Olympia City Council Position 2

INCUMBENT YẾN HUỲNH VS. CHALLENGER ROBBI KESLER

Postion 2

WATCH: League of Women Voters candidate forum

Yến Huỳnh

Raised: $34,113

Spent: $17,215

Full list of contributions and expenditures.

Campaign informationWebsiteFacebook

In your last conversation with a homeless person, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

In my last conversation with a homeless person, they shared with me how frustrated they were that they had a successful career and wonderful life before unfortunate circumstances suddenly meant that they were unable to afford housing. Every experience I have heard is different and these collective experiences help me gain more perspective and make more informed actions on the City Council. 

Part of the discussion regarding unhoused people during this election season has been that they should be held accountable. If you believe that is the case, who should unhoused people be accountable to, and what should they be accountable for?

Each unhoused person’s circumstances and needs are unique. It’s important for services and resources to be tailored to each person’s specific needs, for the houseless person to be supported and included in crafting their success plan, and to make progress on that plan. 

Have you ever lost your housing or been in danger of losing your housing? If so, what did you do? What advice do you have for people facing this situation?

I am fortunate to have not experienced homelessness. While I would not offer advice, I would ask about specific needs and how I may be able to support them. The response I receive would inform the information and resources I share as well as any next steps.

In your last conversation with an Olympia Police Department officer, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

In my last conversation with an Olympia Police Department officer, we discussed their thoughts on reimagining public safety. The officer shared that there is room for improvement in the profession, that they had questions, that they did not feel understood, and that morale in the Department is low. As we work to reimagine public safety, it will be important to include first responders and a diverse representation of community members in the decision-making processes. 

What three qualities and three skills should the city make priorities when choosing a new police chief? Why are these priorities? Do you favor delaying the search until the city completes its Reimagining Public Safety effort?

Some unique qualities and skills the City should prioritize when choosing a new police chief includes someone who: has diverse lived experience, appreciates the importance of respect for each individual, does not think in terms of stereotypes, has cultural humility, values de-escalation, has demonstrated experience leading organizational change, and embraces the Reimagining Public Safety process and the new public safety laws as opportunities. Prioritizing these qualities and skills can ensure that Olympia’s next Police Chief will support the community, officers, and department staff through these changes; and be committed to implementing community priorities in the Reimagining Public Safety process.

The Olympia Police Department is experiencing many changes with the recent passage of public safety bills in our State Legislature and the City’s Reimagining Public Safety effort. Finding a Police Chief to lead the department is a part of the Reimagining Public Safety Process. It will be important for the Police Chief search to be community driven.

An individual you know comes to you asking for advice on whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19. What do you tell this person?

I would thank the person for their willingness to discuss this and for asking me for my thoughts. I would share my reasons for getting vaccinated, share information about the vaccine and current COVID-19 case counts, encourage them to get vaccinated, and offer to assist them through the process. 

In your last conversation with an Olympia small business person, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

In my last conversation with an Olympia small business person, they expressed their appreciation for the recent expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors program and the increased lighting downtown. As I take actions on City Council, I will be mindful to continue funding and enhancing these programs that increase safety and presence downtown.   

Robbi Kesler

Raised: $28,014

Spent: $26,249

Full list of contributions and expenditures.

Campaign informationWebsiteFacebook

In your last conversation with a homeless person, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

My perspective of the homeless community in Olympia is influenced by my observations and information from others. I have enjoyed hearing from all perspectives during this campaign.  I think it’s important to continue to make policy that has compassion for our neighbors, but also recognizes – and addresses – the health, safety, and environmental harms that may be associated with unauthorized homeless camps. I would consider multiple sources of information in making decisions on homelessness issues.  I do not recall any recent conversations with anyone who is currently homeless. 

Part of the discussion regarding unhoused people during this election season has been that they should be held accountable. If you believe that is the case, who should unhoused people be accountable to, and what should they be accountable for?

Accountability is nuanced, however. Philosophically it may be okay to steal bread if you are hungry and there is no other way to obtain nutrition. One purpose of government should be to address issues such as homelessness collectively. For example, the homeless population in Olympia is currently impacting a small number of private property owners disproportionately (e.g. the persons who own the properties upon which and around the homeless camps are situated). My plan is to advocate for more publicly provided support (at least at a County-wide level, including the County and surrounding cities) to spread the costs of addressing homelessness issues. I would like to see parking lots for RVs and public sanctioned areas (not on private property) for homeless persons to stay (in addition to a host of other shelters and subsidized housing). These areas would be more environmentally friendly, safer, and have amenities such as clean water. We need to create a situation where crime (e.g. theft, unlawful trespass, damage to property) is not a viable option. Any supportive services also need to focus on better intake and assessments to understand what supports an individual may need. I do not believe it is appropriate for anyone to trespass on private property, damage private property, and refuse to ever leave, but I am sympathetic to the current situation because I do not believe the City has done enough to find safer and more humane alternatives with an emphasis on better service matching and supports. 

Have you ever lost your housing or been in danger of losing your housing? If so, what did you do? What advice do you have for people facing this situation?

I have never lost my housing or been faced with losing my housing. The advice I would give a person facing this situation would depend on that person’s particular circumstances. For example, the advice I would give a woman compelled to leave her home due to domestic violence would potentially be very different than the advice I would give to a family that is concerned about being unable to afford rising costs of rent. Even in the two different examples I have outlined, there are numerous variables that would make my advice very fact specific. Hopefully people in our community understand there is not one cause of homelessness and there is not one solution.

In your last conversation with an Olympia Police Department officer, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

Honestly, my most recent conversation with an officer from the OPD is to discuss removal of a vehicle parked on the sidewalk near my home.  The abandoned car was causing a safety concern because emergency vehicles would not be able to get around the car and access my condo complex.  That interaction was all business and I wouldn’t glean much from it – except to think about staffing and the broad variety of calls the department and other first responders answer.  I have also met with the former acting Police Chief to get a better understanding of administrative functions such as budgeting, etc.  

What three qualities and three skills should the city make priorities when choosing a new police chief? Why are these priorities? Do you favor delaying the search until the city completes its Reimagining Public Safety effort?

Experience, positive work history, willingness to engage with the community to shape what policing looks like in our community.

A police chief needs to be able to lead a department, work effectively with others, and be willing to engage with the community.  In addition, it is important for all prospective candidates to be knowledgeable about recent state legislation related to police accountability and be willing to engage with the public as the City continues with the process of “reimagining public safety.”  I also added positive work history to this list because it was something overlooked by the City in the last attempt at hiring a Police Chief.  Both of these latter points seem to be in line with a community policing model that any candidate should already be familiar with: Collaborative partnerships between the law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations they serve.  I don’t believe it’s in our best interest to delay the search until the City process is complete, because the right candidate should already be willing to engage and develop solutions based on community input so there is a benefit to having that person as involved as possible, as soon as possible.  

An individual you know comes to you asking for advice on whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19. What do you tell this person?

I am fully vaccinated and support vaccine requirements. The only members of my family not vaccinated are under the age of twelve. However, I am not a doctor and would not give medical advice—thus, I would not give an opinion if a person asked me about the vaccine relative to questions about whether it was safe for them based on their individual health circumstances. If the hypothetical person asking me about the vaccine had questions on ground other than medical issues, I would simply tell them that I got the vaccine as soon as possible and that I believe it is the correct thing to do.

In your last conversation with an Olympia small business person, what did you talk about? What did you learn? How will that influence your actions on issues that come before the City Council?

Owning a business is a tremendous responsibility, as the business owner(s) and all of the employees (and all of their families) depend on the business’ success. Businesses must focus on the product or service they provide, but in addition must focus on the work environment for their employees, customer service, and marketing. Small business owners have a great deal to worry about. Olympia’s policies need to make it as easy as possible for businesses to exist and thrive. I would be reluctant to support policies that make it more difficult or expensive to run a business in Olympia compared to surrounding areas.

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By Mindy Chambers

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