Chino Y Chicano

Ep 27 Girmay Zahilay, King County Council Member

July 02, 2021 Enrique Cerna-Matt Chan
Chino Y Chicano
Ep 27 Girmay Zahilay, King County Council Member
Show Notes Transcript

Girmay Zahilay joins the Chino Y Chicano to talk about his first year and a half on the King County Council.  It has been a rollercoaster of crises from Covid-19 to police violence and racial justice protests, a growing homelessness and gun violence problem and now a re-opening of the state as vaccination efforts continue. Zahilay reflects on a council experience that so far has been full of emotion, and unpredictability. 

Girmay Zahilay:

So the pandemic was one thing. Then there were the police violence and the movements for racial justice. Then the economy crash. Then one after the other, it was crazy.

Enrique Cerna:

Girmay Zahilay talking about his tumultuous 16 months representing district two on the king county council, which includes the university district Capitol hill, the central district and Southeast Seattle. He was elected in November, 2019 defeating a long time Council member, Larry Gossett, who held the post for 25 years. Zahilay is the only African-American on the county council. Welcome to Chino Y Chicano. I'm Matt Chan the Chino. I'm Enrique Cerna, the Chicano. Well, coming up, we are going to talk with Girmay Zahilay about the reopening of the state, dealing with the pandemic , police violence and racial justice, protests, homelessness and gun violence. Now, M att, you know this 34 year old council member, well, you produced videos for his campaign. So tell me what you know about him.

Matt Chan:

U h, I, I met him through his political consultant, Michael Charles, which we've talked to on this podcast. U m, when I met him, I was impressed. I mean, he was, he's a young man, u m, who his, his beginnings. I mean, he's an immigrant. He came here with nothing, his parents weren't educated. He lived in Rainier Vista, which is now totally gentrified i n Columbia city. U h, he lived in Holly park. He actually was homeless for a period of time. So he knows, he knows the issues. So when they finally established themselves, you know, his mom worked three jobs to put him through, y ou k now, high school. He went to Franklin high school and then he went on to Stanford and from Stanford, he went on to law school and he became a big time lawyer in New York. And h e, then he came back to Seattle and started working for Perkins Coie and I, a nd, but he's always felt a c alling for social justice and equity. And I think when he got back here, h e S he told me he was sitting at his desk and he said, I can't do this anymore. I have to help people. And that was his calling. And so he's one of the young, new breed of politicians that are in it because t hey're, they're paying it back. And they feel a sense of duty, which doesn't exist in the older circles anymore. And I applaud him. H e's, he's an incredible g uy. Well,

Enrique Cerna:

He has that immigrant experience. Um , he's from, I think the family's from Ethiopia. And so he knows what it's like to have a , a long journey into a country to start over and to , uh, and to value what American life is all about, because he , um, he's done that immigrant experience. Uh, but , and now he's a county member is really had to experience some unique things. Uh, over the past 16 months, we talked to him about it and here is our conversation. Girmay Zahilay, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate

Girmay Zahilay:

It. Thank you for saying my name right.

Enrique Cerna:

I practiced and as somebody whose name gets butchered a lot, I feel you I really feel you.

Girmay Zahilay:

Did Matt tell you about our video, where we , uh, went around Columbia city asking people to pronounce my name and if they did it right, they would get a cookie.

Enrique Cerna:

I saw that video. That was very, very, uh, kind of a late night type of videos.

Matt Chan:

It was an awesome video. Yeah. Broke the ice baby. When you were elected in your wildest dreams, did you think you would roll into a pandemic, a full blown pandemic?

Girmay Zahilay:

And I didn't even realize it was going to be one crisis after another. So the crisis, the pandemic was one thing. Then there were the police violence and the movements for racial justice. Then the economy crash , then it just felt like one after the other, it was crazy. So, whatever agenda

Enrique Cerna:

You might've had, the things that you wanted to accomplish on the council, you just had to throw aside for the time being and really kind of go by the city of your pants because things were rapidly. Absolutely.

Girmay Zahilay:

I honestly thought the job was going to be a lot more like systemic change, big picture things. And then all of the 2020 happened and the job became much more like connect people to immediate resources, to just keep them alive for now much less. Like, you know, let's decarbonize and focus on, you know , big systemic things and more so I need rental assistance right now. I need food right now. My kid is , uh, out of school and needs childcare immediately. So yeah, it became much more of that because

Enrique Cerna:

As a council member, the things that you usually do is you make policy on, on things that provide social services, but you're in the street on the run trying to actually provide

Girmay Zahilay:

It is weird because the usual platforms we have for direct engagement were diminished with the pandemic. We couldn't hold gatherings. We couldn't hold events. So simultaneously being needed to do more one-on-one direct services while also not being able to touch people and connect with them and see them in person, just a lot of strange dynamics happened last year.

Matt Chan:

It's , it's interesting when you ran there, you're a person of color, but when black lives matter is hit, well , that puts you center front and center. How did that feel? Were you prepared for what you had to do and , and what did you do? How did you handle it all is

Girmay Zahilay:

Already super nervous going into this office. Matt , if you remember, I found myself taking on local legend, Larry Gosset . He was the only black member of the county council, but we also had, you know, a black city council member, Bruce Harrell at the time. Um , but then I found out he was retiring. And then, so there was one other city council candidate who was running Shawn , Scott. He didn't end up winning. So all of a sudden, without me even realizing it, I became the only black elected official in Seattle or king county at those levels of government. And so I was already nervous going into it. And so to go into it and then have the biggest movement for racial justice in the history of our country. Uh, that was definitely a lot of pressure and a lot of , um, just the situation I wasn't prepared for, but I feel like we work with the community and rose to the occasion.

Enrique Cerna:

You look back on this past year and a half, and particularly with all of these different dynamics at work here, but let's specifically talk about race and racial justice. Um, both Matt and I are kind of the same age. And we come from a time where , uh, 1968 was a big thing. And I look at 1968 to being very similar to what is happening or has happened , uh, at this time and over the past year as well. Um, but it seems to me that what's changed is that the voices now are, are younger obviously, but they're, they're demanding that , uh, respect and change be made. I guess, I wonder, is it really something that's going to be sustained? I

Girmay Zahilay:

Think the movement will be sustained for sure. I feel like in every generation, the people who are demanding change at that time are characterized as radical or extremists , but then at one generation later, the history books write them like they were heroes. And so I think that's, what's going to happen here too. You know, I'm , I can ask you to the question back in the day where , you know, I'm not trying to age you all that well , but , um, when I, when I read about, you know, the black Panthers and the movement for black power , um, and, you know, armed black people who are fighting for revolution , uh, at that time, I think they were characterized as extremists. Uh , Martin Luther king was characterized as an extremist in his time. Malcolm X was characterized as an extremist and now, and now we look back on them and albeit it's a sanitized version of history, but people still talking about them, like they are the reason why we progress as a society. And so that's what I think is going to happen. Eventually, sometime in the future, people are going to have romanticized pictures of young people, marching in the streets for , um , you know, to end police violence. So , and shouting black lives matter. And we're going to forget that at this time there were people calling these young people extremists and saying that , uh , you know, why don't you just try this more, you know, this smaller, easier, incremental form of change instead of the things that you're demanding. So I think, I think eventually we'll see the , uh, our movements were on the right side of justice.

Enrique Cerna:

I think you need to look at the person that you replaced on the county that you also defeated, but someone, I know you highly respect and that's Larry Gossett who was part of the gang of four. And also the things that they did , uh, they, they may , they brought a lot of change, but a lot of people looked at them as just radicals that were a pain in the. And , uh, and they , they were, but they also , uh, established a lot of things that were very important. Uh, my big concern is just making sure that the, I want the change to happen. And I, you know, I'm angry that it didn't happen when I was younger. And I want that to happen

Matt Chan:

When we were younger. Right? I mean, Seattle is very different in that sense because of the gang of four, but in most places to just condos had their moment, Asian Americans had their moment and you really didn't join forces. And what's happening now is there is solidarity between racial groups, very much like the gang of four tried to do so that's, what's different, but that's happening across the country. So I think there is way more power to it, you know, and plus you have the, you know, the Republican GOP, right. Which is in the death throes of craziness. And like I said before, 80 organism at the end of its life cycle struggles, the hardest a lot to live. And so you see them struggling and hopefully, you know, youth will overtake them . Yeah . Yeah.

Girmay Zahilay:

One of my favorite things about the movements for racial justice right now are they recognize we don't have to be colorblind in order to form coalitions. We, when , when we form coalitions, that's saying that I see the unique and the unique challenges and strengths of your community, and you don't have to erase that to form a coalition with mine. We don't have to make a movement. That's just broadly people of color. We can have a movement for stop Asian hate specifically and have multiple different races there supporting that specific. Cause we can have a black lives matter movement specifically and have multiple races there in, in solidarity and coalition. So sometimes I hear people from past movements saying, you know, why do we have to point out this race and that race? Why can't we just be the human race? And it doesn't work like that Asian people are being targeted because they're Asian. So we have to talk about that specific thing and not try to erase it in this, just, you know, kumbaya race doesn't matter type of movement.

Enrique Cerna:

Good. What about the fact that as we record this conversation with you, it is June 30th and the state is I'm going to start opening up. I think there's going to be still some limits about a mass mandate that is going to be encouraged. Uh, I'm going to continue to wear a mask in places where there are a lot of people, particularly indoors, But are we ready? Oh

Girmay Zahilay:

Man, that's a , that's a big question. Are we ready? Uh, part of the answer has to be, we don't know if we're ready because of all these variants that are coming out because of just the unpredictable nature of this virus. But I do think that we need to cautiously open up and open up our economy and continue to take precautions, like you said, and Rica like wearing masks, but I don't think we can sustainably remain in lockdown and in shut down the way we have been, but continuing to have precautions and , and public health measures be part of our daily lives. I think that should not ever go away. I think we should continue to wear masks. I think we should continue to , um, uh, wash our hands and all these other measures to not transmit and get vaccinated. Of course. Um, but in terms of opening up, I do think it's time to open up.

Matt Chan:

Everybody's taken a victory lap, right, as we approach 70%, but since king county is overwhelmingly white, right. I think the numbers are skewed in your district. Um , and in Southern, in south king county, what is the actual vaccination rate amongst the population when you consider the people of color? I mean, it's at 70%

Girmay Zahilay:

It's , it's getting there for sure. Especially at the older generation, the older generations are pretty much where they need to be, but , uh , at the younger levels, no, it's, there's, there are huge disparities between , uh , racial groups and, you know, we , we met with the governor , um, last week , uh, around getting more black people vaccinated. And the issue is that we always want to deal with things , um, in a reactionary way and deal with the symptoms of broader issues rather than tackling the actual issues.

Matt Chan:

Is , is it reluctance to get it, or is it an access issue? There's

Girmay Zahilay:

Definitely a little bit of both. You know, there's a long history of black people being mistreated and abused by our medical industry and that's undeniable and that has a lot to do with mistrust. Um, but at the same time, there's also the structural racism that the fact that vaccine distribution flows through all these systems that are already rooted in racism and going to distribute resources in a way that's unjust. So when the vaccines are being distributed through that system, through our public health system, through , uh , whatever it might be, they're going to have be disparities. And so we need to tackle those upstream things. The fact that , um, black people or people of color are less likely to be able to take time off work, to be able to go and get vaccinated in the first place. The fact that , um, uh, people of color or black people don't have healthcare at the same rates as, as , uh, so there are just so many different layers to the issue, just talking about it, like it's a , you know, reluctance issue, doesn't get it, doesn't do it justice. So we have to talk about both. Why

Matt Chan:

Are the younger people reluctant to, what are you seeing there?

Girmay Zahilay:

There's definitely a lot of misinformation out there. First of all , um , I'm seeing in the Twitter sphere, a lot of people talking about the vaccine, like it's going to turn you into a zombie or something, or some big government conspiracy where people are planting chips in you to track you. Um, that that's, I, you know, I say it kind of in a, in a lighthearted way, but it is, it is a , an actual problem. Um, I also think that a lot of people, young people in my view in a misinformed way, believe that young people are not at danger from the virus and that this is just like a , an older people and a sick people issue. When in reality, there are plenty of young people who have died from the virus they're healthy 20 year olds, 30 year olds who have died from the virus or who have gone back and transmitted the virus to older people who they care about and led to the person they care about death. And so we all have to be that resonated and we all have to take precautions.

Matt Chan:

You know, one of the things we talked to some community doctors about this, and one of the things they said was, why are we asking for insurance cards when it's free? Cause that in itself is a deterrent because you roll up and you don't have insurance and all you hear is where's your insurance car . Why are we still doing that? Right. I ,

Girmay Zahilay:

I agree that needs to change. You know, you walk up to some places and it says, have your ID and your insurance card ready, even though those things are required. And so of course, if somebody sees that they're not going to naturally think, oh, they're just asking me for that, but it's not required. And I should still roll up here. So especially in the Latino community, right , absolutely.

Enrique Cerna:

What can change to reach and what are you doing, I guess, to reach the folks in the areas that you represent them? Yeah.

Girmay Zahilay:

So for me, I got vaccinated, both, both doses. I've put it all over social media, trying to convince people who are on that platform, that demographic, Hey, this is safe. This is something that you should do. Um, and it's really important to do so. And then in terms of actually getting more black people, indigenous people, people of color, vaccinated , uh, public health and king county have partnered with a lot of , uh , community-based organizations that represent those demographics to , uh, help distribute the vaccine and market the vaccine in a way that's culturally appropriate to bring people in , um, a lot of different events and pop-up events and meeting people where , where they are.

Matt Chan:

Was there anything that just utterly shocked you, the process of just managing COVID

Girmay Zahilay:

For me, it's just the scale of the need was so great. That utterly shocked me. It felt insurmountable. And then you have a king county government that this that's this intermediary level of government that has so many restrictions on it in terms of what it can do. So much of our budget is dictated by the state telling us how we have to spend the money. So many of our revenues are limited to just property tax and sales tax, these super regressive taxes that harm people at the same time that we're raising revenue to do good. So it constantly puts us in this dilemma where we have to choose do we raise revenue to fund really important things that are more important now than ever in response to COVID at the same time, you know, raising the taxes to actually hurt displaced people and diminished poor people's buying power. It's just a really constantly rough place to be in. Um, and so I found that to be a huge challenge and at the same time being the face of a big institution, even, even if I didn't directly create the problems that our government is perpetuating, I'm still the face of it. And I have to take responsibility for it. So there are oftentimes I'm in these rooms and these, in these spaces and people are being critical of king county and critical of me. And I know that I can't take that personally. I can't just say, well, I wasn't here back when, when that first started, I have to say, yes, I'm part of this government and I'm leading it now and I have to take responsibility for it. And that's a really challenging thing to do. You got to own it, you got to own it,

Matt Chan:

Responsibility, homelessness that just became acute during the pandemic . And the lasting impact is still here with us. Where does king county come down on that? I mean, it seems to me like the city says one thing, the county says, one thing the state says, one thing, you know, is there a solution in your mind to this that will start making things better because nothing seems to be happening . So

Girmay Zahilay:

This is connected to the thing that I just said about taxes and the dilemma that we face at king county. And this is going to be a controversial statement. King county on its own is never going to be able to solve our homelessness crisis. That's just a fact because all of the research and data and reports from organizations like McKinsey tell us, we need at least a billion dollars every year of revenue every single year for the next 10 years in order to just meet the demand of the housing crisis, to be able to build that. And by the way, that report was written three years ago now, and construction costs have basically doubled since then. So it's probably a lot more than that. And king county is not going to be able to raise a billion, 2 billion , $3 billion every year, without displacing more people through property taxes and , uh, making poor people suffer more through sales taxes. And so we really need the state to step up and give us progressive taxing authority. So these huge corporations and the billionaires in our, in our state pay their fair share and allow us to build what we need. Otherwise, we're going to continue going in this direction. There is nothing that tells us that things are going to get better based on the direction that we're going, because the wealth disparities only getting worse.

Matt Chan:

So what I'm hearing you saying is really one of the big drivers for our homeless issues is just our tax stress . Sure,

Girmay Zahilay:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. You know, there have been multiple studies that show that homelessness goes up lockstep with the cost of living in our region and the cost of living. If we're not redistributing that wealth, that's just going to that disparity is just going to keep getting worse and worse, where low wage workers, the people who we lard as essential workers, the people delivering our food, the people bagging our groceries, the nursing assistants who are taking care of our elders in our nursing. They're not going to be able to live anywhere near the places they work and that's already the case now, but it's only going to get worse and worse. You know, it's just a really scary place to be in. If we do not spread the prosperity that is growing in our region, our homelessness crisis is just going to get worse and worse. And all of these symptom responses like sweeping people, taking people to jail, whatever that doesn't solve anything, it just pushes the problem from one place to another without really addressing anything. And so , um, I'm , I'm really, really scared for the future of our region. And I really hope that more people step up to , uh , challenge that status quo

Enrique Cerna:

About a lot of band-aids here, nothing but no, no vaccination to help us really make a difference. Let me ask you about public health, because it seems to me that until a crisis like a pandemic hits, we don't really value that. And yet it seems like public health in not only here, but around the country is underfunded and they don't have what they need to be able to , to deal with situations like this pandemic. And , and then also the whole issue of people, challenging science these days is king county going to do more to support public.

Girmay Zahilay:

We need to Enrique you bring up such a great point about the importance of public health. I wrote an article in the Seattle , um, a few weeks ago that said, COVID-19 provides us the template for how to respond to gun violence, but really COVID-19 and our public health response to the pandemic gives us a template to solve many of our issues. And so the importance of public health is that we have a template now to create real solutions. When we look at something like gun violence, for example , uh , if we treated it like the true public health crisis, that it is, we would respond to it the way we've responded to the pandemic through a full-blown urgent, fully resourced public health response. And I think we could make a lot more progress in gun violence if we did that. So our , our public health response, if we treated homelessness like a true public health crisis and fully funded our public health response, I think we could solve homelessness too. So what you just said Enrique, can't be understated. A strong public health response is the solution to many of the , uh, of the problems that we see [inaudible]

Enrique Cerna:

And not only homelessness, but also, u h , r acism, you

Matt Chan:

Know why that is right? I mean, the pandemic affected

Girmay Zahilay:

That's exactly what it is . Health issues

Matt Chan:

And gun violence affect people of color. That sort of definitely, I mean , that's really what it is,

Girmay Zahilay:

And that's why we have to call it out every time, because COVID-19 a million people dying in a year, our whole economy grind into a halt . That's a challenge that's bigger than any of the other challenges that we've , if that's a bigger challenge than homelessness, that's a bigger challenge than gun violence. And yet we basically stopped it within a year because of the political will, was there to stop it. But we can't solve these other problems. That again, like I'm not trying to say a controversial state . I'm not saying those are easier problems than COVID-19, but certainly COVID-19 is a problem on the scale of those other problems. And yet we don't make a dent in those, because like you said, Matt, it doesn't affect everybody equally. So we don't have the political will

Enrique Cerna:

To solve these. Oh , it's clear that , uh, we have the disparities that have been there. I mean, how many times have we covered the issues here, Matt, where we've said this to the people that we're talking to doctors and others that, you know, we're talking about something here and when health disparities that have been there for a long time, this is not anything new in the same thing I think goes to gun violence, which, you know, you open the door there for us to talk about more here because 2020 was a bad year when it came to gun violence. And we're seeing a, really a rash of shootings across the country and here in Seattle and king county. And unfortunately in the area that, that is part of what you represent in , in Southeast area, in south Seattle, south king county , uh, gun violence and particularly youth of color, young people of color and African-Americans , or are really being hit hard.

Matt Chan:

Blacks represent 6.8% king county, but yet are involved with over 50% of the gun violence.

Enrique Cerna:

Well, actually, it's even more than that. If you put all of the communities, communities of color together, it's something like close to 80%, but particularly among, I think it's , uh , African-Americans, it's, it's around 50, but let's talk about that because , uh , things are going to get worse. We we've had hot weather and it's only going to get hotter this summer. What's behind. If

Girmay Zahilay:

You look at the map for where incidents of gun violence occur in king county, and you look at the map of how under-resourced and low income areas, it's almost the same map yet. Again, we have another situation where we're responding to the symptom of gun violence and not truly addressing the underlying causes of poverty, trauma, disinvestment, youth who don't have engagement and opportunities and jobs and income , uh , youth who don't have parents at home because their parents have to work 2, 3, 4 jobs at a time in order to raise them. And so, again, we're going to , the, responding to the symptoms is important in this case, because we don't want people to die in the short term , but at the end of the day, we have to turn the spigot off. And the spigot is poverty, trauma , uh , disinvestment , all those things that I , that I mentioned before. So

Matt Chan:

Why does that end up in gun violence? I mean, I guess, you know, I grew up, you know , just in a working class family, right? I mean, it wasn't, I wasn't impoverished at all. We weren't, you know, we were poor, but we weren't working poor. Right. Um, so I've, I've never experienced the kind of poverty that exists in some of these areas. Yeah . Why does it end up in gun violence?

Girmay Zahilay:

That's a really good question. Matt. Part of it is fighting for resources. A lot of the youth are fighting for their they're looking for income. They're looking for short-term income to do whatever they want and like anybody does with money, but they don't feel like they have opportunity because this track doesn't seem like it's lucrative because they don't see it being lucrative . The track of, you know, finishing school, getting a job, et cetera. A lot of these youth don't have access to those jobs though. Don't feel like they're being nurtured and supported in school , um, are looking to , uh, either gangs or mentorship or , uh, social status through the people who are in their neighborhood, who are saying, this is the way you get money. This is the way you get social status by doing these things. Not, not these things. So , um, I think that's, that has a lot to do with it.

Matt Chan:

So these young people look at life and just say, I don't have a future. Is it that bleak for them?

Girmay Zahilay:

I don't think they're consciously saying that, but think that's the way social inertia is , is taking them. Yeah. Wow.

Enrique Cerna:

It seems to me that this is a lot like the issues of homelessness and mental health, that there is not one particular cause to all of this. There's a, there's a, and that's what makes it so complex and complicated is that there's so many different facets here. It tends to be, we , we approach it from a crime perspective, but there's so many others social issues that build all this. And we tend to forget that, which makes it an even bigger challenge. Absolutely.

Girmay Zahilay:

We need to solve the underlying problems. Otherwise they're getting just like in this case with homelessness, if we just shuffle people to jail, does that solve their underlying traumas? No. It makes it worse. Does it more likely for them to get jobs and to have a legal source of income? No. It makes it less likely to do that. Does it stabilize a household and make it so that , uh , fathers can be with their, with their kids or mothers can be with their kids? No, reduce all the things that we expect, the, this crime response to solve actually ultimately makes things worse. Um, and so , uh, I , I just think we need to solve the underlying issues and I'm not by any means suggesting the , solving the underlying issues as simple. But again, we've seen that when we truly care about something, when it impacts everyone, we do have the ability to solve really big problems. Tell me

Enrique Cerna:

About this collective that has been organized and what's, what's the focus of that. And how are you hoping to curb the gun violence? Going

Girmay Zahilay:

Back to the COVID 19 template, the public health response to solving big problems. One thing we saw with our COVID-19 response is cross jurisdictional coordination. We saw the state talking to the city, talking to the county, talking to all the municipalities, sharing data, sharing information, sharing resources. And so if we're going to solve gun violence through a public health response, we truly need a regional response because there isn't just one place that gun violence affects. Of course, there are some areas that have more gun violence than others, but gun violence travels, you know, a couple of years ago we saw gun violence travel to downtown. And of course that's when people really started paying attention to downtown.

Enrique Cerna:

So when the white community has to deal with it, then we're going to hear everybody complained loudly. And, and , uh, but not so much when we have it going on some of the other areas, other than when people like you and the people that live in those communities, bring it up to say that, Hey, you know, people are dying. That's

Girmay Zahilay:

The reality So a strong regional solution is something that we need this regional peacekeepers collective through king county is beginning that step of having all of the different, u h, violence, interrupters, the people who do this work to d eescalate and to mentor and to stop gun violence happening, having them at the same table across cities, around the region, u h, co-creating a response to gun violence. So that's w here, that's where we are right now of these, u h, community members. Co-creating this regional response coordinating across private sector, n on-profit and government to design the solutions to gun violence on a regional

Matt Chan:

Level. You know , I wouldn't change the subject just a little bit about youth in politics and leadership. I mean, you're a young guy, I mean , and that , and I love that because so many young people, you know, are against the system. I mean, they want change so bad, but they won't engage at that level. Um, because they th they don't trust it, but that's how you get it done. I mean, I see so many young people getting into politics and the energy you bring, the viewpoint you bring is so refreshing and so needed. And I know you've been working on, on ways to get more young people involved in politics. How do you sway these activists who don't trust the media, who don't trust government, who don't trust the police, you know, and , and they become almost the opposite of the maggot people in their siloing . How do you reach out to them and say, you need things can change if you get involved.

Girmay Zahilay:

Good point, Matt. I would say that we need every tool in our toolkit to create change. We need the advocates, we need the organizers. We need the nonprofit leaders. And we need people in elected office to translate grassroots energy into legislation. We need all of that. There is no one solution. Some people say, you know, just vote voting is the answer voting on its own is not the answer. Our communities often don't have the numbers to elect every PR person we need at every position or to, you know, change , uh, change something just through voting. Voting is as important as anything else. Of course, at the same time we need the organizing. We need the marching. We need the pro protesting in order to put pressure on the status quo in order to convince other people who are, who maybe don't have the same experience as you to vote in your favor as well. So that's what I tell them. We need every tool in our toolkit. And if we don't have elect people in elected office to partner with us and translate our energy into legislation, then we will really accomplish anything. Speaking

Enrique Cerna:

Of politics, as a member of the king county council, I don't know if this will put you in a funny position, but who will you be supporting for county executor ?

Girmay Zahilay:

I'll stay out of that one Enrique Good try though. Yeah.

Enrique Cerna:

You know, I just said it was a change up, you know, I didn't want to come in there with a fastball.

Girmay Zahilay:

Yeah. I hate campaign season, man. It's just, it's ultimately do the thing. That's going to deliver the results for people who are struggling in your , in the region, the people you're elected to, to, to serve. And so , um, that's how I navigate, but sometimes that's a really complex , uh, situation to navigate. It's not just that the executive level it's ethic , council level. A lot of my colleagues have challengers. Uh it's at the city level, the mayor's race. I'm just like, I'm not getting involved in that. Um, so yeah, this is the side of politics that I don't like. I want to just do and okay . So

Matt Chan:

They keep saying that like, you know, every election is an election for change, but what's the vibe for this election? What do you think people want? Because I think a lot of it is activated voters who weren't necessarily engaged before, because, you know, because all , everything that's happened this last year, so what do you think the vibe is? Do they want to want more stability? They want extreme change. What are you feeling? Cause you're on the streets where everybody,

Girmay Zahilay:

First of all, racial justice, as a concept has elevated to the top of the platform for everyone. And I think that has a lot to do with the movements that we saw last year. And I really, really loved that because now we can push an agenda that creates more, more positive change for our communities. And I also love that so many people of color are running for office, especially at the county and county level. There were times in the past when king county was kind of a background government, you know, Seattle city races would get tons of people running and get tons of attention, but king county races weren't like that. And now we look around and we say, wow, there are really a lot of solid people running for king county, especially people of color. And that's amazing to see, because I think our democracy is better when people have challenges. Even if somebody is listening to me, if you feel like you have good ideas and you have the backing of your community run against me. And I'm not just saying that to, to just, I don't know, pander I'm really, I think that pushes people to be better, to be more effective, to be more responsive. So I, I like it. I think we're in a really good place. And I do think it's different because I haven't seen this level of engagement before. And I haven't seen racial justice rise to the top like this. Well,

Enrique Cerna:

You can't change the system if you don't get involved in the system. So that , that I think is the bottom line. Girmay Zahilay, thank you so much for taking the time to , uh, to talk with us. And by the way, nice dancing. When I asked the question about who you're going to support for king county executive

Girmay Zahilay:

laughter

Enrique Cerna:

Right , goodbye. Thank you so much for your time. And , uh , we'll stay in touch

Girmay Zahilay:

Sounds good, Enrique. Thank you, Matt. All right. Bye-bye .

Matt Chan:

We want to hear from you reach out to us on Twitter at Enrique Cerna and at Lofan and for me, Matt Chan, you can also email us at Chino Y Chicano @gmail.com and check out our Chino Y Chicano page on Facebook.

Enrique Cerna:

Our theme music was composed and performed by Antonio Gomez. You can find the Chino Y Chicano podcast on apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, and other favorite podcast platforms. Please take a listen, download, subscribe, and give us a review. If you'd like to watch our conversations, we're posting them to YouTube, go to search and type in Chino. Each Chicano. I met Chad, the Chino I'm Enrique Cerna, the Chicano stay safe out there. Wear your mask, get a crowd. Please get vaccinated. We'll talk more later.