Last weekend, the Lt. Governor delivered remarks and answered community questions at the City of Kirkland’s City Hall For All Day, a day-long open house event dedicated to promoting Kirkland’s status as a welcoming and inclusive city. Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen, and the Kirkland City Council, participated in support of the event.
The Lt. Governor led the City Hall for All Day’s community forum on civil discourse, first delivering a speech, and then taking questions from the audience.
The Lt. Governor opened his remarks by contextualizing his own experience in today’s polarized political climate: as a first-generation an Iranian-American, it was his own parents who would have been excluded by the Trump administration’s travel ban. Nevertheless, the Lt. Governor insisted, “When we discuss large pieces of public policy, we tend to see them in these stark opposition. But when you unwrap them, and you actually see the people affected, we have a lot more agreement.”
The Lt. Governor continued by saying that civil discourse is possible even on extremely sensitive topics, and that preserving civility is central to his own role as President of the Senate. For example, the Lt. Governor said, during the emotionally-charged state Senate debate on assisted suicide/death with dignity legislation, senators maintained civility and respect throughout. The Lt. Governor attributed this to his belief that every legislator was more committed to doing the work of public service than they were to advancing an ideological polemical agenda.
The Lt. Governor concluded his remarks by offering a challenge to his audience: When encountering people on the opposite side of the political spectrum, try to understand their lives from their own perspective. The Lt. Governor acknowledged that those on the political left have a tendency to reduce others to a simple assessment of privilege – such as “white privilege, male privilege, straight white male privilege.”
“And while those things matter,” the Lt. Governor said, “that’s not all you are. You are so many different personal experiences that intersect. When we play this reductive game – people understandably get a sense that we’re not seeing them for who they really are.”
“I know that listening is the first step – and that every single one of us needs to do that.”
The Lt. Governor then took community questions with the Kirkland City Council on a wide range of topics, including local issues, community advocacy, and the role of partisanship at the national and local levels of government.
The City Hall for All Day follows the City of Kirkland’s declaration earlier this year that it will remain “a safe, inclusive, and welcoming city for everyone,” meaning specifically that 1. city services will be available to everyone, regardless of immigration status or religious affiliation, and 2. that the city will not inquire about or maintain records on immigration status or religious affiliation. The safe, inclusive, welcoming city priority was affirmed at several branches of local government, including by Mayor Walen’s Proclamation, the Kirkland City Council’s Resolution, and the City Council’s Ordinance.
The City Hall for All Day was organized in coordination with the Inclusion Network, a coalition of local faith- and equity-based organizations interested in promoting inclusivity in the city. The event itself featured booths for local restaurants, city departments, and passport services, and City Hall tours of recent renovations.