By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The questions were similar but the format different as the 34th District Democrats put four of the Seattle City Council District 1 candidates side by side last night for the second time in two weeks. From left, Phil Tavel, Brendan Kolding, Jesse Greene, and incumbent Lisa Herbold spent an hour an a half in what was billed as a debate, with rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.
So far, as with previous events, the debate at Holy Family Bilingual Catholic School generally ran along the lines of the challengers criticizing city leadership in general and, at times, Herbold in particular, rather than any of the three non-incumbents taking on the others. It’s all in the video above; the 34th’s Jordan Crawley and Chris Porter moderated (the video begins with Crawley explaining the rather intricate rules). Our toplines are after the jump:
Kolding was most direct in his criticism, countering Herbold’s contention that the council shows its support for Seattle Police – his employer until recently – through increasing SPD funding. He pulled out a list of specific points which he contended were displays by Herbold of non-support for police. Among his citations was her support for Initiative 940, the ballot measure approved by 60 percent of voters statewide last year. She countered that 940 was broadly supported by voters in District 1 and the rest of the city (72 percent approval in King County). Kolding suggested that voters didn’t understand what they were voting for – “it was sold to the public as a training bill; it wasn’t.” He also criticized Herbold for saying she approved officers’ recent contract “regretfully”; she said her regrets were that the contract undid some reforms.
Affordable housing was another topic; Greene said the lengthy permit process is a problem, along with the cost of buildable land, while Tavel said his rent had gone up $100 because his landlord’s property taxes had risen 50 percent. Herbold said that our state’s regressive tax structure plays a big role in the city’s “challenges.”
A question about the drug-addiction crisis brought up the concept of “safe injection sites,” as had been the case at previous forums. Though Herbold did not pull back her support for the concept – saying they are actually “overdose prevention sites” – she said the regional US Attorney’s recent anti-injection-site remarks meant the city was unlikely to try “moving forward” on the idea. Greene, noting that he lost his father to addiction, said “we need to work together” to fight it rather than politicizing it. On a followup, Kolding reiterated his previously voiced support for involuntary treatment, saying that would be a manifestation of a “community caretaking function.” Herbold said involuntary treatment certainly is part of a toolbox but as a “last resort.”
A question on the environment and what the city could do about emissions from motorized transportation on the roads led to some meandering responses. Tavel talked about pollution from aircraft and vessels; Kolding mentioned carbon-offset credits and partnering with scientists; Greene said he would like to see solar panels in all new buildings. Herbold noted that since the council committee she chairs includes utilities in its portfolio, she had worked on an initiative in support of electric-powered solid-waste trucks, plus, she said she had advocated for increased bus service, and repeated her concerns about the Center City streetcar.
They also discussed accountability for homelessness-related service providers and other aspects of addressing homelessness. Kolding, who has said he would favor “FEMA-style tents” for dramatically expanding shelter space, said there wouldn’t be a time limit for people moving on as long as they were working toward a “dignified lifestyle.” He also repeatedly used the phrase “homeless industrial complex” in reference to service providers; Herbold took issue with that, pointing out the low pay for many in that line of work. Greene said providers should be incentivized and again underscored his personal experience with homelessness. Herbold noted that she authored legislation regarding accountability for service providers. Tavel stressed a need for clarity on goals and also said that if they’re not being met, “disincentivizing” is what’s in order.
Taxes were the next topic, and along with reiteration of tax inequity came musings on whether tax money is going to the right place, as well as whether “the right people” are being taxed, as Greene put it while taking a shot at the sugary-drink tax. Tavel said it’s imperative to better understand where current tax dollars are going; he would call for auditing SDOT and utilities. He also wondered where marijuana taxes go. During Kolding’s 10 years with the city, he said, it was “embarrassing” to see money “flow(ing) out.” He also said that if the objective is to get people with money to spend more of it (ostensibly on taxes), safe streets would encourage that. Herbold said “we don’t see 75 percent of our tax dollars” as it goes to other entities, adding that “25 percent of King County cities have higher property taxes” than Seattle.
Prior to closing statements – which are part of our video as well as opening statements and the debate in its entirety – attendees were reminded that if they want to vote on who the 34th DDs will endorse in the race – the ultimate reason for this debate and the forum held April 10th – they need to join the group, which meets second Wednesdays.
WHAT’S NEXT: The field of candidates for the August 6th primary won’t be official until filing week in mid-May. Meantime, other groups/organizations have said they’re planning forums and/or debates, but the only date we know of for sure so far is the one we’re co-sponsoring with the West Seattle Junction Association at Summer Fest, tentatively set for July 14th.