VIDEO: Sen. Nguyen tells West Seattle Chamber of Commerce why he’s not afraid of controversy

(WSB photo: Sen. Joe Nguyen and WS Chamber board chair Lauren Burgon)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“Some of my positions are controversial because I don’t care about getting re-elected.”

So said 34th District State Sen. Joe Nguyen toward the end of his West Seattle Chamber of Commerce Q&A today at The Kenney (WSB sponsor).

He was a last-minute booking – the Chamber had long planned to host County Executive Dow Constantine at this month’s lunch meeting, but he canceled yesterday, and first-year Sen. Nguyen agreed to appear instead.

We recorded it all on video:

Text toplines ahead:

“I thought we had a decent year” in the Legislature – “at least if you’re a Democrat.”

The Microsoft manager described his new role as “a fascinating journey.”

4,000 or so bills get introduced each year – less than 10 percent pass – much of the discussion is whether something is really even worthy of discussion.

He said he’s found himself seen as the Legislature’s tech expert by default, just because of his job with a tech giant, though he’s not that much of a technologist.

Sen. Nguyen talked about the 4 committees on which he serves, including Rules, “where the power is.”

Issues for which he fought included the Washington State Scholarship, funded by B&O tax changes. (He said he had tried to exempt smaller businesses but that didn’t pass.) Also clean energy – the electrification of “basically everything” – and environment. And homelessness – “it is three times more expensive to take somebody out of homelessness than to keep them housed.”

Back on the electrification subject, he spoke of state funding for Terminal 5 shore-power capability. Also in maritime matters, funding new ferries.

He also says he’s keenly interested in “uplifting voices … that are not usually there.”

His opening remarks were relatively short, so, he said, he could maximize Q&A time.

First question: Will Legislature take up a potential income tax in light of the recent ruling?

Up to the Supreme Court first, he said.

Second: What about low-carbon fuel standards – California has them, we don’t, for example.

“Maybe” – due to some strong opposition in state power (the Transportation chair, Sen. Steve Hobbs, for one). “We’re literally at an impasse right now.”

He has three kids (including a new baby) plus that fulltime Microsoft job. Does he sleep?

Three to four hours a night.

Parks funding? Alki needs cleanup, an attendee said.

May not be much the state can do, Nguyen replied, but he’ll work to see what can be done including working with the city.

Speaking of the city, another attendee asked, why did he endorse Councilmember Lisa Herbold? The attendee said her use of the term “Chamber of Commerce” pejoratively particularly rankled him.

The senator said he believes there’s a difference between the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – which has a PAC that has endorsed one of Herbold’s challengers, Phil Tavel – and a local-level chamber like this one.

What about condo reform as part of affordable housing?

Sen. Nguyen noted the liability-reform bill that passed and also talked about empowering municipalities.

How does the Legislature define affordability?

He acknowledged, not quite the same way the average citizen would.

Sen. Nguyen was also asked about the social-media videos he recorded and published during the session. “Why did you walk so fast?” He really was rushing between meetings! He hopes to get more people involved in the process. For example, when legislation affecting people in prison came up, he arranged participation via Skype for people incarcerated in Monroe. For legislation involving homelessness, people came to Olympia from West Seattle tiny-house village Camp Second Chance.

What’s up with encampments on state-owned right of way along freeways?

The state is working on it, he said.

Another question about homelessness: Where in general is it on the state’s radar?

Sen. Nguyen talked about how many people experiencing homelessnes are seniors and/or disabled people. He said he saw the crisis coming because he’s been working on the issue since he was in college. He is “meeting with regional partners” to see who’s doing what and how they can be supported. Twenty percent of the homeless population is chronically homelessbut 80 percent are experiencing it on a one-time basis and supporting keeping them housed is a great way to reduce the problem, he said.

Also while talking about homelessness, mentioning his volunteering at Camp Second Chance and his personal opposition to sweeps, that’s when the senator said: “Some of my positions are controversial because I don’t care about getting re-elected.”

Speaking of elections – is state-paid postage for ballots affecting turnout?

More low-income voters and people of color voted as a result, he said.

How can regular people make a difference at the Legislature?

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” he quipped. Email. Call. “The biggest thing you can do is show up.” And make yourself heard.

The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce won’t have a lunch meeting in August, but the next one, in September, will be the annual State of the Port lunch at Jack Block Park. Watch for updates.

2 Replies to "VIDEO: Sen. Nguyen tells West Seattle Chamber of Commerce why he's not afraid of controversy"

  • brandon July 19, 2019 (12:10 pm)

    Hmmm.  Is Dow ducking the media now after the Seattle Times expose?

  • KT July 19, 2019 (9:19 pm)

    “What’s up with encampments on state-owned right of way along freeways?The state is working on it, he said.”  Really?  Not an answer.  Prove it.

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