De'Sean Quinn

Applying for: Tukwila City Council, Position 7

Below are the answers De'Sean Quinn provided to our ten-question job application. All answers are copied verbatim from what we received from the candidate.

1. What would you say is your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness?

My greatest strength is that I have a high level of integrity and commitment to public service.  This is demonstrated by my ability to see and act on my standard for all residents in the community - “I see you and you matter.” I can also be described as someone who has high emotional intelligence - I make connection - I love people and policy and I’ve used my role to better the lives of those in who live in my city and work in the region. My greatest weakness is that I am not a natural-born micro-manager. I trust that people have the same commitment to fairness and justice or carry certain parts of that with them when they make decisions

2. What are the best & worst jobs you’ve ever had? Why?

My three best jobs are; the current job I have as a councilmember, because I can use the skills that I have developed over time to influence local and regional issues based on relationships that I build. The second job was working and being the mentee of Ron Sims while he was the King County Executive from 2004-2009.  I had the privilege to learn vision, brinksmanship and respect for the role of public servants.  He taught me to be intellectually curious of policy and the things that I thought I knew and the things that I wanted to know.  He taught me how to use my strengths to do my job and to take chances, be fearless and fight for what is right and what you believe in. The third and final job was my first as a carpenter’s apprentice at the age of 14 because I learned the trade and got to know someone who had only been an acquaintance until I worked for him. Mr. Josephson, is 80 years old and he taught me about life and how to build additions to his home. 

My two equally awful jobs were as a mover for Graebal van lines and working in a warehouse at a beer distributer.  These were bad for their own distinct reason most importantly they were jobs where the employees’ well-being were last on the priority list.

3. Why is this position a good fit for you?

I have a passion for public service.  I am currently serving on the Tukwila City Council and have done so for 9 years. Additionally, I serve as a Water Quality Planner and Project Manager III at King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division.  I am also a member of the Technical Employees Association.  It is truly a privilege to work for the collective benefit of the community I love. 

I’ve dedicated the last decade to public service, working for King County Executive Ron Sims as community relations manager, council relation director and regional relations manager.  I currently served in King County Executive Dow Constantine’s administration, and spent two years in the Office of the Executive.  Over the last 12 years I’ve learned how to evaluate complicated policy issues and work collaboratively to find solutions.  My experience, strong consensus and relationship building skills, and understanding of the complexities facing our region make me uniquely suited to represent the residents of Tukwila. 

I am also a board member of One America a non-profit organization in Seattle focusing on immigrant issues.  For the last five years I am proud to be a featured speaker on local governments and its importance to the Institute for Democratic Future, Washington Bus and a very active member and supporter of Progressive Majority.  I am a part of the founding membership of the National Progressive Municipal Network, a progressive organization that focuses on progressive issues for municipalities across the county. 

4. What makes you the best choice for workers in this race?

I am a champion for workers. I’ve built a strong record of defending workers’ rights and have demonstrated that I’m not only an advocate, but a leader on labor issues. I’ve used my own experience as a union member and my experience working under Ron Sims as King County Executive to inform my approach to labor.  I have a very close relationship with Kathy Oglesby who also has advised and will continue to advise me on labor related issues in the city. In my 9 years as a council member, I have a record of defending workers’ rights and have demonstrated that I’m not only an advocate, but a leader on labor issues.  I will continue that commitment to respecting labor and valuing worker’s rights. Unlike other cities outside Seattle, I will lead our city in respecting workers ability to bargain not as a burden but as strength.  I’ve written an OP/ED in the Seattle Times on the suburbanization of Poverty.

5. What do you think is the single biggest issue affecting workers in your area? What would you do to address it?

Lack of living wage jobs.  The Freedom Foundation has an all-out effort to unseat elected officials who have a relationship and or have a good record for supporting workers and support right to work activities and legislation. It’s manifested in PDC and citizen action complaints and they are supporting candidates that are running smear and fear campaigns against incumbents.  All the while, a community like Tukwila, that was built on working class values, are seeing a significant decline in living wage jobs and the replacement in service industry jobs.  I will continue to fight these efforts by being an outspoken voice for workers, affordable housing and community workforce agreements and support for the trades as a vehicle to build skills for our residents.

6. Describe a specific situation where you took action to support workers fighting for their rights. What was the experience like, and what did you learn? Bonus question: tell us about a time you engaged with workers with Working Washington.

I openly advocated against the current administration (and Association of Washington Cities) supporting and lobbying in Olympia for legislation that would change arbitration and worker compensation. Through my leadership, I was able to get support from four other councilmembers to take it off our legislative list. I have spoken to Sea-Tac workers and attended events to highlight Sea-Tac airport’s practices of inadequate wages and no worker protections.  I walked with SEIU striking workers in Tukwila in 2015 and met with hospital workers in Burien as they were going through a dispute with the Highline Hospital administration.  I’ve been a signatory of support for Tukwila workers in UFCW, and home healthcare workers in Tukwila.  In my job at King County Wastewater Treatment Division I was part of a team that negotiated the first Community Workforce Agreement at King County.  I used that experience to advocate for an agreement in Tukwila on the recently approved Public Safety bond implementation of facilities we will be building for the next 10-20 years. 

7. What would be your top single priority if elected to this office? How would you define success or failure on this issue?

Reducing crime and taking action to improve the quality of life for all residents in the community. I would define success based on a decrease in crime rates and an increase in quality of life in our community of Tukwila.

8. What can you do in this office to resist attacks by the Trump Administration on the rights of low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ?

I will continue my work to oppose the Trump Administration and any other group’s efforts to undermine the rights of low wage workers. As I described previously, I was instrumental in removing these efforts from our legislative agenda and actively lobbied in Olympia in support of arbitration and worker compensation. I am also a supporter of community workforce agreements and used my experience to include an agreement in recently approved Tukwila Public Safety Bond. 

9. Tell us how you plan to address affordable housing, especially for minimum-wage and part-time workers, as well as for those left homeless because of high housing costs.

I am known as a leader in the region in addressing the affordable housing crisis. We have an opportunity to produce and enhance the next wave of middle class and working-class families that will thrive in our community. Part of the solution involves addressing the lack of affordable housing in the city. The most critical action I lead was the update of our comprehensive plan to include significant affordable housing opportunities in the face of a targeted community effort to remove any mention of affordable housing from the Plan. As Chair of our Community Affairs and Parks committee, I worked with staff to build our agenda to focus on affordable housing efforts by passing the source of income discrimination in 2016 and attracting developers such as Bellwether housing and homestead to identify Tukwila for future projects. I’ve championed the effort to build Tukwila Village, a housing development that includes market rate, senior housing and affordable housing elements. I’ve led efforts to attract businesses and high-quality development to provide Transit Oriented development and Affordable housing projects along the Tukwila International Boulevard and South Center Urban Center. In Tukwila, we have one of the lowest median incomes in South King County. I am a board member for Forterra and a member of the fund for the future board that focuses on created and financing affordable housing projects across the region.

10. Many Uber drivers live in the Tukwila area. Do you have ideas about creating benefits for workers in the gig economy?

The gig economy has created some unique challenges for workers. As a strong supporter of worker rights, I think it is important that workers have access to benefits. We either need to work on finding creative ways to provide these benefits for workers or develop effective strategies for shifting these workers into full-time living wage jobs that provide those benefits.