Here is the text of James Donaldson's District 7 council race announcement as received May 15:
SEATTLE, WA. Pledging to build bridges and tear down walls, small businessman, 20-year pro-basketball player, humanitarian and inspirational speaker James Donaldson today enters the race for Seattle City Council, District 7. Donaldson, an Air Force brat whose father was a tech sergeant, was born in England and raised in Sacramento California. Donaldson has lived in six countries across three continents, and speaks five languages.
Donaldson is frank about Seattle’s challenges. “How can a city, a region, which birthed so many of the greatest innovations, the most ground-breaking discoveries, and some of the globes largest companies, have so many problems with basic issues?” he asks. “We have the nation’s third-largest population of people experiencing homelessness; about 1% of Seattle residents. We continue to second- and third-guess transit investments, killing projects, slowing projects, and being afraid of new projects, because of costs, without looking at the long term economic, climactic and health benefits of reducing cars. We have growing inequity and unaffordability for those with low and moderate income, living under the most unfair tax system in America, and our City Council leadership keeps making it worse. I want to change all that and more.”
“I have lived around the world, in cities millennia old that have found solutions that seem to put Seattle leaders in the fetal position. I’ve learned a few things, and I’m not afraid to use my personal, deeply painful experiences and apply my life lessons,” Donaldson says. “I have been open, honest and completely transparent throughout my life; our civic government has not. I want to change that and more.”
“One of my top goals is to upend the way we approach homelessness. We must face the fact that half of those experiencing homelessness self-identify as having a disability. 66% of those have two or more disabilities. And yet we are not adequately addressing these many varying disabilities,” Donaldson notes. “Far too many people on our streets suffer mental illness, or other disabling conditions brought on by trauma. Homelessness itself is traumatic, and people have turned to drugs to self-medicate, and become addicted. But Seattle doesn’t just enable drug addiction, it facilitates it. We need triage, more Mobile Crisis Response Services, and more supported living residences. We cannot criminalize mental illness.”
Donaldson has taken on mental illness and suicide prevention as his career in recent years. “Many people might look at me and say, ‘James Donaldson has it all.’ Well, the truth is that I almost ended it all,” confesses Donaldson. “I nearly lost it all. I was in a coma and in the ICU for months following a near fatal aortic dissection (less than a 5% survival rate). I had to close my business, my family left me, and, despite the NBA Players’ Union Cadillac-level health plan, have several hundred thousand dollars in out-of-pocket medical costs. For a long time, suicide was not far from my mind.
“Despite my history, my education, my life, I was willing to give up on life,” James says. “I’ve been there, and I know the level of support it takes to make one willing to not give up. I know it takes work, patience, and prodding. Because when you are sick, you cannot always make the best decisions on your own. Life doesn’t have to fade to black. We can turn the page on our policies. We must.”
Donaldson is calling for an Aging and Disability Justice Initiative, based upon Seattle’s successful Race and Social Justice Initiative, to change the way the City works with these constituencies.
Donaldson believes that if we are going to build bridges, we should invest in bridge design that protects pedestrians and bicyclists, and provides the structure to absorb the requirements of future rail lines. “Super-size cruise ships are coming to District 7 this year, currently generating more than $16 million in tax revenue. And yet the cruise ship terminals have very limited transit,” Donaldson points out. “If we can get tourists downtown and to other attractions, those tourists’ spending will help fund better transit investments, transit that directly benefits our residents. This is just one simple idea; one of many, that shift the infrastructure investment from the backs off low and moderate income residents.”
About James Donaldson
40 years ago next month, Washington State University star Center James Donaldson was drafted by the NBA Champion Seattle Supersonics. Using his first paycheck, Donaldson purchased a home in Magnolia, a neighborhood that had covenants against African American residents . James lives in the same house he purchased in 1981 .
James started Donaldson Fitness and Physical Therapy midway through his NBA career (1989) after a career threatening knee injury and operated three clinics for more than 20 years.
He has been involved in community work since his earliest days as a Seattle Sonic. He has been especially engaged in under-served and neglected communities, such as Seattle’s Central Area and the Hill Top area in Tacoma. He volunteers in education programs, regularly tutors young children, is a strong advocate for Women and Minority owned business development and is active in the Chamber of Commerce promoting programs that help small businesses survive and thrive. He is also a motivational speaker, often being asked to speak to younger audiences in disadvantaged communities. Among his many roles, James is active in Mount Zion Church, is a Board member of the Greater Seattle, South Snohomish and the Tacoma Chambers of Commerce, is an Executive member of the Washington State Mentors, is a loyal WSU Cougar and as a dog owner is active in the Humane Society.
A business consultant and partner with several entities in China including Tsinghua University, the China Service Centre for Friendship and Cooperation and several others, where Donaldson focused on preparing students for educational, sports, cultural exchange and study abroad experiences in the USA.
He also is CEO of a startup business called Athletes Playbook, a mentorship program made up of veteran athletes helping younger ones. His other passion project, Your Gift of Life Foundation, addresses mental illness and suicide prevention. He is also a Board Member of National Basketball Retired Players Association.
Donaldson, a high school scholar who did not begin playing basketball until his senior year, has long worked with organizations promoting higher education, including the College Success Foundation.