By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The face-to-face politeness in the Seattle City Council District 1 race ended last night at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
During the hourlong debate presented by Seattle CityClub, when the candidates were given the chance to ask each other a question, incumbent Lisa Herbold accused challenger Phil Tavel of mismanagement in his business dealings, and followed that up with an email sent to her campaign mailing list.
We’ve subsequently spent hours searching public records for corroboration of her allegations. So before we get to the rest of the debate, here’s what we found:
She listed 12 businesses with which Tavel was involved dating back to 2001, all LLCs or PLLCs “administratively dissolved” by the state for failure to file required reports and/or non-renewal. Secretary of State records confirm the administrative dissolutions. We also searched the state system for Herbold’s name and found one LLC formed in 2013 and administratively dissolved by the state in 2014 for the same reason..
Herbold’s allegations also included warrants for unpaid state taxes by one of Tavel’s companies and court action taken over a bounced $3,100 check. Records verify both cases, since closed.
When Herbold brought this up during the debate, Tavel was flustered, at first denying involvement, then when shown the list, acknowledging it and mentioning former business partners; records show others involved in most of the entities. After the debate, we emailed Tavel to request comment. A campaign representative sent this reply: “This is a desperate attack. I look forward to providing more information and am disappointed that this is the tone that Councilmember Herbold set after calling for civility and a clean campaign.” (Herbold had decried “divisive attack mailers” sent by third-party organizations opposing her and supporting Tavel before the August primary.) We also asked Herbold about her state-dissolved LLC; she replied by email, “Bob [her husband] and I were looking into doing a hobby distillery. We didn’t pursue it.”
The rest of the debate, moderated by Seattle Times reporter Heidi Groover and KUOW’s Ross Reynolds, was a lot like previous debates/forums. CityClub recorded it and will link the video here when ready (added 6:28 pm, here’s the video):
We took notes and our summaries (exact quotes only when denoted by quotation marks) are below:
Q: Why should voters choose you?
Tavel: “I want to be the leader here in this city that can bring new skills, new experiences to the table … with the problems we’re seeing in this city that’s what we need.” He says his past as a businessperson is also a reason.
Herbold. “I bring a lot of really important experience when the (city) is really going to need that .. I have a proven track record of deliverng for constituents in District 1 … things like getting the streetlights fixed .. I deliver for our district because I know how City Hall works.” But she says she understands the big-picture policy issues too.
Q: How would you separate the needs of homeless people trying to get back on their feet and homeless people who refuse help?
Herbold: She doesn’t separate the two but “you have to devise different interventions for different problems … you need interventions that are tailored to the people’s needs.” She supports “enhanced shelter” that’s “low barrier” with “sustained case management.”
Tavel: “Through expanding the LEAD program, Navigation Teams, homeless service providers with a track record of getting results … if we expand those programs, we’ll be able to reach out to all the people in the city that want help …. we’ll be able to identify those people quickly.” Then they’ll have to deal “separately” with those who decline help.
Q: Tavel is asked what he meant by “we’re going to continue to fail” if homelessness is defined as a housing problem
Tavel: He says many people in the street don’t just “need a few dollars for rent,” they have issues, drugs, mental health. “We need to help them and just providing housing is mot the answer.”
Herbold: “We can argue all day long about what the greatest causes of homelessness are … regardless of what the causes of homelessness are, the solution is always going to be housing … permanent supportive housing” works whatever people’s issues are. She says 95 percent of the people who get into supportive housing stay in it.
Q: District 5 candidate Ann Davison Sattler wants to build “FEMA-style shelters” at three sites including the former Harbor Island flour mill, and thinks that would house 5,500 people. Would you support it?
Herbold: She quotes (California Governor) Gavin Newsom as saying that shelter is a solution to not having a place to sleep, not I commissioned an audit of the Nav Team’s work last year and it said that the city should look into FEMA tents. I support looking into it. I think it’s a worthy issue.
Tavel: That actually is a good first step. We have people living in conditions where it’s unhealthy for them and for everyone around them. It’s a step toward finding jobs, help, hope.
Q: Do you support the Durkan Administration’s increase of no-notice sweeps and a policy cracking down on RVs?
Tavel: I think the mayor is attempting to do something, which is good. Now we’re starting to see some activity. I think we can do better things. It’s a good thing to deaal with RVs but as far as just sweeping people, it’s dehumanizing and that’s not the answer.
Herbold: The role I’ve played re: Navigation Team … to provide oversight and guidance for continuous improvement of their processes. I commissioned an audit and it has resulted in a number of improvements ,,, get the Nav Team access to funding for diversion … also re: RVs I have championed the remediation program when the city identifies high-profile locations.
Followup Q: But – a specific response to the mayor’s legislation?
Herbold: Like the city has the ability to shut down a rental unit unfit for habitation, RV situation is similar, but if we’re going to take RVs, we should provide financial assistance.
Tavel: I support the current legislation.,
Q: What has Herbold done regarding programs that aren’t working to reduce homelessness?
Herbold: She mentions reports including transforming the shelter system to enhanced shelter. We’e doing that. Gradually transforming as much of our basic shelter as possible to enhanced shelter.
Q: To Tavel – has the city done enough?
Tavel: “Absolutely not – look at the All Home website – 370 providers were looked at – the number that have met five of five standards is one. 4 of 5 standards? Less than 10 percent. And 3 of 5 targeted standards, less than 50 percent … we are not holding those people accountable.
Herbold: The All Home website is for the county as well as city, not just city providers. We had a conversation at City Hall the other day with HSD. Asked why basic and enhanced shelter seem to have the same outcomes.
Tavel: We’re just not doing it. Doesn’t matter if some are regional. Not reasonable. We are spending so much administrative money that the money is not getting to the people who need help.
Q: King County Council proposal for bus tickets to get homeless people out of town – do you support?
Tavel: Many came here, found themselves in a different situation than they expected, they literally do not have ability to get home, I appreciate the $ … when we can help someone get home.
Herbold: My audit resulted in recommendations that Nav Team have access to diversion services which include family reunification.
Q: Herbold opposes Center City streetcar project. But that would leave two lines not connected.
Herbold: That’s not the end of the world – there’s fantastic bus service that connects them. Money should go to light rail. That’s at least $50 million that could be used … plus $50 million debt financing … that’ at least $100 million (for light rail).
Tavel: I’d like to see the connector finished. but we have far more pressing needs than the connector. Need to address pressing issues. Public safety, homelessness, affordability concerning people.
Q: Both of you support a light-rail tunnel. Could cost a lot of money and there’s pushback. Where should the money come from?
Tavel: They’re only 5% of the way into the planning process so “you can’t tell me we know” what the price tag is going to be … “this is a generational choice ..we do not want to see that concrete monstrosity through our neighborhoods.” Apply for federal funds? State funds? Talk to Nucor?
Herbold: We are getting to the point where we need to be serious about where the $ s coming from. The costs come down the closer you get to design. I think the price tag will come down. I am really concerned that I appear to be the only person talking about where those dollars are coming from
Followup Q: Does Herbold have a specific funding source in mind?
Herbold: Beyond the $100 million, no.
(Editor’s note: The next question was for Tavel, about fines he hadn’t paid, which he acknowledged. 7:12 pm update: As originally noted, our notes fell short here so we waited to check the video, which we now have done. The question was why he hadn’t paid $1,070 in traffic fines. He said he needed to work with the court to get those out of collection.)
Q: Position on converting city golf courses into affordable housing?
Tavel: I do not want to have that happen. We do not have a problem large enough that would require losing the golf course.
Herbold: Likewise. I don’t know of any plan to convert golf courses into housing. The Mayor’s study actually has recommendations that are pro-golf.
Q: Each was invited to ask the other a question.
Tavel to Herbold: If re-elected, do you plan to reintroduce the head tax?
Herbold: No. I just got email from a small biz owner in Kirkland who says they pay $110 per employee and it’s not a big deal. It’s not unusual to have a conversation in a state with an upside-down tax system. We need to address that. I’m excited about the possible large-earner income tax.
(Editor’s note: This is where Herbold asked Tavel about his past businesses, as detailed at the start of the story.)
Q: How should the city be preparing in case of recession?
Tavel: I would support going to departments to find places we don’t need projects right now – departments tell me a lot of projects are not being managed properly – we can see that in our streets, which get torn up, fixed, then torn up for another project.
Herbold: The city works to prepare for a recession every day. We have a rainy day fund, etc. The city’s budget director is good at preparing. “There was a time when we had to tighten our belts and we did.”
Q: Do you support the (proposed) tax on high earners?
Tavel: I do. My issue is that we’re spending a lot of money on a tax that currently is not supported by law. But I do see the high-earners tax as a way to generate revenue in a non-regressive way.
Herbold: I am so excited because this will allow us to rely less on our regressive tax. First priority that I made sure is in the tax proposal, dial down or sales and property tax. ….. “Not only is this terrific for Seattle – remember, this (anti-income-tax ruling) was a 5-4 decision in the ’30s …” this could allow others to do it.
Q: What’s the city spending too much money on and why?
Herbold: I supported efforts to find funding so we could hire more police … though we approved that we can’t find the officers .. so we’re spending too much on overtime… important to get out from under the consent decree so we can hire more.
Tavel: SDOT, spending a lot of money needlessly. … we’re spending more money on transportation than we need to .. some of the places we’ve put bike lanes that aren’t separated … a lot of money spent needlessly .. a lot of money on intersection curbs where you come off and five feet away the sidewalk is crumbling.
Q: Should Seattle allow more duplexes and triplexes on more blocks? Where?
Tavel: We are going to have to expand our urban village borders. But keep it as close to transit as possible. Westwood Village is one of those areas we could add housing.
Herbold: I want more experience for city around newly approved Residential Small Lot zoning, find out … we’ve just changed all the SF zoning in urban villages, I would like to see how the development changes before we change all SF zoming to RSL. The Planning Commmission has exciting recommendations … Where? The Junction, for one.
Q: Rent control? Is it worth the fight?
Herbold: A loaded term …. I support removing prohibition in state law, don’t know if it’s control or stabilization or limiting the number of increases. I support rent regulations.
Tavel: No, I don’t support rent control. In NYC it created an administrative nightmare.
Q: Crosscut reported that police have returned to arresting sex workers. Should it be decriminalized?
Tavel: We should look at people selling sex as victims. I have represented many.
Decriminalizing it is a first step but it’s a dangerous slippery slope. Arrest might give them a chance “to get out of that cycle.” Does not support decriminalizing buying sex.
Herbold: She worked with Jeanne Kohl-Welles in changing term “prostitution.” … Problem we’re facing right now is we don’t have enough funding for LEAD and so they’ve returned to prosecuting. Need to expand LEAD funding.
Q: What’s D-1 most pressing public safety problem?
Herbold: The Microcommunity Policing Plans say the #1 identified problem – last year was police visibility, this year property theft – police staffing is a way to get at the issue – need to grow the size of the police department. – we’re falling behind (the added-staffing numbers approved) – I support doing more for retention of existing officers.
Tavel: He’s on the SW Precinct Advisory Council -two things right now, rise in property crimes … and rise in violent crimes. I’m hearing that those are the main concerns right now. We need to start thinking about addressing those issues, it’s a staffing issue. We need a City Council that is supportive of police, to raise their morale.
Followup Q: Do you hear concerns about being overpoliced?
Herbold: No. Even low income areas want more police. Concerned about safety
Tavel: That is something I have heard, in immigrant and minority communities. As a publi defender, I also see this. We need better polie visibility but need to be sure it’s unbiased policing.
Q: To Tavel – Why do you oppose safe injection sites?
Tavel: Not something we need. The report the city bases it on talks about people 15 to 69 using these sites. How can we be allowing people as young as 15 to shoot up? Increased crime around sits … supports harm reduction but some other way.
Herbold: I call them overdose prevention sites. It’s an investment in law enforcement response and hospital costs. You can’t say you support harm reduction but not overdose prevention sites. They link people to services. Also prevents HIV and Hepatitis A.
Q: Police staffing. Any specific programs city should implement?
Tavel: City Council, mayor, attorney who are on the same page as the police force. Not thanking them for the job they do (is bad). Those are all the things we need to fix. And make sure you re paying them.
Herbold: It upsets me when you refer to a council not supporting the police. We can’t all be held accountable for what one member says. I publicly thank them and supported their budget – 55 percent of the city budget is public safety . “I support our police department.”
Q: What do you think about Councilmember Lorena González’s proposal to limit large campaign donations?
Herbold: I think it’s very interesting. We passed district electiins, Democracy Vouchers … Every reform we do, sometimes there’s an unintended consequence,
Tavel: Absolutely, more should be done to limit campaign spending. It’s a big problem. I support that. Yes, I benefited from the Downtown Chamber funding. I asked for their endorsement, not their money. We SHOULD remove that from the system.
Both gave a closing statement. They mentioned their endorsements; Tavel repeated his theme that the city needs change.
WHAT’S NEXT: Again, CityClub says it’ll publish video of the debate when ready – its YouTube channel is here (update: video’s up; go here). Four more forums/debates are planned between now and October 21st; next one, Monday (October 14th), . Voting starts once ballots are mailed and received by the end of next week – deadline, Election Day, November 5th.