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November 04, 2005

Interview with Geni Hawkins - Candidate for King County Council from the 7th

When people talk about Geni Hawkins and her candidacy for the King County 7th District, they inevitably describe her as “a breathe of fresh air”.  After interviewing her and researching what has been written by her on her website and by others in endorsing her, I think I understand what people mean when they say that. 

Geni is a true grassroots candidate, the kind we haven’t encountered for awhile but the kind we hope to encounter over and over into the future.  She ran for this seat, which encompasses the small cities of Auburn and Federal Way and both industrial and rural areas around them, because no one else was running on the Democratic side and she thought she had a lot to offer.  She thought that Pete von Reichbauer, her Republican opponent and a career politician, who has been on the Council since 1993 should be opposed.

She had done a lot of volunteering in the community, she cared deeply about what happened to individual people but she had not been an office-holder.  Since starting to run, she has been doorbelling, meeting her potential constituents, listening, and coming to understand the issues that affect her south King County area.  She is now knowldegable and focused on the issues that concern these voters and committed to representing her future constituent and making a difference on the Council.

When asked to characterize the differences between herself and von Reichbauer, she has a compelling answer.  She says that the incumbent is a career politician, who's never really been an ordinary working citizen.  Her district is filled with working citizens, many of whom have come to this country as adults and speak other languages.  Geni says that von Reichbauer “came from well-to-do circumstances and, as such, has less understanding of the difficulties faced by the working poor.”  She herself was “brought up in the housing projects, youngest of 13 children.  I understand the obstacles faced by someone who cannot afford health care, for whom owning a house is not possible, for whom mass transit is essential to allow them to get to the workplace.”

Geni also brings a great deal of expertise in an area much needed by the Council – information technology.  She has worked in the field for 25 years and knows how to ask the questions to really understand and analyze systems, something that this Council could make good use of.

The other thing that really struck me about Geni is how much she brings to the central issue affecting all of us in the I-5 corridor – growth and growth management.  Unlike many of the other politicians on both sides, she does not see that this needs to be as a polarizing issue.  She is for smart growth and is convinced that it is possible to manage growth in such a way that it does not diminish the quality of life for the folks involved.  I think she brings an ability to bring people together to find common cause, a wonderful and needed trait. 

The interview is after the fold.  Noemie over at Washblog has written about Geni and also written about her opponent, Pete von Reichbauer, and the troubles he has caused Democrats in the past.  Both are good reads and very instructive.  For those of you in her district who are still undecided, check out her website as well.  The more I read, the more I believe that she would be a great Councilmember. 

Interview with Geni Hawkins, candidate for King County Council from the 7th District

1) What prompted you to run for King County Council?

Initially, it was because no one filed to run against the incumbent, and I think it makes voters feel disenfranchised when there's no one on the ballot who represents their beliefs and their values.  The last thing we want is voters disengaged from the process because there's "no point to voting."  However, the more I've learned about the district, the issues, and the work done by the Council, the more this race has become about actually running because I very much want to work on the issues the County Council deals with.

2) What do you bring to the table?

Among other things, I'm a 25-year information technology professional.  I think the Council needs someone with a high-tech background to help determine how best to allocate the millions of dollars the Council spends on technology issues every year and oversee such projects to make sure every dollar is spent wisely and responsibly.  I have extensive training in systems analysis, which means I understand how to go about studying a process, finding the problem areas, and designing solutions to resolve those problems, rather than trying to force a predetermined solution to fit without understanding the systems involved.  I have experience in both private sector (20 years at Boeing) and public sector (I work for the Highline School District) employment, and have worked at companies of all sizes.  I think my experience suits me admirably for the County Council, particularly with regards to overseeing any potential technological elections solutions.

3) What have you learned from talking to voters during this time?

A large population of the district feels very frustrated that the County Council's focus has been too Seattle-centric, and the needs of the suburban and rural citizen have taken a back seat.  There's a great deal of misinformation about some of the more controversial initiatives and legislation, such as I-912 or the Critical Areas Ordinance.  There's a strong feeling that the Council is too often imposing mandates top-down and unilaterally, without adequate input from the citizens or the communities.

4) What is unique about the 7th district?

We're the true suburban district; there's a portion of the district that's rural, but the majority of the district revolves around two small suburban cities, Auburn and Federal Way.  We have a very high population of citizens for whom English is not their native language, a large number of elderly and working poor.  We're the southernmost district in King County, and our transportation needs are very different from those of the urban districts; a large percentage of our district's working people don't commute to downtown Seattle but to other suburbs, and these commuters haven't been well-served by many of the mass-transit solutions which have revolved around a hub-and-spoke model with Seattle as the center.  We have large warehouse distribution bases in the district, with efficient transportation being key to allowing those industries to continue to operate profitably.  We have several communities within the district that are split between King and Pierce counties, and those communities often feel their needs are not adequately addressed.

5) How would you characterize the differences between you and Pete von Reichbauer?

The incumbent is a career politician, who's never really been an ordinary working citizen.  He came from well-to-do circumstances and, as such, has less understanding of the difficulties faced by the working poor.  I was brought up in the housing projects, youngest of 13 children.  I understand the obstacles faced by someone who cannot afford health care, for whom owning a house is not possible, for whom mass transit is essential to allow them to get to the workplace.  As the wife of a small business owner, I understand the needs of small business - who provide most of our jobs - for regulatory reform and tax fairness.  I'm also someone who will work for equal economic justice and opportunity for all citizens, regardless of their race, class, orientation, age, gender, or other factors.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 4, 2005 at 10:37 PM in Interviews | Permalink

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