VIDEO: What happened at the City Council’s head-tax-repeal meeting

There was anger, chanting, shouting … and public comment on both sides. After a two-plus-hour meeting, seven City Councilmembers voted this afternoon to repeal the head tax they had approved less than a month ago (the “no” votes were Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant). In case you missed it, the Seattle Channel video is now available. Once public comment ended at about 1:11 into the meeting, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the first to comment pre-vote, starting at 1:14 in and continuing for seven minutes of near-fury. She refuted the claims that no progress is being made against homelessness, but said that progress is limited because more affordable housing needs to be built. She said the repeal vote “runs counter to my values as a person” but she felt compelled to vote for it because a majority of Seattle citizens believe homelessness has resulted from “government inefficiency.” “People say we are bowing to political pressure, but nothing could be further from the truth,” she insisted, saying a ballot fight between now and November would do more damage. She said she hoped the repeal would be a “temporary setback.” Other councilmembers who commented at length included West Seattle-residing citywide Councilmember Lorena González, who with Herbold co-chaired the task force that came up with the head-tax; starting at 1:38 in the video, saying “all the solutions (to homelessness) require new and additional revenue.” She said, “It gives me no pleasure to have to repeal this law because I think this law was well done” and vowed to “fight for solutions that will not tear this city apart.” She added that this is “a defining moment in the city of Seattle … and not a good one.”

60 Replies to "VIDEO: What happened at the City Council's head-tax-repeal meeting"

  • CandrewB June 12, 2018 (4:03 pm)

    I thought Herbold’s call to raise property taxes in order to pay for transient services sounded like a winning strategy. She should campaign on it.

  • wscommuter June 12, 2018 (4:22 pm)

    If she is so angry, it would seem that our councilmember, Ms. Herbold, doesn’t get what I think are probably the two most commonly felt opinions of city residents: 1. the growing aversion to seeing tents popping up all over the city and the feeling that we’re losing our city to those poor folks living in squalor everywhere, and 2. frustration with politicians who ask for money for this problem without a serious plan.  As to the latter issue, I suspect if a cognizable plan were articulated that made sense (and god knows, I have no idea what that might be) and that plan were priced at a budget, at least then people would have an idea of why a tax might be appropriate. Many of us are willing to pay more to help those in need.  I have great empathy for homeless folks and I know the problem is incredibly complex.  But a random tax to fund an intention, rather than a plan, makes many of us angry and frustrated.  The City Council might want to consider that as a big part of the message as to why they are getting so much heat about this ill-conceived head tax.  

    • sw June 12, 2018 (6:41 pm)

      Nailed it, WSCommuter.

      • WAG June 12, 2018 (9:44 pm)

        I agree.

    • John June 12, 2018 (9:47 pm)

      This perfectly articulates my position on this topic, thank you.

    • Hoku June 12, 2018 (10:12 pm)

      Thank you. Agree!

    • My two cents ... June 13, 2018 (7:14 am)

      Agreed. If Herbold was so “outraged” then why didn’t she cast a ‘No’ vote? Oh! That’s right – she doesn’t want it to be used against her for her re-election bid.Herbold is just trying to preserve her spot (and $117,000 + salary) on the city council.

  • A June 12, 2018 (4:51 pm)

    While I agree with council woman Gonzalez that this is a defining moment in our city, I disagree with her and believe it is a great moment. It shows that our voices were actually heard and that the city can’t just do what it wants without repercussions. The city knew before they passed this tax that it was unpopular yet they passed it anyway. What they didn’t know was that this city is waking up and is sick of their antics and is taking a stand. We already spend more money than any city in the country on the homeless and all it’s done is made the problem worse. I’d be for a tax if it went to hiring more officers and prosecutors and actually enforcing the law around here and getting rid of the professional homeless who have moved here from all over the country so they can do their drugs and commit crimes knowing they won’t be prosecuted. Enforce the laws and the majority of our problem will move on to another city

    • Scott June 13, 2018 (8:30 am)


    • MJ June 13, 2018 (8:54 am)


    • CatLady June 13, 2018 (5:49 pm)

      Looks like we’ve got a winner for NIMBY-est comment. You just fully admitted that you don’t care at all about housing people – that’s not the issue for you. The *people* are the issue for you. Get them out of the city and boom! Problem solved. Never mind that the underlying issues haven’t been solved – all you care about is that you don’t have to deal with it anymore.It’s horrifyingly cruel.  

  • NotOnHolden June 12, 2018 (4:55 pm)

    Raise property taxes more?  Noooooo… maybe find a way to increase the excise tax on the amount that’s actually considered profit after closing and everyone else is paid off.  Omg this all just makes my brain want to explode.

  • Westsideleite June 12, 2018 (4:56 pm)

    I would be more inclined to vote for this if the city council had a clear and defined plan for how the revenue was to be used. But to just raise funds, alienate businesses, and then ask us to trust them to spend it wisely is a non-starter for me. I couldn’t just go to the bank and ask for a business loan with no plan in place on where the money was going to be spent. And they shouldn’t get to take money and spend it at their discretion without input from the public.  I want to know how it’s going to be spent, and they can’t even tell us where they spent last years money.How about develop a plan, figure out how much you need and get back to us. Don’t just come to us with arbitrary numbers and no plan, coupled with a history of mis-management and overspending, and expect us to be happy about.

  • Peter L. June 12, 2018 (5:13 pm)

    This particular city council simply cannot be trusted. All of they’ve done so far is increase homelessness, and they’re not willing to address the real causes: lack of mental health services, lack of drug treatment, and draconian zoning and land use laws that created and perpetuate housing scarcity. Housing first does work IF it is backed up by accompanying services, but they had no plan for that. The only plan they had was to tax jobs out of the city in hopes that it would force people to leave. The repeal doesn’t change the fact that this makeup of the city council is a bunch of short sighted economic illiterates who I wouldn’t trust to mow my lawn without burning the house down. 

  • Chris June 12, 2018 (5:24 pm)

    Raising property taxes and forcing more into possible homelessness, or needing housing, is not a good idea.   People already have homes, quit raising the property taxes so people can stay in homes they already have.   Concept seems so simple.

  • Onion June 12, 2018 (5:33 pm)

    How about including major employers in the discussion of ways to tackle homelessness, and how to fund those solutions? As a homeowner I find it ironic that the loudest and largest protests of a tax increase did NOT involve a tax on the shoulders of homeowners. The city has a huge challenge demonstrating that they can spend money efficiently and effectively.

  • MJ June 12, 2018 (5:40 pm)

    I was looking forward to voting to repeal this ill conceived tax.  

  • TJ June 12, 2018 (5:49 pm)

    No, “draconian zoning” is not a cause of housing shortage here. That is a complete myth. The original urban village designs from the 1990’s are able to handle the growth as is now. The main arterials in the city still have lots of room for growth. Look at Lake City and Aurora. The city is acting like we are going to have some crazy mass migration here in the future necessitating rezoning, when the current growth won’t continue. The best way for affordable housing is to spread it out over surrounding cities. Not everyone can live where they want. 

    • West Seattle since 1979 June 12, 2018 (6:15 pm)

      No, not everyone can live where they want, but it also doesn’t make sense that a city the size of Seattle should be unaffordable for anyone not making a 6-figure salary. And that is where we’re heading if we don’t build more housing. 

      • NotOnHolden June 12, 2018 (8:33 pm)

        We are very much already there.

  • Bradley June 12, 2018 (5:52 pm)

    If Lisa Herbold REALLY believes that this mega-mlion tax on jobs is moral, then she shouldn’t have voted to repeal it. Since she was foolish for voting for the terrible head tax and now doesn’t have the integrity to risk losing her seat by defending it, then she is too weak and spineless to represent the wonderful residents of West Seattle.

  • Dawson June 12, 2018 (6:24 pm)

    Herbold is an idiot as are the rest of the council. I surely hope the electorate maintains a long memory and votes these people out. To accuse the citizens of this city for being dupes on this ill conceived plan is blame displacement.It’s laughable that the same council that championed $15/hour then turns around and attacks those employers paying a living/market wage. Their decisions around land use and not getting ahead of growth that was forecast is negligence pure and simple.

  • The King June 12, 2018 (6:39 pm)

    Whoever kept voting to raise property taxes, tabs etc gave the council this feeling that they could do whatever they wanted. Some voted yes on ST3 and didn’t even read the plan or do the simple math as to how much their tabs would be, then go on tv and say they feel “swindled”. This repeal is hopefully a sign of backlash that will continue to the elections. 

  • Joe June 12, 2018 (6:56 pm)

    Use the budgeted $860k for a mile of bike lane, or the $12mil actual cost and build housing. We have no low income housing because we haven’t built any in years. Where has all the developer low income housing money gone?

  • Abcgirl June 12, 2018 (7:24 pm)

    No more proptery taxes for anything till this gang of 9 are voted out, we can’t afford it and have no trust in their ability to manage what dollars they already have raped from us

  • Nolan June 12, 2018 (8:30 pm)

    A disgusting loss for basic human decency. Platitudes about “spending wisely” and “will of the people” mean nothing to the people that will die without this funding or a more comprehensive proposal to replace it.

    • Rusty June 13, 2018 (10:45 am)

      The disgusting loss for human decency begins with the inability of our city to actually enforce any law. We allow camping just about anywhere, drug use and crime follows. Having no expectations, we get no results. Warehousing people outdoors and telling them that we don’t expect them to be responsible is not humane or decent – to them or to the taxpayers. The Poppe report said we already had enough money, but the city doesn’t want to actually hold anyone accountable.We could set up tents/portable showers on terminal 5, triage the issue (separating addicts from those needing mental health services and those able to work), provide security and services for far less than we spend today. Camps that are run decently and have some positive results (like C2C), and aren’t ‘low-barrier’ can continue, but illegal camps should have those trashing the area, living in filth and committing crimes should be then taken to be triaged. I’m starting to think that ‘complex’ has become a code word for ‘we don’t want to actually hold anyone accountable for their behavior’. Good luck with that.

  • Billy June 12, 2018 (8:51 pm)

    Vote Lisa out!  The whole council are clueless, out of touch, and incompetent.  The solution is to elect individuals who can govern and manage budgets.  

  • TiredofGovernmentGreed June 12, 2018 (9:16 pm)

    Chairwoman Durkan and the Gang of Nine already have another tax increase on the November ballot – $600M+ property tax for a school levy.  Areas that receive large amounts of taxpayer funding with no proof of productive improvement:  homelessness, public schools, Metro buses, and Seattle City Light.  All perform poorly and have no critical oversight from our city mayor and council.  These elected officials show no ability to manage a large city and must not be trusted with taxpayer money.

    • Joel June 12, 2018 (9:53 pm)

      is that the levy that expires and Durkan wants to double the amount with a new levy…or this yet a different tax increase I missed?

      • WSB June 12, 2018 (10:01 pm)

        Two levies are expiring, Families/Education and Preschool.
        One levy is proposed to replace both and also add the college Promise program.
        According to the Seattle Times, a homeowner who pays $136 for both existing levies would pay $242 for the new one.

        • Concerned June 13, 2018 (4:32 am)

          This is BS. Durkan explicitly said that it wouldn’t cost tax payers more to implement the college plan she wanted, which I knew was BS, since it’s government funded, and now it’s part of a levy. 

          • WSB June 13, 2018 (7:20 am)

            When did she say that? Link? We covered her original announcement at SSC last November and the details of covering its cost had yet to be worked out; our story pointed out this (levy inclusion) is exactly what was under review.

          • Concerned June 13, 2018 (8:04 am)

            When she was running for mayor. She said it could be done with no new taxes

          • WSB June 13, 2018 (9:45 am)

            Technically, looking for a reference and finding it here, this wouldn’t be a “new” tax – she mentioned the levy renewal on the campaign trail too.

          • Concerned June 13, 2018 (12:02 pm)

            Oh, so a new levy that for example one pays 242 dollars to replace the old levy that one paid 136 dollars is technically not a new tax. OK, got it. This is why the so called leaders of this city need to go

          • WSB June 13, 2018 (12:31 pm)

            It’s not a new levy, is the point. Two pre-existing levies are being combined and proposed for renewal, at a higher rate, with an added component (which is not unusual – see the countywide Veterans/Seniors/etc. levy renewal passed last year). This is not an argument for or against it. It’s an argument for accuracy, of which there is precious little these days. Going back to August, the mayor suggested this is how it would be financed, according to the linked story. This will be on the ballot in November and you and everyone else who votes get to make the decision. – TR

  • sixbuck June 12, 2018 (10:20 pm)

    Yes, our Mayor and city council are useless   But, hey, I’ve been saying this for decades.  Nothing changes until the voting public wakes up and wises up.  Priceless comedy, this has been .

  • Millie June 12, 2018 (10:51 pm)

    Isn’t the $242 based on a median price (approx. $400,000) home in Seattle?  Not sure how many of those remain.  This additional $106 ($242-$136) is cumulative on all the other property tax levies that were voted on in the past elections.  In short, it’s really not a reprieve, but more money into the coffers of a City Administration  that does not know how to budget and “live within its’ means” and  no well-thought out steps for implementation.

    • WSB June 12, 2018 (11:51 pm)

      If you read the linked story, the current number is based on a current median value home ($597,000) and the projection on a median value home in the near future ($665,000).

  • Duncan June 12, 2018 (11:54 pm)

    It is no doubt a very difficult situation.  Something that concerns me, in addition to the fact that I don’t want anyone to be homeless, is that I hear mixed messages about the Seattle homeless actually being from Seattle.  Is it foolish to think that someone making $10 an hour in another city might think $15 is worth the move to Seattle?  They get here and get a job then realize they can’t live in Seattle for that income.  Is that really a situation that property owners and businesses should be told is their problem?  I think people should make a minimum of $15 or more regardless of where they live, but is Seattle’s leading the charge on this hourly wage increase creating a homeless problem or making it worse, and wouldn’t that be a result of policy passed by our city leaders?  Is it really just the success of business driving up cost?  The council never seems to dig deeper into the potential of their own decisions adding to the homeless problem.  Maybe I’m wrong but the thought has cross my mind.

  • M June 13, 2018 (3:22 am)

    Why doesn’t the city start by selling the giant parking lot next the Cal Circle SHA apartment building in the Morgan Junction. Use the millions from the sale of that view lot property to build additional affordable housing somewhere in the city. The city’s own agenda dictates that one shouldn’t need off street parking if his or her residence is near mass transit. That subsidized housing building literally has the C line at its front door. 

    • Roddy June 13, 2018 (8:42 am)

      On a related note, there’s no need for that planned park where the Morgan Junction mini-mart used to be…how about building affordable apartments on that lot instead? 

  • Huck June 13, 2018 (6:07 am)

    The city council is feeling the heat! Finally!!

  • My two cents ... June 13, 2018 (7:10 am)

    If Councilmember Herbold feels like crying, so do I … over her salary of $117,000 plus.

    • Lisa June 13, 2018 (7:22 am)

      Yep.  The second highest paid council in the U.S. and this is what you get.  It is amazing she blame the chamber of commerce for their failures!  

  • Anne June 13, 2018 (8:18 am)

    Just read Danny Westneats column where he quotes Lisa Herbold as saying”The Chamber of Commerce has convinced the vast majority of Seattleites of the old, conservative trope, that the increased level of human suffering in this city is caused by government inefficiency “Ms Herbold- no one needed to convince me that there is government inefficiency- & instead of blaming the taxpayer- why not entertain the possibility- to quote Danny Westneat – “ this is just a bad idea”This head tax that Ms Herbold has been trying to get passed for 3 years now- seems punitive. Did she/ council even try to approach businesses with an eye toward working together to help solve our homeless problem- instead of the – well they have money- let’s get some of it – an approach they use on taxpayers. Just give us more, more & more money. The biggest problems- to my mind – are lack of accountability- where/how money already raised is being spent  & SPECIFIC PLANS about what would be done with new tax dollars. Didn’t the city pay for a consultant to come in & assess our homeless problem- did the city follow any of the recommendations? As for Ms Herbold- if she believed so strongly in this tax- why not stand with the other council members who voted no to repeal it? Self preservation maybe- the handwriting on the wall that voters might be angry enough to vote not to replace the school levy  in November?Doesnt matter to me- she has lost my vote.

    • My two cents ... June 13, 2018 (10:10 am)

      You almost get the sense that Herbold and many other on the Council would prefer not to have any businesses in Seattle given the tone of the statements (last night and previously) and policy proposals. Either that, or there is a complete misunderstanding that business can, will and do move to other locations. Lets be clear about things – for the vast majority of businesses (small to large), operating margins are tight (this is not to be confused with total value of the company) and if a better environment can be found, well … hopefully Herbold and the rest can figure that one out. If they are so concerned about these things, work at a State level to address the taxation challenges we all face (Seattle or Spokane, Aberdeen or Yakima). Then again, maybe Herbold believes that if there aren’t any companies in Seattle, there won’t be any homeless problems.

  • West Seattle Hipster June 13, 2018 (8:37 am)

    While this is a beautiful victory for the taxpayers of Seattle, please do not forget to vote every member of the council out when they are up for re-election.  Our responsibility is Lisa Herbold, let’s hold her accountable for her performance.  Hopefully the other districts in the city will vote responsibly when their council members are up for re-election.My concern is that activist extremists will continue to shape Seattle politics, we need some moderates helping to shape our future.

    • MJ June 13, 2018 (8:58 am)

      Well said

    • My two cents ... June 13, 2018 (10:13 am)

      Agreed. Hoping that Herbold will get a qualified challenger … it’s not like she won in a landslide the first time out and her record to date hasn’t shown any actions towards representing the majority of the citizens in her area. Would also love to see an initiative that rolls back the City Council salaries. 

      • Ex-Westwood Resident June 13, 2018 (3:03 pm)

        Careful of what you wish for and beware of the name Lauren Berkowitz. She is a Herbold/Sawant clone.

  • T Rex June 13, 2018 (10:00 am)

    Nothing will change until our council members take a class in ADDICTION.  You cannot help people who do not want help. My guess would be over half of the homeless population are addicts. The ones with mental health issues should be considered a harm to themselves. Living in a tent under a bridge in filth is in fact a danger to ones self. GET THEM HELP and get them on meds they need, it should be mandatory. Those people I have compassion for. The ones who made a choice to put a needle in their arm and use the most addictive drug in the world, sorry guys. You made the choice. The help is there, they simply don’t want it. But if you don’t want help, you need to be a law abiding citizen. And camping on a downtown street is not legal. There are some people you just cannot save or help. It’s the sad part of human existence.  

    • CatLady June 13, 2018 (5:45 pm)

      I’m overwhelmed by your compassion What about people who have co-occurring disorders? I know in your mind there’s a very definitive line between people who are drug users and people who have mental health disorders, but that’s not actually the case.Comments like yours are a depressing reflection of what Seattle has become – a place where it’s totally acceptable for homeowners to  say that homeless people deserve to die on the streets. I’m so embarrassed to live here. 

      • My two cents ... June 13, 2018 (7:06 pm)

         I think your reaction is a little harsh.  A posting on the blog does not equal to a full  policy proposal.  Did it provide a pragmatic approach to a problem that our community is facing?  Did it provide a form of triage?  Did it provide a solution for some of the people being impact?  What are the statistics for people with Co-occurring disorders?  Is it 7 out of every 10? Is that one out of every 20? Your statements would  be more credible if you provided solutions as opposed to complaints and your stated “ embarrassment” to living in this city.  Just as a point of reference, there are people in this city that are  compassionate and are concerned about the homeless –  but also are equally concerned about the lack of substantive progress by the current city Council (in addition to sections of the city looking like a tornado hit Third World nation). 

  • LK June 13, 2018 (12:01 pm)

    Agree.  In Scandinavia when a homeless person is identified they’re offered help directly there on the street…whatever is needed is then offered directly on the spot, shelter, medical care, rehab…take your pick, they simply don’t let people languish on the streets there.  Why not take this approach here and tailor the services to the individual.  Suspect the lack of available mental health support would be a biggest barrier, unfortunately.

    • savoirfaire June 13, 2018 (5:50 pm)

       Scandinavian countries have robust national health care systems and social safety nets supported by significant income taxes. The barrier here is our political and societal unwillingness to invest in caring for and about each other. The eht wasn’t perfect but it was an attempt to make an approach like the one you suggest possible.

    • flimflam June 13, 2018 (7:55 pm)

      they are offered shelter, etc but many are service resistant and prefer to continue their life on the streets….

  • T Rex June 13, 2018 (2:48 pm)

    What a great idea LK, I would much rather use our taxes to hire more mental health support than enable these drug addicts with things like a mobile van, possibly even supply them with heroin (Feds are not going to let than happen, no matter if it is mobile or not). The issue is two fold now; we have to homeless problem and city council members who know nothing about addiction. Why is it that I know more than they do and no I am not in recovery. But I have had enough friends who have been and I know there were several of them years ago that I had to simply remove from my life because of their issues. Some hit rock bottom, some did not.If we continue to allow the homeless problem to grow, people will start NOT come to Seattle and those like me who have been here since the early 80’s will leave. It has already crossed my mind and I am not ready to retire. If it was not for the great company that I work for I would have been gone along time ago. Sick of the homeless, sick of the politics.  

  • Misty1C June 19, 2018 (1:21 pm)

    City Council and King County leadership have expressed the need to identify root cause(s) to Seattle’s homelessness. What a joke – they so far believe it to be chemical dependency and mental health? So we need more govt. services and taxes. As if being more dependent on the govt. will address this. This logic won’t work. The real root cause is poverty and beneath that it is our debt based Financial System. There are other causes but this is the one main one. This crisis was designed on purpose by globalists and is based on fraud that continues today. The ultimate goal is a 2 class system with authoritarian Orwelian control. Wake up people.

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