if you think of how much it does, it impacts it more than I think we acknowledge. And also, the hardest part for me was self-care. One of the things I'm noticing, and I'm sure you have too, is that we're starting to see some really strong, impactful leaders take a step back. Burnout is real. Overwork is real. And that's kind of the - my biggest focus here in the next few months is to make sure that my energy of being super hyped, being able to be able to make decisions that I think will help the majority of our residents are all - it's exciting, so I'm able to work my two jobs, put in 60, 70 hours a week, work all the time.
But I want to make sure that I'm able to sustain that two years from now - when I'm halfway through my term - and I'm not burnt out, because I'm seeing folks that I'm like - wow, that is somebody I'd like to aspire to - to do work like. They've all done amazing work, community-led work, work that I was like - that's the type of leadership I'd like to exemplify. And I do feel it - having a full-time job that is a very intense full-time job on their own, and doing a city council job that in essence is a part-time job - I don't have - we don't have staff, we're not a King County Council elected, we're not a City of Seattle elected where they have two or three staff members. We're having to navigate everything a little bit on our own. The City staff does help, but the City staff can't help you on your campaign goals - on the things that you campaigned on. They work to serve the City and they're already - most cities in South King County are understaffed. I'm learning that right away - that most of them tend to be understaffed and they're doing multiple wearing of hats, which I think because of COVID and everything's happening, we're trying to get used to.
But I think being intentional about not burning out and being realistic is going to be important, which is something that I'm trying to make sure I bring up when we hire a City Manager. 'Cause we're in the middle of hiring a City Manager for our city and it's going to be the most important position - not just for the next four years for Burien, but potentially the next decade.
[00:35:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's a big deal - and really good advice, especially about needing to take care of yourself, needing to make sure that you're checking in with your family. These are things that I'm routinely talking to candidates about and burnout is real. It's easy to overlook that and usually - oftentimes people who run are very competent, productive, capable people and used to just running on a hundred all the time - but with something on the magnitude of a campaign, plus your day job which is not governing. And most cities that are not major metropolitan areas and all of the suburbs, the council position is not the main job.
[00:36:22] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah, and all your community commitments that got you that community support - they didn't go away. Your involvement in immigrant support groups, in youth sport groups - whatever you were doing - that doesn't go away. You still are super busy - that's why earlier, when you brought up being able to share content and explain the process on social media - that's really important to me because that's how it helped me to share the path of running, how that process was. But I know that - I could see it already that the burnout would not be able to last 'til the end of my four year term, so I need to be able to go back. I spoke to my campaign manager who - she has her own job, family, she's not a political career person, so she's not able to stay on and help me on the council work. And I'm telling them like, Hey, this is intense work. And they're like, you got to talk to the people that helped you and find a way for them to help in a way that makes sense. So that's why I was like - look, I can bring on some part-time interns. I'll share my stipend in essence and pay them out of my pocket. But at the same time, it helps with managing some of the communications so it's more efficient, so it's scheduled, so that it's also not me rushing and tweeting at 10 o'clock after meetings, but recapping. And also having someone that is 17 years old and has working parents so that if I share something, they know what I'm talking about.
[00:38:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely - makes a really big difference. I appreciate the time you've taken to come and talk to us, update us - appreciate the work that you're doing on the Council and to your point, it has been wonderful and highly recommend that people follow you on social media and just stay informed, follow your journey.
[00:38:36] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Please do - I'm @CMHugoGarcia on all the channels - that's CM for councilmember - @CMHugoGarcia on Twitter on Instagram. You can find Hugo or Councilmember Garcia on Facebook, and also share things that you think are going to be good for me to keep in mind too. I do a lot of reading both on social media and just - whether it's books, news - it doesn't have to be just to see what I'm doing. Work with me - Hey, I think this is something you should really consider. I love getting interaction from folks and ideas on things. Hit me up.
[00:39:19] Crystal Fincher: Love it, love it, appreciate it - and we will link all of that in our episode notes also. So just - you can link from there and follow him from our episode notes. Just appreciate the time that you've taken and hopefully we'll have you back again in the future.
[00:39:33] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yes you will - and I'm going to do a quick plug, please, for all your listeners that are in the city of Burien. Check out our city's website, or my social media. We have some important surveys on our ARPA fund right now. We have the American Rescue Act Plan fund - we have $9 million that we can invest to help us recover from COVID - would really want to get as much participation. There's a survey - you can find it on my social media - any listener in Burien, whether you live or work, spend money in Burien - share your thoughts. I want to know how you would spend $9 million supporting Burien.
[00:40:11] Crystal Fincher: Well, shoot. I spend money and play in Burien. Maybe I'll go ahead and take that survey - especially in light of all of the news about how much of that money across the country has wound up in the hands of law enforcement for some reason. Yeah, I might share our thoughts - we'll go ahead and link that too.
[00:40:30] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: I will say it was $10 million - Council last year, not the Council that I am now on - did allocate $1 million towards public safety. So we now have $9 million - that's why I want your feedback. That's why I want more people to fill out that survey.
[00:40:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and appreciate your perspective and appreciate that - because it really is taking new people doing different things to change that trajectory. Because without any intervention and conversation that is how things happen.
[00:41:02] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: I work for the county and I do a lot of outreach work within my day job, so I know how challenging it is to get engagement from community members. Usually you get folks that are already in the civic involvement space, right? You get the neighbors that do know how to navigate and apply and get to ask for better service delivery from your departments - parks, roads, things like that - on issues. But we have, currently - I think we had a couple of meetings on this $9 million and I would say less than 50 people combined have attended. And that is going to drive a lot of the recovery - not a lot, but it's going to basically be like, Hey, in in-person meetings, this is the topics that were recommended for $9 million to be invested. I'm not saying 50 people are deciding - we're doing surveys, we're doing focus groups.
And that's why I want to get some of the youth involved with me because we need to be able to spread the word on there's all - and that's just one issue, right? $9 million ARPA allocation - there is subarea zoning that's going to impact how high density can go in undeveloped and underserved communities here in Burien, and there's parks, comprehensive planning. There's so many things that are so dry and boring and not important to the everyday person that's just trying to get their kid to school, pick up their kid, and get to the job, and pay the bills. But it's impacting them - it's going to impact all those things you're doing. So that's why I did that plug - yeah, all my people here from Burien, around Burien, and shopping in Burien, living in Burien, and working in Burien - let me know how to spend $9 million - how to invest, not spend - invest.
[00:42:57] Crystal Fincher: We will link that too - very important - and to your point, in so many of these suburbs and smaller cities, the amount of people who actually engage is so tiny.
[00:43:10] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: It's so tiny - 1% maybe if we're lucky.
[00:43:16] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and that's for huge, big deal things. Usually in an average council meeting - if there's a handful of people there, if there's just two or three people there to talk about something - that actually attracts attention. I'm like - oh, there's a couple people here to talk about something. It really only takes a couple people bringing something up to get people's - to get your elected councilmembers' and mayor's attention. So being one of those voices -
[00:43:46] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Yeah - like I said, we get an email - we get a lot of emails in the Council, but you see them and I want to try to help. This is someone reaching out directly to the Council - Hey, this is an issue for me. But generally it's the same folks that can navigate that space and know how to find the Council's email. And it's not going to be typically Black and Brown folks like myself, like you and I - it typically just isn't. And I want to make sure that we continually focus on improving that. And that's why I'm here - literally, why I'm here.
[00:44:24] Crystal Fincher: I love it. Well, I love that you're there, I love that you're taking time to very intentionally stay connected to the community and make government accessible and less boring, and help the community just get why it's relevant, and to make sure that you're serving everyone and not just the people who have been the loudest voices traditionally. So just appreciate it, and we will look forward to talking to you again in the future.
[00:44:55] Councilmember Hugo Garcia: Thanks Crystal - be well and stay well.
[00:44:58] Crystal Fincher: I thank you all for listening to Hacks and Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If feel like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.