VIDEO: Our first City Council Candidate Chat, with Rob Saka

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

District 1, including West Seattle, will elect a new City Councilmember this year, since Lisa Herbold has decided not to run for a third term.

Three people have formally announced campaigns so far, and it’s early, so more are likely. Rather than wait until late in the campaign to interview them, we decided to help ensure you have a better chance to get to know the candidates, by interviewing them multiple times, starting with an early “chat.”

So starting tonight, we’ll feature a City Council Candidate Chat for at least the next three Sundays (beyond, if and when additional candidates make announcements). We’re starting with more of a get-to-know-you kind of conversation; first up is Rob Saka, a Delridge resident who is the most-recent candidate to jump into the race.

We sat down with him at Delridge Community Center, a place Saka says is near and dear to his heart, not just because he lives in the area, but because he and his family – including three young children – have spent a lot of time there.

Our entire half-hour chat, unedited, is recorded on video:

If you don’t want to, or don’t have the time to, watch/listen, here’s our summary of key points:

Why does he want the job? Saka wants a “better future for my kids” and the rest of the district and city. In particular, “the public-safety situation isn’t what it should be” and he sees an “opportunity for action..

Have three kids – better future for my kids and access this city and district – public safety situation isn’t where it should be – biggest best and brightest future for my kids – opportunity for action on public safety.” On that subject, he says what he believes in is “not ‘no police’ but ‘better police’. … You don’t need to see a map to know the crime situation has gotten out of hand.” He thinks the city should “hire, develop, and train the right number, right kind of officers … good honest community-oriented police officers,” and that as many of them as possible should be from Seattle, “recruited from local areas.” Rather than name a target number of officers, he says the focus should be on, “are we meeting response times? The answer today is ‘no’.” He got some view into SPD as part of Mayor Harrell’s police-chief search committee. And yes, he believes some responses could be handled with non-armed responders. That’s been talked about for years, we note, so why hasn’t it happened on a larger scale yet? “Ask the people in power. I intend to make progress rather than play politics.”

Saka says he would be different from those in leadership now. How? A major factor he stresses is his “lived experiences,” having “overcome a lot of adversity,” spending time in foster care, raised by an immigrant, in a single-parent household. “I’ve fought like heck to be sure more people from disadvantaged backgrounds can overcome adversity.” He lived in public housing, he says, and attended 13 different schools in his K-12 years, graduating from Kent Meridian High School in 2001. That’s when he decided to join the military, “inspired” by the 9/11 attacks, feeling a “sense of duty.” He says he spent 10 years in the military and went to college on the GI Bill, eventually “serv(ing) others as a civilian lawyer.” He lived and worked in San Francisco for a while and then “moved back here.” He currently works for Reality Labs, part of Meta.

Back to how he says he would differ, he says he believes in taking action “in a thoughtful manner that reflects all perspectives, straightforward, collaboratively, find(ing) common ground.”

Talking about issues on which a “common ground” has been elusive, to say the least, in recent years, we ask about homelessness. He says the “crisis” declared years ago has devolved into a “catastrophe. … Shame on us for allowing it to get this bad.” Here is another area in which Saka believes his “lived experiences” will be helpful: “I know what it’s like to be uprooted and swept away.” Job 1, he says, “is to build a ton of affordable housing.” Also, “better, tighter interagency coordinated response to focus on response and encampment removal.” Services – including mental health and drug treatment – need to be available, as well as safe lots, and “we need to end the whack-a-mole” of moved encampments “popping up elsewhere.” Does the “catastrophe” need more money? First, he says, “we need to make sure we’re being excellent stewards” of tax dollars. But he notes that homelessness is a “county, regional, state, federal problem – why should we be singularly responsible” for solving it?

Speaking of money, we ask about Saka’s experience with budgeting. As a commissioned officer in the US Air Force, he says, he had to oversee them; in his work as a lawyer, he’s advised businesses of all sizes, from “micro-entrepreneurs (to) Fortune 500 companies.”

Before our introductory chat wraps up, he says he also wants to tend to “the basics of a well-intended local government – repair roads, build and maintain bridges, empower police, keep our parks open, clean, accessible, welcoming for all … be big, bold, transformative in all those areas … we need to focus on things that make a difference.” He insists he has “a passion for service” and is ready to listen to constituents: “It’s not about me, it’s about them. I want to serve.”

We’ll talk with Saka again, digging into more specifics as the primary campaign goes on. First, we’re scheduling introductory chats with the other candidates; next Sunday, watch for our interview with Maren Costa. The lineup for the August 1st primary won’t be final until after the official “filing week” in mid-May; we’re planning a candidate forum after that, too.

23 Replies to "VIDEO: Our first City Council Candidate Chat, with Rob Saka"

  • Alf February 20, 2023 (12:21 am)

    Maybe I’m unrealistic but would like to hear specific ideas, measurable outcomes that would indicate success.Glittering generalities, and I’m to make the city better for my kids, sounds like the same soundbites that politicians feed us.what are your specific plans, to combat crime, homelessness, how are your ideas and plans different than what has been tried ( and failed)if your plans need new or additional revenue streams  provide specifics on where that money will come from, and how do you measure value for the dollars spentIm tired of the same old politicians on both sides who really don’t have any new ideas but want our vote and our tax dollars, make no real change and when they realize they are in over their head, get out of dodge and retire

    • my two cents February 20, 2023 (12:54 pm)

      Same exact thought – nice flowery statements and that is about it. Maybe Mr. Saka borrowed the Herbold playbook?

  • Thomas February 20, 2023 (7:04 am)

    I agree a lot of puffery,nothing we haven’t heard before.One Council member isn’t going to affect the change we need.Same old same old build tons of housing .Then magically the homeless situation will be solved.

  • lucy February 20, 2023 (7:33 am)

    The current mayor and city council have no intention of solving the “homeless crisis.”  There is far too much money involved in committees, study groups, focus groups and advocacy groups.  Far too many consultants, who have ties to current office holders are making hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The grift is enormous.  A responsible press would demand accountability and spreadsheets.  How are the current millions being spent, and who is responsible?  If we are already spending millions, and the problem is worsening, why would spending Billions be any different?Saka seems like he may want to actually solve problems.  He can’t do any worse than the current flock.

    • flimflam February 20, 2023 (9:30 am)

      I agree – some sort of system to track success (or failure) of individuals receiving help would seem to be in everyone’s best interest also. How else would anyone know what is working or not working? The more information about each homeless person and their specific situation/needs the better. There is little transparency as to what is happening, to who, and where all the money is being spent. It’s not as if there’s not money – millions upon millions spent every year.

    • Peter February 20, 2023 (5:11 pm)

      If you have any actual evidence to support your accusations, please share it with us. Accusations without evidence = lies, and I just know you’re not a liar. 

    • WSRes February 21, 2023 (9:29 am)

      Agreed. Stop trying to do the same thing harder. 

  • Mike February 20, 2023 (8:19 am)

    Tracy, thank you these interviews.  Mr. Saka has a huge road ahead and a lot of obstacles to work with in his endeavors, but so does any candidate.  I appreciate that he acknowledged the importance of policing in society, that the current state of our parks is not ok or even safe many times, that all budgets need accountability with measurable results…no more blank checks. The best part for me was hearing he wants to serve the entire community and not just himself or special interest groups.  Maybe we need more military veterans with extensive experience dealing with the most bureaucratic processes in the USA (DoD) while handling legitimate life and death consequences every day (combat veteran).  It’s going to be interesting to see the whole lineup of candidates facing off in debates.

  • James February 20, 2023 (8:58 am)

    Everyone in the comments on here sound like a cynic who isn’t going to like any candidate. We already experimented with Sarah Nelsons and Ann Davisons and Bruce Harrells. The conservative alternative nosedives from bad to worse in a hurry. I do not want any more of those types. Serious progressive candidates only. Saka is a great choice!

  • CinH February 20, 2023 (9:15 am)

    Rob Saka is the man who is partly responsible for taking away our ability to vote for King County Sheriff. Per a bio from the Seattle Times for an op-Ed he wrote:

    • [Rob Saka] is a cybersecurity lawyer, justice reform advocate and Air Force veteran. He is a co-architect of recent voter-approved reform to appoint the King County sheriff as part of the once per decade King County Charter Review.

    How are we supposed to trust that he has our best interests in mind, versus his own agenda, when he schemes to take away the right of the people of King County to directly choose their elected officials? I can’t trust lawyers, especially when they work for Tech companies. Also, Lorena Gonzalez was a lawyer too and she was terrible for our city! 

    • Mike February 20, 2023 (10:22 am)

      Oof, thanks for the information.  Ya, giving our right to vote away is never good.

      • DC February 20, 2023 (10:53 am)

        The Sheriff’s office should not be a political position. The city should hire the person with the best, proven qualifications. Not the person who has the best political campaign strategy. We elect the people we trust to hire the heads of all other departments, why not the sheriffs?

        • Mike February 20, 2023 (11:17 am)

          Patti Cole-Tindall  qualifications included having to “undergo 19 weeks of state police academy training for recertification before officially taking the role of King County Sheriff”.

          • CAM February 20, 2023 (7:00 pm)

            Here are Sheriff Tindall’s actual background and qualifications:

            “Before her previous promotion to Undersheriff, in the summer of 2020, Patti served as the Chief of the Technical Services Division for almost five years. Prior to joining the King County Sheriff’s Office in October of 2015, Cole-Tindall served as the director of the King County Office of Labor Relations for six years.

            Patti’s previous experiences include serving as an internal affairs investigator for the County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, and an assistant director of that department’s Community Corrections Division. At the state Employment Security Department, she was responsible for the regional investigative program that detected fraud and theft of unemployment benefits. She was also a special agent for the Washington State Gambling Commission, and completed the Basic Law Enforcement Academy.

            More recently, she served as a key advisor to the King County Executive and County Council on strategic planning, labor policy development and employment law as the Director of Labor Relations. She concurrently served as the interim director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO), working with staff, the Sheriff’s Office, and the public to improve services and promote awareness of the role of civilian oversight in King County.

            While she was Undersheriff, Cole-Tindall was responsible for the day to day operations of the Sheriff’s Office together with the team of three Division Chiefs. She oversaw the development and implementation of the King County Sheriff’s Office Strategic Plan and examination and strengthening of the Sheriff’s Office complaint and use of force review processes.”

    • bill February 20, 2023 (10:47 am)

      What practical use is voting for sheriff? Should the county’s top law enforcement officer be a politician or an experienced professional cop? The days when your 2nd cousin could vouch for a guy or your grandmother knew the other guy was a drunk are long gone. Better that the council, whose 100% job is overseeing the county government, expends the attention it takes to pick a well-qualified person. Do I really have to explain the point of representative government to you? As for your guilt-by-education raving, stop embarrassing yourself.

    • CAM February 20, 2023 (10:54 am)

      You didn’t give away your right to vote for sheriff. It was a voter approved amendment to the county charter because voting for a law enforcement officer as if it should be the result of a popularity contest rather than based on their actual qualifications and the results of an application, interview, and normal hiring process is what results in things like Joe Arpaio. This isn’t the wild west anymore. We don’t need to elect law enforcement officers. 

    • Jort February 20, 2023 (10:55 am)

      We voted on this, Charter Amendment 5 in 2020, and it won 55 to 45 percent countywide, with an even higher winning percentage in Seattle. Maybe we should ask, “how are we supposed to trust that commenters like Cinh have voters’ best interests in mind when they insist on telling voters that they were wrong about their overwhelmingly clear choice?” Why are you calling landslide, blowout election a “scheme” to “take away the right” of voters? The voters chose this. Why are people here so anti-democratic? Why do they keep telling Seattle’s own voters that they were wrong to vote the way they did? Do these commentators expect to win people over with these arguments? “You are all such STUPID voters. Vote for my side!” Because so far, these arguments haven’t helped your side. Ever. 

  • DC February 20, 2023 (10:48 am)

    I really appreciate that he recognizes housing is the single most important issue in addressing homelessness. I’d love to know more about his plan for spurring the building of ‘a ton of affordable housing.’  Does he think the design review boards are helping achieve our housing needs? Or ‘historic’ preservation boards? What regulations would he get rid of or loosen to allow faster more efficient development? He had me a bit worried in one interview where he mentioned upzoning ‘where it makes sense.’ Does that mean he believes some neighborhoods should exclude families who can’t afford a single family home but might be able to afford to live in a fourplex? If so, which specific neighborhoods should exclude such families? What investments in public transportation will be made to accommodate growth? Anyways, thank you WSB for hosting these interviews and looking forward to learning more about all the candidates policy positions. 

    • Frog February 20, 2023 (7:06 pm)

      I would swear upzoning doesn’t always make sense.  Large areas of single family neighborhood in Seattle have very narrow streets, nominally two-way but with room for only one car to pass.  Parking is already maxed out in many of these areas.  But they are  car-dependent and are barely walkable at best, for fit people with a lot of spare time.  How can these neighborhoods be packed with four- and six-plexes without creating a traffic and parking disaster?  Attractive urban neighborhoods don’t look like former single-family sprawl that was just packed haphazardly with four-plexes.  Attractive neighborhoods have fewer, wider streets, room for transit, open space, and commercial pockets that make them more walkable.  The idea of upzoning only blocks that are close to large arterial streets with frequent transit actually makes sense.

      • WestSeattleBadTakes February 21, 2023 (5:02 am)

        Wow, it’s almost like we need to completely rethink how we build neighborhoods and the urban environment.

      • DC February 21, 2023 (8:58 am)

        Firstly, most four and six-plexes do have at least one off street parking spot per unit. Secondly, all of these single family neighborhoods have their own off-street parking at their houses. But rather than clean their garages, clear their driveways, or find a way to live without 3 or more cars, they insist that they have an exclusive right to free on-street parking. And then they use this insistence on exclusive use of publicly paid for and maintained parking as an excuse to exclude others. 

  • LivesInWS February 20, 2023 (2:40 pm)

    So tired of the “lived experience” phrase. How else but by living it can you gain experience?

  • rob February 20, 2023 (5:49 pm)

     do somthing different try askiking the folks on the street that say they can’t afford todays rent but what can they pay for rent  

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