Story, photos, video by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Four of the five candidates who have registered campaigns for the District 1 (West Seattle/South Park) City Council seat appeared in the second forum of the season last night.
This one was presented by the 34th District Democrats, whose rules require that candidates contending for the group’s endorsement – the ultimate reason the group has forums – affirm they are Democrats. Isaiah Willoughby did not, the 34th DDs said, but the remaining four – Lisa Herbold, Phil Tavel, Brendan Kolding, Jesse Greene (that’s the L-R order in which they were seated) – did.
First, here’s our full unedited video of the forum, organized by legislative-action committee chair Jordan Crawley, with questions asked by first vice-chair Rachel Glass:
Crawley explained they had used results of their online survey to determine seven issues to focus on. If you don’t have time to watch/listen, we have toplines ahead – but please note, these are not anything close to full transcriptions; for the candidates’ full answers, see the video.
As is customary, the forum began and ended with opening/closing remarks from each candidate.
“I believe I’ve served … by fulfilling my campaign promises,” said Herbold in her introductory remarks, saying her website has 15 pages detailing how.
“We can do better … we’re looking at a city with a lot of issues … new problems every day,” contended Tavel in his introduction. “We are at a crossroad where we need to have new leaders and new ideas.”
Kolding spent his time introducing himself, including his background as a former police lieutenant. SPD is in “crisis” in terms of staffing, he said, adding that he wants to “introduce smart government to this city.”
Greene listed the reasons he is running, including his “passion for this community” and his belief that “our current council has missed the mark” on homelessness, with which he noted he has personal experience, in his childhood.
First question: What’s the next step in increasing “affordable housing stock” after HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability‘s recent passage, and what will District 1 “get out of it”?
Tavel said he’s concerned we won’t get enough affordable housing out of HALA MHA and “we need to do a lot more,” without being specific.
Kolding said he feels MHA “really needs to be revisited.” He said he foresees a “second wave of upzoning” with Sound Transit light rail coming this way.
Greene said he supports more funding for affordable housing but more “middle-income housing” is needed too. He thinks “integrating affordable housing” into developments is vital (as opposed to the “fee option”). He also voiced concern about gentrification, listing High Point and South Park as areas of concern.
Herbold said she’s glad to “hear everyone is in agreement that we need more affordable housing.” She said the council will revisit MHA if too few developers are “performing” (building it in their projects). She said local affordable-housing nonprofits have $200 million in projects ready to go but the city will only have about half that much funding to offer.
Second question: How would you improve the city’s environmental health, sustainability, and resiliency?
Kolding suggested supporting nonprofits that are working on the issue and that the city should continue working on reducing fleet emissions as well as encouraging businesses to keep working on it.
Greene, whose business is in South Park, noted that area’s pollution problems and said that focusing on clean transportation is a top priority. Businesses should do their part via “energy-management systems,” he added.
Herbold also said transportation is a vital focus – reducing single-occupancy-vehicle trips, especially. She also called for investing in “getting people out of cars” and said she’s worked to get more bus service. She also mentioned working with Seattle Public Utilities to increase recycling opportunities for multifamily buildings.
Tavel said “we need to embrace more of what we have” – mentioning South Park’s “urban farm,” greenspaces, and wetland protection.
Third question: Health care. What will you do as a councilmember to ensure people have access to the care they need? was the question, listing multiple areas of health concern.
Greene suggested on-demand help for substance abuse, one of the areas of concern.
He and Herbold both spoke to the need for more mental-health-care beds. She also said food deserts – Delridge and South Park – need food access to be ramped up, mentioning that the city is addressing that via Fresh Bucks, food bank support, and more.
Tavel said our region has good hospitals and clinics and that can be built on.
Kolding mentioned the difficulty in getting from here to hospitals if a disaster cuts access. Regarding mental health and chemical dependency, he called them America’s biggest health issues right now. The former needs full funding, the latter needs more bed availability. He also said a street-crime problem is leading to violence that itself represents a health problem.
Fourth question focused specifically on addiction. What programs would the candidates support to reduce heroin/opiates’ prevalence in Seattle?
Herbold said “treatment on demand” must be made more available, not just for those who are incarcerated. She also said a safe injection site would reverse 167 overdoses, prevent 90 ER visits, and result in 6 lives saved.
Tavel said a stronger safety net in the criminal-justice system is important. “We need to support our drug court and our mental-health court” more than is the case now.
Kolding said he would summarize his entire law-enforcement career with the three words “drugs are bad.” He said involuntary treatment would help many but “you need a bed” for someone to get it. Naran/naloxone should be widely available to reverse overdoses. He said he is 100 percent “against heroin injection sites.”
Greene said he is too, and noted that Vancouver, B.C., which has one, has not seen a reduction in heroin use. People who are addicted need help, so it’s “so important for us to have treatment on demand.”
Fifth question: Public safety. How do the candidates plan to recruit and retain police?
Tavel said the city has grown but the police force has not. The council and mayor need to be more supportive.
Kolding said that too, and said he’s running to be a voice for police on the council.
Greene also mentioned police feeling unsupported, saying he spoke recently with an officer in South Park. The Fire Department too, he said, citing a recent meeting with the firefighters’ union.
Herbold said she “can’t argue” with those who say police don’t feel supported, but, she insisted, “your City Council has supported the police.” She mentioned funding for additional officers, funding for the contract, and more. Police attrition/retention is a problem in many big cities, not just Seattle, she said. And she reiterated that the Community Service Officer program needs to get going.
Sixth question: Light rail – there’s a lot of support for tunneling, but that would cost more so how do you balance that?
Kolding acknowledged the “overwhelming community desire” for a tunnel. “It’s one of those things we can’t afford to get wrong … we need to be creative about finding funding sources.” He said he personally supports the “purple line.” And he declared himself 100 percent pro-tunnel.
Greene said he is too. He then went into a mini-rant about city spending (though light rail is not a city project). “This is a project that’s not going to just benefit West Seattle, it’s going to benefit beyond.”
Herbold said she also supports tunneling in The Junction and also supports looking at Delridge options that would not put an elevated alignment “through a densely populated residential neighborhood.” She said the “shopping shuttle” would be one source of funding.****
Tavel said that putting an elevated line in The Junction is akin to not tearing down the Viaduct. He said it’s importat to get the “purple line” back on the table for the environmental studies.
Seventh and final question had to do with addressing homelessness:
Greene said he believes it’s the city’s most important issue. “We need an individualized approach,” he said. He also called for more “transparency” in the way money is being spent now.
Herbold said, “We know what works” – enhanced shelter, for starter – and more of that needs to be created. Permanent supportive housing, too. (For example, though she didn’t mention it, that is what Cottage Grove Commons in Delridge offers.)
Tavel noted that the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness is 14 years in without an end. Providers don’t have a good track record, he contended.
Kolding said he wants to create “transitional housing” such as “FEMA-style tents” and a “triage process to direct people to the appropriate facility.” And “if people won’t take advantage of the opportunities they have” people need to be “held accountable to the laws that govern our society.”
Each also had a closing statement.
Herbold said she is honored to serve as the first-ever District 1 city councilmember and hopes to continue because there’s more work to be done.
Tavel said we’re “only looking at one side of so many issues” and said what needs to be done now is “improve civic outreach and listen to everybody …not just those who are yelling the loudest” as well as collaborate and respect businesses.
Kolding declared “the city of Seattle is in crisis” and urges people to watch “Seattle Is Dying” and read “System Failure,” which draws the night’s first smattering of boos from a few corners. He recaps that he wants to work on “smart government.”
Greene expresses appreciation for his fellow candidates as well as those in attendance. “We all do have a different direction taht we believe is the right way for Seattle.” He says his background as a small businessperson has given him a unique perspective.
The 34th DDs’ endorsement meeting will be in June. Before that, they plan to bring together the candidates one more time, in a debate-style event at 6:30 pm April 23rd at Holy Family Catholic School; the public is welcome at that event too.
A few unrelated notes from arlier in the meeting:
AWARD FOR SHARON NELSON: Newly retired State Sen. Sharon Nelson was honored by the group, accepting the Elected Official of the Year award for 2018.
She said, “I love retirement” but also proudly cited a few milestones during her near-decade in Olympia, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and buying some environmentally crucial land on Vashon Island.
County Councilmember Joe McDermott added some praise for Sen. Nelson.
EDUCATION FUNDING: Seattle School Board president (and West Seattle/South Park board rep) Leslie Harris took the microphone for a few moments to note that the district is dealing with a $44 million budget deficit. That shortage is because, she said, the district is not allowed to use its full voter-approved levy authority. “Call your legislators and raise a little heck,” she urged.
The 34th District Democrats meet on second Wednesdays, 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy.