Chanjolee Bushnell, who goes by Joe Bushnell, is running for Tacoma City Council District 5 seat, which serves the South Tacoma and South End neighborhoods.
The seat is currently held by Council member Chris Beale, who is not seeking re-election.
Bushnell, 31, was born and raised in Tacoma, graduating from Stadium High School. He spent about a decade in the Marine Corps after enrolling in 2008. Bushnell is half-Cambodian, and his mother came from Cambodia to the United States as a refugee.
Currently, Bushnell works as the local government affairs coordinator for the Washington Hospitality Association. He’s also a Tacoma Public Utilities board member, a staff member in the Washington State Senate and board chair of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council.
Bushnell said he wants to run for office to help tackle issues facing working families and to help rebuild the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted small businesses across the city.
Two of the biggest issues that Tacoma faces, Bushnell said, are homelessness and lack of housing.
“A lot of young folks my age are trying to purchase their first home, start their own family,” he said. “It’s extremely cost prohibitive.”
Bushnell said he supports increasing density citywide and up-zoning in places where it’s appropriate, like business districts and transit corridors. Bushnell said he supports the city’s Home in Tacoma project, which seeks to rezone Tacoma’s residential areas to allow for more development flexibility.
Bushnell feels homelessness is a regional problem and that Tacoma has taken on the burden of services for too long. He said he’s happy to see that the Pierce County Council is invested in addressing the issue.
“When it comes to more funding, we definitely need to lean on the county, we need to lean on our federal partners and state partners to help bring more money into our community,” he said. “It’s Tacoma’s job to lay the groundwork for positive change and then leverage our dollars.”
Bushnell advocates for a “Housing First” strategy that gets people off the streets and into services, whether that’s shelters, tiny homes or purchasing hotels for people to live.
In South Tacoma and South End neighborhoods, Bushnell said there’s also a feeling of neglect in terms of investment from the city, and worry about the crime rate.
When asked about the city’s efforts in police reform, Bushnell said the current system of policing isn’t working, saying that even those who are against defunding the police feel they don’t always respond to calls. He supports looking at how the city can better prioritize its spending on public safety.
“There’s clearly some sort of disconnect there,” he said. “I’m not supportive of a blanket 50 percent reduction in the police funding — to me that’s irresponsible. We have to make sure that we’re prioritizing our values.”
Bushnell supports looking at ways to send the right people to the right calls, such as mental health experts to a mental health crisis, rather than armed police officers. Bushnell also suggested looking at expanding the city’s Community Liaison Officer Program, where officers have more time to foster community relationships.
As a veteran, he said he feels an affinity with police in terms of trauma they might be dealing with in their work. At the same time, he expects the best.
“I look at my training with the Marine Corps: They always told us, ‘We expect the best out of you at all times, 24/7. And so that’s what I expect out of my officers as well in Tacoma — I expect the best out of them 24/7, when they’re on duty or off duty.”
When asked about the City Council’s efforts in regulating use of fossil fuels in the Port of Tacoma, Bushnell said he thinks the non-interim regulations that tightened restrictions on fossil fuel companies should have been approved.
“Our businesses down there need certainty, our community needs certainty. The wishy-washy back and forth is not good business and it’s not good for the community. We need some clear direction and to commit,” he said. “A lot of folks in the business community are fearful of them because they feel it’s gonna stifle economic growth and jobs, but for me, for every door that closes there a door opens, and so there’s opportunities that are still available.”
Bushnell has raised more than $13,700 for his campaign so far. His top contributors are company Schnitzer Steel Industries ($2,000) and individuals Anders Ibsen, Joe Bushnell and Edie Bushnell ($1,000 each).