loader from loading.io

ELECTION 2023 RE-AIR: Jorge Barón, Candidate for King County Council District 4

Hacks & Wonks

Release Date: 10/31/2023

Week in Review: March 1, 2024 - with Rich Smith show art Week in Review: March 1, 2024 - with Rich Smith

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith! Crystal and Rich discuss the significance of the Stranger endorsing “Uncommitted Delegates” in the March 12th Presidential Primary. They then celebrate the legislature’s passage of the Strippers’ Bill of Rights and mourn the deaths of rent stabilization and even-year elections at the hands of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Finally, they cover Seattle City Council’s inexcusable silencing of protesters with arrest. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and...

info_outline
Week in Review: February 23, 2024 - with Matt Driscoll show art Week in Review: February 23, 2024 - with Matt Driscoll

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by metro news columnist and opinion editor for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Matt Driscoll! With two weeks left in the State legislative session, Crystal and Matt dig into several bills with potential for huge impact and needing public support to get across the finish line - HB 2114 (rent stabilization), HB 1932 (even-year elections), and SB 6105 (Stripper Bill of Rights). See the resources section for links to contact your legislators about each of these bills! Next, they discuss the promise of the City of Tacoma’s detailed Anti-Displacement strategy,...

info_outline
Why Seattle’s Proposed Surveillance Mash-Up is a Lose-Lose with Amy Sundberg and BJ Last of Solidarity Budget show art Why Seattle’s Proposed Surveillance Mash-Up is a Lose-Lose with Amy Sundberg and BJ Last of Solidarity Budget

Hacks & Wonks

On this topical show, special guest host Shannon Cheng welcomes back Amy Sundberg and BJ Last from Solidarity Budget to discuss how the City of Seattle is rushing to bring three surveillance technologies to the streets of Seattle with minimal public input - a final public meeting happens next week on Tuesday, February 27th, 6pm! Amy and BJ fill Shannon in on Seattle’s Surveillance Impact Report process and their concerns that three technologies - Acoustic Gunshot Location System (AGLS, aka ShotSpotter), Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), and Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) - are being rushed...

info_outline
Week in Review: February 16, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank show art Week in Review: February 16, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank! Crystal and Robert chat about Raise the Wage Renton’s special election win, how a rent stabilization bill passed out of the State House but faces an uphill battle in the State Senate, and the authorization of a strike by Alaska Airlines flight attendants. They then shift to how gender discrimination problems in the Seattle Police Department create a toxic work culture that impedes recruitment, the inexplicable pressing forward by Seattle on...

info_outline
Week in Review: February 9, 2024 - with David Kroman show art Week in Review: February 9, 2024 - with David Kroman

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times City Hall reporter, David Kroman! Crystal and David dig into why Seattle is putting less money into new affordable housing project this year and how this week’s launch of a second social housing initiative by House Our Neighbors may be appealing to voters wanting to see progress on the issue. Next, they discuss the pressure on Mayor Bruce Harrell to deliver results now that a City Council friendly to his agenda has taken office and how the new Council’s relative inexperience was on display at initial committee meetings. Finally,...

info_outline
Harm Reduction in Rural Washington with Everett Maroon of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart show art Harm Reduction in Rural Washington with Everett Maroon of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart

Hacks & Wonks

On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Everett Maroon, Executive Director of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, for a conversation about their work in Southeast Washington using a harm reduction philosophy to support people, stabilize lives, & promote health and wellness in the community. Crystal and Everett chat about how the opioid epidemic has impacted rural communities, the role that stigma plays in keeping people from the help they need, what harm reduction is and why it is important. They then review the recent roller coaster ride of Washington state’s substance use disorder policy,...

info_outline
Week in Review: February 2, 2024 - with Erica Barnett show art Week in Review: February 2, 2024 - with Erica Barnett

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett! Crystal and Erica discuss public outcry over targeted inspections of LGBTQ+ establishments and Seattle Council President Sara Nelson’s remarks opposing even-year elections for local races. They then turn to news from King County that the target closure date of 2025 for the Youth Jail will be missed and how the annual “Point In Time” homelessness count will be different this year. The show wraps up with new polling that Seattle voters are supportive of a big Transportation Levy...

info_outline
Pairing Advocacy and Research for Progress with Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute show art Pairing Advocacy and Research for Progress with Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute

Hacks & Wonks

On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute! Crystal learns about the Northwest Progressive Institute’s (NPI) work to advance progressive policies through their focuses on research and advocacy, what’s covered in NPI’s long form blog The Cascadia Advocate, and the importance of reframing in progressive politics. Andrew then describes how six initiatives bankrolled by a disgruntled wealthy Republican are designed to cause a lot of damage to Washington, how NPI’s careful approach to polling has led to successful results, and...

info_outline
Week in Review: January 26, 2024 - with Daniel Beekman show art Week in Review: January 26, 2024 - with Daniel Beekman

Hacks & Wonks

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman! Crystal and Daniel discuss the unsurprising Seattle City Council vacancy appointment and what we might see from a business-backed, Harrell-picked legislative body as they navigate a hiring freeze, a large budget deficit, and upcoming important policy decisions. Next, they turn to the Office of Police Accountability’s conclusion that SPOG Vice President Auderer’s comments about Jaahnavi Kandula’s death were “​​derogatory, contemptuous, and inhumane” and speculate how Chief...

info_outline
The Raise the Wage Renton Campaign with Maria Abando and Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera show art The Raise the Wage Renton Campaign with Maria Abando and Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera

Hacks & Wonks

On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera and Raise the Wage Renton Steering Committee member Maria Abando to learn more about the upcoming citizen initiative on the February 13th special election ballot. Modeled after the successful Raise the Wage Tukwila initiative that passed with over 80% of the vote in 2022, community organizers in Renton are campaigning to raise their city’s minimum wage to keep up with surrounding cities like SeaTac, Tukwila, and Seattle. Maria and Carmen discuss how the ability to earn a living wage uplifts everyone, the signature...

info_outline
 
More Episodes

On this Election 2023 re-air, Crystal chats with Jorge Barón about his campaign for King County Council District 4 - why he decided to run, how 17 years at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has prepared him for the role, and his thoughts on generating progressive revenue for county services, drug possession and substance use disorder, addressing overcrowding in the King County Jail, improving frontline worker wages and workforce issues, air quality and climate change, and the importance of oversight and genuine community engagement in policy implementation.

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

Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find Jorge Barón at @jorgebaron.

 

Jorge Barón

Jorge L. Barón has spent his legal career advancing and defending the rights of marginalized communities, and has served as executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for more than 15 years. Jorge has fought egregious policies like the Muslim Ban and family separation as well as built coalitions that drove significant policy change and generated hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for immigrant communities. Jorge has had the honor of being awarded the King County Council’s MLK Medal of Distinguished Service and served on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Deadly Force in Community Policing. Jorge is originally from Bogotá, Colombia, immigrating with his mom and brothers at the age of 13. Jorge is a graduate of Yale Law School and Duke University, a proud former union member, and public school parent. 

 

Resources

Campaign Website - Jorge Barón

 

Transcript

 

[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.

Today, I am excited to be welcoming a candidate for King County Council District 4 - Jorge Barón. Welcome to Hacks & Wonks, Jorge.

[00:01:03] Jorge Barón: Thank you so much for having me, Crystal. I'm pleased to be here.

[00:01:05] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - we're pleased to have you here. I guess just starting out - what made you decide to run for King County Council?

[00:01:12] Jorge Barón: Yeah, it's a great question because I think for me, this is a new adventure that I'm embarking on. I think if you'd asked me 10 years ago if I was going to run for elected office, I would have said no. But I think what's happened over the last - since that time - is that I've seen, of course, working in the immigration field for the last 17 years, I've seen a lot of bad policy, but during the Trump administration, I saw a particular period of really egregious attacks on communities that I'm a part of, that I care about, and that I was working on behalf of. And I also saw how state and local government played an important role in protecting people. And I also saw people, frankly, that I've considered mentors and people who I admire - like Representative Pramila Jayapal and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda - who also went from being advocates on the outside of government to go inside and to actually work on policy issues at the government level, and saw how effective they've been in creating some policy change in a progressive direction.

So that gave me an inspiration, and of course, I've continued working here at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, but last year I made the decision to step away from this work that I've been doing for now 17 years. And when I started thinking about what would come next, I thought that working at the local government level would be an avenue to further some of the same social justice issues that I've been pursuing for nearly two decades, and that gave me the inspiration. And of course, when Councilmember Kohl-Welles announced that she would be stepping down, saw an opportunity to put myself forth and to share with folks in District 4 - where I live - that I would be a good advocate for the social justice values that I've been pursuing for a long time now.

[00:02:46] Crystal Fincher: How do you think your work at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has prepared you to run and serve?

[00:02:52] Jorge Barón: Yeah, no - it's a good question. And I've been very fortunate, of course, to have had the privilege of serving in this role. And for a long time, I thought that something else would pull me away from leaving here, and it - nothing better came along, but I felt like it was a good time for me to allow other people to step into leadership roles here and for me to take a break and do something new. But the experience that I've had here, I think, has prepared me for this role in a couple of different ways. First of all, obviously, I've had the opportunity to be the chief executive here at this organization - that we've been able to grow into now the second-largest nonprofit law firm in the Pacific Northwest, and I think that experience of being a leader in that role has given me an opportunity to learn a lot about how to manage organizations and how to run an effective organization.

And I think the other part that's been really important in the work that we've done here that I think will be helpful - very important at the county level - is that I have been able to work in partnership with many stakeholders in building coalitions that have enabled important policy change at the state level. And one of the things that has inspired me to run at the County Council level is seeing that right now the county is facing a very difficult period because of the limitations that the state government has placed on - particularly on the revenue side - and I think we need people who are going to be able to build the kind of coalition to push the State Legislature, to work in partnership with our state legislators to make sure that we get some changes - that I think a lot of people recognize are needed - to the way that the county is funded, to make sure the county can actually operate effectively and carry out its responsibilities. So that kind of coalition building - working with state legislators in making actually progressive and important changes happen at the state level - which is what I've been able to do here, is something that I feel is going to serve me well if I get the privilege of serving on the council.

[00:04:41] Crystal Fincher: When you talk about the issue of revenue, which is very important - and as we talk about this and the things we'll talk about as we continue, lots of them will require additional revenue. More money is needed. But as you talk about, the progressive revenue options that exist at the county level are limited. What progressive revenue options will you pursue, if any, and how will you go about doing that?

[00:05:04] Jorge Barón: Yeah, no, I think it's important to talk about it because that's absolutely one of the key things that I think we need to discuss and make sure that voters understand. And I've seen it, and it's been frustrating to me actually, from - in my role at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, we've been advocating before the councils - at least myself, I've been advocating before the council since around 2008, 2009. And even since that time, the conversation had been that the county was in an unsustainable fiscal path, right? That we had this structural deficit, and particularly because of the 1% tax lid that restricts how much property tax revenue the county can collect, that we were in this unsustainable path. And in some ways, I feel like we haven't - as a community, we haven't felt the actual impact of that because inflation has been relatively low during that period, because there have been different periods of COVID relief money, for example, that came in the last couple of years that in some ways mitigated the full impact of that situation.

But we're starting to now, and the upcoming budget cycle - we're facing, as a county, $100 million shortfall. And so I think now we're gonna start feeling the direct impact of those changes. And so I think we radically need to restructure how the county is funded and move away - I don't think we're gonna be able to move away completely, obviously - but at least shift some of the burden that currently is impacting particularly low income and even moderate income households here in King County and make sure that we create the opportunity. And again, this is one of the challenges - is that it's not something the county directly can do, but we will need to work with the state legislators to provide those opportunities for some changes so that we become less reliant on things like the sales tax and the property tax. And we have opportunities to have the revenue come from sources that have greater ability to pay. Obviously this is not only an issue for the county. Obviously at the state level, we also need to be working on that because we have the most regressive tax structure in the country. And so at all levels of government, we need to do this.

And my hope is to be able to bring new energy to this conversation, to help talking about it all the time that - my campaign have been trying to talk about it - that's the first thing I always talk about because I think a lot of people don't understand the situation that we're in and that we're gonna be facing in terms of county services having to be drastically cut at a time when we see so much need in the community and people are saying - Why aren't we tackling these issues? Why aren't we tackling housing affordability, the homelessness crisis? - all kinds of issues that we can talk about. And those things - we need more investments to be able to make progress in those areas. And so the regressive revenue options need to be something that we absolutely put top of mind in talking to voters and talking to state legislators.

[00:07:46] Crystal Fincher: Right, and you talked about how to handle issues in terms of public safety, behavioral health, and how important that funding is. In the wake of the State Legislature increasing criminalization of possession of drugs and public use of drugs - making it a gross misdemeanor. And in the wake of the Seattle City Council weighing this issue themselves and currently still searching for a path forward on how to approach drug use and abuse in the City of Seattle - how do you view this in King County? Where do you stand on the criminalization of public drug use, and what do you think needs to be done to address this crisis?

[00:08:23] Jorge Barón: Yeah, Crystal - I'll be very clear that I do not support criminalizing substance use disorders. I believe that we have - what I try to tell people about this issue is that we need to look at this the same way that we talk about - for example, when we talk about climate justice, a lot of people in this community - I guess I would say most people in this community, I know there's some people who are still climate skeptics out there - but most of us believe the science and we talk about the importance of believing the research and following the science. Same thing with public health, right? Most people in this community say we need to believe the science around public health and COVID and vaccines, right? And why don't we do the same thing with regard to public safety and the criminal legal system, right? There is abundant research when it comes to how to address the serious issues - and I wanna say it's important to note that the issue is not about doing nothing about the fact that people are experiencing substance use disorders. And obviously, it's a crisis in the fact that we have so many people in our community who are dying because of that. So the question is not, should we do something? We absolutely should do something. The question is, what should we do? And for me, the response of trying to punish people and putting people in jail because they're experiencing substance use disorders is not the solution. And I think the evidence and the research conclusively proves that that is not the path that is going to result in people actually being safe.

And I'm concerned - some ways - that particularly right now, some of the debate is framed as in, we're trying to protect people by putting them in jail. And if you look at the evidence, that's not the case - at least if you look at overall numbers. And I know people will say - Well, there's this one example, this anecdote where this person got better because they went to jail. And I appreciate that there may be cases like that, but we can't do public policy based completely on anecdotes. We need to look at the research. And the research to me is very compelling in that, for example, with people who are experiencing substance use disorders with things like fentanyl, that you will end up increasing the risk that they will die if they go into jail. It's pretty dramatic - the statistics and the data on increasing the risk of overdose in those situations. And so I am concerned, I think we need to be thinking about what is best approach long-term - and particularly because the criminal legal system is also a very expensive system, right? And so when we're talking about investing limited public resources in a time of austerity in terms of the fiscal situation that we were just talking about - to me, it doesn't make sense to continue to invest in a system that has not proven to have, for lack of a better term, return on investment - when we see that there are programs that are currently underfunded, that we're not putting enough resources in, that do have an impact in terms of reducing peoples experiencing substance use disorder, and that will actually put them in a pathway to recovery.

So I think we need to really rethink how we're approaching things. I think we've learned lessons for decades of using the criminal legal system to try to address substance use disorders. And I think we have been doing important things here in this community, and I think it's important to recognize that there's been programs like the LEAD program here locally, that have been seen as models for other places, but we've never sufficiently resourced those. And right now, of course, the need has only escalated because of the impacts of the pandemic and so many things that disrupted the lives of so many people. So I think we need to be investing in the things that actually have a return on investment.

[00:11:54] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Now, you make a great point about our jails - one, not being a source of treatment, but they're not equipped to do that right now. And in fact, they're not equipped to do a lot of things that people think they do and things that they have done before. We've seen outcry from everyone from the ACLU to the guards and workers at our jails saying - Things are overcrowded, we're understaffed, we don't have adequate services, facilities, we don't have the tools to do the job that you're asking us to do and the way that you're asking us to do it, and the overcrowding is really making issues harder. In order to address that, the King County Council voted to initiate a contract with another jail provider - the SCORE Center in Des Moines - to transfer some inmates over there. Would you have voted to do that? And do you think we should do what Dow Constantine suggested and closing the jail? What is your plan for this? Would you have done what the County Council did? And where should we move forward after that?

[00:12:56] Jorge Barón: Yeah, Crystal - that's a good question. So the answer to your question about the SCORE jail is that I would not have voted to enter into that contract and to transfer people, primarily because I think at the time - and I think still to this point, from what I understand - the concerns that a number of people raised, and particularly the public defenders who represent people in the facility, in the jail, that the issue of access to counsel and access to family was not adequately addressed at the time. And to me, this is a particular issue that I care a lot about, just because I've had a lot of experience being an attorney and starting my career at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project as a staff attorney working with people in the Immigration Detention Center in Tacoma. I did work during law school in the criminal legal issues and prisons in the South. And this issue of being able to access attorneys is a really important one that we as a community should be absolutely standing up for - because when people are put into jail pending a charge, we have a strong presumption in this country of being presumed innocent until we're proven guilty. And one of the key ways that people can have that right be enforced is through access to counsel. And so if we're gonna undermine that, I think that's a serious issue.

I absolutely, to be clear, do not think that the conditions at the King County Jail are adequate, and we absolutely need to take steps to address the overcrowding. I think people in the community may not always be paying attention to this, but it's remarkable that we have groups that don't normally align on this - like the public defenders on the one side and the correctional workers in the jail - calling for the same steps because of how bad the situation was. And so we should be listening to people who are working most directly with people in there. And obviously we should be deeply concerned about the fact that multiple people have been dying in our care. I've been telling people that we need to think about, as a community - when we take one of our neighbors into custody because we determine that they need to be held in jail, we become responsible. They become our responsibility, and we need to make sure that we have the staffing and the resources to adequately care for them. And if we see that people are dying at the rate that we've seen, we're not living up to that commitment. And so we need to take steps, and I would support, at least as an interim measure, the call from the public defenders and from the correction officers of having booking restrictions that will limit the number of people who are gonna be in the jail until we know that we can actually take care of people.

I know it's a complex issue because I think part of the challenge has also been that the state has failed in its obligation to make sure that we provide treatment and assessments for and evaluations for people who have behavioral health issues, and that's also exacerbated the problem in terms of people being able to be released. But we need to address this with more urgency because literally people are dying in our custody, and it shouldn't be - even if you're accused of a crime, this should not be a death penalty situation where we're putting people in fatal consequences because they're accused of a criminal offense. And so I think we need to be taking very significant steps to move that. And again, the SCORE Jail - I understand the intention, but we also need to be respecting the right for people to be able to defend themselves in court.

[00:16:19] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. I do wanna talk about housing and homelessness. And it's been an issue that has been on the top of mind of everyone, basically. One thing that it's a big challenge for our community to deal with, and another because so many people are struggling themselves. One issue called out by experts as a barrier to our response is that frontline worker wages don't cover the cost of living, and that services provided by frontline workers, especially those with lived experiences, are necessary to effectively reduce the amount of people who are homeless. Do you believe our local nonprofits have a responsibility to pay living wages for our area? And how can we make that more likely with how we bid and contract for services at the county level?

[00:17:04] Jorge Barón: So Crystal, I absolutely agree that nonprofits have a responsibility to make sure that their workers are adequately compensated. It's something that I've been working on here at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and I think one of the things that I see frequently at the county level - and I think a lot of people don't realize that a lot of the human services that the county provides is actually done through nonprofit entities that the county contracts out with. And so the county does have a responsibility to make sure that we're structuring the contracts in ways that are going to incentivize our nonprofit partners to do the right thing. I've seen practices where, for example, we have contracts where there's lesser amount of funding year-over-year for a nonprofit partner. And of course, that doesn't help when we have a situation where the cost of living is increasing. I've also seen situations where there's this pressure of - well, you're not delivering enough services per FTE, and so it incentivizes employers to try to do it as cheaply as possible in kind of a race to the bottom that actually hinders the ability of organizations to be able to adequately compensate their employees.

And so I definitely think that the county has a responsibility to make sure that it's structuring its practices to incentivize for people to be paid well. And I think part of the problem is that sometimes we think of short-term - how many services we can provide in the very immediate term - but we lose sight of the fact that when we don't compensate people well, we end up losing those workers. And so you get into the cycle where people, the attrition rate is very high, the experience that we get from workers - it's lost. You spend a lot of energy and time with recruiting and hiring and training new employees. And so I think people need to understand that there is actually - it's a better investment to compensate people well. Even in the situations where that might mean - in the very short term, you might not be able to do as many services. But in the long term, you're actually gonna be able to serve people better and more fully if you invest in the workforce so that they will stick around. Because particularly in a place - obviously the cost of living is increasing, it's all connected - housing affordability is limited. So we need to make sure that the people who are providing services to county residents can also themselves be able to be county residents - because I hear that from a lot of people that they're having to, they can't even live in the county that they work in because of the high cost of living. So I absolutely think that needs to be a responsibility that the county plays a role in doing better from its part.

[00:19:35] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And as you talk about, there are shortages everywhere, there are staff shortages even in the county. And this impacts how the county is able to deliver services. There's been lots of coverage about staffing crises in a variety of government agencies, school districts, just seemingly at every level. And these people are crucial to programs and services that people count on, that have been around for decades, and that are now in jeopardy. King County has done hiring and retention bonuses for deputies in the Sheriff's department. Should we be doing that for other workers in other departments? How do we address this?

[00:20:11] Jorge Barón: I do think that we should look at those options. I do wanna work and wanna be very proactive in engaging labor partners that represent workers and finding what they think would be best for their workforce. 'Cause I wanna be very respectful of the role that they play in channeling the voice of the people who are working for the county. Because I know sometimes that can create some tensions for people who have been working there for a long time and then money is being invested to attract new workers. And so I wanna make sure that it's done in a way that we're engaging people who are already part of the workforce and who have devoted a lot of time to serve the community. So I think that is important.

But Crystal, one other thing that I was gonna mention when you talk about workforce issues is important role - and again, how lots of these things are connected - is childcare issues. That's one topic that I've heard a lot from community members that is making these workforce development issues more difficult, and in terms of attracting and incentivizing people to join the workforce is the high cost of childcare. And particularly the way that our current subsidies are structured at the county level, we have the situation where if you make above a certain amount, you then don't qualify for any subsidy at all. And that makes it difficult because then if you're considering - Well, okay if I take this job and maybe it's a good union paying job, but it actually will put me above the income level that qualifies for the subsidy. And then when I start doing the math, it turns out that doesn't make sense for me to take the job because I'll end up paying more on childcare than would make the job worth it. And as a parent who had three children go through the childcare system, who's gone through the public school system, I felt that very directly. And I've been fortunate to be able to have the resources to make that happen, but it was a big stretch. And so for a lot of people in the community, that's gonna be something that I think has made it more difficult for people to be able to join the workforce. And that impacts us all, right? We can talk about, for example, the challenges that the Metro Transit is having and the fact they're having to reduce routes - and it's not because of lack of money, it's because of the fact that they can't find enough drivers and they've had challenges there. So I think we need to be able to connect those dots and realize that investments in those areas are important to make sure that we have an adequate workforce. And it's also a good social equity and racial equity issue to make sure that we're investing so that folks can get the support they need to make sure they can not fully be participants in the community.

[00:22:40] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and thank you so much for bringing that up because that is a major factor in just the affordability of our community, the ability for people to participate in our workforce and our economy, to be upwardly mobile, and to get out of poverty. So thank you so much for talking about how important it is to help make affordable childcare accessible. I also want to talk about health, and especially with the county doing the heavy lifting when it comes to public health, really, and being the source of delivery for so much of it. I wanted to talk about something that we've been dealing with increasingly, whether it's because of COVID, which is still around and still here, and trying to reduce transmission and mitigate the impacts of it, or wildfire smoke, which we have to contend with, and that is extremely unhealthy to breathe and be in the midst of. Or other illnesses, viruses that are all around - trying to just reduce the prevalence of illness in our community. And it's become more apparent that how we treat air, how important air is to health, and how air filtration and ventilation is important to public safety. Do you have a plan for, would you advocate retrofitting, ensuring that all of our public buildings have the recommended air filtration, air turnover, healthy air systems for our community? And how can we help private businesses and spaces do that?

[00:24:08] Jorge Barón: Yeah, I absolutely support that. And I think it's an important - and I think there will be some important opportunities with some of the investments that are coming through the Inflation Reduction Act that - mostly focused on energy efficiency, but there could be opportunities where some of those resources could be used at the same time to make sure that we're improving air quality inside buildings, homes, and businesses as well. And it's interesting 'cause I think one of the things that I think about when I think of this - when you're talking about the community health - one of the things that's most disturbing to me and one that I absolutely wanna continue to focus on if I'm given the opportunity to serve in this role, is the disparities that we see in life expectancy in our communities. I'd encourage people to look up some of the research that's publicly available where you can see the life expectancy disparities in census tracts around the county, around the region. And I think to me, it should be disturbing to all of us that there are census tracts in South King County where the life expectancy is 17 years less than census tracts in other parts of the county - just a short drive away. And of course, when you dig into the reasons for that - and of course, there are many - but issues of pollution and of all the social determinants of health are driving a lot of those disparities. And that is something that we should not find in any way acceptable at this point of time in a county, particularly a county that we renamed in honor of Dr. King. I always think of what he would think about those kinds of disparities and obviously, he would find them unacceptable and I find them unacceptable.

And so addressing those issues and looking at the reasons that the impact - that all kinds of issues are impacting people's health, including air quality, both inside and frankly outside would have. And so when we talk about that and of course, with the ongoing impacts of climate change and the climate crisis, we're gonna be needing to tackle that even more - because unfortunately, we're gonna continue as we work in the long-term strategy, obviously, of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but we also have to mitigate the impacts that we're seeing day in and day out with now the wildfire season that we see where the smoke is impacting people. And of course, many of us may have the fortune of being able to work inside and protect ourselves to some degree, but a lot of other people can't. And so we need to be addressing on multiple levels - ensuring that all community members and of course, particularly the most directly impacted communities, which of course overwhelmingly are people of color, immigrant refugee communities - that they're being given the tools and the protection to make sure that we don't see the level of disparities that we're currently seeing across the county.

[00:26:47] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And following on that - talking about how exposed people are - climate change is a major factor in this. And on almost every measure, we're behind on our 2030 climate goals, while experiencing some of the devastating impacts that you just talked about - from wildfires and floods and cold and heat. What are your highest priority plans to get us on track to meet the 2030 goals?

[00:27:10] Jorge Barón: I think there's a number of things. So one of our major drivers in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, of course, is our transportation system. And so a lot of that has to be focused on stopping our reliance and reducing our reliance on cars. And trying to build a transit infrastructure that is gonna be reliable, it's gonna be safe, and that it's going to be such that people can rely on it to get to work and to get to other places in the community. So for me, that's important. I think it's important - obviously, I appreciate and support the efforts to electrify our bus fleet and would do anything I could to expedite that and move forward on that. But the challenge is that if we can have the buses be electric, but if people are not using them and they're still relying on their cars, that's not gonna help us achieve the targets. So that's gonna be really important.

I think the other sort of big sources is obviously our infrastructure and our buildings and homes. And as I mentioned earlier, there is gonna be some opportunities for credits and investments through federal resources in the coming years that we need to make sure that we as a county are promoting and incentivizing and fully tapping into so that we can further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and we can get closer to reaching the goals that we've set for ourselves. So I think that's gonna be an important work that we need to do in the community. And this is, again, where a lot of things are connected to - also how we build and how we structure our communities is gonna be important, because as we talk about transit - I fully support what the legislature did to create greater density 'cause that has a significant impact on climate justice goals. And so that's something that I think we are going to need to also monitor - as these new changes that the legislature made - how those are implemented will have an impact in our long-term strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. So I think this is gonna be an important period of time for us to really step up in our commitment to addressing what is a very urgent issue.

[00:29:12] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. One issue impacting, I guess a major issue that impacts residents is how we implement policy - state level, county level, federal level really. There's been some great, helpful policy passed, but when it comes to the implementation of it, there's been a lot that has been desired in some circumstances - including those where some partners may not understand what needs to be stood up at the county level to deliver services. The county is pretty visible in this 'cause a lot of times the county is the entity responsible for the ultimate disbursement of funds or provision of services that come through the state or county level. And there seems to be sometimes a disconnect between what the county has capacity for, what it's capable to do and what legislation or funding or program calls to be done - leaving a shortfall in service delivery, things getting delayed, things not turning out as intended. What can be done to better improve the implementation of policy so that more people can receive the benefits that were intended?

[00:30:17] Jorge Barón: I completely agree, Crystal, 'cause I've seen that myself in terms of being able to get policies done both at the local level and at the state level in terms of changes to policy. For example, we did some work many years ago on the connection between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement - and we achieved a victory of getting an ordinance passed at the county level. And then time went by and the actual implementation of that was not happening. And we later found out that some of the things that we had thought that the policy had changed had not changed. And so I've definitely seen that situation play out. And I think what it takes is constant oversight and very intense focus from entities like the council. I think the council has a particular responsibility and a duty to be the one who is providing oversight as the elected officials who are responsible for making sure that the policies that are in place are actually being implemented. 'Cause oftentimes what I see in those situations is that things get passed and then you move on to the next thing, but if the implementation and the oversight is not there, then changes aren't actually playing out on the ground level. So that's an important thing.

I think the other thing that I think is important is a genuine engagement with communities that are going to be served. And I think that's another element that I would like to bring to the council is the fact that I have been working for nearly two decades now with marginalized communities throughout the state, particularly here in King County, and have built those relationships with people. And I would wanna be very proactive. I often tell people - Sometimes people say, I'll have an open door. And that to me is not really a good way to approach it because that still means that people have to come to me and my office. I wanna be very proactive in being out there - as I have been in my work here - of being out in community, talking to people, seeing how things are actually playing out on the ground level, and being engaged, and having genuine relationships with people so that you can actually assess how those policies are being implemented because that's what it takes. It's not just about receiving a report in council chambers, but it's about discussing with people how is this actually playing out. And that's how we've found things out here in my work at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project - has been working with community members - hearing how is this actually playing out on the ground level? How is this policy that looks nice on paper, on the King County Code, actually being impacted or being reflected on what people are experiencing in the community? And that's what it's gonna take to make sure that implementation is actually - that things are being done the way that we've intended them to be done when there's been changes in policy.

[00:32:54] Crystal Fincher: Definitely. As we move to close today, I just want to give you the opportunity to share with voters who are going to be making a decision between you and a couple other candidates in the primary election. What differentiates you from your opponents most of all, and why should voters choose you?

[00:33:14] Jorge Barón: For me, I think I hope voters will look at the track record that I've built over the last two decades working as a civil rights and human rights leader, working directly on behalf of marginalized communities with a deep commitment to equity and justice. I think that to me is really important because it's the work that I don't just talk about, I have done that work. And also the fact that I had the experience of working at the state level - building coalitions with community members, with allies - in a range of issues to make actually proactive and significant progressive change to policies that have impact marginalized communities across the state. And I hope to bring that same level of expertise and skill of building coalitions to impact policy that will make the situation for the county and county residents better.

And then finally, again, the fact that I've had this experience and I've been fortunate to have this experience of leading a nonprofit organization, building an effective organization that has delivered, that's widely recognized as delivering strong services. And that puts me in a good place to be able to provide that oversight, to be able to ask the tough questions, to make the tough decisions because I've been in that kind of executive role before. And be able to make sure - because I think this is an important component of county government, and I think something that will help us build the case for more investments is - I think one of the things that people in the community rightly are concerned about is - are our tax dollars being invested well in various programs that the county funds? And because I've been a nonprofit leader, seeing how to properly allocate and distribute and make resources be spent effectively, I'm in a good position to be able to evaluate those things when those issues come up at the County Council. And so all of those experiences that I've had - I've been very privileged to be able to play that role - have prepared me well for this role. And I hope the voters in the District 4 will give me the opportunity to represent them in the council.

[00:35:12] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much for joining us today and for helping us learn more about you, and certainly wish you the best.

[00:35:17] Jorge Barón: Thank you so much, Crystal - it was great talking to you.

[00:35:19] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

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.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.