VIDEO: Seattle City Council District 1’s nine candidates share a stage for the first time

(WSB photo, from left – Phillip Tavel, Shannon Braddock, Jody Rushmer, Brianna Thomas, Karl Wirsing, Chas Redmond, Arturo Robles, Pavel Goberman, Lisa Herbold)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In the first-ever City Council District 1 (West Seattle/South Park) race, there’s been at least one candidates’ forum each month since February. The race has been fluid, and the participant lineup hasn’t been the same twice.

Tonight brought the first forum featuring all nine of the candidates that are in the running (as of the end of the official filing period last Friday).

About 60 people filled the seats in the Fellowship Hall at Fauntleroy UCC Church for the forum that the League of Women Voters of Seattle/King County co-presented with the Westside Interfaith Network; LWV’s Lucy Gaskill-Gaddis moderated, after an introduction by Boots Winterstein.

As we’ve done with all the previous forums, we recorded this one on video, and will add that here when it’s ready. (UPDATE – Here it is:)

Ahead, we did our best to summarize as it went:

First question: Why do you want to run, and what qualifications do you have?

Karl Wirsing, a Delridge resident who said this is his “first major campaign,” said he had long followed politics, and noticed patterns – people start with passion that “fizzles.” He said, “There’s a really fine line between being experienced and being entrenched – I’d rather … give everything I have and flame out, than tread water.”

Brianna Thomas said she is a housing/homelessness advocate who’s running because “my time in politics with the different campaigns I’ve been working on have led me to be a little impatient.” She said she’s lived all over District 1 – Admiral, Morgan, Alaska Junctions, and South Park. She said she “started out my political career in the State Senate and survived that” and then worked on campaigns including the SeaTac $15 campaign. She said she wants to “convince young women to be the voice that we made in government.”

Phillip Tavel said he’s running because he’s seen “so much potential … that’s gone unrealized … (and) a City Council that lacks leadership,” and is reactive instead of proactive. “We need people who are going to do more than that. … This is the first time in 100 years that we’ve gone back in districts, so we have the chance for a voice from West Seattle to represent West Seattle.” He touted his business background as well as his work as a public defender for the past decade. “It all adds up to the fact I’ve been involved in my career and I really want to serve you now.”

Jody Rushmer said he’s running because “our district has been underrepresented in city government for decades now.” He cited examples including the Move Seattle levy, which he said has too little for this area. “And I’m running to champion West Seattle/South Park schools … I want to make sure our children have the resources they need to be successful.” And he said the area needs partnerships – between community members, businesses, developments – “the horse has left the barn in terms of stopping development … I want to be sure we can build a coalition to build the West Seattle/South Park we want to live in in the future.”

Arturo Robles cited his qualifications as a background in city management and a rotation between types of city governments after graduation. “I’m hoping that experience will be good for me.” Why he’s running: He’s been unemployed, underemployed, uninsured at a hospital, so he knows what “an average person has to encounter”; also, he wants to see a discussion about education, possibly offering free community council so people can fill the tech jobs. He wants to see the Pre-K implementation go faster.

Chas Redmond noted his pre-Seattle background at NASA and said that since moving here, “for the last 12 years I’ve sort of been in everybody’s face here in West Seattle” – involved with parks, pedestrian advocacy, Sustainable West Seattle, the Tool Library, transportation planning, Morgan Community Association, the SW District Council, the City Neighborhood Council, “bringing citizens into government.” He said that’s all left him with an insight into what people troughout the city want, need, “what they think hasn’t been happening.” The city Department of Planning and Development “doesn’t listen to people,” he noted. He said that he’d be able to do even more than he has done as a volunteer.

Lisa Herbold said she’s running because the district “deserves a strong, progressive race” and she has a set of skills that make her “uniquely qualified,” after 16 years working with City Councilmember Nick Licata, following her start a quarter-century ago as a community organizer and then a tenant organization, “so I have a healthy appreciation” of the inside and outside perspectives. She said some call her an “insider” but “if being an insider means you know how to get things done, I’m an insider.” The city is growing fast and “I’m running because I want to cultivate jobs” that are good for the neighborhood, and she wants to work for affordable housing and policies ensuring Seattle is not just for the wealthy.

Pavel Goberman noted that he’s from the former USSR before coming here 36 years ago and has run for office to protect the Constitution. He said he has experience in solving problems and in a variety of areas of emphasis; he is concerned about government corruption and special interests.

Shannon Braddock said she’s running because she believes that government can partner with nonprofits, businesses, community members to get things to do. She noted her work as chief of staff for County Councilmember Joe McDermott and said she’d moved here more than 15 years ago because of the quality of life, but acknowledges that now growth is affecting the quality of life, and we need transportation solutions, as well as ways to make sure growth happens responsibly. She said that in her job she works with 9 councilmembers from diverse backgrounds and “we know how to pull people together,” getting budgets passed, among other accomplishments.

SECOND QUESTION: The Westside Interfaith Network is concerned about homelessness. What strategies would you propose for reducing the number of people experiencing it in Seattle?

RUSHMER: Seattle has the largest United Way in the USA, “and that’s helpful”; 6,000 low-income housing units have been built, “that’s helpful”; and he said that work continues on the plan to end homelessness. But that hasn’t reduced the number of those who are homeless, so he’d work with the Committee to End Homelessness “to build a next 10-year plan.” Another major initiative: Work with schools to get money through public and private partnerships “to build programs for our kids so in the future we don’t have to worry about them being homeless.”

ROBLES: Too many people are out on streetcorners having to ask for money, he said; he sees “promise in the linkage fee, which works in other cities.” He cited a $1400 average rent for this area and how minimum-wage workers can’t afford that; but, he said, many proposed solutions “ensure that we will always have a homeless population … we have a good number of shelters … maybe we need to think about converting some of them to permanent housing.”

REDMOND: “I think the solution is going to be a handful of different approaches” – the municipal-banking initiative would help, he thinks, and a conversion of older structures into public housing, as well as homeless encampments in accessible communities. The faith community could work with the city to acquire some properties, he thinks, and he would like to see DPD look at zoning – he mentioned accessory dwellings that could make more room and mean more income for homeowners, as well as co-housing, land trusts, home trusts, “a suite of solutions.”

HERBOLD: “The first thing we need to do is to accept the fact this is not purely a supply-side problem” – more supply won’t trickle down to those who need housing. Rent increases correlate to homelessness increasing, “so we need to start with a preservation strategy … identifying ways to preserve affordable housing,” plus laws that protect tenants “from arbitrary evictions.” She also called for a strategy re-upping the housing levy next year while realizing the taxpayer can’t do it all. And “raising the bar” for what it means to be a good developer is important, she said. For those sleeping on the streets, “shelters are full,” she said, and “those people can’t wait until we build (affordable) units, we need shelter now.”

GOBERMAN: He decried tax money being given to private companies but said he’d been ignored when trying to bring that to the attention of those in power.

BRADDOCK: (Editor’s note: Due to computer freezeup here, we missed part of the answer.) She talked about support for addiction treatment and said she has worked with the youth and young-adult homelessness initiative, and that working with LGBT youth is important given how many are part of the homeless population.

WIRSING: He said that addressing homelessness means thinking about more than the “home” itself – and that once someone is homeless, it’s important to think about how they got there and how they can get out of it. He said it’s “exasperating” to hear someone be asked, “Why don’t you just get a job?” given how difficult it is for most to get employed these days. He lauded Fare Start.

THOMAS: She spoke about the annual count and how it went up dramatically this year – 22 percent. She said she spoke to a group of international students today and they asked “Why do you HAVE homelessness – this is America?” “A matter of priorities,” she said. She talked about direct-service programs that the Church Council, a former employer of hers, had – “we need to make sure we’re creating programming to address all the needs” of homeless people – “primarily dignity.” She too talked about LGBT youth, who she said comprise 40 percent of the youth on the street. And she acknowledged that not all of Seattle’s homeless people are from here, so there has to be some “reciprocity” with communities whose homeless people end up here.

TAVEL: He said that some things that could be done include for example not putting people into encampments, but rather put people in an apartment and give them a social worker, which costs a city less money and gives the people “a starting place.” Also, he said mental-health and substance-abuse services need to be fixed; streamlining the Municipal Court system could mean money for that. “We have the resources, we have the willpower, we have the amazing organizations, if it’s a priority … get them off the street and you’ll have another 3,700 people who want to make Seattle better.”

Question #3 – Which issue(s) would be a priority for you as a City Councilmember?

HERBOLD: “Taking a stand for equity,” which she said could mean many things – infrastructure, responsible policing, development community paying its fair share, and more. She also mentioned transparent government and delivering results for West Seattle.

GOBERMAN: “First priority, create jobs.” He also wants to develop a “fish farm,” fight crime, toughen punishment, fix roads, improve discipline in schools, improve the transit system by using mini-buses to get riders to bus stops if they don’t live near a stop.

BRADDOCK: Housing affordability and homelessness prevention, support for children and families – she said the universal pre-K program pilot interests her – child-care resources for families at economic risk – transit/transportation, responsible growth, and making sure the neighborhoods, planning, and economic city teams can work together instead of in silos.

WIRSING: Smart growth and public transit, and fixing the fact that a single crash can “bring the whole city to its knees” – he mentioned the fish-truck crash on southbound Highway 99 several weeks ago. Also: “Aggressively preserving green spaces, parks, and undeveloped land, assuring Seattle’s place as a global environmental leader,” and helping small businesses.

THOMAS: “We’re all going to have to tackle the bridge because the bridge keeps tackling us,” she began. Also: Gender-pay equity and wage equity in general. “That doesn’t end at the city,” she said, urging a new paradigm about gender-pay equity “in the private sector.” She also mentioned predictive scheduling, and noted that minimum-wage workers aren’t kids, but that the average one is 36 years old. She also wants to “create trust with the police … get them out of their cars” and have them respond to crime the same way no matter where it happens.

TAVEL: He asked for a show of hands on whether Seattle is perfect and whether people are happy with the way West Seattle is changing. Nobody raised their hands. “We need to address these issues.” Not that development and growth are bad, he said, but people feel like they had no say in it, especially when it changes a neighborhood where you’ve lived for a very long time. Transportation issues also are important, he said, mentioning the latest bad news about the tunneling machine, and fixing transit – not just getting downtown, but getting across the city.

RUSHMER: He said he wants to focus on West Seattle issues first, including transit/transportation. He said he’s seen SDOT presentations recently at which all he’s heard is “removing parking, removing a lane on 35th,” and the levy, charging “to spend a billion dollars in other parts of the city.” He said he asked an official about that and was told that “West Seattle has to wait its turn.” Also, “we need to get some money in our public schools right now” – to make sure today’s kids are ready for good jobs in the future.

ROBLES: He mentioned reading “Age of Inequality.” He said the issues here are the same around the country, though Seattle has a “much more progressive type of attitude.” Education would be his priority, he said, going back to pre-K. He said his work in a mental-health facility that works “with substance disorders” leads him to want more emphasis on that. And, he said, transportation infrastructure is rotting – “at least here we are doing something about it.”

REDMOND: He observed that transportation, equity, and accountability seem to be everyone’s top issues. Especially the first – not just getting into and out of West Seattle, but getting around West Seattle. He mentioned the “failed intersection’ in Morgan Junction, and said he’s “been pushing back on SDOT in years.” He also mentioned drainage problems like The Junction’s back alley (west of the west side of California) “becom(ing) a lake” annually. For accountability, people need to be able to look at the city budget and know where the money’s going.

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS: These, read by Gaskill-Gaddis from index cards, were allotted 1-minute answers, after the first hour allowing 2-minute answers.

First one: How will you focus on citywide issues that aren’t just about West Seattle?

WIRSING: He said it’ll be easy because those issues will be important here too. Assertive representation is important.

THOMAS: Take a look at “what we understand to be best for the city as a whole” and then listen to what citizens think. She said West Seattleites aren’t shy about letting elected officials know when they’re not happy with them, so, they’ll watch whomever wins, closely.

TAVEL: You’re electing someone “who’s not going to back down, who’s going to be a loud, intelligent voice,” and if something is good for the rest of the city but not WS, it’ll be an 8-1 vote. “Our needs will be listened to.”

RUSHMER: He said he feels sad about “divisiveness in politics … it doesn’t seem we can agree on anything … everyone’s upset with each other.” He hopes to “build coalitions” if elected.

ROBLES: On some issues, such as homelessness, he said, it’s vital to “look at the entire city.” He said education “is a great equalizer.”

REDMOND: He talked about being on the City Neighborhood Council and working with “all 13 districts.” (Editor’s note: Those are not the same as the new City Council districts, but rather the divisions outlined by the city for district councils – West Seattle, for example, is split into “Southwest” and “Delridge.”) Many areas of the city have the same issues we do, he said. “The real issue is trying to distribute some of the assets” – getting more jobs here would solve some problems.

HERBOLD: She said she didn’t start thinking about running for council “until districts passed” and counts on voters “holding (her) accountable.” She said she “believes in squeaky-wheel governance” and agrees that many local issues “are also faced by other districts” and can be solved “together.”

GOBERMAN: He reiterated that he has a plan that he believes would “solve many problems.” He mentioned a few not-mentioned points such as reducing taxes, keeping the Senior Center of West Seattle open for four hours on Saturdays, and preventing nuclear war.

BRADDOCK: Collaboration is vital, she said, adding that building relationships is a big part of her County Council job, and would be big if she’s elected, and that would facilitate working with other councilmembers to be sure that their respective priorities don’t have unintended effects on other district.

Second audience question – Density. What would you do to deal with rising density in West Seattle?

RUSHMER: He talked about the creation of “urban villages” 20 years ago and it being said that infrastructure would be “thrown” at those areas. But it didn’t happen. “We’ve built a lovely urban village in The Junction but they haven’t given us any additional infrastructure.”

ROBLES: He wonders how apartment dwellers will “get in and out of here” and that the Planning Department needs to be worked with. “There needs to be a limit” to density, he said

REDMOND: The urban village area was effective where the city put money, he said, and The Junction was one of those, but the Monorail was being banked on and it didn’t happen, so he’d ask DPD to halt development until transportation needs caught up – including streets taken out of service for construction. Also, he said, what would it take to redo the entire zoning code?

HERBOLD: Development is the issue they hear about most, she said. If elected, she would: Look at passing developer impact fees, take a look at how development/density impacts displacement, and look at the 2010 policies that enable some urban-village construction without offstreet parking.

GOBERMAN: He said interest costs are a problem.

BRADDOCK: She encouraged people having input in the 2035 comprehensive plan, and said she agrees with looking at impact fees and reviewing the parking policy. She said she also supports the city Design Review policy, and reiterated wanting city departments to work together.

WIRSING: He said there are benefits from density, and parts of District 1 could benefit from having a walkable, slightly more dense neighborhood. He mentioned the Delridge development – almost all housing, not much business except for a few restaurants.

THOMAS: She mentioned living next to a construction site and saying there isn’t much construction going on for families, like 2-bedroom units. Those options are needed but not being built for – most of the building seems to be for young, single people “but at some point they might want to have a baby, and where are we going to put it?”

TAVEL: He said the effects of the thousands of apartments coming in need to be observed – “let’s see what happens to the parking, what happens to the traffic. … Let’s see what happens. A lot of people in the city would support more of this, they say people are coming in who don’t have cars … if that’s the case, let’s see what happens, and then see if we want more of it.”

Next audience question – taxes. How would you prioritize what goes on the ballot (levies, etc.)?

HERBOLD: A big transportation levy is coming up; “I do believe we need more than $930 million of investment but I believe (that levy) should be packaged differently.” She mentioned head tax and commercial parking tax as possibilities for adding to it, so it’s not just on the shoulders of individual taxpayers.

GOBERMAN: He wants to see sales and property taxes reduced.

BRADDOCK: The regressive state tax system has left cities in a situation like this, so she worries that taxpayers will say it’s too much, so accountability is called for. Other revenue sources should be looked at.

WIRSING: You can only squeeze your base so long before they will fold – even something you want will feel like too much, at some point. He said an income tax should be looked at.

THOMAS: She acknowledged levy fatigue and said she supports head taxes because employers should be “meaningfully reinvesting” in the infrastructure from which they are benefiting. She says the city is too hands-off with businesses.

TAVEL: He sees two problems with the way taxes “are done” locally – the regressive nature, and that “we seem to be levy-happy.” He’s a renter, he said, so it doesn’t seem to affect him much, but every time money is needed, “let’s just raise property taxes,” and “it adds up after a while.”

RUSHMER: He says he’s tired of hearing that a new levy is the solution to everything. “I think someone needs to dive into the budget and see where they’re spending the money we currently have … If elected, I’ll be the one diving into that budget.”

ROBLES: Local taxpayers “have shown great generosity,” he said, but “that piggybank has a limit. … I think we need to look at the federal level,” because dried-up federal funding has led to this situation, at least in part. He also suggested an income tax should be looked at.

REDMOND: His mortgage has gone up 33 percent in 12 years and he said there’s a limit at what he’d consider looking at levies for. “I also would like to take a look at what we could do with a municipal bank.” And he mentioned Local Improvement Districts for things like sidewalk repair.

And that was an hour and a half, so Gaskill-Gaddis called a halt and said the candidates and attendees would have half an hour to mingle.

Again, we’ll add the video when it’s ready, late tonight/early Tuesday. We’ll also be adding links to the candidates’ websites and to our coverage of previous forums.

(P.S. Any questions you want the candidates to answer, that didn’t get asked? Consider mentioning them in a comment!)

WHAT’S NEXT: Upcoming events in the race include the 34th District Democrats‘ endorsement meeting this Wednesday (May 20th) and the first candidates’ forum in South Park, a community-organized event called “South Park Shows Up” with promises of an interactive format, at 7 pm May 27th at the South Park Neighborhood Center. The primary election, to winnow the field to two, is August 4th.

11 Replies to "VIDEO: Seattle City Council District 1's nine candidates share a stage for the first time"

  • Kadoo May 19, 2015 (7:48 am)

    Thanks for the recap and video, TR. I was there and it’s good to be able to go over some points. You must have been across from me working hard on your laptop. Thanks for everything you do for West Seattle.

    • WSB May 19, 2015 (7:56 am)

      Thanks, co-publisher Patrick and I were in the front row, only good place to get video of a forum this size!

  • M May 19, 2015 (8:54 am)

    Great reporting WSB. Thank you!

    Hate to say it, but from the recap, Pavel probably has the best message.

    He’s getting my vote over the other moderate Sawants.

  • Pavel Goberman May 19, 2015 (12:41 pm)

    Thank You “M” for honesty and good comment about me.
    I’m running NOT for money (this job is so boring), but for to help this city and country because I do not see anyone better than me could do it. Voting for me you and others will help themselves, this city and country, for government By and For We the People. So many people died and are dying now not for this corrupted government and special interests.

    Pavel Goberman

  • Peter May 19, 2015 (4:04 pm)

    Their answers to the development question are frightening. Basically these people want to, in some way, slam the brakes on housing development, and/or start slapping more and more fees on housing development, and/or start requiring more and more parking for housing development, all of which will force housing costs to rise even higher and faster than they are now. Not a single one of these candidates is acceptable, and I’m not voting for any of them.

  • Dist May 19, 2015 (5:40 pm)

    How has Mr. Redmond been involved with parks?

  • Brian May 20, 2015 (8:06 am)

    Just in case no one clicked this link for Pavel… you really should. This is a pro-click:

  • Kadoo May 20, 2015 (9:14 am)

    Watch at least part of the video before you decide. Much clearer picture than summary alone. Last time I checked preventing nuclear war wasn’t within the purview of Seattle City Council.

  • Pavel Goberman May 20, 2015 (12:38 pm)

    On Comment by Kadoo: you are right – the brains of the current and future members of City Council should be concentrated not only how to buy elections, but also on the future of this country – be a part or a leader of to prevent nuclear war. Obama created a bad relation with Russia, and it is a part the USA has now some problem on the MiddleEast.
    City of Seattle must establish a Sisterhood with Moskow.

    Pavel Goberman

  • Pavel Goberman May 20, 2015 (1:09 pm)

    On Comment by Peter: you talking looks like you are from Developers or etc who got from City Council many millions taxpayers easy money on housing, paid themselves big money first, and built very expensive apartments, and afraid that this “sucking” taxpayers will stop and City Council will in charge of control of spending, and build much smaller and cheaper studios (2 or 3 studios instead of 1 expensive 1-bdr apartment).
    And: most homeless have no cars, and who want a parking lot – will pay extra.
    This City Council action will stop to waste taxpayers money and taxpayers will get small profit from this investment: from renting.

    Pavel Goberman

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