Transcript: When your living room becomes City Hall
Video link: https://crosscut.com/video/new-normal/when-your-living-room-becomes-city-hall
Varisha Khan: We're in the middle of something that the whole world is experiencing at once.
Varisha Khan: That our entire country is experiencing at once. It's like a collective trauma.
Varisha Khan: What I've personally been dealing with as a council member, just feeling the sense of helplessness and powerlessness.
Varisha Khan: Virtual Seder? Dude, we're going to have virtual Eid at this rate. Ramadan is in, what, two weeks?
Varisha Khan: I would say that the hardest part has been — there's been this kind of weird emotional effect and mental health effects that happened because of this.
Varisha Khan: And for a lot of people who require outlets that they're not able to access right now, whether that's a therapist or whether that's being able to go outside,
Varisha Khan: or whatever their outlets can be that they can't access, I really feel for them right now because it's difficult.
Varisha Khan: My parents, they're not in the senior age yet, but definitely want to make sure that they're staying healthy. They do have their own health concerns and health issues and those things don't stop even during a pandemic.
Varisha Khan: So just been here to monitor my parents' health and let them go to their doctor's appointments to get checked and all of that while I get to stay at home and be with my sisters and make sure they're taken care of.
Varisha Khan: And me and my husband get to be this moral support for them and just be supportive and keep everyone's spirits up.
Varisha Khan: It's dinnertime! Featuring Anderson Cooper, as usual.
Varisha Khan: And what's for dinner?
Family members: Stir fry! Woo-hoo!
Varisha Khan: You know, I got elected in November. I started my term in January. I mean it's only been three months (laughs), right?
Varisha Khan: The first two or three weeks especially, it was hard for me to feel like I can do something about it.
Varisha Khan: Feeling like I can do something about a situation gives me a sense of purpose, and so I kind of felt like I lost that sense of purpose for a little bit.
Varisha Khan: Feeling like, OK, well now I can't go to council meetings. I can't create legislation to support my community right now, I can't go talk to people right now.
Varisha Khan: And also because City Hall closed due to positive tested cases, so we haven't been going to city council meetings in person. We finally started having virtual meetings as of about two weeks, a week-and-a-half ago.
Varisha Khan: Hi, hope you're doing well. This is Varisha Khan.
Varisha Khan: You know, it really took a while for it, and a lot of council members just kind of kept asking, “Well, what's our job right now? What are we expected to do?”
Varisha Khan: And I think even a lot of staff were trying to figure that out.
Varisha Khan: So a couple weeks ago the mayor was like, “Well, you know, you can make sure you're staying home, staying safe and direct people to the website, kind of be this informational body,” and we're like, “Well, we don't think that's really all that we can do.”
Varisha Khan: So we've been kind of figuring out our policymaking roles, our, just in general, legislative roles.
Varisha Khan: Here it is! This is a workspace.
Varisha Khan: So, as you can see, two computers that I've been working on, my city computer, my personal computer. Two notebooks, my city phone, right there.
Varisha Khan: Once I finally got myself in a place where I felt like I can go do some homework, go get those answers, go figure out how we're supposed to function right now,
Varisha Khan: I realized that I do have a lot more power than I thought. And by me having that power to make policies to support our community, I'm bringing that agency back to the community.
Mayor Angela Birney: Next, we have another new business item, to approve an emergency proclamation imposing a moratorium on late fees and charges for delinquent rent payments and taking additional actions to assist the Redmond community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Varisha Khan: I drafted a moratorium a few weeks ago on evictions, rental evictions, basically supporting whatever the governor has passed.
Varisha Khan: And then also to add on to that late fees, it's a moratorium on late fees, for rent, as well as for utilities.
Varisha Khan: Khan, very much aye.
Steve Fields: Fields, aye.
Jessica Forsythe: Forsythe, aye.
Jeralee Anderson: Anderson, aye.
Mayor Angela Birney: Excellent! And that passes 7 to 0, and so your council has just now passed this emergency proclamation and that will go into effect now, and we will do our part as the city to make sure that information gets out to everywhere it needs to.
Mayor Angela Birney: Thank you all of you for your hard work on this. It's been a really challenging time for everyone, so I really appreciate that.
Varisha Khan: So, you know, it took long enough, but finally we were able to get that passed and I'm like, I feel so grateful and I feel so blessed to be in this position where I can help the community, because I don't know, I mean the reality is if I did not propose the legislation that I proposed, the moratorium, the evictions moratorium and rental assistance, I don't know who would have.
Varisha Khan: That went right through your fingers!
Varisha Khan: And I would say that's even apart from being an elected official, because just as an individual, as a human being right now, you just feel like oh, my God, everyone's suffering and struggling around me, the people closest to me are struggling right now.
Varisha Khan: You just feel like your hands are tied.
Varisha Khan: So I kind of had to find ways to kind of self-soothe.
Varisha Khan: This is a time where privilege matters.
Varisha Khan: I really hope that everyone who is in a position of privilege and has opportunities or has security realizes that they're in a very special place right now. They're lucky.
Varisha Khan: No one is entitled to privilege. No one is entitled to success. No one is entitled to wealth.
Varisha Khan: And for us all to be able to use our privilege, our capabilities and what's within our reach to help others.
That's in! That's in!