QUESTION FOR DISTRICT 1 CANDIDATES: Annex White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline, or not?

(Looking southward over the heart of White Center. Photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, as reported here Monday, the issue of White Center/North Highline annexation comes up for another briefing before the City Council’s Education and Governance Committee. Last December, that committee voted to take a step that it stressed just kept the city’s options open for potentially seeking an annexation vote in time to use a state tax credit considered vital for covering some of the costs. Now, another step has to be taken to keep that option open, councilmembers will be told tomorrow. But another vote would be required to actually pursue a vote by residents of the potential annexation area, and if that vote happens, it might not be until after the November election. As a prelude to tomorrow’s briefing – we asked the nine candidates for City Council District 1 (West Seattle/South Park) whether, and why, they do or do not support annexing WC/NH. We sent the questions to their official e-mail addresses just before noon Monday, with a deadline of midnight. Seven candidates replied; we’ve published their responses in the order received and as received, unedited:


First would favor for the voters to have the option to express in voting what is their choice.

I will tell you that this is not a hard issue for me to give you my take.

I have always believed that there are far too many government subdivisions in most metro areas and that does not make for an efficient government and taxing system. We would realize efficiencies by consolidating the many functions of the local government into one.

Many jurisdictions around the country are even discussing the consolidation of services between the local county and city governments to realize some economies of scale. These are jurisdictions that are having budget problems and these measures are seen as responses to save while keeping governments effective and efficient.


You asked not good question.

In this case it does NOT matter what I think: I must act what the most of We the People, for theirs benefits will say me to do.


As long as it makes financial sense, Seattle should annex White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline. Currently, the costs of providing services to the area are greater than the revenue the area will generate. Further, annexation will bring with it substantial capital costs. If we annex the area, we have to take care of it, invest in its infrastructure and economic development. White Center cannot remain unincorporated for much longer. King County has no interest in continuing to pay for the area and the State’s Growth Management Act requires that some city or other annex it. Still, we should make sure the time is right and that we don’t take a significant loss on the deal. We need to work with King County to get the State Legislature to increase the tax incentive available to Seattle to offset the costs of annexation.


I support the annexation of White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline to Seattle. Seattle and White Center are linked in people’s daily lives–many of us dine, repair cars, go to McLendon’s, etc. in White Center. I am all too aware of the fact that the County is constrained when it comes to revenue options and has been forced to reduce services that people in White Center need – roads, parks, human services, and public safety. The county simply is not set up under state law and our tax structure to serve urban unincorporated areas. Cities can fund services with a balance of sales taxes, property taxes, B&O taxes, and utility taxes. Counties can’t levy the last two and tend to have weaker revenues from sales and property taxes due to the lack of major tax generators in unincorporated areas. A significant portion of White Center is in the city and it makes it difficult to do strategic urban planning for the area with split jurisdiction. White Center is already a vibrant business district with over 300 businesses, but could benefit from the planning expertise and business assistance that the city provides – the city has many programs the county can’t afford to assist businesses, provide human services, fund parks, and improve roads. West Seattle, South Park, and White Center would have a larger voice working together on issues such as environmental justice, food deserts and improving public safety and community policing. It is a big undertaking and I would ensure an open dialogue and outreach on all the issues related to annexation. Ultimately, I believe it is an issue of equity and worth the investment. A vibrant and diverse White Center belongs in the city of Seattle and will make both White Center and Seattle stronger together.


I am personally in favor of annexation. I live along the Delridge corridor, and so much of the political boundary separating White Center and unincorporated North Highline feels arbitrary, an imaginary line separating neighbors and similar neighborhoods. So I think it makes a lot of sense culturally and geographically. That said, annexation must also include full integration. It’s one thing to move a boundary line, but we can’t make this decision unless we commit to making these residents full-fledged, equal citizens of Seattle—entitled to the same services and consideration as the rest of the city, and not treated as a bonus property tax base with little power or voice.


I support the annexation of White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline. Annexations are always complex issues, often with intense emotions on both sides.

My reason for supporting this annexation is quite simple. Safety and Support.

The unincorporated area operates under a different set of rules which allows for unlawful activity on one side to slip across to the other side and be gone. The border between Seattle and White Center is a permeable one, where unlawful activity can cross a jurisdiction line and disappear. Development permits, licensing of liquor and marijuana establishments and even investments such as street lights, signage, social services, and police presence, all impact the behavior one experiences. Bringing White Center into Seattle will put everyone and every business under the same rules with a unified vision of safety.

There is also a significant tax base in the area that I fully expect to grow over time which will support these additional services.

The eastern area of North Highline provides another location for investment and development. With vision and a DPD willing to work to lure firms with larger numbers of employees, we could develop new jobs in the North Highline area. Imagine living and working without leaving the peninsula. Incorporating White Center into Seattle also brings some very well developed parks and open space areas, sorely needed in a growing city.

Therefore, it is in Seattle’s interest to bring developed areas right on our border under the same jurisdiction. Fortunately, I also believe annexation is good for the residents of these communities. We would be bringing greater control over crime and the umbrella of city services Seattle would provide gives greater stability to everyone that might be struggling. Seattle’s minimum wage rules also will help all employees in the White Center and North Highline areas.

Annexation should not occur without the approval of the residents. However, once our White Center and North Highline neighbors are offered the many benefits Seattle can provide, I am confident they will support joining our city.


It is not a simple issue. Supporters refer to annexation as a social justice issue. I agree; it absolutely is a social justice issue. If I was certain that Seattle could actually deliver on the promise of addressing the needs of the potential annexation areas, I would also agree that it was Seattle’s responsibility to annex these areas to address those needs. Yet, the challenge is that I am not certain Seattle could deliver on such a promise.

We have a long list of needs in existing Seattle neighborhoods and we already know that revenue generated by annexing North Highline & White Center is not sufficient to fund needed services and our attempt to do so might only further delay our ability to address the pressing demands of our existing underserved Seattle communities.

If voters approved annexation I would want to consider that position seriously. In addition, if we received additional revenue from the State sufficient to fund the services needed by a newly annexed North Highline and White Center, I would similarly reconsider.

I’m very sympathetic to the needs of these areas, but I believe that the needs of our existing Seattle neighborhoods are the first responsibility of our elected officials.

To date, we have not heard from Jody Rushmer and Phillip Tavel. Thanks to the candidates who did reply!

Your next chance to see and compare them side-by-side is Monday night, June 8th, 7 pm, at the Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council‘s forum in the Pathfinder K-8 cafeteria (1901 SW Genesee).

The primary election to shorten the list of contenders to two is on August 4th; you’ll get your ballot in mid-July.

24 Replies to "QUESTION FOR DISTRICT 1 CANDIDATES: Annex White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline, or not?"

  • Ray June 2, 2015 (11:32 pm)

    Only a few of those responses actually understand the issue well, with Lisa H. stating it rather succinctly. Seattle cannot afford to annex WC/N HL without 1) more tax credits from the state, in which case ALL of the state will be subsidizing this; AND 2) causing more fiscal problems for the ENTIRE city, especially to the city’s current residents. The ONLY way this will get done is to raise taxes in the city to cover this and to take state-wide taxes from everyone to pay for this to benefit “Seattle” only, as is often the case.

    Yes, I know that something has to be done with WC/N HL, but too many Seattle people are uninformed about the costs and impact of this and act way too smug as if they are doing us a favor….

  • Ivan June 2, 2015 (11:53 pm)

    District 1 voters should be very wary of candidates who, in the words of an old Southerner I used to work with, “write checks with their mouths that their a##es can’t cash.” I see a lot of aspirational statements in these answers, which sound noble and express a lot of lofty sentiments, but only Lisa Herbold understands that a Seattle City Council member had better be looking out for Seattle and its communities first. None of these others have been working with Seattle budgets for 17 years, like Lisa has. These answers demonstrate why she is the clear choice in this race.

  • Ron Swanson June 3, 2015 (1:04 am)

    There you have it, exactly why I’m *not* voting for Lisa “licata” Herbold. So little vision. So much Seattle process nonsense. Let’s hold out for a hypothetical better funding deal from a senior government! Fix other problems first! That kind of thinking is what sent our subway money to Atlanta in the 60s. Vote (just about) anybody else.

  • excuse me June 3, 2015 (6:13 am)

    I disagree Ivan. By the way, I might point out that you are not a Seattle resident and you seem to be somewhat confused about why anybody should listen to you.

    This is the issue which I will not vote for Lisa Herbold. It’s unfortunate, but it is a deal breaker that the scope of Lisa Herbold’s compassion stops exactly less than one mile from her home in Highland Park. She has narrowed her scope of effectiveness to affordable housing. We need far more vision and daring.

    The city of Seattle is entering upon an unprecedented era of prosperity. There will be more funds to work with if properly managed. But Ivan’s fearmongering about inability to afford annexation is a last ditch effort to avoid growth and development of a neighborhood he does not even live in! We DO live here and what WE want, collectively, for our hood should most definitely not be guided by Vashon Island outsiders like Ivan.

    I would suggest that another candidate who possesses a Public Administration degree or a law degree would be, arguably, more suitable to address the tough problems that Lisa’s former boss Licata, and Lisa herself as part of his team, could not grasp to solve.

    This is a new reality: we are a rich city and we will have the funds to assist White Center/North Highline as our own. It is a social justice issue. I cannot comprehend how anybody in good conscience could deny this and turn their back on the White Center people who are their neighbors. But Lisa Herbold has chosen to do that.

  • Nicholas June 3, 2015 (6:34 am)

    Wow, Lisa H would “consider that position seriously”? Bold!

  • Pete June 3, 2015 (7:57 am)

    I think one of the main issues here is how will this impact the citizens that live in these areas. Of course there are benefits and challenges for Seattle. But what about the folks that actually live in south Delridge, White Center & Highline that will be impacted by this move. Will it improve their lives? It will in the form of increased services that King County is not able to provide. Will it cost them more. Of course it will because their property taxes are going to go up. But overall I think 10, 15 or 20 years down the road it will have been a great decision for all involved to move forward with annexation. The unincorporated area will benefit the many increased services that they will receive. The greater Seattle community will benefit from the rich diversity and the untapped resources that reside in our neighbors to the south. But ultimately the decision is theirs to make.

  • Ivan June 3, 2015 (8:10 am)

    Thanks for the kind words, “excuse me.” But the facts remain. Seattle will be electing 7 of the 9 City Council members by districts. Enough voters in these districts will demand that their Council members look after their own communities first. Any annexation moves by the Council will, and should, attract a lot of scrutiny. The last time this issue came before the Seattle City Council, only the now-departed Richard Conlin was for it.

    Furthermore, to accuse Nick and Lisa of a lack of social conscience is so demonstrably ridiculous that I’ll just leave it out there for the world to see, and sign off.

  • CanDo June 3, 2015 (8:51 am)

    Who cares what these politicians support and want in terms of annexation for the City of Seattle? What do the people who live in those unincorporated areas want from Seattle? That’s the question that should be asked and answered by the residents and if the residents don’t want anything from Seattle, Seattle should leave them alone and work on its own issues.

  • forgotmyname June 3, 2015 (8:58 am)

    Pointless posturing all around. The choice has already been made – a “vote” is just an empty gesture. The one choice we made at the polls was “don’t incorporate”, which isn’t an option anymore. We will be part of an incorporated city, either an existing one (Seattle, Burien) or a new one (our own, w/ Highline). The cost to WC residents to incorporate would be enormously high. Not worth it. And we already told Burien no. So that leaves Seattle. Which is the best option for WC. That’s the only question left: NOT ‘what do you want?’, but ‘which of these options do you want?’……And to the whiners with your mythical “wah, Seattle taxes are too high” BS – the property tax rate is the same and the sales tax difference of a penny per dollar matters little as we still have to shop outside WC. Special levy taxes are the only difference, and at least we’d get to vote on those.

  • JP June 3, 2015 (9:17 am)

    This Annexation will mean Gentrification.
    Where will the people who cannot afford these raised property taxes go? Look what is happening in the junction area…the north end of W.S., In less than 10 years will be inhabited only by those making 200k+.

  • The Last Unicorn June 3, 2015 (9:22 am)

    Excellent points, Chas Redmond!

    Delridge sees these neighbors constantly, and working together with White Center, it could be a win-win for everyone, if done with some listening and collaboration. White Center has just as much to lose by coming under the protective services of Seattle, a point which is not lost on the people.

    My question, what sort of support are you, as candidates, planning on giving to WC/NH in the event that annexation happens? How will it differ from the rest of WS?

  • dsa June 3, 2015 (9:29 am)

    I like Lisa’s answer. She might get my vote.

  • excuse me June 3, 2015 (9:32 am)

    Nowhere did I say “Nick and Lisa” had a lack of social conscience.Lisa is standing alone and on her own and in that stance she says no to White Center.Lisa is a one issue candidate and she says that issue is affordable housing. So be it. I am going to put my vote with somebody who has vision. Her 17 years of assisting rather than leading seems to have robbed her of hutzpah. That is unfortunate to many, but others are qualified to sit and make executive decisions. She lacks vim and vigor and has become too much a bureaurat. Many are fisappointed, make no mistake.

  • Mickymse June 3, 2015 (9:58 am)

    The problem you don’t seem to understand, Ivan, is that many residents of District 1 ALREADY consider the residents of White Center part of our own community. We regularly visit, shop, and eat there. We ride the same buses, and we face the same traffic problems. Those on the arbitrary municipal border see the problems with law enforcement and the disparities between one side of a street and another. It’s time we begin to address this.

  • Mickymse June 3, 2015 (10:00 am)

    @CanDo, the state hasn’t given the residents that choice. They can either join a neighboring city or incorporate on their own. They have already rejected Burien, and they don’t seem to be able to afford to incorporate themselves. So they can either vote to join Seattle, or wait until the State cuts a deal without their permission. I have no problem with Seattle holding out for better support from the State budget to do this, but it’s going to be either Seattle or Burien in the end.

    • WSB June 3, 2015 (10:04 am)

      Quick update on this morning’s council committee briefing, pending my quick writeup for our WC site – It was very brief. The city is proceeding with the paperwork filing with the Boundary Review Board, which has to be done by Friday to keep this ball in play, while hoping that the sales-tax credit will be increased in the Legislature’s current special session (from $5 million a year to $8 million), and Kenny Pittman, the city staffer who’s long worked on the issue, said that while this kicks off a six-month process with the BRB, they can file for multiple extensions … So this will almost certainly be up to the new council to decide – TR

  • Ivan June 3, 2015 (10:24 am)

    @excuse me: You know perfectly well that there isn’t even one “one-issue candidate” in this race. Every single one of them has addressed multiple issues, time and again, in several forums and venues. So please quit making things up. I don’t have to bash or deride any other candidate to express support for the candidate of my choice, and neither do you.

  • AlkiBeach June 3, 2015 (10:42 am)

    And that’s exactly why I’m voting for Lisa Herbold, because she is the only serious candidate who tells the truth, rather than the apple pie, Campaign 101 platitudes we have heard in campaigns since human beings created elections. The truth is not always sexy, it doesn’t grab you on a visceral level and make you teary with feelings of love, patriotism, justice, righteousness, kumbaya with all mankind, etc etc etc but there you have it. And by the way, who cares where ANYONE lives, as to their fitness for comment? I can’t believe anyone would mention it. I don’t know the man, but Ivan probably knows more about Seattle politics than most of the residents of District 1. I live in the exact geographic center of District 1. I suppose that makes my thoughts the most salient of all. excuse me’s comments represent precisely the critical weakness of the district election system.

  • Duff Radke-Bogen June 3, 2015 (10:54 am)

    How will this effect the schools? Would students attend in the Seattle or Highline district? Would school buildings switch districts? How would local school taxes be slotted?

    • WSB June 3, 2015 (10:59 am)

      Duff, the school districts would not be affected by incorporation. What’s in the Highline district now stays in the Highline district. This was reiterated during this morning’s (brief) City Council committee discussion and has been reiterated multiple times previously – the city and school districts are entirely different entities.

  • forgotmyname June 3, 2015 (11:17 am)

    @JP – What raised property taxes? The state rate is 1.28%, both Seattle and unincorporated King County pay an additional 0.5%. The property taxes are identical….I’m getting tired of those who oppose WC joining Seattle (doubly so for those that don’t actually live in WC) using this bogus “OMG! Taxes!” misinformation as a scare tactic…..Plus, property taxes are driving out low income families? Uh, no. It’s not the 9.27/1k tax rate; it’s the fact the right side of that equation (house valuation) is too high – median value is 224k in WC, 484k in West Seattle. High priced housing and a higher cost of living drive housing affordability far, far more than a couple hundred dollars in yearly taxes.

  • Mark J June 4, 2015 (12:08 am)

    Pete, whatsmyname and forgotmyname, when it comes to the property tax rate, White Center’s is over 40% higher than Seattle’s. This is because the taxes levied by local government service providers (road services, fire services and library services in White Center’s case) are higher than the City of Seattle portion of its residents’ tax bill to fund city services.

  • Mark J June 4, 2015 (1:04 am)

    The reality for the case for annexation is that large blocks of urban area have not historically been annexed by a city at once.

    The typical model is for a relatively undeveloped area to annex to a city. Large undeveloped areas often have fewer land owners to make up the 60% petition requirement. Then city services such as roads, sewer, etc. are extended into the new area over time.

    For already built-up areas, the typical pattern is that a smaller sized area petitions for annexation (the relative number of owners per block is usually higher in built-up areas) and fewer owners is easier to manage and reach consensus to fulfill the 60% requirement.

    In either traditional case, the incremental cost of services as of the moment of annexation to the city is small, so the argument of whether the new area will divert city services from existing residents is not an issue.

    Everything changed with the passage of the Growth Management Act. It’s definition of the Urban Growth Area means the area for cities to expand into is completely constrained. Eventually, as in the case of White Center now, the remaining unincorporated area becomes too small to be subdivided without threatening the viability of local service providers in the smaller unincorporated area which would remain.

    Ultimately it’s up to the landowners, the voters, or a hybrid of both *in the area to be annexed* to decide when to annex to a nearby city, if the city chooses to accept. There is no vote held of residents of the city itself.

    It’s up to the city, the county, and the state to work out who is ultimately responsible for the last surviving unincorporated urban area inevitably having fallen through the cracks where intent meets reality.

  • Pavel Goberman June 7, 2015 (12:53 pm)

    Thank the Editor of WSB for honesty, for pubishing my not very polite answer: “You asked not good question”, You really support the Code of Ethics for the Media, compare with the Seattle Channel, TV Ch 21, which lied to me on my question: “Who is funding this channel?”. And I got answer: “Cable TV”. But it is partly true. The City of Seattle / taxpayers also are giving to this so named public / city TV channel many millions dollars every year. But this channel act in not honest way: cut off from it’s broadcast the speeches of the people before City Council Meetings. Do not broadcast – it is also a lie.
    About annexation: it is NOT important compare with national security. Now most people support the policy of President Obama toward Russia, but I don’t, because we must know Russian people – it creates a danger to this country: possibility of nuclear war. Therefore I must be a Leader: responsible for lives of Americans, and …… Russians and others too: prevent WW3.

    Pavel Goberman

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