South Seattle Emerald: “I’M RUNNING TO BE THE VOICE OF SEATTLE’S DISENFRANCHISED”

The South Seattle Emerald published Lorena’s first official candidate interview today! The full article can be found at the South Seattle Emerald website. A few highlights from the interview include:

SSE

Rarely has anything  come easy for Lorena Gonzalez. Not the paycheck she toiled for as a migrant farm worker at the tender age of 8 to put food on her family’s table. Not the law degree she financed by sacrificing any semblance of a social life while performing every odd job imaginable, nor the legal victories for the low-wage and immigrants workers she represented in wage theft and discrimination cases in her role as a dogged civil rights lawyer.

Perhaps this is the reason the first-time candidate seems so unfazed at the undertaking of running for the Seattle City Council’s District 9 seat (one of two city-wide positions to remain after voters approved a 2013 measure partially districted the Seattle City Council). The former legal counsel to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray believes the fusion of grit, determination and empathy that has yielded her success in the past will bring the same result come election time as she champions the rights of workers, immigrants and displaced tenants. A platform she believes will resonate resoundingly with all of Seattle, but especially its southern segment. Gonzalez recently sat down with the Emerald at Columbia City’s Rainier Valley Cultural Center to discuss her campaign.

Emerald: Why are you running for Seattle City Council?

Lorena Gonzalez: I’m running because I think the City of Seattle is really going through a period of dynamic transformation and we can feel it as we  walk  through the city.  We see the changes. We see the cranes. We see the faces changing that are walking down the sidewalk. I’m really interested in making sure that as this city grows we still have African American and Latino faces on its streets. Also, I bring an experience and a focus that has never been represented on City Council. I know what it means to grow up poor. I know what it means to grow up in a home where English isn’t the first language spoken. I know what it means to grow up in a home where everybody’s got to work because everybody’s got to contribute to the household, to make sure you have something to eat at the end of the day.  I think that’s an experience that people in this city are currently living right now and I think that’s an important perspective to bring to City Hall, which is a very powerful place in our city. I believe the upbringing I had will give me a perspective that truly reflects the values of this city and will bring in the voices and the struggles of the people who live here into the room, and at that table.

Emerald: With the City Council being independent of the Mayor’s Office, how do you feel you could truly maintain a sense of independence as a councilmember being that you’ve worked closely with our mayor as an adviser and legal counsel to him since mid 2014?

Gonzalez: I actually met Mayor Murray for the first time when he interviewed me for the job. So, I met him for the first time in April of 2014, and I worked with him for a total of ten months. When I met with him, one of the things that he mentioned to me was that he was really looking for an independent voice. He wanted someone who would come in with a very strong sense of what the City of Seattle needed and the folks who lived here wanted from the mayor. He wanted me to be able to tell him no when I needed to tell him no. He wanted me to push him when he needed to be pushed and I did that the entire ten months I was with him – specifically as legal counsel, and his office’s lawyer. Again, it was my responsibility to say no when I needed to say no, and that I was able to articulate why I was saying no. I think the relationship I was able to establish with him and his office is going to lead to a good spirit of collaboration, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be willing to or able to say that I disagree with him when it’s warranted.

Emerald: With the rate of inequality growing in our city what plans do you have to make sure that the “opportunity gap” narrows for some of Seattle’s residents?

Gonzalez: What helps narrow that gap are two things, and these are two things I’m really interested on working on as a Seattle City Councilmember. One is I had pre-K. I went through head start at Central Washington and there is no replacement for what pre-K can do for somebody. I’m really excited that we’re going to have universal pre-K in the city and the one thing I will be looking for if elected is making sure those investments in pre-K are done in neighborhoods that have the least amount of access to it. The second thing is education, aside from Head Start. When a child enters into the public school system which most people do in this city. We don’t have any kind of governance authority over the school district. They’re their own entity, but there are things that we can do as a city to help our kids be successful in that system. There are transition services. There are all types of wraparound services that we are making sure we are delivering to our kids to make sure they are the most successful they can be in our public school system, such as before school programs and after school programs. W e need to ask what are the other areas the city can, and should play a role in to make sure we’re not contributing to the opportunity gap in terms of education.

There’s also jobs. Workforce development is really important for our community. Getting at the root of poverty and trying to make sure that working people are not the working poor, is a significant challenge, and we’ve made a huge step forward in that regard.  We had a victory last year with the Priority Hire legislation – which I helped write when I was at the mayor’s office. We were really proud to send that to city council and have them vote on it and approve it. Thinking about other types of workforce development, along with what other types of meaningful opportunities we can give to our youth and to other folks who are unemployed, and how we can lift them up and help them break the cycle of poverty is really important to me.

 

Read the rest of the article at the South Seattle Emerald.