Opinion

Tacoma loyalty comes second to statewide prosperity

State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, addresses a news conference on July 31 following a caucus meeting and vote by Democrats choosing her as Washington state's next speaker of the House.
State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, addresses a news conference on July 31 following a caucus meeting and vote by Democrats choosing her as Washington state's next speaker of the House. AP

Re: “Jinkins needs to bring home bacon for 253,” (TNT editorial, 8/7).

I proudly represent Tacoma and always will. Yet as newly elected speaker of the House, my job is to help all of Washington state thrive and prosper.

It’s true that elected officials speak up for the needs of our districts. This means helping a constituent and sometimes helping build schools, non-profit buildings, roads and bridges. It’s part of the job.

What’s not part of the job is pitting one district against another. I don’t see politics as win-lose, where in order for Tacoma and Pierce County to benefit, other parts of the state have to suffer.

That’s not who we are, or who I am, and it’s not how a healthy democracy works.

Government isn’t a video game or a gang war. Our job as legislators is to make the whole state better, not just beef up our corner of it.

That’s the principled approach and the most practical approach.

Educating our children, making sure people have affordable health care, protecting the environment — all of those issues cross legislative boundaries.

Behavioral health and opioids? Housing affordability? Education? Transportation? Same. The big issues aren’t just big in impact; they’re big geographically. We can all play a role in resolving them.

Tacoma has distinctive issues, sure. But so do Battle Ground and Bellingham, Spokane and Seattle. Ultimately, we all breathe the same air and share the same waters.

That’s why we need to tackle Tacoma’s issues in the context of a broader strategy, as we listen to each other and work together. Because going it alone doesn’t work.

Our transportation system only functions because we don’t pick winners and losers based on politics, but on the needs of all the people of our state.

It may surprise people to learn that most of what happens in the state House and Senate is actually bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats listening to each other and working on legislation that helps the entire state.

Transportation is a perfect example. I’m proud of how my seatmate, Rep. Jake Fey of Tacoma, wrote a transportation budget that passed the House and Senate almost unanimously, with only two no votes out of 147 lawmakers.

That only happened because Democrats and Republicans in both chambers sat down from the start and listened to each other. We didn’t pile transportation projects in Democratic districts while ignoring Republican ones.

Our state is forever intertwined, and it’s our job to make sure the whole state is as healthy and prosperous as possible.

Now, we don’t always agree. Far from it. What matters, though, is that we can debate issues without losing respect for each other. To shake hands after a vote, win or lose, and work on the next issue to help our neighbors and friends back home.

So while I appreciate the good humor intended by the TNT’s editorial — especially the bit about my interest in eye-popping socks — it’s worth taking the time to be careful about how we talk about our democracy. Our words matter.

This is my word: As speaker, I believe the state comes first. Before hometown, before personal preference, before party.

Because we are all in this, together, and every family deserves a chance at living the American dream.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma (27th Legislative District) is the speaker-designate for the Washington State House of Representatives. Reach her by email at laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov

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