Tanya Woo, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 2
Release Date: 09/19/2023
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On this Tuesday topical show, Crystal chats with Tanya Woo about her campaign for Seattle City Council District 2. Listen and learn more about Tanya and her thoughts on:
[01:06] - Why she is running
[02:02] - Lightning round!
[12:49] - What is an accomplishment of hers that impacts District 2
[17:13] - Housing and homelessness: Frontline worker wages
[19:36] - Homelessness: Involvement with opposition to SODO shelter expansion
[25:15] - Public Safety: Alternative response
[27:08] - Victim support
[30:52] - City budget shortfall: Raise revenue or cut services?
[36:02] - Small business support
[39:16] - Childcare: Affordability and accessibility
[40:28] - Bike and pedestrian safety
[45:59] - Transit reliability
[48:02] - Difference between her and opponent
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
My family immigrated to Seattle in 1887. I grew up on Beacon Hill, worked at our family business in the Chinatown International District and now live in Rainier Beach. I’ve seen how South Seattle has changed. I’ve seen what happens to neighborhoods that don’t have a voice and are expected to just live with bad city policies. I want to change that, and that’s why I'm running for Seattle City Council. I spearheaded the renovation of my family's building, the Louisa hotel, that provides small business space and workforce housing. Twice a week, my Community Watch walks around Little Saigon, Nihomachi (Japantown) and Chinatown trying to make our streets safer for everyone, which includes our unhoused neighbors. My work against government discrimination in the Chinatown International District has taught me a very important lesson: the only time people in South Seattle are heard is when we make those in positions of power listen.
[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. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Well, I am very pleased to be welcoming Tanya Woo, Seattle City Council candidate in District 2, to the program. Thank you so much for joining us, Tanya.
[00:01:04] Tanya Woo: Well, thank you for having me - I'm really excited to be here.
[00:01:06] Crystal Fincher: Excited to have you - and just wanted to start off by understanding why you chose to run and why now?
[00:01:14] Tanya Woo: Yes, and so this comes from a long history of work in the Chinatown International District, as well as being a lifelong resident here in District 2. Just seeing the effects of the pandemic on our community, as well as seeing all of these high-impact projects that are happening around the Chinatown International District these last four years - and realizing that the district is really fighting for its life, basically. And so we were fighting for a seat at the table, we were fighting to amplify voices and to be heard - and realizing that the best way to get a seat at the table is to fight for it and to run for it. And so after a lot of discussion and a lot of encouragement, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.
[00:02:01] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. Well, as we get started on this show - I mean, we do candidate interviews a lot - we're adding a new dimension into the interviews this year, which is a lightning round before we get to the rest of our regular conversation and discussion. And so just a number of yes or no questions, that hopefully are easy, or super one-answer choice questions. So we'll just run through this and then get back to the other questions.
So this year, did you vote yes on the King County Crisis Care Centers levy?
[00:02:31] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:02:32] Crystal Fincher: And this year, did you vote yes on the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy?
[00:02:37] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:02:38] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote in favor of Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135? ... In February.
[00:02:43] Tanya Woo: I may not have voted for that. I may not have voted for that one.
[00:02:53] Crystal Fincher: Okay. And in 2021, did you vote for Bruce Harrell or Lorena González for Seattle Mayor?
[00:03:00] Tanya Woo: I did not vote in that election.
[00:03:02] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Okay, so I guess that covers - let me find that - so City Attorney. Last year in 2022, did you vote for Leesa Manion or Jim Ferrell for King County Prosecutor?
[00:03:17] Tanya Woo: Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I don't know which elections I voted for, which ones I did not vote for.
[00:03:21] Crystal Fincher: Okay.
[00:03:22] Tanya Woo: I'll have to pull up my record to answer.
[00:03:23] Crystal Fincher: We will skip the...
[00:03:26] Tanya Woo: I am so sorry.
[00:03:27] Crystal Fincher: It's fine, it's fine. We'll skip the rest of those. We'll go to the other questions. Do you rent or own your residence?
[00:03:34] Tanya Woo: My husband owns the residence.
[00:03:36] Crystal Fincher: Okay, are you a landlord?
[00:03:39] Tanya Woo: My family is a landlord.
[00:03:41] Crystal Fincher: Okay, would you vote to require landlords to report metrics, including how much rent they're charging, to help better plan housing and development needs in the district?
[00:03:50] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:03:51] Crystal Fincher: Are there any instances where you would support sweeps of homeless encampments?
[00:03:59] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:04:00] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to provide additional funding for Seattle's Social Housing Public Development Authority?
[00:04:06] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:04:07] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with King County Executive Constantine's statement that the King County Jail should be closed?
[00:04:18] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:04:19] Crystal Fincher: Should parking enforcement be housed within SPD?
[00:04:28] Tanya Woo: Oh. I don't think I've ever really thought about this one. Probably yes.
[00:04:43] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Would you vote to allow police in schools?
[00:04:51] Tanya Woo: I think that's up to the schools.
[00:04:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget for a civilian-led mental health crisis response?
[00:04:59] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:00] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget to increase the pay of human service workers?
[00:05:03] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:04] Crystal Fincher: Do you support removing funds in the City budget for forced encampment removals and instead allocating funds towards a Housing First approach?
[00:05:13] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:14] Crystal Fincher: Do you support abrogating or removing the funds from unfilled SPD positions and putting them towards meaningful public safety measures?
[00:05:24] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:24] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocating money in the budget for supervised consumption sites?
[00:05:33] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:34] Crystal Fincher: Do you support increasing funding in the City budget for violence intervention programs?
[00:05:40] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:05:41] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't give the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of Inspector General subpoena power?
[00:05:54] Tanya Woo: Do I oppose it? Yes.
[00:05:56] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't remove limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian?
[00:06:05] Tanya Woo: So sorry, can you repeat the question?
[00:06:09] Crystal Fincher: Sure, sure, sure. Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't remove limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian?
[00:06:21] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:06:22] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that impedes the ability of the city to move police funding to public safety alternatives?
[00:06:32] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:06:33] Crystal Fincher: Do you support eliminating in-uniform off-duty work by SPD officers?
[00:06:45] Tanya Woo: Such as traffic control?
[00:06:49] Crystal Fincher: That would fall under one if they're off-duty, I think, yeah.
[00:06:54] Tanya Woo: I do not oppose it, so.
[00:06:56] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Will you vote to ensure that trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities?
[00:07:07] Tanya Woo: And this isn't - do I oppose it?
[00:07:09] Crystal Fincher: No - will you vote to ensure that -
[00:07:10] Tanya Woo: Oh, sorry - okay.
[00:07:10] Crystal Fincher: - trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities?
[00:07:18] Tanya Woo: Oh, I think that's a conversation we have to have with the sports teams, but I would be in support of it.
[00:07:25] Crystal Fincher: So when you say conversation to have with the sports teams - if they voted against it, would you support that?
[00:07:31] Tanya Woo: I think we have to support - yes.
[00:07:33] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so you would support--
[00:07:35] Tanya Woo: If the sports teams voted.
[00:07:37] Crystal Fincher: Sports team said that they couldn't play, then they couldn't play.
[00:07:40] Tanya Woo: If they had good reason.
[00:07:41] Crystal Fincher: Got it.
[00:07:42] Tanya Woo: 'Cause I think every sports is different.
[00:07:44] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans people can use bathrooms or public facilities that match their gender?
[00:07:51] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:07:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Seattle City Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax?
[00:07:58] Tanya Woo: I'm so sorry, going back to the gender one - their stated gender or their perceived gender?
[00:08:04] Crystal Fincher: Whatever gender they identify as.
[00:08:06] Tanya Woo: Okay, yes, then - we need to ensure that it's served - okay.
[00:08:10] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Seattle City Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax?
[00:08:17] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:08:17] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to reduce or divert the JumpStart Tax in any way?
[00:08:29] Tanya Woo: That's a very complicated question.
[00:08:31] Crystal Fincher: Okay, we can leave it as - it's complicated, it's not a yes or no - and we can get to that. We have plenty of time to talk about this in the other questions, so we can cover the details of that.
[00:08:41] Tanya Woo: Okay great. Yeah - that's a lot of -- Oh, go ahead.
[00:08:45] Crystal Fincher: Are you happy with Seattle's newly built waterfront?
[00:08:50] Tanya Woo: Yes, I love the direction it's going in.
[00:08:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you believe return to work mandates, like the one issued by Amazon, are necessary to boost Seattle's economy?
[00:09:01] Tanya Woo: And that's the three days a week, right?
[00:09:05] Crystal Fincher: Theirs is three days a week - whatever, you know, if they're mandating a return and not work from home in whatever form that would be. So it could be three, it could be five.
[00:09:15] Tanya Woo: I think yes. Oh, okay. I think it's great to start with three. And then, of course, the willingness to work with families where that could be a barrier - where there's any barriers involved.
[00:09:26] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so do you think - I mean, do you think the mandate is necessary or is that it's on a case-by-case basis and--
[00:09:33] Tanya Woo: Well, I think it's necessary to revitalize the downtown area. I know there's a lot of barriers for some people not being able to physically return to work - I think case-by-case in those situations should be allowed.
[00:09:48] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Have you taken transit in the past week?
[00:09:52] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:09:53] Crystal Fincher: Have you ridden a bike in the past week?
[00:09:55] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:09:56] Crystal Fincher: In the past month?
[00:09:59] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:10:01] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Should Pike Place Market allow non-commercial car traffic?
[00:10:11] Tanya Woo: Oh, I know that is being talked about right now. I think it'd be nice to not allow it, but I know some of the business owners want it - so I think definitely let Pike Place Market decide on how they want to proceed.
[00:10:30] Crystal Fincher: Should we accelerate the elimination of the ability to turn right on red lights to improve pedestrian safety?
[00:10:44] Tanya Woo: For all red lights?
[00:10:45] Crystal Fincher: Yes.
[00:10:47] Tanya Woo: Okay. That would add a lot of needed infrastructure. I would support that, but I think we'd have to put together a plan to be able to carry that out.
[00:11:03] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Should significant investments be made to speed up the opening of scheduled Sound Transit light rail lines?
[00:11:15] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:11:16] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever been a member of a union?
[00:11:20] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:11:20] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to increase funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting?
[00:11:31] Tanya Woo: Would I support putting money into investigations?
[00:11:35] Crystal Fincher: Increasing funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting?
[00:11:42] Tanya Woo: Oh - yes.
[00:11:43] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever walked on a picket line?
[00:11:46] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:11:47] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever crossed a picket line?
[00:11:49] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:11:50] Crystal Fincher: Is your campaign unionized?
[00:11:53] Tanya Woo: They have the option to do so, but I do not believe so.
[00:11:57] Crystal Fincher: Okay. If your campaign staff wants to unionize, will you voluntarily recognize their effort?
[00:12:02] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:12:03] Crystal Fincher: Are any of the staff employed by your businesses unionized?
[00:12:14] Tanya Woo: If, are my staff employed by businesses unionized?
[00:12:18] Crystal Fincher: Any staff employed by your business unionized?
[00:12:22] Tanya Woo: No.
[00:12:24] Crystal Fincher: If they wanted to unionize, would you voluntarily recognize their effort?
[00:12:28] Tanya Woo: Yes.
[00:12:30] Crystal Fincher: Well, look, that's the end of the lightning round - you survived, it's wonderful.
[00:12:34] Tanya Woo: Okay great - these are always rough because I feel like sometimes issues are so complicated and there's a lot of gray - it's not always black and white - but yeah, that wasn't so bad.
[00:12:45] Crystal Fincher: Which is why we have a robust conversation in front of us to talk about all of that. But I want to start out for - helping to give people a feel for what you prioritize and how qualified you are to lead, which a lot of people see throughout the community. Can you describe something you've accomplished or changed in your district and what impact that has had on residents?
[00:13:08] Tanya Woo: Yes. Three years ago, during the pandemic - when there were a lot of pandemic racism, anti-Asian hate happening - our businesses were forced to close down throughout the city. And a lot of people were uncertain and just confused about what was happening, especially in our communities of color. I helped start a group called the Chinatown International District Community Watch. We saw there was a lack and a gap in services between the hours of 6pm and 6am - and that was the time when many of our streets, because of the stay-at-home mandate, it was just a ghost town. And so we wanted to make sure that people felt supported, that our small businesses felt supported in the Chinatown International District - which includes our housed and unhoused neighbors and residents. And so we started like this alternative to policing group that kind of just went through the three neighborhoods - Little Saigon, Chinatown, and Japantown - and just made sure everyone was okay. We believe that building trust between our unhoused neighbors and those who are there at 12th and Jackson engaged in the illegal markets were okay. We always believe that trust was the best way to de-escalate the situation. And they wanted to build connection and build relationships with people to help connect people to resources and to just be there. We wanted to give hope to our seniors and to our small business owners who were working through the pandemic. And so wanted to let them know that we were here and available if they need help - we did senior escorts. We also did something regarding self-defense training, which mainly focused on situational awareness - many in the Asian culture, people don't - there's not a lot eye contact, people are not looking around when they're walking. And so there are a lot instances where our seniors were unfortunately being attacked - we had a hate incident happen within the CID. And so we wanted to be there to show support for the community.
And it's been three years and we're still going strong. We kind of segued into different sections. There was a couple of large encampments that had grown in the first, second, or third year. And we started doing outreach and engagement in the encampments - getting to know our unhoused - we saw who was doing what, we saw the [unintelligible] who were engaged in the sex trade, who was engaged in the illegal markets. But we wanted to make sure that people who needed services and help were also being heard. So we were actively going into the encampments during that time - and now that those encampments have been resolved, we're going into Little Saigon area and 12th and Jackson with water bottles and meals. And trying to make that connection - that community cares, we want people to be okay. And we've done things where we've had to administer Narcan and CPR. And we really see that there's a need here. And so I believe that we're very, very slowly - there are many success stories - people who have found housing come back and say hi to us, and they invite us to see their homes. Many people who we have connected to other services, like brought to the hospital - helped bring to the hospital - have come back to thank us. And just seeing that we're making a difference in people's lives, I think brings me worlds of happiness. And so--
[00:17:03] Crystal Fincher: Now--
[00:17:03] Tanya Woo: --that was-- oh, go ahead.
[00:17:05] Crystal Fincher: Oh, no, go ahead, finish.
[00:17:06] Tanya Woo: Oh yeah, and so that's one of the things I'm really proud of and excited about - that this is continuing.
[00:17:12] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. Now talking about homelessness, one thing called out by experts as a barrier to the homelessness response is frontline worker wages that don't cover the cost of living and that impairing the response. Do you believe our local nonprofits have a responsibility to pay living wages for our area, or that this is a problem with the response? And how can we fix it if it is a problem with how the City bids for contracts and services?
[00:17:39] Tanya Woo: Yes, I agree we have to pay a living wage and that is a huge barrier. I mean, even if - there's a huge turnaround in a lot of our nonprofits and our services - we have amazing people who are moving on and that turnaround, especially with caseworkers, is a bit detrimental to further relationships with many members of the community who need behavioral health services, addiction treatment, who are partnered with people to lead them through the journey from being unhoused into finding housing. And how important is that we pay a living wage to case managers so we don't see that there's a huge gap in services and that people are being missed or forgotten. And in other service sectors, I think there has to be - we have to meet those needs because the best way to fight homelessness is to prevent it. So especially with City contracts, there has to be - now that many City contracts are being renegotiated - to get a cost of living wage and also a percentage to match, for every single year going forward, the increase in the cost of living. I think that has to be comparable to other cities, other markets that we're seeing. And we have to make it a priority because we have to put people first, and we have to allow people to be able to live here and work here, as well as be able to negotiate these contracts so that they are fair. And also we have to make other, look at other things as well in terms of City contracts - I think trying to employ more minority businesses in City contracts, as well as female businesses, in terms of the larger contract picture is also very important.
[00:19:36] Crystal Fincher: Now, you were involved in the opposition to the proposed - it was nicknamed the "Megaplex" - but a services complex for the homeless there. And I think there were legitimate issues raised over the past several years about the CID residents being left out of discussions about what infrastructure is being built and developed, and mitigations or lack thereof. And the CID and its residents experiencing hardships and consequences out of proportion to people in other parts of the city, and that being a growing frustration - and then this happens and it feels like they're repeating the same cycle. While that's competing with the need to provide supportive housing, and to providing behavioral health treatment and services, and places where people can go and be, and offer these services. So if the right place or the right way to do it wasn't with that, what is the right way and the right place to do it?
[00:20:41] Tanya Woo: So first off, I want to make it very clear, we're not against the shelter. We were not against behavioral health services. We just wanted a seat at the table. This comes in a long line of historical high-impact projects that received no community input. And we're looking at I-5, we're looking at Sound Transit, we're looking at the stadiums, the Seattle Streetcar - all high-impact projects that have been detrimental, has really affected our community - but there was no community engagement or outreach. And so in the case of this shelter complex, the lease was signed in May, but the community was not notified until September for a facility that was supposed to open in November, December. And we asked, you know - there's something called the Racial Equity Toolkit that we have provided the City that dictates or advises on how to do that community outreach and engagement - and something that we desperately need and would like to see carried out. And so if King County and the City had started community outreach and engagement back in May, this would not even have been an issue.
And so basically in September, when we were first notified during a public safety meeting that only contained a few of us, we were asking around - Have you heard about this project? - and no one's heard about it and people were confused. And so we reached out - and we were a community in crisis - and none of our elected officials showed up for us. And so that's why we started protesting, was because, you know, protests that are loudest are the people who are not being heard. We went to King County, we went to City Council meetings - and we realized there are a lot of barriers for how communities of color, especially non-English speakers, communities of refugees and immigrants can engage in the political process. We requested for a translator ahead of time - we're told no, we had to bring our own - and then translation only goes one way, only goes towards the City councilmembers, it does not go back towards the community. And so we were just standing up in between breaks, yelling at the community members - this is what's happening, this is what people are saying. And that's emblematic of what's happening in the entire district. There is just not very much outreach and engagement and we definitely need more of that, we would like to see the table. There were a whole lot of issues that we would like to have been addressed. For instance, there should have been a good neighbor agreement between the community and the shelter that should have been in place when the shelter had opened back in 2020. And there should have also - we were seeing these encampments that were right outside the doors of the shelter - and last year, there were about seven homicides in the CID. I believe all but one were within the encampments. And so we were also asking for safety for our unhoused neighbors and wanted to enter a discussion with a public, a safety plan for everyone, including our unhoused neighbors. And we can go on and talk about all the reasons, I guess, that we wanted that discussion, engagement - and instead of giving that to us, they just decided to cancel the whole project and no one was happy.
[00:23:59] Crystal Fincher: Well, and so I guess that's my question - and so if you are in favor of providing services and doing that, where do you think they should be sited in the district?
[00:24:11] Tanya Woo: I think that area would have worked, but what we needed was that outreach and engagement. We were getting no information. We were holding our own town halls and reading off what we knew based on media and - of course we had our facts wrong 'cause no one was telling us what was happening. And that was basically - this is why I'm running - we wanted a seat at the table. And it's not gonna be given to us - we have to demand it.
[00:24:42] Crystal Fincher: So would you be supportive of starting a new process with that site as the goal, but with the appropriate amount and type of authentic community engagement and collaboration?
[00:24:55] Tanya Woo: Yes. And that's all we wanted - was that community engagement and collaboration. And we've historically have not gotten it. And so we feel like our community, that CID community, has suffered from the lack of investments and the lack of attention.
[00:25:14] Crystal Fincher: I gotcha. Now I also wanna talk about public safety - and starting talking about alternative response - in other jurisdictions around the country, and in our own region and King County, have rolled out alternative response programs to better support those having a behavioral health crisis. And Seattle is stalled in implementing, which is one of the most widely-supported ideas by Seattle voters and voters in District 2 - which is standing up non-police public safety issues and solutions. What are your thoughts on these and what are your thoughts on civilian-led versus co-response models?
[00:25:51] Tanya Woo: Yes. So I believe that Community Watch is a great example of alternatives to policing. And also there are a lot of organizations who do a lot of great and important work in community - We Deliver Care, LEAD, REACH, Co-LEAD, JustCARE - throughout the years that I would love to see grow on a larger scale and be able to support the entire city. I know they have little pockets within the city where they're doing this amazing work and it's working - and I would love to see more of that. That alternative to policing model is present, it's there - we just need to put City funding and City support behind it. So I also believe, like Health One, which pairs a case worker, case manager with a response team definitely needs to be expanded. Having more case workers out there should be a priority. Having case workers with officers should definitely be explored - and so I do support that model.
[00:27:06] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now, a lot of times we hear people talking about what victims would want, but in survey after survey and talking to victims directly and BIPOC communities - the community in District 2 is largely at-risk for violence at greater proportions than other places in the city - but largely they say two things. They first wanna make sure that what happened to them doesn't happen again. And they want support - better support - through the systems. We've had business owners in the City of Seattle talk about - Yeah, I can call police, it takes them a long time to respond. But even if they come, it's not really helping me move forward. But something like a victim compensation fund or more support or something like that would happen. - How do you think we could better support victims of crime in the city? And how do you think that might change the overall feeling of safety?
[00:28:04] Tanya Woo: Yes. So for example, there have been about 14 robberies in the Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach area - mostly targeting Asian American seniors, but they're targeting young and old people as well. And so in those instances where they're targeting non-English speakers, we're seeing that not only are people not reporting in a timely manner, but they're not reporting at all - because that structure has not been put in place to help our immigrant, refugee, non-English speaking community. There's one survivor who I met recently who was severely traumatized by this experience - this person can't sleep at night, they have nightmares, and it's very obvious they need a lot of support. But that support structure has not been put into place, especially if you're a non-English speaker. So we were working with this person on connecting them to agencies to help - they have a $5,000 Harborview bill that they have to pay, working two jobs each, as well as dealing with all this trauma. And so we need something in place to help survivors, especially the refugee non-English speaking immigrant community members, to have access to these services, to be able to get assistance in paying their bills, or assistance in being able to get therapy, or other help that they may need. And that's - navigating the process is very difficult.
Also - with these 14 burglaries - the community was not notified. I don't know why they waited until 14 to get the word out. Even now, we're not entirely sure what the circumstances are. We know that for one instance, this person was followed from King's Plaza - but how do we stop these from happening by watching out for each other? Especially if these are starting out at King's Plaza or other grocery stores, how can we allow for these marketplaces to keep an eye out for each other and make sure that they're not being followed? Just getting the word out is very difficult, and I wish there'd be more City agencies working with our nonprofits and organizational partners who are in these communities to get the word out as well as to help connect survivors to resources. So I agree that there is a huge lack, but I think we really need to work together to build upon what we have.
[00:30:52] Crystal Fincher: Now I wanna talk about the City budget - and the City of Seattle is projected to have a revenue shortfall of $224 million beginning in 2025. Because the City's mandated to pass a balanced budget, the options to address the deficit are to either raise revenue or cut services. What approach are you going to take?
[00:31:13] Tanya Woo: Ah, I think we have to look at the entire budget and define metrics of success for every single agency and making sure that there are results. We put so much money into KCRHA, which is the Regional Homeless Authority, but there is no metric for success, we don't know where this money is going - well, we have a general idea, but we don't know what the results are. How many people are they housing? I know right now they're going through a process where they're trying to come up with a system similar to that, but I would like to see something done for all government agencies. I mean, for any of us who have ever applied for a grant, we know how arduous it is to just basically name every single line item, and then be accountable for it, and then also show the results to be able to close out that grant. I think we have to hold all our agencies to that same level.
[00:32:10] Crystal Fincher: So does that mean that that might be an area where you'd look to cut? Is that what you're saying?
[00:32:16] Tanya Woo: Or not cut, but to maybe move around - see what programs are successful, what are not successful, and then invest in the programs that are showing results.
[00:32:26] Crystal Fincher: So given that, if the money is just shifted and we're still dealing with a big budget deficit, how would you move to fix that?
[00:32:38] Tanya Woo: Ah, then we'll have to look at - so we have to look at our priorities and really focus on those. And so I think it's looking at the overall budget - and yes, I guess, moving money around does equal cuts and other things, but giving a real clear picture of where the results are and moving the money to where the results are, I think, should be the priority.
[00:33:09] Crystal Fincher: Okay, I think I've read that you're on record opposing a lot of the new revenue proposals and options. Is that correct?
[00:33:17] Tanya Woo: Well, I wanted to see what the Progressive Revenue Task Force was going to put out. And I believe they gave a list of recommendations, and three is moving on to further legislation. And so I do not oppose any of the recommendations so far, but I want to see where the legislation - what the legislation looks like before making a final determination.
[00:33:46] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so jury's still out, depends on what ultimately happens. So at this point, is it fair to say that you are not a strong supporter, or won't be leading any charge to implement new revenue, and may be a vote in support or in opposition?
[00:34:02] Tanya Woo: Well, from my understanding - the three things that are being pushed forward are just continuations of things that are currently in place. And so I just want to wait and see.
[00:34:15] Crystal Fincher: Well, the capital gains tax would be one, or a CEO tax would be another one, expanding the JumpStart tax. Yeah, so those ones are not currently in place. So are you looking to limiting what you would do to things that are already in place, or would you support something potentially beyond that?
[00:34:37] Tanya Woo: Oh, I would want to see - I think some of them were not considered - I think the legality of each is being considered. So I probably would not be an advocate for any particular tax currently. I just want to see what legislation gets pushed forward before making determination of which I'm supportive or opposed of.
[00:34:58] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so if that doesn't shake out and there isn't any new revenue, how would you propose doing things like supplementing victim services, or increasing public safety, or increasing homeless services that need new revenue? Would that just have to be offset by cuts in other areas, shifting to more higher priority areas on your agenda?
[00:35:26] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think it's looking at the budget in its totality and seeing where we can make those cuts and how these programs could be successful because I believe they're in place - we're not reinventing the wheel here - we're just supporting and being able to help build capacity of some of these organizations and nonprofits, as well as I think - communication, outreach, and engagement is really important and making sure that communities of color know what's available and have access or even knowledge of these resources.
[00:36:01] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now, I want to talk about small businesses and the economy. You are a small business owner. Seattle and District 2 have very diverse businesses. Seattle has some of the largest corporations in the world headquartered here and some nearby, and also just a vibrant and diverse small business community - which is very important to our local and regional economy and just how the city is developing and feeling. What is most important - what would you lead and do to support small businesses in your district?
[00:36:40] Tanya Woo: Yes, my family has been involved with a lot of small businesses. My grandparents had the Moon Temple Restaurant that they worked at for 32 years. Then my parents used that to help fund and open Seattle's first Chinese bakery, the Mon Hei Bakery in the Chinatown International District - I grew up in there, in the bakery, doing odd jobs for 50 cents an hour. And then later my dad - because we were able to build that intergenerational wealth through these small businesses, able to buy the building that the bakery was in. And so realizing how important our small businesses are in terms of being the social center for many community members, also being a safe haven for community as well. And making sure that we have that economic engine to help provide good paying jobs and allowing for many communities to stay in place. And so I think we have to be more proactive versus reactive. We had the broken window fund that really helped a lot of businesses, but the application process was a bit cumbersome and a lot of people who did not understand it. And so I think it'd be nice to have these, like City of Seattle service stations - I know Othello has one, the U district has one - but to have some in locations where small businesses can have access to be able to get their questions answered regarding City resources and being able to get City grants. Now, many of our small businesses are dealing with graffiti and the City will send notices to our small businesses demanding that they pay a fee every single day that that graffiti remains in place. And so having access to government to be able to, to, I guess, push back on these notices, as well as to get help in terms of how to access resources, and also to just basically address their concerns. I know at 12th and Jackson, there is a huge illegal market there, as well as many people using fentanyl - and that's really affected the business community. And so how do we interact with local government and agencies to bring light to this issue, to get more attention, and possibly work with community in trying to resolve and help people.
[00:39:16] Crystal Fincher: Now, I also wanna talk about childcare, which is really important. And we recently received news that childcare is now more expensive than a college education - which has a devastating impact on families. Do you have plans to fix this?
[00:39:32] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think the City could do a lot to help, I guess, childcare businesses to grow and to help with permitting process for childcare businesses to get started. And looking at - and just basically working in partnership with the childcare business community - figure out what the barriers are in place to provide more childcare. I think also helping accessibility - not only physically, but financially. And also helping with choices, so people are not having to drive across the city to be able to access good childcare options. I think that's something we need to work in partnership with not only businesses, large and small, but also with what families need. So I think there's a lot of work we can do in that area.
[00:40:27] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also wanna talk about transit and transportation. Pedestrian and bicycle safety has been atrocious. Pedestrians and bicyclists are not currently safe. What would you do to improve that?
[00:40:42] Tanya Woo: Yes, I know there's a lot of traffic calming measures that community has been asking for, but SDOT has not been able to put in place. And so trying to find out what those barriers are and - within SDOT itself - be able to implement these traffic calming measures. There are many promises that have been made in these last 10 years and many projects - communities really excited for - that have not been implemented. So I think it's really holding agencies accountable and finding out those barriers are to get through that. And looking, especially in South Seattle, our traffic death numbers have not, pedestrian traffic death numbers have not gotten any better - and I think they're getting worse at this point. So is there - I know there's a lot of discussion groups, a lot of people who are really passionate about this issue - but how do we draw everybody in and make these things happen? And I've heard the frustration where people are - We're gonna go out there and paint that sidewalk ourself, or we're gonna put that planter in - we can't wait for the City to act. - and so how do we allow for these community projects? I know there's been a lot of speed bumps that have been helpful. How do we look at other traffic calming measures and make them happen is of paramount importance.
[00:42:02] Crystal Fincher: It is, and I guess, what I'm getting at or what I'm wondering is - there have been a lot of promises made by SDOT, and the City, and various politicians and promises to bring change and it hasn't happened. So how exactly can you hold, what will you do to hold SDOT and your other colleagues accountable if you were to make it onto the council - as well as the mayor - to get action in District 2?
[00:42:33] Tanya Woo: Yes, and I think that's the big question that a lot of people are wrestling with. And I think it's just getting down to - what are the barriers? Is there a lack of staffing? Or a lack of permitting - is the permitting process the barrier? Is there a community engagement process that needs to be done? And being able, I think, trying to understand what that barrier is. Is it just not a priority?
[00:43:02] Crystal Fincher: If it is an issue of priority, how do you overcome that?
[00:43:06] Tanya Woo: I think we have to make it a priority - it's lives on the line here - and we have to draw everyone in. And I know a lot of people have a lot of suggestions, like we need better lighting and that's a bigger infrastructure issue - putting that in place. And there's discussions regarding the traffic signals and cameras, especially. But I think there's a very divided community in terms of how to attack the situation, but I think it's going to have to be a - it's all-of-the-above situation - but I think it's getting SDOT to act is the biggest barrier. And if SDOT doesn't have the capacity, how can we give them the capacity or allow for community members to step in and to help?
[00:43:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely allowing community members to step in and act would be good. Unfortunately, SDOT is not that fond of that in many instances, if it's not already part of a pre-planned program. A lot of it seems to be coming down to right-of-way and investment in car infrastructure versus bike and pedestrian infrastructure. And so parking spaces - that type of infrastructure and space that could be used to provide safe facilities there - would you vote to eliminate parking spaces in order to provide safe infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists in your district?
[00:44:30] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think that is a - I support that, but I think that's a community-by-community approach. I know for the Chinatown International District - that many people using bikes go through there, yet it's also part of the downtown core where parking is a huge importance, especially since there are many seniors there who cannot utilize the bike lanes or who need those handicap parking spaces. And so I think it's a community-by-community approach and definitely having those discussions is important, but it's a larger picture of how do we - it's growing pains we have - we haven't planned for the city to grow so quickly. So how do we fit that in into our communities? How do we bring in Sound Transit, Metro to offer more consistent schedules? Metro just got some schedules cut and with ST3 coming into place and that discussion happening, we have to involve and look at not only ST3, but bike lanes and draw Metro in on the discussion for a larger planning for the next couple of years so that we set ourselves up for success.
[00:45:57] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now transit reliability is becoming an increasingly pressing issue with staff shortages and other challenges creating ghost buses, missed buses, canceled trips, eliminated routes and trips - and it is jeopardizing transit ridership, jeopardizing so much in the city. Now Sound Transit is a regional body and King County Metro is a county body, but what can the City do to help stabilize transit reliability?
[00:46:33] Tanya Woo: I think we have an aging workforce that's not being replenished. And so how do we go about that is a good question that needs - I think we need to talk about. Also, I think a lot of - there's a lot of public safety concerns that I think permeates through all of our issues, especially with hearing from - people going to, children going to school being on buses and seeing a drug use happening, as well as drivers having to deal with a lot of behavioral health issues or unhoused residents trying to stay warm or on their buses. And so how do we work together to promote the feeling of safety? And I think it's also looking, trying to offer more routes, more options and choices for people to be able to take the bus and have that system work. I know like a lot of people don't find it reliable because they always complain like - We're waiting longer than we feel like for buses to show up and then there's three or four buses at the same time that shows up - and how do we look at, make sure there's more consistent consistency and more options for people.
[00:48:02] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now a lot of people are trying to make a decision about who they're gonna vote for, about who aligns with their values. What do you tell them in order to help them make their decision between you and your opponent?
[00:48:17] Tanya Woo: Yes, and so I've spent my whole life working towards a lot of the issues that I feel are huge priorities for the city - to provide more housing. My family actually went and we - have the Louisa Hotel - recently redeveloped and opened right before the pandemic. We have 84 units of workforce housing, which only charges people a percentage of their income so no one's forced to pay rent they cannot afford. I think we need more of that in the city and I know how to build. And we have about 20 units working with our organization called Housing Connector to be able to house the formerly unhoused, and that organization also pairs people with a caseworker to help partner through their journey from - into finding housing. And I think that's a really important project that many people - or many, I guess, apartment owners - should get involved in. I helped start Community Watch, which I feel like is a great model for alternatives to public safety. And so I see that there is a need, and we have to act, and so I've gone out and done that. We go into our unhoused community - try to bring services and connect people to resources. And so I have a lot of on the ground experience - I'm embedded in community within our encampments, I see firsthand the trickle down effects of policy, and I also see displacement and gentrification - which is something I've been working against my whole life and trying to protect our communities of color from that. And so I know what it's like to be in a community that feels like they're not being heard. To see a community, I guess, being on the list of one of the most endangered neighborhoods of the nation - a list we're not proud of - but we have to do more and we have to act to make sure that no other neighborhood gets put on that list in the City of Seattle and how do we get our neighborhood off that list is really important. So I'm a person of action.
And I'm in community and I hear the gunshots every single night where I live - I live in the Rainier Beach area, I work in the CID, I go to the CID and I hear gunshots there and I realize public safety is so important and not a topic that's being addressed by our current councilmember. I agree that police need to be reformed, but we need - my group, we were in place of a shooting and we are not equipped to be able to deal with that and so for that, we absolutely need a police department. But we need a police department that's culturally competent and that will prioritize de-escalation. And so having that in place, I believe, is really important - in partnership with community investments with the community, as well as we need more after-school programs for youth, our community centers, our libraries, and our parks to resume the programming that they had pre-pandemic. And so I think there are a lot of actionable items that can be done to help empower people that could be done that's not currently being done. So there's a lot of work in certain areas that I would like to help implement and those will fall in the three priorities, like with public safety, homelessness and housing, as well as transportation. And so as a movement of action and want to help amplify voices of community and make sure that our communities of color are not forgotten, especially in a district where there is a lot of diversity and we should celebrate that. And so part of the reason why I'm running is because I've seen all this in the last four or three - many years - I've lived here my entire life, I know the communities. And we have to act, time for action is now - we can't just talk about ideology and debate amongst each other about what will work and what not will work - and in the end, not coming to solutions. And this should be a priority - going to solutions and problem solving, and especially making sure that the perfect solution is not an enemy of a good one.
[00:53:09] Crystal Fincher: Well, gotcha. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today, candidate for Seattle City Council District 2, Tanya Woo - much appreciated.
[00:53:19] Tanya Woo: Thank you - have a good rest of your day.
[00:53:21] Crystal Fincher: You too.
Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 podcast episode notes.
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