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Krystal Marx: Seattle Pride executive director eyes Congress

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Photo by Nate Gowdy
Photo by Nate Gowdy

From the beginning, Krystal Marx has been an unlikely candidate. She first ran for elected office in 2018, when she was elected to the Burien City Council. Since then, she has made waves in the city — throwing out the status quo and emerging as a voice for all, including the less affluent or politically connected. She has been the target of those on the right who view her positions to be too left-leaning for the suburban city.

Marx, who became deputy mayor in 2019, is seeking reelection to her Burien City Council seat. She found herself in a competitive race in the August 3 primary, appearing on the ballot next to five other candidates. However, she leads the vote total at press time and will go on to the Nov. 2 general election. Marx will face off against Stephanie Mora, a small business advocate who is calling for an increase in police officers and a limited approach to social services in the city.

"I am extremely grateful to the Burien voters for moving me into the general election," Marx told the SGN on Wednesday. "I think our shared vision of facing regional issues with regional solutions is resonating with people, and I am excited to talk to more folks at the doors in the next few months."

Marx remains confident in the outcome of the race and even announced her intentions to face off with Rep. Adam Smith next year for his seat in the 9th Congressional District, a position he has held for 24 years. Mora has been critical of Marx for her announcement. "Burien deserves city councilmembers who aren't focused on running for higher office while pretending to care about their community," she wrote on her campaign Facebook page.

In addition to her position in Burien, Marx is raising four kids and three dogs with her husband, a disabled veteran, and she serves on the King County Board of Health. She has also helped displaced workers gain new skills to compete for jobs in competitive industries and to get women elected to office. Currently, she serves as the executive director of Seattle Out and Proud (SOAP), which produces the Seattle Pride Parade, and has overseen a 750% increase in programming since the start of the pandemic.

The SGN spoke with Marx about her city leadership, community organizing, and life experiences that suggest she has what it takes to take on Congress in the other Washington.

Renee Raketty: You'll be facing off with an incumbent who's been in office since 1997. Why did you decide to get into this race?

Krystal Marx: There was no strong anti—Adam Smith sentiment... In the political world, there are always people that you want to see yanked out of office, who are actively harming our communities. In some cases, not really pushing for advancement or for greater protections or for things our communities need can be just as big of a harm. I saw the current representative, Adam Smith, in the 9th District, as kind of that latter category — of not pushing for things that our district needs.

As someone who has experienced homelessness as a child, who has been evicted right before I ran for office, as my husband's caregiver for his service-connected PTSD in the Army, as having a Trans kiddo... I mean, there's so many things that I think many of us in Washington state, especially in the 9th, are experiencing.

Likewise, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and [the] high cost of medical bills — my son has type 1 diabetes, having just being diagnosed with that in October — the cost of that alone is astronomical. We're not seeing the fight that we need and... deserve to make sure that all of our people are protected and can live a life of dignity, are able to focus on their jobs... instead of worrying about housing...

For me, [it's] that desire to see more done and using the experience that I have as deputy mayor and as serving on the City Council for the last four years to work within governmental organizations to effect that change.

RR: As a member of the Burien City Council, you have been the target of a few people on the far right. Can you speak to that a little bit? Tell me more about how these attacks may not reflect modern values.

KM: I definitely have been a target. The most recent big one was people... printing off stickers... [that read:] "Burien looks like 'S[hit].'" It had my face on it, and it was not a flattering picture... [T]hey are plastering them around the city. That was just a recent one, but usually they go after anything [about] my appearance. I'm heavily tattooed as an elder millennial, it's kind of my thing. [Also] my weight as a plus-size woman and someone who's a fat activist.

You know, [they even use my] having been evicted from housing — even if it was a "no-fault eviction" where the landlord sold our house... and asked us to move. They pick apart every part of my identity — not even the policies as much as just how I look and what I've been through. It's been really difficult.

The first couple of years, it was difficult to be able to focus on policy when I'm constantly getting harassing phone calls. We had a severe death threat that actually got the FBI involved and Interpol — believe it or not — because the person lived in Ireland...

It stems from a fear of where things are progressing towards. I represent a younger community, more progressive values, and a willingness to stop the status quo from continuing... making sure that we fight for the people that we're charged to represent. When that happens, old systems get disrupted. People that have been used to power and are comfortable being in power are asked to move aside or join along. If they don't want to join along, then, they feel threatened. I think that's where it's coming from: it's just that fear of not knowing where their values were going to be accepted next.

RR: You are also associated with She Should Run, which is an organization that helps women get elected to public office. I did want to ask you: how does having more diverse representation help create better outcomes?

KM: As a program facilitator for She Should Run, I taught women over a seven-week... course, a cohort of 30-40 women across the nation — in an online setting — the basics of how to run for office, build up leadership skills, and recognize your lived experience as legitimate for running for office...

Having that diversity of candidates — especially making sure we have women and nonbinary folks represented in office — means that we see things that are typically left out when the status quo is maintained, which typically has been older, often retired, white, cisgender men. When that's the case, you don't have equal representation. You don't know what the struggles are in every aspect of your community, so things get overlooked and problems get made worse.

By making sure we get more women or nonbinary folks running — more non-white people running, more Queer folks running — you are making sure that everyone in the community is seen and their needs are elevated to a level where something can actually be done to help.

RR: As you know, the 9th Congressional District encompasses diverse interests from multiple communities, stretching from northeast Tacoma to the Eastside and even South Seattle. What makes you uniquely qualified to represent so many varied constituencies?

KM: After I left Grays Harbor County as a kid, when I came out of homelessness, I was actually placed with my father in Bellevue. That's where I spent most of my life through adolescence and graduated... from Sammamish High School...

Then, when I started my family and I was in my first marriage, we moved to SeaTac and Renton. I moved into South Seattle after we were divorced and have been throughout different areas of the region.

So, experiencing it... seeing the disparity that exists in Bellevue versus SeaTac, but also seeing the sense of community that ties us together... that is what needs to be focused on.

I've got the experience of not only living at the very... depths of poverty and not knowing where our meals are coming from — if we can keep the lights on, [keep from] being evicted, being homeless — but also knowing what it's like to have a stable roof over my head and, now, being the executive director of a nonprofit, being able to care for my family and pay most of our bills, you know, when it's not a pandemic. Having had that lived experience is important.

I also serve on regional committees that serve this entire area. I'm on the Board of Health for King County. So, I'm responsible for listening to the needs throughout the region, Eastside, North End, South Seattle, all the way down through south King County... looking at the health disparities that present and realizing that we have poor people in east King County too. We've got extremely rich people in south King County. We've got multimillion-dollar mansions in Burien.

So, it's being able and... willing to see where we're the same and where those disparities are and to present them in a way that really gets stuff done.

RR: According to a study by the US Census bureau in 2019, 8.7% of persons living in the 9th Congressional District live below the poverty line. Whose responsibility is it to address this concern, and what should be done about it?

KM: I think it's every layer of government's responsibility to address this. At the federal level, we need to be raising the minimum wage. We need to have it at a level where it's a livable wage for folks — that isn't necessarily $15 an hour anymore either. It would have been great if we all would have caught up to that — like the City of SeaTac did a few years ago.

That cost is rising. It's rising a lot higher due the cost of housing as well. People are spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. We are severely cost burdened in the 9th Congressional, where we're spending over 50-60% of our income on housing costs alone.

It is the county or the state level as well, making sure that we're passing progressive revenue reform. We're doing things like capital gains taxes: we're getting money from the wealthiest among us in those unique situations that isn't going to leave them bankrupt, but it's making sure it's a more fair taxation for our community, so we stop overly taxing our lowest-income folks at the county levels.

It's making sure that we are funding community projects. We are funding community organizations that are experienced in working on the ground and providing culturally appropriate care and services to people who are at or below the poverty line. It does not matter if there's a program... if a whole entire community doesn't know how to access it, because there's a language barrier or they don't trust local government. We have to be funding these community organizations that have those direct ins and that are trusted messengers and at the city level as well.

It's knowing really what people are asking for. It's more than just surveys. It's putting out programs and access points locally and feeding that information back up to the federal level and demanding that our federal delegations help us. So, having that full cycle of every layer of government involved is crucial...

RR: According to that same US Census study, only 53% of people own their own home in the 9th District. How do you propose that the federal government help get families into homes so they can build some wealth through home ownership?

KM: I believe that housing is a human right. We have over 230,000 of our renter households in Washington fall under that extremely low-income threshold... So, it's focusing on those folks first. It's making sure we pass a Green New Deal on public housing. It will create thousands of jobs nationally and something close to 12,000 public housing units in Washington state alone. So that already is a huge relief on the system.

It's also making sure that we also don't increase... homelessness by making sure that we have tenant protections and housing stability, ordinances and laws throughout our state...so we stop people from sliding into homelessness.

It's also making sure that we have federal assistance and equity in the rental market so that folks can, while they're renters, build up that equity and that generational wealth, without that fear of their housing being ripped from them, so they can build things as a stepping stone and be able to step into home ownership.

A lot of it falls to reparations as well. Who are the community members that have been the most harmed when we talk about things like marijuana laws and... the folks who are in jail for marijuana offenses? They're Black men, whereas it's usually white men that are owning the pot shops here now. What are our reparations looking like? It's providing those home loans. It's providing those business loans to the Black community that help them to stabilize [and] build generational wealth and equity, and also it leads into purchasing homes. It's all connected.

RR: I think you addressed this a little bit, but if you want, get more specific talking about evictions and what can be done to help stabilize those renters right now in a difficult situation?

KM: First and foremost, we have to cancel rent, and we have to cancel mortgage payments that were due during the pandemic period. We have the ability of the federal government to do so, and we have to do it...

Even during the payment plans [sic] and the things we've passed here in Washington state, people couldn't afford it during the pandemic, and they've been laid off or they don't feel safe going back into their low-paying jobs and risking their health and the health of their families. They're not going to be able to pay those payment plans moving forward, and they're going to find themselves evicted.

Same thing with landlords... if we weren't able to pay our rent, that is property that they own, that's a mortgage that they're paying on. So, we need to be able to cancel that as well and work with the banks to make sure that we are protecting all of our community members. I think that is the biggest thing that we can do right now coming out of COVID-19 to make sure that we don't have more evictions and more people sliding into homelessness.

RR: Obviously, there's a shortage of housing, a shortage of building materials, and so the prices of houses are going up. Then, there is also gentrification as a result of people moving into communities that were traditionally mostly people of color. Can you talk to that a little bit?

KM: The Central District... used to be a majority Black community, and now under 17% are communities of color, as gentrification moves through and people are pushed out further and further.

I think it's important that it isn't just the federal government or the state or local government stepping in. It is also about empowering community-based organizations who already know the community — who have deep roots there — with funds... sectioning off areas of town that are "no-touch zones." These are just for these communities to rebuild in the way that works best for them and to support businesses from those communities that are anchor businesses.

There are folks who have been in business for a long time... that get pushed out. First, bringing them back in saying: "This is your space. We're here to support you. Small business loans are easy to access. Your dedicated case manager helps you get those small business loans." Organizations like Ventures work fantastically with immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses. It's empowering those organizations to work with the community to make sure that that people have the resources that they need.

That's what helps to fight against gentrification more than even housing policies at the local level. It's supporting the communities that have been pushed out.

RR: I wanted to address police accountability a little bit. Washington obviously passed 12 pieces of legislation that limit police powers and seek to ensure that bad actors within law enforcement are held accountable. Would you take that reform to Washington, DC, and seek to enact those measures nationwide?

KM: One hundred percent. What we're doing now is to prevent lateral hires from folks who have disciplinary records on file...[This] is crucial... More importantly... it's long overdue...

What I've learned serving on the Burien City Council is that if you do not work with neighboring cities to pass... similar ordinances, then it's a one-off, and it does not help a community that tends to shift and move. We realize none of us stay in our one city: we work in a different city, or we worship in a different city. We go to school in a different city. We travel frequently.

It's the same thing when it comes to police reform: if you are expected to live up to one standard in one place and you don't like it as an officer, you can go somewhere else and you can operate in a way that is not safe for communities in other places. That's why we need to add a federal level to have those protections.

Additionally, we need to demilitarize the police and divest federal funding from law enforcement and the prison-industrial complex. It's enabling the BREATHE Act as well, which will replace police involvement in school settings and behavioral health emergencies with interventions by trained trauma-informed counselors and mental health experts. I just championed this on the Burien City Council on Monday night. We're putting in a couple of mental health crisis responders in downtown Burien, as opposed to just adding more police to the downtown core to respond to safety needs. We need to take that from the local to the federal [level].

RR: The Washington state legislature did pass changes to our drug-possession laws, making drug possession a misdemeanor and creating a pathway away from incarceration and toward treatment. Is this something you would call on Congress to support?

KM: One hundred percent. I believe that we have to have trauma-informed care. We have to focus on harm-reduction models. Telling people who have faced substance use disorder or drug addiction for a long time... "Shame on you, go to jail and figure it out" hasn't worked. The war on drugs has not worked.

We have to provide people with the dignity to choose their best path out and support them until they do. It includes things like permanent supportive housing, if folks are slipping into homelessness due to drug addiction. It's a smaller population than, you know, folks who are slipping into homelessness for other reasons, but we still need to support everyone where they're at.

RR: It sounds like you've done in Burien what Jay Inslee has done when he signed a bill designating 988 as the state suicide prevention hotline and encouraging us to move away from law enforcement and directing people toward the appropriate professionals in mental health or chemical dependency, for example. Is there anything you want to say further on that?

KM: It's difficult at the city level or the federal level just to flip a switch and go from a very militarized police force to suddenly nothing. I'm against incrementalism. I don't think we make little baby steps toward change, because it's too easy to get pushed backward, but I think there's a middle ground maybe more toward the demilitarization/defund level that we should be aiming for to be able to make a really good step in that direction. That's hiring additional service providers, like we talked about. Not necessarily look at taking away the police force and then leaving a gap, but hiring what we need first and then moving the police force down. That's what the focus has been on.

RR: You mentioned that you're on the King County Board of Public Health. I'm hoping you might have a perspective on reaching those underserved populations, helping them to get vaccinated, and then, also speaking to how the federal government can help those COVID-19 long-haulers that may be suffering the ill effects of the virus for years to come.

KM: On the Board of Health, it's been really important for us to look at this from a regional point of view. So, it's no longer all about King County. The King County aggregate numbers are fantastic... but if you look in Burien and Tukwila, in the far reaches of Kent, the vaccination rates are way lower, and COVID infection rates are still higher than the King County average.

So we have to look at what's completely different about how we're responding to COVID in these areas. Are we doing testing at the same rate as we are in Bellevue or in Shoreline or in downtown Seattle? Or is south King County kind of an afterthought? So that's where my focus has been constantly...

We have to look at these other communities — going to where it's important: childcare centers, where we're seeing immigrant and refugee communities... at community gardens where a lot of people are growing their food. It's not that difficult to set up a testing site or a vaccination site and getting that done regularly and hiring trusted messengers — people from the community...

It's making sure that we acknowledge where we've messed up as government by kind of forcing things and making a one-size-fits-all approach and making it a lot more universal.

There's a ton of stuff that comes with bouncing back from COVID-19 recovery that the federal government really should be focusing on in addition to a vaccination. It's also things like passing the THRIVE Act, which is a $10 trillion investment over 10 years, with at least 50% of it going directly to impacted BIPOC communities, that focuses on addressing systemic racism and gender injustice and all these things that we've done.

It's an opportunity for us to pass legislation that can help people come back from the COVID-19 pandemic, not the same but actually better off than they were before. I think we have to look at all of these things instead of just vaccine testing and housing and evictions — it's an opportunity to look at all of it.

RR: What about the long-haulers who will be suffering for a very long time?

KM: There needs to be a level of care here for the folks who are going to be suffering for a long time. The only answer that I can see for that is Medicare for All. If we do not pass universal healthcare for folks, where you don't have to worry about how you're going to be paying those bills, there's no answer...

[It's about] how our healthcare system is defined: its tied to your job. If you're [not] lucky enough to have a job that provides health care as an option... tough luck, you're paying for yourself on the exchange.

The way that we can support people, is pass Medicare for All and get that going immediately.

RR: The Human Rights Campaign has said that 2021 is on the cusp of surpassing 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in recent history. As an out Bisexual person, how can you help turn the tide if you're elected to Congress?

KM: It is terrifying. We have to pass the Equality Act...

[M]y focus will have to be on the most marginalized in our LGBTQIA+ community. So, Transgender people's right to exist free of discrimination in housing, employment, public spaces, and healthcare. It's bringing that lens to every part of these conversations that we're having in those spaces... Eliminating the unnecessary and discriminatory obstructions that are faced by Transgender people when seeking transition-related treatment, comprehensive health care — including gender-affirming surgeries, PrEP, hormone replacement therapy, mental health support, and surrogacy. We're not seeing the passionate urgent support in Congress or in the Senate of these policies...that will benefit our Trans community.

Then, it is also things like passing a federal ban... [on] the Trans "panic defense." I'm so glad we passed it here in Washington state, but that panic defense is used by folks who... are on a date with someone and... find out that they're Trans and... panic... so much that it leads to murder or an assault. That's a legitimate excuse in so many of our states... That is an excuse to have a charge dropped or to find someone not guilty. That is ridiculous. That is a federal policy that we can easily put in place. That is one of the first things I'll be fighting for in terms of public safety for our LGBTQIA+ community.

RR: Too many Transgender Americans have lost their lives due to violence. In 2020 alone, 44 Trans and gender-nonconforming individuals were murdered or shot. The numbers this year probably will be worse. What can be done at a federal level to reduce hate crimes, especially those committed against the Trans community. I think we both know Black, Indigenous, and people of color are already at even greater risk.

KM: I think a lot of it has to start with how these crimes are reported, because a lot of the time, that's where we're going to see the huge jumps as well, and not just in what was actually committed, but things that were committed even years prior when hate crimes weren't acknowledged. For a long time, there was no such thing as a hate crime against people in our community because... [we] were seen as divergent anyway.

So, it's going back through the records and looking at old evidence — like we do with our rape kits and, especially here in Washington state... looking back at old DNA evidence... that was collected from these crimes and saying... this person was Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, gender-nonconforming, [or] Lesbian, and making sure we actually get the numbers correct. If we don't have those, as horrible as this sounds, people in positions of power will not listen. They don't think that it's a huge problem. We need to show... it... really is.

I would also bring my activism hat. I'm a housing activist almost first and foremost. I am a Bisexual woman. I'm a mother. I'm a partner. I'm an employee and all these things, but having been through what I've been through, it's turned me into a housing activist. I would take that activism hat and put it on this as well — rallying folks to fight for recognition that crimes against our community are hate crimes and need to be treated as such at the federal level.... [having] federal dollars assigned to a federal LGBTQIA+ hate crime task force that is implemented and is accessible...to every state: that helps in discovering and investigating all of these crimes.

RR: As you may be aware, combat veterans have issues accessing the healthcare and resources they need once they return to civilian life. How can the federal government meet the needs of veterans where they're at and ensure that they have what they need to be?

KM: My husband is a combat veteran with severe PTSD. He has a nearly 100% disability rating. It means he's unable to work, and it's entirely connected to what he experienced overseas. This is something that I live with on a daily basis.

There have been some good steps taken... It used to be if you only had an honorable discharge that you were able to access a lot of the VA health benefits. Less than honorable was not considered okay. You didn't have access to full things. [Those with] dishonorable discharges also didn't have access. We need to make sure that we protect [those with] any level of discharge from the military, [so they] have access to the care that [they] need.

So many of our people in our own community and the LGBTQIA+ community had dishonorable discharges because they were found out to be Transgender while in the military or they were found out to be Queer while serving. That's just it. It's their sexual identity is what got them a dishonorable discharge.

Well, imagine the havoc that wreaks on your mental health as well, and now you don't have access to services. The other thing is that we need [is] — and something I will push for in Congress — we have to support the caregivers of these veterans — whatever that looks like. A lot of times, veterans do not present at the VA, or when they finally go, they don't present with their full range of symptoms because they are either... too proud...[or]...don't acknowledge that this is actually an issue... [T]hey don't want to cause trouble. They may not even notice the ways that their lives have changed, but those people around them who are caring for them do.

So, caregivers need compensation for their time that they are taking out of work. It's not always covered by the FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act]; especially if company isn't the right size, you don't reach that capacity to [be covered by the] FMLA.

These caregivers also need to have education on what to look for as well in veteran communities. Are you noticing someone exhibiting these signs? Suicide is the leading cause of death among American veterans. That is ridiculous. The 22-a-day statistic that came out years ago has increased. There are more than 22 veterans suicides a day. So, there are definitely tangible ways that we can help.

RR: The US is facing a crisis with transportation infrastructure. We not only have bridges that are falling apart across America, but we have greater demand to move cars through urban areas. What can be done on the federal level to address this matter?

KM: I think we have to invest in a just transition for labor unions. We're talking about needing to improve or replace... our infrastructure across the country. There are so many good union jobs that are in fields that are becoming more and more obsolete.

So, [about] coal miners and all of that. So, a transition from these jobs into jobs in the infrastructure world, passing things like a Green New Deal — especially that will create millions of unionized, good-paying, clean-energy jobs and revitalize our economy.

We need to transform our energy manufacturing and transportation infrastructure to be sustainable for the future health of our species and of our planet. Making repairs to aging infrastructure and increased oversight is also important so that all of us have access to clean air and clean water.

It's seeing all these things as interconnected, shooting for net-zero emissions in 10 years.

Again, I mentioned a just transition for folks in the coal mining industry, but also in the fracking industries.

It's also a thing about land sovereignty and tribal sovereignty [for] our Indigenous people... We can't talk about infrastructure and crisscrossing our nation without talking about reaching out to Indigenous communities for their free, prior, and informed consent in all decisions that affect tribal nations and their territories, and vowing never to repeat those destructive incidences, like the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

RR: You mentioned some of the displaced low-income workers. We obviously have a tech industry here, but unfortunately, many people find they can't get access to the skills they need to compete for those jobs. Furthermore, getting internet access has been a great burden for many Americans. So how can Congress address those issues?

KM: Something that I have direct experience with was as an apprenticeship services coordinator for the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Company about six years ago now... As we're talking about new jobs, apprenticeships are a way for you to learn on the job — and still make money — as opposed to just going back to school for a traditional nine-to-five job — which is fantastic, but not for everybody. Not everyone can afford to not get a paycheck while they're going to school. It's investing in apprenticeships in a variety of fields in manufacturing, in these Green New Deal carbon-neutral jobs.

If jobs are going away, it's beyond time for free college, free access to universities. We need to be making sure that we are producing on a global scale, and we're not able to do that if our people can't afford to pay for it.

RR: The Democrats hold a slim majority in both the House and Senate, and, obviously, you have a lot on your agenda. I viewed your website. I found a lot of your policies there. How would you fight for that agenda, even if it was a Republican-controlled House of Representatives?

KM: I would fight for this agenda the same way that I have fought for the working-families agenda here in Burien, on a divided council, for the last four years. That is through community organizing. It is making it impossible to say no to the communities that people represent. It is being willing to not just talk to the folks in my district but spread that message [among] fellow congresspeople in different states, working with fellow senators in different states. "Here are the same issues. You're on board already. How can we make this so it is an impossible movement to say no to?"

Grassroots organizing, I think, is something that we've moved away from a lot after the early-industrial era — once we won some union rights and bargaining rights and all of that — but that is where our power lies. That is a skill that I have that I will bring forward.

It's also saying I'm not going to talk with you about this bill that you're wanting to pass unless you are willing to talk and make concessions on these things. "These are non-negotiable items and I hope you enjoy not getting the vote of all these other congressional people too, because we are all in unity on this." ... It's pressuring congressional leadership. "We're not going to pass this budget unless it includes these items."

Making those statements and sticking to them and showing that we're serious, and being willing to be unpopular, being willing to be seen as that stubborn, is fine with me. As you mentioned earlier, I'm used to the attacks from the right. I'm used to the attacks from people saying that I'm too far left. Well, let's take that to Congress. That's the level of fight and determination that we need, that sense of urgency.

Even if we're in the minority, we will find a way to show that the majority of Americans — on either side of the aisle — support these policies because it's good for all of us.

RR: As the deputy mayor of the City of Burien, can you highlight maybe three of the issues where you feel you really made a difference to secure a victory?

KM: First one, right off the bat in 2018. I had just taken office, and [at] the Fox Cove Apartments — 36 units of the last truly affordable housing in Burien — all these people were being evicted right before the holidays. I was elected November of 2017 and took office in January of 2018. Right after, we had a huge influx of evictions come through. I met with people on the ground, brought the faith community, educators, students, union leaders, and activists all together. We educated ourselves on what tenant protections could look like in the City of Burien.

On October 10, 2019, I believe it was, we passed a full suite of tenant protections that included "a just-cause eviction" ordinance — only the second in the state — to say that you cannot be evicted for a list of reasons that previously were completely acceptable.

[We also passed] a first-last-and-deposit payment plan that was a requirement for people if they needed it when they're moving into new housing. Instead of having to pay $6,000 for a $2,000 [a month] house all upfront to move in — which is next to impossible for someone paying month-to-month rent — it's a payment plan that you can pay out over time to allow you to move into safe, healthy housing. So, tenant protections was a huge thing.

Recently, it was passing hazard pay. In the City of Burien, we passed a $5 an hour — the highest in the state — hazard pay for our grocery workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I led the charge on that on the council, with UFCW 21, working to make sure our ordinance was even stronger than the one passed in Seattle. We got sued, just like Seattle did, but we beat the lawsuit. That ordinance is still in place.

On Monday night, some folks tried to reverse it and we said, "No, we'll talk about it in September." That gives us some time to organize around this. So, that was huge as well.

[Also,] taking on public safety in Burien, no longer being content with the cycle of recidivism, where someone commits a low-level crime; is arrested, jailed, and released; and then commits another low-level crime. These... crimes of poverty... are happening in our city more than anything else. I campaigned [for] the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, and we got it passed in 2018. It was fully implemented in late 2019, early 2020.

So, it's reimagining how we're doing policing in our city. It's no longer showing up to a petty theft at a drug store theft and saying, "Okay, you're going to jail." Instead, it's, "Why did you steal this? What needs do you have that are not being met? Let's hook you up with a caseworker. Do you have housing? No. Okay. Let's look at getting you housing. What does that look like?" Getting them into coordinated entry... and... shifting the focus from a "commit and punish" to a "commit and address the root causes." Since then, we've gotten... over 14 people now, especially during COVID, off of the streets and into housing.

So, we're addressing those root causes and we're saying, "It's no longer necessary for you to be involved in the criminal justice world. Let's look instead at addressing those needs."

RR: I also wanted to ask a little bit about Seattle Out and Proud, an organization known as Seattle Pride. Can you describe for folks what it is that you do at Seattle Out and Proud?

KM: As the executive director there, we put on the Seattle Pride parade every year, right along Fourth Avenue from Westlake Park ending at Seattle Center...We also put on Seattle Pride in the Park two weeks before the festival. That's kind of where things had been up until 2019...

So... over the last, basically, two years that I've been in this role, since COVID hit, we've increased our programming 750%. We do a monthly Pride Speaks events where we're focusing on topics the last Wednesday of every month virtually, on a really cool platform called Hopin. It's free to everyone. All of our events are...

We're also a 501(c)(4) organization. So, we get to engage in advocacy. We get to make sure that we send out action alerts if something happens. Dori Monson put out a really transphobic tweet last year that was making Trans folks the butt of a joke, talking about going to Olympia to change your birth certificate and isn't that so super zany and crazy... That's not how you treat people. We sent emails out... and they started writing emails into KIRO Radio and to the Seahawks. We activated people and said, "You know what? This is not okay. We need him to step down off the air." He lost his spot on the Seahawks radio programming for the Seahawks games. [Editor's note: Monson returned to his KIRO radio show a few weeks after being suspended, and the Seahawks website lists him as a pregame-show host.]

So we use that power that we've built up. We use the money that we've brought in from our amazing corporate partners. We put on these free events for people so they can feel connected, especially during COVID, when we're all so separated.

RR: I think a lot of people don't know that also we're talking about 400,000 people downtown. We're talking about a budget over a million dollars. We're talking about a quarterly magazine. There's a lot that you oversee as the executive director of SOAP.

KM: There is definitely a whole lot that we do. We also do grants and sponsorships. We have a COVID-19 Emergency Fund that is $25,000. We did last year and this year, we maxed out both. We've given out over $190,000-something in the last four years in grants and sponsorships to other LGBTQIA+-serving organizations.

So we're taking money that we're getting from our corporate sponsorships, we're reinvesting in free programs, in grants, and supporting Queer-serving orgs and using that to amplify their messaging as well.

RR: What else would you like our readers to know?

KM: Circling back to what we talked about at the very beginning, it's one thing when there's an incumbent that is not horrible — but not horrible does not equal impactful. We need to have fresh leadership that reflects our communities. It is so important for people to not just vote but to donate, to volunteer, to talk and get engaged, to figure out what is important to themselves. "What does success look like for you? What does health look like for you? What does it look like for people that may not have the resources that you do?"

If you realize that the people that are representing you are not fighting for those things, you need to fight for the people that will. That is my biggest ask: that folks check out our website, KrystalMarx.com; follow us on social media or on every platform you can think of.

I'm really fighting to make sure that we're better represented, or represented with someone who knows what it's like to have to fight with urgency.