Candidate Q&A: Jesse Johnson | 2020 primary

Following is the candidate’s unedited answers to a list of questions from the Federal Way Mirror. The primary election is Aug. 4.

Jesse Johnson is running for Legislative District 30, State Representative Pos. 2.

1. Why are you running for the Legislature? (250 words or less)

I am honored to serve as your State Representative. I was raised here in our community, graduated from our schools, and now my wife and I have chosen to make our own home here, close to my parents and siblings. I am an Educator, former High School Career and College Readiness Counselor and current Staffing Analyst in Workforce Planning and Development for local schools. As a former City Councilmember, and now as your State Representative, I have prioritized access to early learning, quality local public schools that set every child up for success, and career pathways into trades and apprenticeships. On the City Council, I secured resources for local youth violence prevention, increased access to affordable housing, and helped establish our first Senior Advisory Commission to elevate the voice of seniors around healthcare and housing issues.

In January, I was appointed to the State House of Representatives and am proud of what I was able to accomplish in a short time including passing 4 bills to address homelessness, provide support for youth in foster care, increase access to mental health resources and boost economic development in the community. But there is so much more to do to ensure our families, community, and small businesses can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger. I am also eager to get back to Olympia and continue to fight for education from cradle to career, grow clean energy careers, and ensure all Washingtonians have equitable access to health, safety, and vibrant communities, and address affordability.

2. Will you pursue/support any state legislation for reforming police departments? (250 words or less)

As an African-American man who hopes to have my own children one day, I believe it is my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure that my future children, and black and brown kids across our state, have equitable access to education, health, opportunity, safety and justice. That requires systemic reforms across our institutions, including law enforcement and policing. I support our police but as policymakers, our job is to ensure safety for everyone in our community.

Just as we approached public health or education transformation, we need new models implemented at a national or statewide level that fit local needs. I believe that there are some common-sense steps at the state level around police accountability, tactics, independent investigations and training that we can take towards that goal including:

– 1. Requiring independent criminal investigations of injuries and deaths from police use of force and custody, at a state-wide level, with community involvement.

– 2. Mandating community oversight boards for police agencies across the state, including the State Patrol.

– 3. Prohibiting officers with sustained misconduct complaints from transferring to other agencies.

– 4. Require mandatory reporting of officer misconduct by other officers and penalties for noncompliance.

– 5. Prohibit chokeholds and other holds that use pressure on the neck.

– 6. Make it clear that deadly force is the last resort and less lethal and nonlethal alternatives are the first.

– 7. Mandatory anti-racist, implicit bias and de-escalation training for every officer no matter seniority.

3. How do you plan to prioritize racial equity in Washington? (250 words or less)

I firmly agree with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I believe that our state does a better job than many in addressing and preventing injustices to our most vulnerable neighbors, including communities of color, immigrants, and those living unsheltered, but we know from our own data that racial inequity exists in Washington State in 2020, and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This session I passed legislation to make sure everyone has the right to be counted in our census without fear of harm or fraud so that we have a clear understanding of our communities. I also helped establish an Office of Equity to reduce historical and current systemic disparities in our public institutions and systems. I believe there is more we can do to understand and correct the disparities that do exist and I am eager to return to Olympia to ensure our state institutions reflect our shared values.

I want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have access to quality, affordable healthcare and live in a safe community and affordable home, especially our seniors, youth and families. I want to ensure that our justice system protects and supports all of us, no matter our ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or socio-economic status. I want to ensure we have a prosperous economy that works for everyone, especially those populations who have historically been withheld from the opportunity to create generational wealth.

4. What will you do in the Legislature to address homelessness and affordable housing in your district? (250 words or less)

Across the state, our neighborhoods are gentrifying, and longtime residents are being displaced, seniors are being forced from their homes, and homelessness is visible in every community. We also have to ensure that no additional Washingtonians are forced into homelessness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That will only compound our existing homelessness crisis and exacerbate our public health crisis. I support proactive steps to help keep families in their homes, investing in the Housing Trust Fund, improving access to affordable and quality care including mental health and addiction treatment, and continuing to develop affordable housing options at every level to accommodate our growing population. In addition to growing our efforts to provide housing stability, it’s clear we need improved services to help get homeless and housing-unstable members of our community back on their feet.

In Olympia, I’ve sponsored multiple bills to support at-risk youth, including those experiencing homelessness, or suffering from mental illness or addiction, but there is a great deal more to be done. I would like to incentivise home ownership and create more pathways by mandating that a percentage of new home projects include more affordable options as well as freeze property tax rates for long-term homeowners and seniors. I would also like to continue to increase tenant protections statewide as I have done in Federal Way so that renters can stay in their homes and communities. Putting people first means investing in our most marginalized communities so that they are affordable, accessible and healthy.

5. Where do you stand on Referendum 90 and Senate Bill 5395, and why? (A vote to approve Referendum 90 supports allowing Senate Bill 5395 to take effect, thereby requiring public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education for all students and requiring students to be excused if requested by their parents.)

As an Educator, I have made it my mission to set every child up for success, and that includes navigating through the world with the tools to advocate for your own health, safety and well-being. Federal Way Public Schools and Auburn Public Schools already provide the age-appropriate, medically accurate sexual health education laid out in this legislation, but SB 5395 adds an important social-emotional component to learning. In addition, there is an opt-out clause for parents and families if they prefer to not have their child participate in the curriculum. I also had the opportunity to speak with countless students who came down to Olympia to share their testimonies and stories with me about wishing they would have had this type of curriculum which could have prevented traumas they had experienced as a child. For that reason, I am in support of Referendum 90.