A physician and a filmmaker, Patricia is one of the most committed—and energetic—social activists I’ve ever known. I’ve had the privilege of working with her on a couple of her documentaries (Game Show Dynamos and The Corporal’s Diary, among others, are available for streaming) and am proud of the friendship that has grown between us over the years.
A template for how politics can work
by Patricia Boiko, West Seattle, Washington
Wouldn’t it be heavenly for our legislators to truly represent us? Wouldn’t it be the cat’s pajamas to have our representatives take on the big issues of health, the environment and racial justice? What if your elected officials worked together with you, for you, and worked really hard?
That’s what I had hoped for when I was active as a North Seattle PCO, aka a Precinct Committee Officer. But the party infighting was too much for me. While the state reps were very committed as individuals, and their positions well-represented our district, they weren’t willing to compromise and work together. They were competitive rather than cooperative. After Obama was elected, I gave up.
Then, I moved to West Seattle. West Seattle, where cars stop to let me cross the street and neighbors gather. I decided to try again and started by going to a Quaker lobbying day in Olympia to meet my 34th Legislative District reps. State Senator Joe Nugyen, Assistant Majority Caucus Floor Leader, grew up in a local immigrant community, the son of Vietnamese refugees. State House Rep. Eileen Cody, a retired neuro-rehab nurse who grew up her family’s farm in Iowa, currently serves as chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. The other House rep is Joe Fitzgibbon, chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee, a legislative staffer and member of the Burien Planning Commission before being elected in 2010.
It was easy to set up appointments to meet with them, either virtually or in person. Their staffs were these incredible young people: they listened to us, talked to us, remembered us. After years of experiencing the Trump administration, filled with people who were all for themselves, what a startling and welcome relief to be greeted by folks whose attitude was, What can we do for you?
When we met with Joe F and mentioned an issue in health care, he’d say, “I know about that and I support efforts to rectify the problem, but that’s Eileen’s area. You should talk to her for details.” He also said, in response to an energy question, “Yeah, we’re working on that, but we don’t have it quite right yet.” When we’d bring up environmental issues with Eileen, her response would be, “That’s Joe F’s department. I do my best to support what he proposes but I leave the details up to him.” And if we asked either of them about diversity or justice issues, they’d say, “You need to talk with Joe N about that.”
In the mix of their ages and backgrounds, they are the people next door, and they are wise enough to know that no one person can understand all the health, environment and justice bills. They know that they can better represent us by splitting up the tasks, acknowledging each other’s expertise, and supporting one another’s efforts. It is a real template for how politics can work and get things accomplished.
It really is the cat’s pajamas to have legislators who are not just out for power for the sake of power, who are not always tooting their own horn. Their commitment to trying, to knowing that they’re not going to get there every time but will take the steps needed to work toward the goals, well, that has gotten me back into the game. It makes a difference when the feeling you get from your legislators is, “We didn’t get it this time but, with your help, we’ll do our best to get it through the next.” It is up to us to vote for people with that kind of intention and integrity. I can testify to knowing they’re out there.