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November 4, 2005

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Volume 33
Issue 44

 
 
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Political ally to the LGBT community up for reelection on Tuesday
Political ally to the LGBT community up for reelection on Tuesday
The SGN interviews Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago

By Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago will face Casey Corr, a former aid to Mayor Greg Nickels in the Tuesday, November 8, elections. First elected to the City Council in 1993, Drago is hoping to hold onto her seat.

A Seattle resident of Seattle since 1982, Drago is no stranger to Seattle's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. A former Broadway business owner, Drago has long been a friend and political ally to the city's LGBT residents. Recently, the Seattle Gay News sat down with Drago to talk about her record and vision for the city's future.



SGN: What is your vision for Seattle and how does it differ from your opponent's view?

Drago: My vision is a city that has an excellent integrated, multi-modal transportation system - in the city and in the region. We are choking on our own congestion right now and transit is the key to the future of this city. I think that is a huge challenge that has been left to our generation to build that system.

The second area that I am deeply concerned about is affordability. I am afraid that our city is going in a direction of a two-tier city - one for the affluent and the city for the low income because of housing affordability. We want this to be a city where our children and grandchildren can afford to live and where our parents and grandparents can stay. I think the new challenge is that we are losing the middle class and, particularly, the families that have to make the decision where to send their children to school... Many are choosing to move to the suburbs for a good education and more affordable housing. I see that as a huge problem and I think that affects our middle class...

Another challenge is economic development and job creation and where will our new jobs for the future come from. My opponent doesn't have much of a vision for the future. He talks about all the things that he will do and all the leadership that he will bring on every issue that is raised in the campaign. I'll contrast that with what I have done. He is not running on his record and he's not running on a vision of the future. He is running, primarily, against me and attacking my record and attacking my leadership. I want this to be a state where everybody can feel comfortable living and where everybody has civil rights and social justice.

SGN: You have sort of labeled yourself as a progressive candidate, but you have supported tax exemptions for business, electricity rate reductions and the Mayor's plan for South Lake Union. Is it your feeling that these two things are not mutually exclusive?

Drago: Absolutely not. I have a huge progressive record in the areas of human services; across the board there. When this mayor took office in 2002, in his budget he cut community clinics. He cut human services. I was budget chair and we restored all those services. He did the same thing for a second year. Finally, after we restored - again - those cuts completely, he gave up and recognized that the council was going to provide for the people in the greatest need in this city. Casey Corr entwined himself as a leader with all of the issues that the Mayors been involved with. So, I leave it at that. The things that I have done - in terms of economic development - have produced thousands of living wage jobs in this city. They have included project labor agreements and they have included apprenticeship training programs and outreach to women and minorities.

SGN: You have been a big advocate for issues related to the Gay and Lesbian community... You may remember that the Mayor had proposed combining the three commissions - the Women's Commission, the Sexual Minority Commission and the Human Rights Commission - into one large commission. The fear then was that it would reduce the voices of these three communities. Casey Corr has been a part of the Mayor's staff and it was the Mayor's proposal, are you concerned about what his role in that might have been?

Drago: I know for a fact that he led the Mayor's team on that proposal. I opposed it and the Council opposed it and we prevailed. I don't think that Casey Corr is in touch with the values of this city. I will give you these examples. He supported Tim Eyeman's Initiative 695. That is the initiative that devastated local government. We lost 66 million dollars because of that initiative. It decimated transit, public safety, public health, the ferry system and on and on. The people in the City of Seattle did not vote for Initiative 695.

Another example, he's not Pro-Parks. He did not support the Pro-Parks Levy. I spent a lot of time supporting the levy campaign, helping to fundraise and to pass that. That passed with an overwhelming majority. People in Seattle place a high value on their parks and open space.

Another example, is Sound Transit. He trashed Sound Transit when Sound Transit was the only transportation project going in the city. Yeah, Sound Transit has been through some hard times, but they survived. And, now, it is important for Sound Transit to get the University District and to Northgate. So, I just don't think he is in tune with the city.

More recently, he was talking more and more about KVI. He mentioned it at a forum earlier this week. I said to myself, I doubt that anybody else in this room listens to KVI. KVI's audience is not a city audience, its a regional audience. He mentioned it again today and KVI espouses Tim Eyeman's initiatives - Initiative 900, which is the one to do performance audits and Initiative 912, which is to repeal the gas tax. And, his whole campaign is about accountability and oversight. Frankly, that is the Republican agenda. That is Tim Eyeman's agenda.

SGN: Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about marriage equality for same-sex couples. I know that the Mayor took a stand and signed an executive order that required the city to recognize marriages and civil unions performed in other states - instead of requiring some kind of declaration that couples would be forced to sign. I understand that you supported that. Is that correct?

Drago: Absolutely. The entire council supported it infaticly. Bill Dubay, who is the chair of Don't Amend, was one of my former campaign managers. He is one of my strongest supporters and boosters. I have been on the contact list, I have been at the rally's and am anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court decision on that. I will be at the rally to celebrate.

SGN: You, yourself, have raised four sons and are married. Do you think the sky will fall if Gay and Lesbian couples enjoy the benefits of marriage?

Drago: Absolutely, positively, not. Everybody should have equal rights.

SGN: The city has been considered a leader on ensuring workplace protections for Gays and Lesbians; also in housing and public accommodations. Do you think it would be right for the state to take a similar stand?

Drago: Absolutely, positively. I have lobbied since 1993 for House Bill 1443, the Cal Anderson bill. I have been down on many occasion lobbying for that. We make sure it is a top priority for our legislative agenda every year.

SGN: I noticed that you are a resident of the City. You live in Pioneer Square. How long have you lived in the city and why is it so important to you personally?

Drago: We have lived in downtown Seattle since 1982. I came to Seattle in 1980 to open Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream stores. Our first store was on Broadway, which opened in 1981. That was really when I got to know many members of the GLBT community, because they were our customers. From the very beginning, I hired many, many, members of the community; promoted them to managers. I have had a very solid record of hiring and promoting members of the communing and also at every opportunity when I was in a position to sit on a hiring panel or make a decision.

SGN: You mentioned Bill Dubay who has endorsed your campaign... Do any names from the Gay community come to mind?

Drago: Certainly. Anne Levinson, Tina Podlodowski, Roger Nyhouse and Ed Murray are a few that come to mind. I don't have the entire endorsement list in front of me.

SGN: You have also received the endorsement from environmental groups, labor groups and Democrat organizations - all very progressive. Are you thrilled to have their endorsement?

Drago: Absolutely. I have received every Democratic endorsement that has been given in this race. My opponent has not received one Democratic endorsement. I have received King County Democrat, King County Young Democrat, and virtually every Democrat district endorsement - the 36th, 37th, 39th, 43rd, and 46th. Washington Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Cascade Bicycle Club. Many labor unions and the labor unions are still coming in very strong. Allied Arts. Alki, the business organization; I am a small business owner. Women's political caucus. I have probably now received 25 to 30 organizational endorsements in this race. What I think that means is: There is a breadth and depth and diversity of endorsements. In addition to that list, there is probably 300 - 400 individuals that represent themselves as well as communities of interest.

SGN: I know that there have been times when you have agreed with the Mayor. I know there are other times when you two have disagreed. Are you someone who will do what you think is right for the city, or will you be one of those people who follow the Mayor's leadership?

Drago: I have worked quite well with the Mayor, especially in the areas of economic development and transportation. Frankly, much of the Mayor's agenda started before he was mayor. It was the Council's agenda and we supported that agenda to see it through to fruition. There are certainly areas where I didn't agree with him on. One of the most important, clearly, was the human services and health care and we felt very strongly about that. I felt strongly about it 10 years before I was elected to the Council, which is spent in the city working on homeless care issues. I chaired the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness, both for Mayor Royer and Mayor Rice. I was Vice-Chair of Gov. Booth Gardner's Homeless Task Force as well. So, I had a very big history that I brought to the City in that area. So, people may identify me as a business candidate and I am. I am the only person on the Council who has ever been in business and paid a payroll of dozens of years to thousands of people. But, I have a broad base of experience and accomplishments.

SGN: Is there anything else you think it is important for our readers to know?

Drago: I have also supported the GLBT community for many, many, years in many ways. In 1988, I served as a table captain for the Privacy Fund dinners. I attended the Privacy Fund dinners - and the succeeding organization's dinners - for many years; even when I didn't have a lot of money and that was a pricy ticket in those early years. I have marched in the Pride Parade since 1989, long before I was on the Council. And, actually, have marched with grandsons - when they were young children and later on. I have also walked in the Northwest AIDS Walk for many, many, years. So, over and over again, I tried to support the community.

At the time - when hate crimes high on the radar screen in '92 - '93 - I lobbied at the federal level and at the state level for hate crime legislation. I think that is another, significant thing. When the Harvey Muggy Democrats Club was formed in 1994, I was the first straight elected official to join that Harey Muggy Democratic Club. Another significant thing. In 1993, I hosted a fundraiser for Lt. Richard Watson who was trying to raise money for his defense fund. I am the only member of Council that is still there that voted for Seattle's domestic partnership registration. I was there the day that we cut the wedding cake in the lobby of City Hall as a an act to oppose Initiatives 608 and 610. I campaigned against them. I also supported Tina Podlodowski's legislation regarding contracting; to require city contractors to offer domestic partner benefits. So, at every opportunity that I have had, I have supported the community... I will continue to do whatever I can to support the community. I have many, many, good friends that I have very good relations with and I think that is very important. I embrace diversity and I think that it is one of the things that makes Seattle a great city.

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