By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you haven’t yet settled on a choice for City Council District 1, with ballots going out tomorrow, this is a big week for evaluating the candidates side by side.
The first of three forums/debates this week was last night at Our Lady of Guadalupe‘s Walmesley Center. The Westside Interfaith Network and League of Women Voters presented it. Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist (and West Seattleite) Brian Callanan served as volunteer moderator:
No surprises this time, unlike last Thursday’s event in North Delridge. The questions for this one, some of which were from written suggestions made by members of the audience, largely trod familiar ground, though there were a few small clashes, most notably over something The Stranger (which has endorsed Herbold) said about Tavel; while answering a question about homelessness-related funding, he said that publication said he had “gotten it right,” while she said what The Stranger said he got right was that their biggest difference was on homelessness funding. (This appears to be the story in question.)
Both were given two minutes for opening statements; you can watch the video if you’re interested. Below, we summarize how the Q&A went from there; it’s all paraphrasing/summarizing unless we use quotation marks to signify a direct quote.
First question: What is the most pressing issue for District 1?
Tavel: For the whole city – dealing with the homelessness crisis. The city isn’t acting with urgency. People “don’t see a city that they recognize any more.”
Herbold: People are telling her that homelessness is a “great concern.” The city is moving more people into permanent housing, faster, than ever before, but we need more housing.
Q: Is the city putting enough money toward homelessness?
Herbold: We need more permanent supportive housing. Need to double our investment.
Tavel: We probably need more money, but we don’t know what that sum is. “I’m not prepared to just write a blank check.” More research is needed. We “spend a tremendous amount of money on the administrative side.”
Q: What do you think about the future of Camp Second Chance?
Tavel: Some good things happen there, but we need to do more. Neighbors see the other fallout, people who come there who aren’t in C2C.
Herbold: It’s a fantastic model of a tiny-house village. The council is considering legislation to expand the total number of encampments, either tents or tiny houses. The percentage of folks leaving THVs and going to housing is among the highest of our interventions, 35 percent.
Tavel: What percentage of time does the 35% cover?
Herbold: 2018 – all tiny-house villages/sanctioned encampments. See the city website.
Q: West Seattle residents are concerned about density and parking. What options do you support?
Herbold: Supporting better bus service – we have been successful in adding some service to some lines – voters approved funding via the Transportation Benefit District. Also working on a variety of transportation projects, Highland Park safety, Safe Routes to School, Duwamish Longhouse safety project.
Tavel: Look at a picture from 100 years ago and West Seattle looks much different. We’re going to get denser. We have to plan better as a city. Long-term planning has been inadequate. We could have a lot more density in urban villages. People are concerned about 60-unit buildings with 17 parking spaces. Parking loss: Pho Aroma restaurant (on Delridge) is worried that they are losing parking for a bus stop.
Herbold: Bus lines like C and 120 are very popular.
Tavel: City is not updating neighborhood plans. I keep hearing that SDOT does not do planning well.
Q: Gentrification and loss of affordability are concerns – what should developers be required to do?
Tavel: HALA MHA – developers can either build on site or pay in-lieu fee – they’re all choosing latter. The affordable housing doesn’t even have to go in the neighborhood; it needs to. Meantme my landlord showed me his property tax bill and it had gone way up.
Herbold: There IS neighborhood planning happening – Delridge, Westwood, Junction. Somethng like HALA MHA, oyu don’t just implement it and walk away, you have to keep evaluating it. The in-lieu fees are important because each dollar leverage 3 more … it actually “buys more housing.” We’ll be looking to see if we’re hitting the 50-50 mark (between on-site and fees(, and if we’e not, we’ll raise the fee.
Tavel: How much development can happen in a 2-year period before we see the 50/50 isn’t happening?
Herbold: July of 2020 is when, I believe, we’ll be analyzing.
Q: What are two or three things the city can do to meet its climate goals?
Herbold: I’ve been moving toward electrification of city vehicles. I also want to change the construction code for new buildings, so there’s access to composting, recycling, garbage on every floor; more people use if more people can access. Also working with Port to require the electrification of T-5. I feel strongly we need to renew the Transportation Benefit District.
Tavel: We have to work to speed this up. If you understand what’s happening with climate … we’re “in a damage control period. … Going carbon-neutral in 30 years is way too far out.” Electrification of police cars is not currently feasible but let’s talk to experts like Tesla about it.
Q: The mayor has proposed her new budget. What changes do you recommend, what items do you applaud?
Tavel: I like the transitional program dealing with homeless people coming out of jail … I worry about some of the homeless service provider spending … SDOT and City Light and Public Utilities, we’re not looking at how we’e managing their projects.
Herbold: Increased investment in permanent supportive housing, going to be able to double it next year, one from bonding capacity, another from Lyft/Uber tax – not supportive of downtown streetcar funding.
Q: Property taxes are going up, voters are asked to support levies for basics like parks and streets. Why can’t general fund pay for them?
Herbold: Regressive tax system. The cost of city services is rising higher than the revenue to support it. Excited about income tax on high earners (still making its way through court). If it goes through, we will dial down our reliance on property and sales taxes.
Tavel: City is managing its budget poorly. Someone the other day said they feel like the city has squandered our generosity. “We’re failing to measure properly what we’re doing … we need better understanding of what it is we’re doing.”
Q: With the federal government reducing support for immigrants, what can we do, and do you support Seattle being a sanctuary city?
Herbold: Worked with now-Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Hate-Free Zone. We don’t inquire about immigration status. It makes the community safer. If you are worried about your immigration status, you’re not going to come forward (to report crimes, problems). We were the first city to pass this law after 9/11 and it’s been replicated all over the country.
Tavel: I do support Seattle being a sanctuary city. Immigrants who have given back depend on that. I don’t support criminals staying here. If you are a felon or have warrants out, you don’t deserve that protection. NWIRP is a fantastic group. We also need to support cultural diversity.
Q: There’s a national opioid crisis – what can be done? Do you support “safe injection sites”?
Tavel: No. Harm reduction for long-term drug abusers is important but not that. Need to increase our community-based detox services. The American Medical Association is creating a certification program for (former addicts) to help others.
Herbold: Agree that we need more community-based detox. The drug treatment aspect, usually not a city responsibility, it’s a county and state thing. So our state legislature has made some “game-changing investments in the last budget …going to see those come online.” Supports “overdose prevention sites.”
Tavel: Refutes Herbold’s contention that you can’t have harm reduction without “safe injection sites.”
Herbold: The resources saved by not having them pale in connection with the value of saving somebody you love.
Q: The prison system is broken. Do you support restorative justice?
Tavel: As a public defender for the last 15 years, (I know) you have to do a better job of reintegrating people. We can look at, when someone comes out of prison, support them so they can go down the path they want to choose. But there also are longterm criminals who will keep going back to it and we need to separate those out.
Herbold: The state has a fantastic program …housing and jobs for people coming out (of incarceration). One of the greatest factors for recidivism is housing – having somewhere to go cuts recidivism by 70 percent.
Q: What will you do about hunger in our schools, better access to food, the Delridge food desert?
Herbold: We have two food deserts in D-1. The city moving away from ensuring stores and toward supprting healthy food in other ways like Fresh Bucks, partnering with P-Patches … There are ways for the city to partner with the schools.
Tavel: I would love to see better food education. I had friends diagnosed as diabetics, they had very little nutrition understanding. Need to teach students how to eat healthy. Regarding the food desert in Delridge, the Delridge Grocery groundbreaking is November 2nd, everybody should join (the co-op), give them $100.
Q: Seattle & King County are having a child-care crisis. Some providers can’t pay living wage and stay in business. What are your solutions?
Tavel: Co-op preschool’s a great model. Expand use of our schools – a lot have space.
Herbold: Not true that there’s a lot of empty space – I championed two programs because they were being squeezed out. Our community centers also are bursting at the seams. They aren’t able to use for other purposes. A big part of this is about space. Incentive zoning to incentivize developers (to offer space for such programs) could be good.
Tavel: Says he was talking about before/after school.
Herbold: Those are the types of programs that are losing their spaces.
From here, moderator Callanan switched to community-submitted queestions.
Q: How will my life change if you are elected?
Tavel: You will start to rebuild your trust in our city government. You will regain your respect for it. I will have an office in D-1 and be here every day. You will be listened to and be heard. You will have someone foghting for you.
Herbold: Four seats have no incumbent running, so the council will have at least four new members. Residents of D-1 want somebody who knows how City Hall works. That’s going to be more critical than any other time when we have this massive change in representation. It’s going to be helpful to have someone who has experience.
Q: For Herbold – how can the council ban plastic straws but approve of (hypodermic) needles?
Herbold: The straw ban actually passed in 2010 and was just now implemented. We do not approve of needles but we have a robust needle-pickup program.
Q: For Tavel – we’re not a representative demographic in this room, how will you represent everyone?
Tavel: Because I go to all the different neighborhoods and talk to people. At Neighborhood House High Point, we’re talking about a forum to address teen children not paying attention to parents and getting involved in crime. In South Park I’ve been talking to the Latino community, Vietnamese community.
Herbold: Analysis of voting shows my strong support east of 35th – our city is focused on equity, putting the greatest needs of the people with the least, first. I have worked to get funding for programs at Neighborhood House like Ready to Work.
Q: RV residents – how do we keep their blackwater from our sewers?
Herbold: I piloted the RV remediation program, looking at expanding it. Currently it allows city to focus on eight locations every month – not chosen by public complaints, but by an objective assessment such as public health effects of that location.
Tavel: I know whatever we’re doing is not working. We need to enable police to enforce laws. We need to look at safe lots for pumping out waste, dropping off recycling and trash.
Q: What’s your plan for dog parks in West Seattle?
Tavel: We need to add one. We will be definitely adding one.
Herbold: The trick is finding land – we can look at city (surplus) land, wouldn’t want to take from existing parks – but we could look at existing city sites. The Parks Department is looking at this.
Q: For Herbold – how will you support police while holding them accountable?
Herbold: Those are not incompatible … my support (includes that) I approved the budget, hiring bonuses, lateral hire, retention plan … SPD’s budget has increased from $300 million to $400 million in the three years I’ve been on the council. Also have to get SPD out from under consent decree.
Tavel: Talking to officers after the (police union’s recent) forum, officers said if they could choose between $2 in salary and $1 plus a pat on the back, they’d choose the latter. I’ve talked to almost every officer in the Southwest Precinct. They don’t feel support. But if (an officer goes wrong), they should have real consequences.
Q: What would you do about revenues from sweetened-beverage tax, school-zone cameras?
Herbold: Voted against the sweetened-beverage tax. Need to use camera revenue for pedestrian safety programs.
Tavel: Would rescind sweetened beverage tax. Need to fight for taxes that are not regressive. Tax revenues not going to what they were suppsoed to.
Q: Drivers’ speeds on arterials are higher than what’s posted – what would you do to fix that?
Tavel: Police could have increased patrols. People tell us they want speed bumps. Maybe more speed cameras. And more driving education in general.
Herbold: Signage is important – speed limit should be consistent with signage – I agree with Tavel, traffic safety programs, speed bumps are something I go to bat for.
Last Q: How do you feel about setting up FEMA-style shelter?
Herbold: I’m interested in learning more about it.
Tavel: (Former D-1 candidate) Brendan Kolding was first to bring it up. All of a sudden it’s regained life. We do need a way to triage people who are living on the side of the road and in parks. But it’s not a solution.
Both then were given time for closing statements (see the video for those). Audience members were invited to hang around for a while and talk with the candidates one-on-one. One person stormed out just before the conclusion, apparently unhappy a question was not asked, shouting that our area is “still a Superfund site.”
VOTER-REGISTRATION REMINDER: Lucy Gaskill-Gaddis from the co-presenting League of Women Voters, which focuses on voter education, reminded everyone that you can register online until October 28th, and in person all the way up until Election Day.
VOTING REMINDER: The county plans to mail ballots tomorrow; you can vote as soon as yours arrives. The deadline for turning it in is 8 pm Tuesday, November 5th, if you are using a county dropbox (the two in West Seattle are in High Point and The Junction); if you send it via postal mail (remember it’s now postage-paid so no stamp needed), just be sure it will get a November 5th (or sooner) postmark.
NEXT FORUMS/DEBATES: Two more in West Seattle this week: