By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Less than two months into her first term as the first City Councilmember for District 1 – West Seattle and South Park – Lisa Herbold made her first official appearance before the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce on (after a few unofficial appearances).
“I see my role at City Hall as a person you can count on to … keep things moving. Progress at City Hall can sometimes be slow and incremental.” She pointed out that Economic Development is part of her mission of the committee she’s chairing. She also said she hopes to serve the public by showing people how to “be their own best advocate.” Along the way, she also touched on several of the city’s current hot topics, including the SODO arena, the proposed bicycle-share takeover, and potential White Center annexation. Here’s our video:
The format was Q/A – starting with several pre-collected by Pete Spalding, who leads the Chamber’s government-affairs committee. The first gave her the opportunity to summarize her committee involvement on the council (as detailed here). The committee she chairs – Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts – includes one that is charged with strengthening and enforcing workers’ rights, but with an “explicit commitment to business,” to “bring employeers and employees to the table together.” She’s also on the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance Committee, and says housing affordability, “something I’ve been passionate about,” is part of her portfolio there. Job readiness, including apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, is part of what she’s working on there.
Taking care of small businesses is important, she said, saying she’s “scoping out” whether the city could have a program like one in the Bay Area that protects “legacy businesses” (those in operation for decades) – determining how many had closed over a period of time, and then creating a registry of those still in business. “Once you quantify what you’ve lost, what you want to save, you can strategize how to save them,” she said, observing that voters in the Bay Area passed a fund specifically targeted at “helping these legacy businesses stay afloat.”
Another question: How does she plan to keep up on issues that businesses on the peninsula will be keeping up during her term?
One example she cited: The presentation at her committee meeting earlier this week, highlighting the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) training program at Vigor‘s shipyard on Harbor Island. You can see it at 18 minutes into the Seattle Channel video of the meeting:
Herbold told the chamber lunch’s ~40 attendees, “They have found that 81 percent of daytime graduates of this program were employed within the industry they were being trained for.” She also mentioned the Priority Hire program, focused on city public-works projects. That’s meant to increase what she said was a shrinking percentage of Seattle residents working on city-funded projects – now just 40 percent.
She promised to be “a regular” at Chamber meetings, and assured the group that transportation issues are among her priorities, too, describing the West Seattle Transportation Coalition is a good funnel for those advocacy issues, and suggesting the Chamber synergize with groups like that on key issues: “When we get letters that are written/signed by several interest groups, they’re compelling. … It really makes us take notice.”
When the floor was opened to questions, Chas Redmond – who had run for the seat Herbold won – asked how the new council is dealing with the proposed SODO arena.
“I was disappointed that we are moving forward with scheduling the street vacation public hearing,” she said. “I thought the appeal could conceivably identify some useful information to help guide us in the policymaking around the street vacation.” She said it doesn’t seem all the issues around the project have been revealed. She’s also interested in examining street-vacation policies in general. But she says she believes in negotiating from a position of strength and the street vacation “is a contract.” (Next questioner asked for an explanation of “street vacation” – find it here.)
After that: What might be your roadblocks for doing great things?
“Often, roadblocks associated with resources, sometimes the interest of folks in maintaining the status quo … we have a regressive tax structure in hte state and means we can’t do a lot of things we want to do, so we have to focus on the priorities.” She says she wants to focus on things affecting people’s day-to-day lives, and then expressed concern about the current proposal for the city to bail out and take over the bike-share program for $1.4 million (followed up by an expansion that would not likely include West Seattle): “The Pronto discussion, for example – I don’t know that keeping that afloat when it’s facing bankruptcy is the best use of finite resources.” So, she said, she’s “asking tough questions” about whether that would be “throwing good money after bad.”
Speaking about income inequality and homelessness, Herbold said: “We’re experiencing a lot of growth in the city and it’s not always being felt by everyone in the city.” She said the current efforts focus on “unsheltered homeless people.” She said that part of the problem in the past has been “up until a year and a half ago,” new resources was only being spent on permanent housing, rather than to get emergency shelter for the thousands of people sleeping outdoors.
White Center entrepreneur and North Highline Unincorporated Area Council board member Elizabeth Gordon then asked about how Herbold sees her role as representing a “border district,” with unincorporated WC next door, facing potential Seattle annexation (local voters rejected Burien’s overture years ago and that city is on record as no longer interested).
Herbold pointed out that she lives in a “border neighborhood” – Highland Park. She also reiterated what she had voiced repeatedly during the council campaign – that her view of WC/NH annexation is cautious at best. “I think it’s just a matter of partnerships – we have to always be in partnership with representatives and stakeholders that are our neighbors. I know there’s a lot of interest in pursuing annexation – I have a lot of concerns about annexation … I have an open mind but moving forward on these discussions … I don’t want to annex a new part of the region and have that part of the region just become another neighborhood on the list of underserved neighborhoods here in district 1.” She said she would want to make sure there are enough resources, and she’s not entirely sure that what the state might allocate this year (sales-tax-credit legislation is advancing) would be enough to cover the costs.
Your next chance to see Councilmember Herbold out in the district, by the way, is during the Nature Consortium’s Neighbor Appreciation Day work party tomorrow (Saturday, February 13th), 10 am-2 pm at Pigeon Point Park at 4418 21st SW, next to Pathfinder K-8.
Two more notes from the meeting:
CHAMBER’S NEW HOME: CEO Lynn Dennis mentioned that the Chamber has found a new HQ location – 5639 California SW, as reported here post-meeting yesterday afternoon.
YMCA UPDATE: The West Seattle/Fauntleroy YMCA (WSB sponsor) is now expecting to break ground on its expansion around mid-April, once the permits are finalized, Josh Sutton told the Chamber gathering. He also noted that the Y has 240 employees and is an $8 million business in West Seattle. It’s raised $3.65 million in West Seattle for the expansion, and its annual fundraising campaign is under way (as reported here)
For more information about the West Seattle Chamber, explore its website at wschamber.com; monthly events include lunches and “After Hours” gatherings. WSB is among the hundreds of local businesses comprising its membership.