ELECTION 2019: Phil Tavel promises ‘effectiveness, efficiency’ in second City Council DIstrict 1 run

(WSB photos)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Phil Tavel says his main motivation for wanting to join the Seattle City Council has only intensified in the four years since his first try.

“When I ran the last time, I wanted to represent our district … in the four years since then, I can’t think of anything that’s gotten better. My desire to help the city work better has only increased.”

It’s been three months since Tavel registered his intent to run, as reported here in October. Now he’s running at full speed as of his campaign kickoff last night at Easy Street Records in The Junction. Here’s what he and his featured speakers told the crowd:

That’s community advocate Pete Spalding speaking after Tavel in the first clip; he was preceded (second clip) by Peel & Press proprietor Dan Austin, who emceed; Easy Street’s Matt Vaughan; local business advocate Lora Radford, entrepreneur Joe Jeannot; and Husky Deli‘s Jack Miller. Responsiveness to small business is a central theme for Tavel, a lawyer who himself has been, among other things, a small-business owner. We sat down to talk the night before his kickoff:

“Owning a business doesn’t mean you’re rich. You’re trying hard to support a lot of other people.” Not just your family and your employees, but also community organizations – small businesses are major donors for and sponsors of everything from school auctions to youth-sports teams. “I’ve seen a shocking decrease in businesses’ ability to keep giving – their bottom line has been cut into …”

Community involvement is something Tavel says he’s stepped up even further since his first run. He’s the vice president of the Morgan Community Association and running its popular start-of-summer festival. He’s joined the board of Allied Arts. And his longstanding Wednesday trivia nights at Talarico’s in The Junction have included an increasing number of fundraisers, Tavel says, for local nonprofits such as WestSide Baby and West Seattle Helpline.

He was hailed at his kickoff as someone who listens. Tavel says he’s done a lot of that as he got ready to run – including city employees such as police officers and firefighters. He also says he’s had further insight into city workings while being involved with the citywide coalition SCALE and its appeal of the HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning Environmental Impact Statement. Because of his profession, he “ended up on the legal committee … with that group,” and was involved in its mediation attempts with the city. No resolution was reached, but Tavel gained “kind of an insight that the council and city government had their plan, their direction all set – they weren’t really interested in talking to neighborhoods.”

Which brings him to the first of what he cites as “my three biggest issues”: He sees a need for “improved civic outreach,” not only for District 1, but for the city as a whole, talking with constituents “well in advance, so that people feel like their voice is really being heard and listened to and incorporated in the city process … government by the people, for the people.”

Second, he cites “homelessness and public safety,” especially in regard to “understanding the numbers.” He says numbers resonate for him because he has a background in physics. He says he also has a “team … taking a deep dive and seeing how much money is being spent and where the gaps are … (when) you hear how much money (is spent) each year, how much per person, I don’t get a sense that the city understands what’s being spent and how effective (the spending is). … It’s been announced as a crisis, an emergency, but I don’t see it being dealt with that way. They keep saying they want more money, but they don’t say for what.”

More than a matter of money, he sees city problems as a failure to collaborate. Tavel vows to work “to end the politics of accusation … we need to work together … to fix these problems.”

Asked to cite examples of failure to collaborate, he cites the long-running Seattle Police contract dispute, as well as the lengthy time it has taken for the city and county to start working on a truly regional response to homelessness. In something of an intersection of the two issues, he mentions a recent visit to Camp Second Chance, where he says encampment residents have been doing their best to report nearby crime problems, but not getting enough city support in addressing those problems. Not to mention, he observes, to the point of the need for the camp – “in a city that generates $6 billion in tax revenue, nobody should be living on the street.”

We ask for his thoughts on District 1-specific issues. Transportation, Tavel replies quickly. He observes that the switch from viaduct to tunnel will soon reveal wha else needs to be addressed – and what opportunities there are for longterm change. “Maybe set up more telecommuting – could we set up a telecommuting hub? Something with multiple tech companies …”

Also, property crime. Tavel is on the Southwest Precinct Advisory Council – and has been a crime victim. “I’ve had my car broken into twice in Arbor Heights, my parents were victims of a burglary … I never experienced that in New York or D.C.” Hiring more police could help, he believes.

But that costs more money, and he’s already voiced concern about spending, as well as taxing, so, we ask, where would he find that money? “We’re literally looking at every line” in the city budget, “finding out where there are potential inefficiencies … my team is … looking for ways that the city might not be spending money well.” He stresses that he doesn’t have the answers yet, but he’s asking the questions and hoping to find places that money could be better prioritized.

There also could be additional sources of money that don’t involve taxing, Tavel notes – for example, he thinks the city should seek to charge higher fees for affordable housing to be funded by HALA MHA, so that “in a boom time you can generate revenue for more actual affordable housing.”

We ask what he thinks about the current city push for increased density. “Density’s going to happen, growth is going to happen, and that’s good,” he says, but he would like to see the planning done more “strategically … meaningful neighborhood by neighborhood planning.” He says one thing he loves about Seattle, where he’s lived for 20 years, is that it’s “a combination of urban and town.”

Even the issue of increasing density brings up unintended consequences, he says, such as “the need to think about infrastructure” – if you’re going to allow 10-story buildings, for example, do you have fire department ladder trucks that reach beyond seven stories? “I don’t think the City Council thinks holistically … what are the collateral impacts (of any given action)?” He cites the decision to ban plastic straws, leaving, he says, businesses with a backlog that “suddenly … became landfill.” Maybe having a councilmember who’s been a business owner would mean more holistic thinking and planning. That goes for looking into the future, too – climate change may bring more people moving here, so the Comprehensive Plan should address that, as well as addressing new technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

Planning, he adds, is about “who they talk to, why, for how long, and who’s not being included.” He says the SCALE appeal of HALA MHA hit that point – “when you have 29 groups … saying, ‘you didn’t talk to us,'” despite the city trumpeting numbers of comments, briefings, etc. – “look at who was there.”

Again, he reiterates, his watch words are effectiveness and efficiency. He feels he’s “grown as a person” since his 2015 run, in which he placed third of nine candidates in the primary. “I’d been a dad for three years – now I’ve been a dad for seven years. I’ve transitioned from being a public defender to (other areas of law). … I’ve tried to work on my skills negotiating and mediating. I’ve talked to more people around the city.” He says he loves to talk to people and to listen, and believes that’s enhanced his skillset for the role of councilmember. “If I talk to people, I hear problems, and I see solutions.” Having been a teacher – that’s part of where his physics experience came in –

But don’t just take his word for it. Talk to all the candidates, he urges, before you make your decision who you want to vote for. (Tavel says he learned a lot from talking in 2015 with everyone else who was running.) And do vote! He’s disappointed that fewer than half our area’s registered voters turned out for the first-ever District 1 council vote. “Don’t tune out … please pay attention, take the time and find the person you want to represent you.” And consider that person’s potential for having “the skills and capacity to deal with the problems we (don’t know about yet).”

That, Tavel smiles, is “where I say you probably wouldn’t mind having (as your councilmember) a lawyer who’s a physicist and a game developer.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Your chances to take his advice and talk with him will be many, he promises. He’ll arrive an hour early and stay late at his Wednesday trivia events at Talarico’s, which means 7:30 pm until after 10. And he is planning a launch party at South Park Hall (1253 S. Cloverdale) on February 23rd, featuring the West Seattle Big Band. Then starting in March, he plans weekly visits to bars and restaurants where you can stop by to talk with him. It’s a long road to the August primary.

Also running so far, in order of campaign registration: Isaiah Willoughby, Brendan Kolding, Jesse Greene, and incumbent Lisa Herbold.

32 Replies to "ELECTION 2019: Phil Tavel promises 'effectiveness, efficiency' in second City Council DIstrict 1 run"

  • Morgan February 1, 2019 (9:06 pm)

    Go Phil Go! You got my vote 

  • Gatewood February 1, 2019 (9:15 pm)

    That sound refreshing and reasonable.  I am all in! Where do I signup?

  • CAM February 2, 2019 (12:05 am)

    Just the fact that Mr. Tavel was involved in SCALE tells me more than enough. His comments about the plastic straw issue are also really silly considering the city gave businesses a 10 year grace period to prepare for the straws to be phased out. If those businesses didn’t plan for it that has nothing to do with city council. I would expect an attorney to be smarter than that. Then let’s move on to the comments about autonomous vehicles. I would expect that to morph into a pitch to limit light rail or the need for greater mass transit as that’s usually the vein in which it is brought up when talking about planning for the future. There isn’t a whole lot of reality in what he’s talking about. 

    • Gatewood February 2, 2019 (8:37 am)

      His Scale involvment was brough on by his duties with the Morgan Junction Community Association I believe and there main concern was the scraping of the neighborhood plans.  He is Pro-Density so I am not sure what that tells you about him.  He is for development impact fees. I assume you are too.  The straw thing isn’t as ridiculous as you think.  When restaurants order straws it is normally a case of 5000!  They pulled the straw exemption months before the switch was required.  I know my boss picked up the straws from other restaurants in Seattle and donated them to restaurants in Burien so they didn’t go straight to waste.  Takes a while to go through 5k straws.  Other places just tossed so the wouldn’t get fined.  

      • CAM February 2, 2019 (10:58 am)

        No one has ever been able to firmly establish with anything other than anecdotal accounts that SCALE was representative of those communities as a whole in regards to their opinions about HALA or MHA. Those groups had the right to appeal but if Mr. Tavel believes his involvement with that appeal would appeal to the majority of the residents of district 1 I think he’s basing that on a faulty interpretation of the data. And saying that a business made no movement to change their business practices in 10 years when they knew they would eventually have to is not really making me impressed with that business’s interest in being a positive member of the community that supports them. Do I want things in landfills? No, but I didn’t want things in landfills 10 years ago either. Waiting til the last minute cost some businesses money because (I’m assuming) they were trying to save money by purchasing a cheaper product at the expense of the surrounding community as a whole. That isn’t the city council’s fault. 

        • Mike February 2, 2019 (9:49 pm)

          Well, Cam, the current council is allowing human waste and hazardous waste to wash directly into our soils and water ways.  Actually, they’re promoting it and asking us to pay for it.  Those RV’s, the tent camps everywhere, guess what they do to the environment?  I personally walked around human feces next to Century Link today.  I’ve also avoided human feces a person just left (got to watch it happen live) as I rode my bike to work.  So really, you’re just grasping for straws at this point.

          • CAM February 3, 2019 (9:55 am)

            Well, Mike, that is also not ok. But I was talking about the fact that Mr. Tavel believes the straw issue was a failure of the council. I agree with you that the circumstances in which homeless people exist in this city are awful but I didn’t here Mr. Tavel offering any solutions in that regard other than to say he’d do things differently because he’s smarter maybe? He says he doesn’t have any ideas because he isn’t familiar with the current spending on different programs but all of that information would have been available for him at any time in the last 4 years and that means he hasn’t made an effort to educate himself sufficiently to be able to offer any proposals. His main thing seems to be that government is doing it wrong and he knows better but he’ll tell you later how he knows better. And then he cites a few examples that I found somewhat silly. I like and support small businesses as much as I can but they don’t need to be in control of the government nor does the sole representative I have on the city council need to be the voice of small business, vs representing the rest of us. 

          • Phil Tavel February 3, 2019 (8:23 pm)

            Hey CAM,I’d love it if you came and talked to me at Talarico’s some Wednesday night before trivia. I’ll be there by 7:30, and I stay late as well. Tell me your concerns.I look forward to talking with you.phil

  • m February 2, 2019 (12:39 am)

    He could be a serial killer and I’d still vote for him. Anyone but Herbold.

  • Tom K February 2, 2019 (6:48 am)

    Seattle continues to allow developers to avoid impact fees for traffic, schools and parks.   The taxpayers subsidize the construction of new developments throughout the city.  We had been promised four years ago that this subsidy would be ended.  It hasn’t.To her credit Lisa has been a supporter of fees during her tenure.  However, she has been unable to move the concept into law.   This is an example of what Tavel said about things not getting better in the past four years.I’d like to hear how he plans to break the stranglehold that money has on our city’s governance.   But we need something or someone different to stop the practice of taking money out of the pockets of West Seattle homeowners and putting into the coffers of downtown developers.In case you think I’m overstating the issue, anyone else notice the tax measure we’re voting on now for schools?   The amount would be lessened if the city worked with the district to collect impact fees.   

  • Huck February 2, 2019 (7:01 am)

    He’s got my vote!

  • 1.5 cents February 2, 2019 (7:57 am)

    From a critical lens: There’s a campaign platform somewhere in here, but I’m not sure he’s found it yet. Most of these positions are fairly “Nimby” and/ or conservative in origin. Hard to run on budget against Herbold, since that’s where she’s cut her teeth, and I’m not sure the physics teacher angle is a strong enough counterpunch. The former teacher angle is appealing enough as a standalone, but undercapitalized. You should also put a pretty clear distance between your top donors’ interests and your campaign platform, and the two are very much represented here (should raise eyebrows). Phillip has a big, and gregarious personality, and that runs favorably, and counter to Lisa’s MO, which could be enough of an asset to win – provided the legitimacy issues don’t cause too much doubt in voters minds. 

  • We. Need. More. Housing. February 2, 2019 (9:01 am)

    I won’t be voting for Tavel. Even more and higher fees on housing and continuing our restrictive zoning will suppress housing construction, force housing prices up, and continue to force the middle class out of the city. That’s the opposite of what we need to be doing. No, Tavel, not getting the outcome you want in no way means the community is not being listened to; those of us who disagree with you get input, too. It frustrating how these self-appointed neighborhood organization claim to represent the community and then only represent one point of view, pretty much always the anti housing development and anti-density point of view. That’s in not representing the community, that’s picking and choosing who you represent. 

    • Mike February 3, 2019 (4:29 pm)

      Density, find me a city where density ever lowered the cost of living.  I’d love to know.  I’ve yet to ever find that mythical city.

      • CAM February 3, 2019 (5:58 pm)

        Because it’s not about increased density directly lowering prices of housing. The relationship is more complex than that. It’s about having adequate housing available to handle surges in population growth (which inherently means making the city more densely populated) without forcing the people currently living in the city to have to leave due to what amounts in the most basic terms to a bidding war. The less housing available, the more expensive housing is going to become as the population grows. By contrast, building housing to handle that growth would slow the rate at which housing prices increase. That is in essence decreasing the cost of housing because the alternative is doing nothing and the cost going up at a faster rate. 

        • Mike February 3, 2019 (8:03 pm)

          Oddly enough, the more you build, the more move in to locations with a strong economy.  Redmond used to be “the sticks” and super cheap to live in, but voila… high paying Jobs flooded in and density took over making it expensive to live there.  Adding housing NEVER lowers the cost of living until sone catastrophe happens and tanks the economy.  Which then the only people able to buy again are those with money.  Seattle is still incredibly cheap compared to SF, LA, NY and Honolulu.  Kicking small businesses around to go bankrupt only compounds the problem.  Unless you just want to have big box chain corporations waltz in with their fleet of lawyers and payrolled lobbyist in DC and here making decisions for all of us even more.  I’d rather support small businesses that are part of our community and whos kids my kids know too.

    • Bruce MacPherson February 4, 2019 (4:47 pm)

      If you are happy with the status quo, continue to vote for the sames results. I am tired of my taxes going up with no discernable positive outcome. The answer is always more money with no auditing of where tax money is going. We have a policy issue(s) not a lack of funding. Mr. Tavel has my vote.

  • Rochelle Mandin February 2, 2019 (9:17 am)

       I  voted for Phil and was very disappointed when he did not win. He was the clear choice to me.  SO happy he will give it another run.  He would be so good for Seattle!!!  Please vote for Phil.  We really need a person with real common sense.   

  • Michelle February 2, 2019 (9:25 am)

    Phil would be a great representative for District 1.    Common sense is something Seattle leaders greatly need.. Were lucky to have Phil.   Vote smart this time.  Phil would be so great for District 1. 

  • Michelle February 2, 2019 (9:27 am)

    So excited to give you my vote Phil!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

  • kj February 2, 2019 (11:53 am)

    He is backed by some very prominent WS business owners which influences MY vote.  I’m in with support for him.

    • Ditto, sorta February 2, 2019 (4:02 pm)

      He is backed by some very prominent WS business owners, which influences my vote.  No way I’m voting for him.  Sick of $$$$ buying politicians, and that’s what this business support means, don’t kid yourself.

      • Jay February 2, 2019 (4:19 pm)

        It’s laughable if you think the small business owners of west Seattle have the kind of pockets capable of buying a politician. We are happy to finally have a politician in Phil who is willing to let us have a seat at the table to express our concerns. If you value having mom and pop businesses instead of chains, it’s time to start listening to everyone’s issues. 

      • Business Owner February 2, 2019 (6:01 pm)

        That is funny!  No small business owns a politician. Also, $500 is the maximum donation that can be made.  No politician is bough for $500 dollars.  The only way around that is to create a PAC. Trust me, none of us no how to do that and we don’t have time :-)

  • Nolan February 2, 2019 (12:58 pm)

    To be frank, I’m seeing a lot of thinly veiled anti-government contrarianism and not much else. Anyone can complain about government “inefficiency” and “effectiveness”, which is a sure sign that they either misunderstand the role of government, the process of governance, or both.

  • Alkiobserver February 2, 2019 (1:20 pm)

    Right on Phil! A joy and relief to see a real life centrist stepping in. Love the commonsense approach. The perfect counter to the obnoxious sanctimony of the far left. You have my support again!

  • kj February 2, 2019 (1:53 pm)

    Not sure I understand the point you are making

  • Jethro Marx February 2, 2019 (2:54 pm)

    If you think government at any level can accomplish any task with a reasonable level of efficiency you’re just wack.  The process of governance in Seattle involves a lot of asking for citizen input but it’s carried out in such a way that like five people without jobs and WSB are present, and then we end up with whatever governance was already going to happen.  I bet they would get better citizen feedback at a local trivia night.  Maybe Mr. Tavel can change some stuff, maybe not, but I’d rather have someone with experience running trivia night and teaching physics making governance decisions than the current city council, who seem to generally have been born into wealth and privilege, even if it ain’t always white privilege.  Who knows, he could even get my vote, although the last time I voted was when I got extra credit for it in high school and that was before the turn of the century.  I wish we could have a measured view on things, rather than deciding everything comes down to “us” and “them” but apparently one must either hate orcas or eschew plastic straws, give sound transit unlimited dollars or be a caveman,  and either hate people who drive cars or hate SDOT; I, like F=ma, am just trying to find a balance.

    • Mickymse February 4, 2019 (10:02 am)

      So government is incompetent and the people running it don’t have the experience you want to see… BUT you haven’t voted since high school? Notice anything here about the problem you identified?

      • Jethro Marx February 5, 2019 (9:00 am)

        Yeah, here’s what I’ve noticed: the little steering wheels on the carts kids ride in at the grocery store do not, after all, affect the direction of travel, no matter how fervently one tries. And I guess voting’s about the same. And I’ve heard that old apothegm about if you don’t vote you can’t complain but that turns out to be false. Sometimes the only answer to a disingenuous question is to reject the underlying premise altogether.

  • MJ February 2, 2019 (3:42 pm)

    I miss the days when people like Charlie Chong were on the Council.

  • Ed February 4, 2019 (12:35 pm)

    More of this! Phil is the Councilmember that Seattle needs. Let’s hope that there are more candidates of this quality in the other districts. Herbold will have the status-quo party machine behind her, let’s be sure that our support goes beyond just words and translates into endorsements and donations. Seattle needs more behind the scenes heroes. Let’s step up and support this guy!

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