One last time before the vote counting begins next Tuesday, the three candidates for the Seattle City Council District 1 seat (West Seattle/South Park) sat side by side Monday night, answering questions. This final pre-primary forum was at West Seattle Library in The Admiral District, presented by the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County, with about two dozen people there to watch. KNKX radio reporter Simone Alicea moderated, asking questions including some written on cards and submitted by attendees.
The forum began with an up-to-three-minute opening statement from each candidate – Phil Tavel, then Brendan Kolding, then Lisa Herbold. As we’ve done with most of this year’s forums, we recap with key points rather than full transcriptions:
TAVEL: “I believe we can do better.” A training experience some years ago “really opened my eyes to what you can do when you step up for public service.” He decided to use experience from his careers – including teaching and law. He thinks the city doesn’t need to have so many either/ors – “you can be pro-business without being anti-labor,” for example. “I think I bring a lot to the table.”
KOLDING: “I’m running for this office because I believe this city is in crisis … I feel I have particular skills and expertise I can apply.” He believes his background in SPD will be valuable in dealing with key issues such as public safety and homelessness. He’s inspired by people coming out to hear from the candidates.
HERBOLD: In 2015 she ran on a platform of “better rights” for renters and workers, and feels she has delivered. She also promised to deliver “better constituent services” and feels she has delivered on that. The city inarguably has “large challenges,” but “I believe that when we work together on these nuts and bolts things, we can truly address the challenges this city faces.”
First question: What are the three most important issues facing the district and what do you propose to address them?
KOLDING: Homelessness: Services, shelter, enforce the law.
Public safety: Council needs a supportive voice for police.
Transportation: Supports light-rail tunnel.
HERBOLD: Homelessness: Accountability, housing affordability, double down on enhanced shelter and permanent supportive housing.
Transportation: Need to renew Prop 1 next year to keep funding more transit.
TAVEL: Homelessness: Transitional housing program for people who would otherwise be homeless as they leave jail. Need more community-based solutions for substance abuse.
Public safety: “Need more police on the street.”
Transportation: Protect Junction free parking; light rail “purple line”.
Second question: Biggest challenge facing City Council, and how would you solve it?
HERBOLD: Public safety. Council approved expanding police force, expanding SPD budget, hiring bonuses, back pay, but federal consent decree is hampering hiring. Need to work with SPD and police union to get out from under it.
TAVEL: Council needs to work together “for all of the people of Seattle.” Currently seems to be “government by a select few for a select few.” He believes he can bring people together to problem-solve.
KOLDING: “People just aren’t happy.” Council needs to make people feel comfortable, valued, like they’re “getting their money’s worth.” He feels starting with a “clean slate” will help.
Third question: What to do about homeless campers who are resistant to services?
TAVEL: Court says it’s not illegal to live on the street so we have to have places for people to go so we can say “here are your options.” When something is illegal, we should enforce the law.
KOLDING: Get enough services available to offer people treatment, shelter, services. Enforce the law.
HERBOLD: Challenges “the notion that the city is not enforcing the laws,” saying at least half a dozen encampments are being removed every week. RVs are “being asked to mve.” Need to “ramp up our investment in the interventions that we know work.”
Fourth question: Assess city’s response to homelessness, what’s being done well, what could be better?
HERBOLD: Repeats that more investment is needed in permanent supportive housing. Focus on interventinns that work best. Move toward regional approach on homelessness to align approaches and decisions.
KOLDING: “Hard to be able to identify something the city has done well.” Every person exiting homelessness is a good thing. Need to take a different approach, to use money more efficiently – if most successful providers are getting 35% housed, what’s happening to other 65%? Need to use “FEMA-style tents” as transitional shelter.
TAVEL: Declaring state of emergency was good. Acting without urgency has been bad. The city has said there’s a problem “but it just keeps getting worse.” He feels the city has let that happen. Need new leaders.
Fifth question: Do you support ‘safe injection sites’ and if you do, where should they be?
TAVEL: “Not a good idea at all” but “the idea for longtime (users) to have a place to inject and not die on the street” has value.
HERBOLD: Stresses that there is no current plan. What’s been proposed previously “is King County’s plan and is on hold because of federal lawsuits.” But she supports the idea of having one, to save lives.
Sixth question: What transportation changes would you fight for?
HERBOLD: Renewing Prop 1 to keep investing in extra bus services. Also supports Safe Routes for Schools pedestrian projects. Accountability and oversight for other upcoming projects like RapidRide H Line conversion/Delridge improvements.
TAVEL: Bus lane from West Seattle Bridge to Highway 99. Hire more bus drivers, add more maintenance facilities, connector buses, expand Water Taxi.
KOLDING: Safety. More-frequent bus service, examine bus-stop locations. “Parking is a huge issue” – go back to requiring parking to be included in all projects.
Seventh question: How to improve accessibility for transit?
KOLDING: Would research what’s working/not working.
HERBOLD: Using proviso reviews to address for example the bus-stop spacing concerns on RapidRide H conversion.
TAVEL: Would audit SDOT. Match stats and work plans to “greatest need.”
Eighth question: Do you support zoning restrictions to preserve a neighborhood’s character?
TAVEL: “As long as you can find a way to still grow and add density where it’s needed.”
HERBOLD: Landmarking process was used to address this in The Junction. Ensured that neighborhood planning will happen in The Junction with light rail coming.
KOLDING: Yes, but it’s not an “either/or” with density/upzoning.
Ninth question: How would you suggest the city finance policies regarding homelessness?
HERBOLD: Going to bond against existing sales tax so we can spend $50 million more on permanent supportive housing, which will leverage three to four times that from other government sources. We also need to “continue a conversation about progressive revenue” because of regressive taxation.
KOLDING: “We have the funds to address homelessness” in budget already. Need to spend it differently.
TAVEL: Also thinks we have enough money already, so wants to audit city spending to figure out how to better allocate/spend it.
Tenth question: We live in a historic time of income inequality. How do we change that?
KOLDING: “Stop the bleeding” re: taxing people too much.
TAVEL: “This is not something that a local City Council can necessarily attack,” but programs can help like union job training to help people increase their income.
HERBOLD: Agrees that helping people find better job opportunities is big. Also must “turn upside-down tax system right-side up,” reducing city’s reliance on sales and property tax. Mentions the recent ruling invigorating the fight for income tax to replace some of that.
Eleventh question: How would you reach out to people with opposing views?
TAVEL: Find common ground. “The divisiveness needs to stop.”
HERBOLD: She has a reputation as “somebody who will meet with anybody.” She has pulled together “stakeholder groups of opposing sides” on issues she’s worked on.
KOLDING: Listen to everybody. Work on intra-council negotiations.
Twelfth question: How to ensure you’re representing constituents of all income levels?
HERBOLD: Be accessible. Also set up structures to ensure low-income people’s voices are heard.
KOLDING: Be accessible.
TAVEL: Be accessible.
Thirteenth question:One thing you want other councilmembers to know about District 1?
TAVEL: Different needs, and a bit of a different vibe – even tried to secede.
KOLDING: West Seattle and South Park are truly special places.
HERBOLD: D-1 understands that growth and change are happening but want a place at the table.
KOLDING: Thanks his opponents for the campaign, “we’ve really had a hell of a time.” To voters – if you’re not happy, we need change.
HERBOLD: Also expresses appreciation for opponents. Wanted “more light, less heat” in the campaign and appreciates that it’s gone that way. Feels she’s kept the commitments she made in first run.
TAVEL: Also expresses gratitude. Moved here because he fell in love with Seattle. Wants to see the city reach its potential. Excited by the opportunity to help.
VOTING: Get your ballot into the mail by August 6th (remember, postage is now prepaid) or a dropbox (here are the locations) by 8 pm that night.