Lorena Gonzalez has been sworn in as Seattle's first Latina Councilmember. Her ceremony Tuesday begins a transition that will leave City Council looking younger, more diverse and more female, following the November Election.
The new Seattle Council, made up of seven district seats and two at large seats, will mark the first female majority council since 1998.
"That's going to be a huge step forward in making sure we pass things like paid parental leave and pay data transparency and other family friendly, women friendly policies," Gonzalez told KING 5 Tuesday.
Gonazelez, a former Mayoral advisor, made headlines as the civil rights attorney who sued the Seattle Police Department in an alleged police brutality case in which Officer Shandy Cobane threatened to beat the "Mexican piss," out of a a Latino man in 2010. It was one of the cases which prompted the DOJ to review practices within the SPD.
"I pledge I will do what I've always done: represent the unrepresented," Gonzalez said in a speech after she took the oath of office. She talked about her background as the daughter of migrant farm workers shaping her commitment today to help those living "in the shadows."
"I am the proud child of immigrants," she told the crowd at Council Chambers on Tuesday evening.
Gonzalez lists affordability, improved policing strategies and addressing social inequities as top priorities, once seated on Council.
When asked how she will fit into a council, at times divided among different factions and personalities, Gonzalez said "I'm going to vote with my principles and my values."
"I'm going to vote based on my progressive values, and I'm going to do so in a way where I am hopefully being able to create coalitions and provide leadership on some difficult issues," Gonzalez continued.
Gonzalez will serve one of the two at-large seats. She was sworn-in earlier than the other new councilmembers, since she's filling the seat held temporarily by outgoing Councilmember John Okamoto.
"I'm content that this is my last day. I feel like I've added value and contributed to the work of the council and governance in the city," said Okamoto.
Okamoto was appointed earlier in the year to fill the remainder of former Councilmember Sally Clark's term. He spent seven months on council, a period filled with big votes and decisions on addressing homelessness and housing affordability.
"There are just really difficult decisions that the city is grappling with right now and a lot of passion and energy not only by constituents but by elected officials in trying to figure out the way to resolve some of those difficult issues," said Okamoto.
He anticipates the debate over the HALA recommendation of "upzoning "will be one of the biggest challenges for the incoming council.
"My advice to them will be work hard to develop relationships with each other," he said.
"There are different personalities on this council, as there are with any elected body. One in particular is very passionate about her viewpoints and her philosophies and ideology," Okamoto said referring to firebrand Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
"That does create some difficulties, at times, in really working together to find where there's common interest," reflected Okamoto. "There's a lot of labeling and messaging and political theatrics that gets in the way of making good policy."
The rest of the four new councilmembers will have their ceremonial swearing-in on January 4th, the same day as their first official council meeting.
During that first meeting, the new council will vote on the next Council President, as well as committee assignments.