Auburn City Council, Position #1 – Chris Stearns

Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Chris Stearns
  • Position Sought: Auburn City Council, Position #1 (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 47th District
  • Democrat: Yes

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I have an extensive history as an attorney, government leader and public policy advocate fighting for justice and human
rights. Currently, I am of Counsel to Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker, a national firm specializing in representing Native American tribes across the United States. I am also a Commissioner and former Chairman of the Washington State Gambling Commission, a law enforcement agency responsible for keeping gambling safe and honest in what is one of the largest markets in the nation.

I am the Board President of the Seattle Indian Health Board, a community health clinic that provides health and human services for 6,000 patients and also operates the Thunderbird Treatment Center. I also previously Chaired the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which protects and promotes human & civil rights and social justice.

Prior to moving to Washington State, I served as Director of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy, as Democratic Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, and Deputy Counsel to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. I also spent four years as the legal and political advisor to the President of the National Congress of American Indians.

In 2000, I was appointed Statewide Campaign Director for the State of North Dakota for the Gore Lieberman Campaign. In 2004 I served as a statewide organizer for Native communities in New Mexico for the Kerry Edwards Campaign. In 2002 I served as volunteer organizer for the Richardson for Governor Campaign. And in 2008 I worked as a Native American organizer on the staff of the Washington Coordinated Campaign.

2. What prompted you to run for this office? What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?

I am running for Auburn City Council Position 1 because I believe that each of us deserves a voice who represents our values and interests. The time has come for our City Council to truly represent the people, the diversity, and elders and youth, who live in our community.

My life’s experiences have taught me how to stand up and fight for justice. As a Native American, a Navajo, and someone who spent the first part of my life in the Los Angeles County foster care system, I know what it means to struggle, to fight, and to get back on my feet when knocked down.

As a lawyer with a 30 year career representing Native American tribes, I know what it means to battle power, to pursue justice for those who need help in times of trouble, and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Auburn is a city that is growing but like many cities we have issues that demand our attention. We need to address homelessness, renters’ rights, better wages, and police accountability.

The risk of losing housing, and becoming homeless, is now greater than ever. As new homeowners, my family understands the barriers to affordable housing and the need to protect renters. I will work to make sure that Auburn is a not just a great place to live, but also one in which you can afford to live.

I believe the City Council should work harder to bring better paying jobs to workers, to increase wages wherever possible, and to recognize the historic value that union jobs have meant for all of us in our City. We can make Auburn a regional destination for good paying jobs, visitors and new residents who will contribute to the fabric that makes Auburn great.

As a local community, we are innovative and resourceful and I am ready to work with elected officials, residents and
businesses to make Auburn a place we are all proud to call home.

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I am running unopposed for my seat.

I have been endorsed by the 47th District Democrats, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, SEIU 6, SEIU 925, SEIU 1199NW, SEIU 775, Teamsters 763, Teamsters 117, Laborers Local Union 242, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, State Representative Pat Sullivan, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, Auburn City Councilmember Larry Brown, and Auburn City Councilmember John Holman.

Part II – Local Issues

1. Would you support the establishment of a safe injection site in your district?


The Auburn City Council has already voted to ban the establishment of safe injection sites in the City. I am unaware of any efforts to reopen this issue at the Council level.

But if the issue was revisited then I would be willing to bring in behavioral and medical health experts to shed more light on the effectiveness of safe injection sites and the relationship between safe injection sites and more or less substances usage, crime, and recovery. I believe strongly in offering medical and behavioral health treatment to those in need and have seen the life-changing power of recovery in people’s lives.

2. Would you support the administration and police force in your jurisdiction adopting a sanctuary policy, forbidding the sharing of local resources and labor with ICE?


Federal Law bans states and local governments from enacting policies that prevents government employees from sharing “information pertaining to the immigration status, legal or illegal, of an individual” with federal authorities. This is a limited ban and it does not extend to local government policies that ban sharing other information about immigrants. Those are permissible in my views. Further, I believe that local police departments are not required to help the federal government do whatever it wants, and instead are free to set their own law enforcement priorities.

3. Do you support raising revenue at the city level to expand transit service?


The City’s transportation budget already comprises the largest portion of Auburn’s Operating and Capital Budget. Local transit is provided by King County Metro Transit, Pierce Transit and Sound Transit. I would gladly support adding increased service to underserved areas by the appropriate transit authority or through federal and state funding sources.

4. Should transportation policy discourage the use of private automobiles and encourage the use of public-transit?


In general, yes. But where transportation is necessary to reach work or where the burden of limited automobile use would fall primarily on vulnerable populations, then a more nuanced approach is required. A racial justice or equity lens should be applied.

5. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction?


6. Do you support requiring police officers in your jurisdiction to wear body cameras?


I believe that body cameras can be an effective tool in increasing accountability and public trust, but only if implemented as part of a broader-based community policing effort and within a larger structure that supports accountability and civilian oversight.

7. Do you support repealing Tim Eyman’s I-747, which artificially limits property tax increases to 1% per year, regardless of population growth, inflation, and need?


I-747 has proven unworkable and an arbitrary hindrance on the ability of local governments to find practical solutions to problems related to growth.

8. Should government assist individuals, and families who are without sufficient food, shelter, or basic necessities through no fault of their own?


I believe that food, shelter, and other basic necessities are human rights. I believe that our City should uphold and promote human rights.

9. Should the wages paid to workers in Washington State be raised incrementally towards the goal of living wages?


Absolutely. Workers are the backbone of our economy.

10. Will you seek opportunities to mitigate the human activities that are contributing to disastrous climate change?


Protecting our environment is our legacy we pass along to future generations. We should always be looking for ways to be better stewards of our lands and waters. Climate change should be an issue that the City Council takes up.

Part III – Free Response

1. Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I have always been a Democrat, and proud to work for Democratic candidates. As a Native American I have not only seen the commitment of the Party to Native Americans but I have also witnessed the efforts that the GOP has made across the country to limit the voting power of Native Americans.

As for the Party platform, I strongly agree that health care is a basic human right as is safe, affordable housing. I also agree that we must afford immigrants full human rights. I further agree that we must take steps to reduce gun violence. I further believe that labor and the rights of workers have to be protected. Finally, I strongly agree that our State must maintain a lasting and respectful relationship with Tribal Nations.

2. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the media?

I have been proud to work on the issue of Problem Gambling and Gambling Addiction. This is a little understood disease and there are very few resources available in our State for treatment and recovery. That is starting to change but there is so much work that needs to be done, especially in a state where gaming revenues exceed $3 Billion annually.

3. Please list up to three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis.

1. I would support partnering with King County and other local jurisdictions to build permanent supportive housing (including modular units) to be sited on public land and financed through bonds.
2. I would expand mental health and addiction recovery services, also in partnership with the county, to ensure that those who want treatment are able to get it.
3. I would support the creation of new affordable housing stock over the next five years through public, private, and non-profit partnerships. Some of the units would be low-income housing but others should be more workforce oriented.

4. What are the barriers to economic prosperity faced by residents in your jurisdiction, and how do you plan to address them?

Housing. The speed of growth in our region has led to a shortage of affordable housing supply, and it has rippled across our region to also create a shortage of affordable rental units. Prosperity grows where people live in the same city in which they work. Homeownership is the best way to creating equity and capital. I would like to see the Council continue to address homelessness, low-income and affordable housing, the creation of public housing, as well as access to financial assistance and tax credits to enter homeownership.

Jobs. It is vital that our citizens have access to well-paying jobs. We need to partner with labor to increase access to training, apprenticeships, and the security of unions so that more people in the workforce have living wages.

5. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face this jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does rail play in your proposed solutions?

Rail transit is important as Auburn is located on the Sounder line. Equitable payment for commuter parking is important and I support the recent parking fees imposed at the transit center to more evenly distribute parking and parking times.

6. What are your jurisdiction’s environmental issues, which ones are urgent and what will you do to address them?

It is critical to maintain our wildlife habitat, rivers & streams, wetlands, and the Green River ecosystem. Improving culverts is critical to salmon restoration which in turn is critical to the survial of the orca. We must continue partnerships with the County, State, and federal government to reclaim habitats, plan for sustainable growth, and remediate polluted areas.

7. Does your district have a taxing authority or propose levies and what changes, if any, would you seek?

The City does not impose a Business & Occupancy Tax at present. I would be willing to look at research showing the impact of instituting a limited tax.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name: Chris Stearns

Date: 08/09/2019

Comments are closed.