Bob Hasegawa, 64, is a 3rd generation Seattleite and lifelong resident of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He lives today in the house where his parents raised him, representing the 11th LD as a sitting Washington State Senator. The son of Japanese American parents who were incarcerated during World War 2, along with their entire family and community just because they were ethnically Japanese, Bob was raised with a sense of justice and learned first hand that we need to be constantly vigilant to protect our freedoms and civil rights.
Bob Hasegawa also knows the importance of building powerful movements and changing systems from within, and ensuring that leaders are held accountable to those they represent. After years of fighting for workers’ rights in the labor movement, Bob was elected at the first ever Asian-American Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174, the largest trucking industry workers’ union in the Pacific Northwest, where he successfully managed almost 1,000 collective bargaining contract negotiations while at the same time effecting a complete organizational paradigm change.
Bob was a leader in the national Teamsters pro-union democracy reform movement, TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) which fought to democratize the Teamsters Union. A key element of that democratization included requiring direct elections of top leadership by the general membership. What had been in place instead were indirect elections (essentially election by appointment), which led to the problem that leaders became more accountable to the people appointing them, than the membership.
As a leader of TDU, Bob was successful in ushering in a new era of transparency, accountability, and power for the organization built from the bottom-up. He was cheered from both sides for his commitment to integrity in the organization and his refusal to accept corrupt practices.
As Mayor of Seattle, Bob Hasegawa will bring his lifelong track record of accountability, transparency, and sense of equity to the Mayor’s office to make sure city government is accessible to Seattle’s working people and families, who feel so excluded from decisions now. Our economy is growing, yet more and more of us are feeling the pressure of the cost of living squeeze–housing costs are going through the roof, and quality of life costs and social safety net responsibilities are increasingly being transferred from the 1% onto the rest of us. Developers and corporations get richer, while the rest of us feel like we’re losing our ability to afford to live here.
Seattle’s leadership has gotten disconnected from the people, who feel that decisions are being made without their input, and then being parachuted down onto them from on high. What’s wrong with the top-down model so commonly employed by executives? We elect them to make decisions. If we don’t like them, we elect someone else. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?
NO!! It’s disempowering of the people, which allows power to further concentrate at the top, finally leading toward a vision of the person in power, rather than the people’s vision. It’s possible they may be the same vision, maybe not. If not, the people have no power to do anything about it.
When power gravitates to the top, the natural tendency of those in power is to further consolidate their power and dismantle threats against it. Neighborhood councils are a natural way to organize people to empower them to create the type of city that fits their vision. Rather than dismantling the councils, we should give them the tools to organize their neighborhoods, to make the sometimes difficult decisions that have direct impacts on their neighborhoods and lives.
Money is the tool for consolidating power at the top. Solidarity is the tool for winning power back for the people. We need a Mayor who will create the change needed in City Hall, reform this broken top-down system and return hope to the people that we really can create a community that is nurturing, sustainable, and equitable.