Submitted by John C. Alessio, Steilacoom.
I was amazed to see Steve O’Ban’s 6/14/20 op-ed extolling sympathies and concerns for Black people. I guess political opportunism has no limits for some. At a UP meeting last year, I watched local Black business people pleading with O’Ban to support Affirmative Action (I-1000), since their businesses are suffering at the hands of discrimination. He pretended to be sympathetic, and most people at the meeting seemed to think he would vote for the bill. He didn’t.
Not only did he vote against I-1000, he also voted against other bills that support people of color, like anti-discrimination legislation (SB-5165), and establishing an equity office (HB-1783). And what about the criminal justice system that we know has always heavily discriminated against Black people, and which we now know (thanks to DNA) has executed many innocent people? Who are the people most likely to be arrested, imprisoned, and put on death row? Of course, it is Black people. Over 40% of the people on death row are Black, and they are only 13.4% of the U.S. population. Yet, when faced with the opportunity to repeal the biased, cruel, discriminatory (not to mention expensive) death penalty, how did O’Ban vote? Yes, just this year, he voted to keep the death penalty (SB-5339).
In addition to voting directly against legislation that would support equal rights and justice for excluded groups of people, like African Americans and other people of color, his voting record shows a pattern of clear disregard, possibly contempt, for the plight of disadvantaged people. For example, he seemed to have no problem supporting regressive legislation, like the gas tax increase, that disproportionately hurts the disadvantaged (SB-5987), and yet he fought more progressive legislation that rightfully focuses on taxing big businesses and wealth (HB-2158, HB-2167, SB-5998, and others). He even voted against an affordable housing tax bill that would facilitate the construction of low-cost housing for disadvantaged people (HB-1590). As we know, people of color, including Black people, are disadvantaged through various forms of discrimination which impact on all aspects of life, including housing availability and affordability. So we must ask, how does the voting behavior of O’Ban help the Black people he refers to in his op-ed? It doesn’t. It hurts them. You had numerous chances to actually help Black people, Steve, why didn’t you act accordingly?
And there’s more. As we all should know by now, people of color are the most negatively impacted by pollution. What is O’Ban’s record in this critical area? Four times in 18 months O’Ban voted against the environment: 1) a bill to reduce gas emissions (HB-2311); 2) a bill to increase taxes on hazardous substances (SB-5993); 3) a bill to increase clean energy standards (SB-5116); and 4) a bill to improve standards for plastic bag use (SB-5323). It should not surprise anyone that O’Ban’s ratings from big businesses are generally over 90% and his rating from Washington Conservation voters is 29% (14% lifetime). Energy companies and other big businesses gratefully and generously support O’Ban financially.
Who suffers more from our greed-based for-profit healthcare system than people of color? O’Ban could have shown his concern for the plight of Black people by supporting measures to make healthcare more available to disadvantaged people. He didn’t. Apparently, the concern he expressed for Black people in his 6/14/20 op-ed was some sort of miraculous awakening – perhaps triggered by his re-election campaign. O’Ban voted against our public option healthcare program (SB-5526). He also voted against our long-term healthcare program (SB-1087), something disadvantaged people typically cannot even dream about. Perhaps the tens of thousands of dollars O’Ban received from insurance and health organizations had something to do with his decisions – or possibly it was the nearly $13,000 he received from pharmaceutical and health products organizations.
I’ve heard people say they vote for Steve O’Ban because he is a nice guy. Wouldn’t a nice guy work to pass laws that would help disadvantaged people, like the Black people he feigns concern about in his op-ed? Wouldn’t a nice guy want to help all disadvantaged people by making quality low-cost healthcare available to them? And wouldn’t a nice guy be concerned about passing a clean, healthy, sustainable environment on to all of our children and grandchildren? Steve O’Ban may very well be nice to some people, but he is not nice to the general public he pretends to represent. People reading O’Ban’s 6/14/20 op-ed are apparently supposed to think this is a guy that really cares about Black people. Are we really expected to believe that, knowing O’Ban’s voting record? Give me a break. We don’t need sappy patronizing verbiage. We need legislators who have the principles and courage to do the right thing.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.