By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Elected to represent District 1, charged with making decisions affecting the entire city – how will newly seated City Councilmember Lisa Herbold balance those roles?
Her Q&A appearance at tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting offered an early glimpse into how she hopes to do it.
If you don’t have time to watch our video, read on!
While Herbold is one of four first-term councilmembers – three representing districts, one elected at-large – she is the only one who was already at City Hall, having spent more than a decade and a half working for Councilmember Nick Licata, who chose not to run again. “In some ways, it’s the same job, in others, different,” she mused tonight.
“So you started (off) knowing where your parking space was,” one attendee suggested.
“I don’t have a parking space,” Herbold laughed.
She later joked that a benefit of district representation is that she can get anywhere within a few minutes – to a meeting like this one, for example, at the Sisson Building in The Junction – “then go home and get into my jammies.” (She lives in Highland Park, a central location for a district that includes South Park as well as West Seattle.)
In a far more serious vein, Herbold had a lot to say about the committees she’s on – including acknowledging reading a WSB comment or two from people puzzled by the catch-all committee names, such as the one she’s chairing, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee:
They’re all issues she agreed to take on, and in which she had an interest, she explained. (She’s also vice chair of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, & Finance Committee, member of the Planning, Land Use, & Zoning Committee, and alternate member of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.)
“I want to use my committee time to advance the issues that are important to this community,” she said, later repeating that she urges committee members to talk with her about how to ensure those issues are taken up by committees. She also said she wants to ensure that policies “match with the priorities of the community.”
Herbold said she will keep her promise to “keep office hours around the district” – regularly, not occasionally. She and her staff are working on identifying locations such as community centers, libraries, “where I can be different times of the month for set hours, probably start late afternoon, go into the evening.”
Her staff, she said, will each have responsibilities for constituent issues, as well as specific policy focuses. “I want my staff not just to get answers but to get the right answers … they’re not going to be paper shufflers, not just going to give you the same answers you got from the department.” She hired one staffer from CM Licata’s staff, Newell Aldrich, who had been his transportation point person (among other issues) for 18 years, and had run the budget process the past two years, “knows where the bodies are buried.” Also hired – her former campaign manager, Alex Clardy, to be “focused on District 1 issues.” And she’s just made the third hire,
Third hire is a lawyer who has worked with organizations like Got Green re: “priority hire” proposal, “has worked on a lot of housing-policy issues,” Columbia Legal Services, LIHI, worked with a Skyway nonprofit “helping them develop their sub-area plan.”
Questions she was asked included how to handle transportation questions/issues. Reach out to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, as he’s chairing that committee, she said, but CC her.
With more city levies on the way, she was asked if she has a number for what it all adds up to for an individual property owner. Herbold says she does have that number but not anyplace she could access it right that moment.
Is there a public-safety levy in the works? she was asked next. Maybe not – Herbold said she is hearing “less about that” now than she was six months ago.
In a lull for questions, she offered that she’s excited about the Utilities component of the committee she’s chairing, because she hopes to use it to get a handle on District 1’s drainage issues, from South Park to Longfellow Creek and beyond.
She also brought up the forthcoming decisionmaking about zoning for marijuana businesses, saying that of the options under consideration, she thinks the “500-foot buffer” is most likely to pass. (At that point, Cindi Barker from the Morgan Community Association and West Seattle Be Prepared offered a sharp critique of the city’s “outreach” on that issue, wondering which neighborhood-group reps around the room (answer: few) even knew the city was looking for comments.)
The issue of law enforcement came up – specifically, how Herbold could make an impact on the issue without being part of committees dealing with it. She promised she would pursue issues of importance including 911-response times, about which, she said, she’s seeking information from SPD. And she again vowed to take on District 1-relevant issues regardless of which of her council colleagues have the ultimate accountability for them. As another example, she brought up homelessness, noting that she is not on any committee dealing with it, but that “it’s a district issue and an interest of mine.” (Back when Highland Park had a long-running encampment, she was a relatively frequent visitor to the HP Action Committee meetings dealing with it.)
Councilmembers, she noted, will be developing “individual work plans” for their committees, and she hopes to hear what District 1 residents think should be on the work plans for hers. She mentioned receiving a “matrix of unresolved issues” from former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, a West Seattle resident, and that “a great number of them were transportation issues” (no surprise, since that’s the committee he chaired for the past few years).
Issues she’ll be taking on soon include labor laws – “making sure we’re working closely with small businesses so they know what to expect and are involved in designing program” – and the HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Act) recommendations, particularly the component of the so-called “Grand Bargain” that is supposed to upzone some areas. Some believe, she said, that it’s supposed to be a one-story upzone just about everywhere, “but if some areas don’t want one, and others want two, if you can accomplish the same thing,” maybe that makes more sense, Herbold said.
And then there was the topic of West Seattle light rail in the forthcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. According to Herbold, the city will be writing a letter within the next two weeks, and it needs to address the fact that West Seattle needs more planning work, as had already been done for Ballard, as, she said, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition had pointed out.
The newly implemented breakup of the Department of Planning and Development came up when an attendee urged Herbold to “take a look at ‘director’s rules’,” fearing they are “used to subvert the public process.” Herbold said she already had been reviewing some, including the one from 2012 that led to a major change in whether offstreet parking is required in housing developments. Overall, Herbold said she’s a little skeptical about the DPD breakup, concerned that it “will create new silos.”
Overall, she insisted that “I want to come out here and talk to you guys frequently; you don’t need to have a specific topic on the agenda – I want you to hold me accountable for what I say I’m going to do.” She also mentioned she’ll be setting up a “kitchen cabinet” of sorts, locals with whom she will consult on topics such as how to roll out the aforementioned “office hours” in the district. And, she repeated, “I want you to think about how to use my committee time to advance your issues – I would be happy to have a D-1 briefing in my committee every time we meet.”
With that, she wrapped up. P.S. Wondering how to reach her, so you can make suggestions on some of what she brought up, and other topics of interest? Contact info is on her official webpage.
Quick mentions during the rest of the meeting:
WEST SEATTLE COMMUNITY ORCHESTRAS: Rob Duisberg from WSCO says they’re looking for board members – two-year commitment – you don’t have to be a musician. Find out more at wscorchestras.org.
BARTON P-PATCH SAFETY MEETING: District coordinator Kerry Wade says the P-Patch is having safety issues, as is often the case with community gardens, and plans a public meeting at 6 pm Tuesday, January 12th, at the Southwest Library, to talk about them.
GATHERING OF NEIGHBORS: March 12th is the date for the VIEWS-presented event this year; housing/homelessness will be the topic for the all-day gathering at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, announced Pete Spalding.
SPEAKING OF HOUSING: As announced here last month, the Morgan Community Association will host a special meeting on HALA at 7 pm January 20th at The Kenney (WSB sponsor), right after an abbreviated version of its quarterly meeting.
SPEAKING OF HALA: The mayor is going to kick off a year of HALA conversations with one at City Hall at 5 pm on January 26.
The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Sisson Building/Senior Center of West Seattle; SDOT is on next month’s agenda.
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