This past election season has been like none that Burien City Council candidate Jimmy Matta has ever seen before. Speaking to NPI in the final hours before Election Day, Matta reflected on the ugliness that the community has endured in this autumn’s city council races, which have put Burien in the regional spotlight.
A series of incidents involving racially motivated attacks, a Facebook group called “Take Back Burien” that has become a platform for extremist rants, and the enabling actions of incumbent councilmembers (like Matta’s opponent Debi Wagner) were discussed in a September 6th article in The Stranger by Sydney Brownstone, which described the situation as “a microcosm of national politics”.
Two of Matta’s own family members have been victims of assault and harassment in the last month alone. Still, he remains convinced that the loudest voices capturing local headlines do not represent the majority in his hometown.
He is even able to find a silver lining in all of the ugliness, noting that the negative attention has drawn in a strong, fired-up volunteer force that understands the importance of shifting the power on Burien’s city council.
Matta could also become the city’s first ever Latino councilmember. If he wins, it would be a strong repudiation by the voters of the against the hateful rhetoric that has plagued City Hall in recent months.
Matta likes to lead by example, and says one reason he is running for city council is to plant the seed of participation in young people and others who may feel excluded by the political process. He has been involved in community organizations and a leader in his union since the beginning of his career. His children are already following in his footsteps.
His son was recently named a union delegate, and his daughter having become a student senator at Highline’s Aviation High School.
Voters have also been open to having candid conversations with him, he says, describing himself as a community-minded candidate. One memorable doorbelling experience he had this campaign began with distrustful and prejudice remarks but ended with tears, a hug, and a statement of support from the voter.
Matta hopes to help continue these conversations after taking office. He plans to work with the King County Sheriff’s Office (which contracts with the City of Burien for policing services) to participate in more open, community forums between deputies and citizens. He believes this greater investment in the community will establish more trust, respect, and understanding on both sides.
Who turns out to vote in this election will determine whether Burien is governed by by a reactionary, right wing gang or by a progressive majority.
Remember to return your ballots to a drop box by tomorrow (Tuesday, November 7th) or to a post office by the last outgoing mail collection time.