By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The ballots are arriving, so the voting is beginning. But 2 1/2 weeks of campaigning remain for Phil Tavel and Lisa Herbold in the City Council District 1 race – including debates. Next one is at 11 am Saturday – more on that after our report on the one the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce presented last night.
First, our video:
The debate was held at Westside School (WSB sponsor) in Arbor Heights, whose head of school Steve de Beer had words of welcome. The Chamber’s government-affairs committee chair Rik Keller moderated. The format was “Lincoln-Douglas-ish.” They began with opening statements; see the video for those. Our toplines below are summaries/paraphrases unless quotation marks are used.
Q: Regulation and compliance cost businesses more than taxes. How will you be a voice of moderation before more are enacted?
Herbold: We reconvened citywide Technical Assistance Group, single point of contact or businesses to negotiate the regulatory environment. Somebody just called us to wonder about (a situation) and I pointed them to the Office of Economic Development. I have a track record of this work.
Tavel: I’ve heard some “unbelievable stories about the permitting time.” Gyros Heroes had to wait 8 months for a hood permit. We need to be able to fast-track … The Department of Construction and Inspections is seeing record money coming in from permits but service (isn’t keeping up). Our city charter says “promoting prosperity” is a major reason for city government … “we aren’t doing that right now.”
Herbold: SDCI’s struggles are a result of our prosperity. They have increased staffing levels. But the Council could be more active on streamlining permitting.
Q: What is the biggest current challenge to locally owned businesses?
Tavel: Our government. That’s what small businesses tell us. Nobody on City Council has any experience running a business. If we vote for change, if we decide we don’t like what’s happening, we put new people in place to accomplish those goals.
Herbold: Flip side of our successes as a city – businesses dealing with development pushing them out … also the regressive tax system. We’re working with the Small Business Advisory Council to make the B&O tax less regressive. If the large-earner income tax happens – first priority will be to dial down regressive taxes.
Tavel: We talk about regressivity – sugared beverage tax is regressive, tolling downtown is regressive … with HALA MHA upzoning, now you’re getting taxed on potential for your site … that’s making it impossible to make ends meet.
Q: How can communication from City Council to Labor Standards to small businesses be better?
Herbold: I was the only councilmember to vote against the sugary beverage tax. … The city funds outreach and education for labor laws – ensuring equity – But there is more to do,
Tavel: Voting for the right thing but losing 8-1 doesn’t help your constituents. Regarding enforcement and rules, I’m going to have a small business liaison and have a district office and spend my time going around to businesses. “We keep forgetting” the government is supposed to be here to support us. Promoting business should be a priority, OED should be on that, Labor Standards shouldn’t be assuming businesses are doing the wrong thing.
Herbold: I’ve reached out to small businesses on legislation I sponsored – for “secure scheduling,” that led to the decision to exempt small businesses.
Q: How can you re-engage people in government?
Tavel: District office, continuous town halls, be in the community all the time, out and about. … It’s about being present, being listened to … A lot of neighborhood groups feel they’re not being listened to. MoCA sent the city a letter saying HALA MHA was in conflict with their plan. Sent three letters. Finally an answer, “we’re thinking of doing away with neighborhood plans.” Nobody’s happy. I’ll be out and about.
Herbold: I worked with the Morgan Community Association on developing a Comprehensive Plan Amendment. That’s moving forward. It’s not true that the city is not doing neighborhood planning any more. The city is doing it and continuing to do it.
Tavel: Yes, the process goes on but it’s behind – when as VP of MoCA we tried to reach out, we got a terrible response. It’s simple: The city’s not quick, not responsive. That’s how consituents pursue it.
At this point, Keller brought up Kandie Jennings of Tom’s Automotive Service to ask “iightning round” questions that weren’t the usual yes/no – they were personal, about “favorite West Seattle places.”
Q: What are your 2 favorite breakfast spots?
Herbold: Endolyne Joe’s and Luna Park Cafe,
Tavel: Young’s and Chelan Cafe.
Q: Your go-to dinner-date spot?
Herbold: Itto’s Tapas.
Q: One pLace you always take out of town guests to see in West Seattle?
Herbold: A walk in Lincoln Park.
Tavel: Totem-pole turnout at top of Admiral – then go to Salty’s.
Q: Favorite coffee shop?
Herbold: Caffe Ladro or C & P.
Tavel: Admiral Bird or Freshy’s.
Q: Favorite quiet spot in a West Seattle park?
Herbold: Westcrest Park has amazing paths.
Tavel: Emma Schmitz Overlook, the stone steps going down to the water.
Q: Biggest pet peeve about West Seattle?
Herbold: That the city hasn’t funded Highland Pak roundabout yet so people taking detours in the area (is a peeve).
Tavel: SDOT ignoring community input.
Q: What s the biggest detriment to turning around growing displeasure with City Council?
Herbold: People are frustrated with current representation. They want to see more results on homelessness and affordability. Moving more out of homelessness but it’s growing too, so hard to see that. Need to increase inveetments.
Tavel: Voter turnout. The city wants change but more people need to vote. 40K didn’t vote in primary. We’ll see change if enough people say we want change.
Herbold: “I’m a glass-is-half-full person” – 10,000 more people voted in primary than last primary. I was happy to get 51 percent. I definitely want to see more (people vote).
Q: Our infrastructure is crumbling under weight of increased usage. What can be done to fix this?
Tavel: Impact fees. Need to increase bus frequency and be smarter about traffic engineering. Being carbon-neutral by 2050 isn’t good enough. Need to consult experts and use other cities as an example.
Herbold: Glad you brought up impact fees. I’ve been working on implementing them for transportation and utilities. Have to change the Comp Plan to make the first happen. We’re being sued by a few developers who don’t want them. Just got a favorable ruling from Hearing Examiner. I have implemented a couple fees – two fees. Also oversight: I’ve led council in more oversight of spending on large projects.
Tavel: Impact fees were talked about in 2015 but nothing’s been done.
Q: The Southwest Precinct became the first to implement Business Block Watch. What other strategies (to help businesses cope with crime)?
Herbold: I’ve been talking with Junction’s executive director to restructure fees so they can be more equitable – also the city is working on expanding LEAD program, I championed funding for that last year. Starting to take referrals this year. Reduces recidivism
Tavel: 3 things – expand LEAD program, should have happened years ago. Community Service Officer program, it’s been funded but city hasn’t done anything. Properly fund and support our police program. In officers’ exit interviews, it’s all about the City Council.
Herbold: Council passed funding for CSOs two years ago but it’s not true we’ve done nothing. Labor contract had to be bargained. LEAD expansion – they didn’t have capacity to expand until this year. The REACH program also expanded.
Q: Only a small percentage of city budget is reviewed by the council. Who reviews the rest?
Tavel: Apparently nobody. City squanders our generosity.
Herbold: The City Auditor is available to audit any department. The Human Services Department is being audited right now. They also do an annual financial control audit. The city has a AAA bond rating. We fund for downturns, emergency subfund and Rainy Day Fund.
Tavel: I want to see SDOT audited, City Light auddited, SPU audited.
Q: What are your strongest attributss that qualify you for serving the next 4 years?
Herbold: I listen, I reach out, the Seattle Times lauded me for constituent services. I’m a really hard worker. Staff and I get back to people, not just on complaints/issues, also explaining policy making.
Tavel: Times did say you raised the bar but raising it from the ground is not much … and the Times endorsed me. I’ve been a business owner, pro tem judge, bouncer, lived abroad, vice president of Morgan Community Association, board of Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, Allied Arts board, trivia-time to raise money for local nonprofits. I will listen, I will have an office here.
Q: South Delridge has been overlooked. What will you do to shine a light on this part of D-1?
Tavel: I will sit down and listen – find ways to support businesses – look at what we’re doing already … I’ll talk to them, spend time there.
Herbold: I have met with reps there and taken legislative action to support neighborhood planning and to integrate South Delridge into Delridge planning … next I make sure that (it happens).
Tavel: I the question comes from feel ike orgotten, we ned to do somethng difrent.
The final set of questions, Keller said at that point, were suggested by attendees and chosen by lottery.
Q: Diaper need. What are your plans to address it?
Herbold: We have to figure out other ways to get this very needed product to folks – working with the city to get diapers into shelters or tiny home villages – or also explore the city’s preschool programs as another distribution method.
Tavel: The city could do something citywide: Being endorsed by so many businesses, I can ask them, can you do more? I would sit down with WestSide Baby and say, what an we do?
Q: Are you in favor of the Navigation Team?
Herbold: Yes. $9 million city dollars going to it now. I’ve been stressing a results-based accountability model. They report regularly to my committee.
Tavel: Weren’t you for downsizing the Nav Team?
Q: Climate change?
Herbold: The Green New Deal resolution identifies a “couple dozen” policy goals. Public needs to hold us accountable. Oversight Committee will focus on what we do first.
Tavel: Proposals and objectives not enough. We need actions. We could be greennest city in US. Green New Deal is not set in concrete-need to make builders buil green, upgrade vehile fleet. He has asked a gropof people to come up with a plan.****
Herbold: Green New Deal IS a plan. Each thing is a new ordinance. Each takes time. We ARE working on it.
Q: If elected in 2019, what will be the most significant cornerstone that you want people to remember you for?
Tavel: That we finally had a voice and representative who stood up for every person in District 1.
Herbold: I hope that working with (other elected officials) we will identify third-party funding to be sure we can tunnel light rail into The Junction so we are not stuk with the levated alignment.
No closing statements.
NEXT DEBATES/FORUMS: Saturday morning at 11 am, we moderate the West Seattle Junction Association-presented forum at the Senior Center/Sisson Building (4217 SW Oregon); all welcome. We’re planning to keep it to a fast-moving hour … Monday night at 6 pm, Arrowhead Gardens (9200 2nd SW) hosts the candidates for a forum.
READY TO VOTE? November 5th is the day when voting ends and vote-counting begins.