VIDEO: City Council Candidate Chat, with Phil Tavel

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The fourth candidate to formally announce a campaign for the Seattle City Council District 1 seat is making his third try for it.

Days after Phil Tavel declared his candidacy for the position that Lisa Herbold is leaving after two terms, we sat down with him for this week’s early “get to know you” video-recorded Candidate Chat. Our talk with him took a slightly different turn than our previous interviews with first-time candidates – more “get to know you again.” Tavel is an Arbor Heights resident and full-time administrative-law judge who talked with us Thursday. Here’s our unedited half-hour conversation:

If you can’t or don’t want to take half an hour to watch/listen, here’s our summary:

Why does he still want the job? “Because Seattle’s still not delivering on its promises” though he believes the city has “incredible potential.” He says he’s been thinking about this since 2010 and just hasn’t seen things get better, but he believes it’s not too late to “start fixing things.” He acknowledges that much has changed since his loss to Herbold in the 2019 general election – the pandemic, the West Seattle Bridge closure, people working remotely rather than traveling daily to offices. Even his judicial work, he says, is done from home via videoconferencing.

And that work, Tavel says, has given him a unique perspective on the struggles many people are facing, as he hears, for example, appeals on unemployment cases. “We’ve gone through a difficult time (but this is an) amazing, resilient city.”

Tavel says he worked hard to be part of that resiliency in recent years. Courthouse closures when COVID hit cut the work he was doing at the time, so he started working as a driver for the West Seattle Food Bank. He also mentions helping coordinate West Seattle Supports, “connecting people with what they needed” during those difficult heart-of-the-pandemic times. He also got involved with the advocacy group West Seattle Bridge NOW, which agitated for “a seat at the table” in bridge-related issues. He says the bridge closure gave him “incredible insight” into the issues local businesses face, and overall insight into “specific ground-level things to make (this) a healthy, prosperous city.” He wasn’t sure about running again until it became an open seat and he had the realization, “I still want to do that.” He thinks he’s “learned a lot” that he could bring to “help people on a larger level.”

Which issues does he think he can make a difference on? His vision is that instead of “focusing on big legislative ideas,” he wants to focus on a few specifics, like police staffing, which he thinks is being affected by the fact that SPD officers still don’t have a contract. He thinks that needs to be a priority – if city government is to show it’s supportive of the police department, Tavel says, the contract is where to start. (He also mentions the city having “three different agencies” that “spend a lot of money coming up with ideas to (improve policing).”

Regarding homelessness, he espouses permanent supportive housing, and he notes that people who are working on homelessness need to be given a chance to do their job, rather than having new “big ideas” thrown into the mix periodically, stopping work that’s under way and forcing people to start over. He also mentions the situation involving the council having allotted money for an RV parking lot that has yet to be set up. The Regional Homelessness Agency’s been gearing up, and the next council is going to have to be ready to work closely with it, in his view.

He also wants to see the council, mayor, and city attorney work together. And he wants to see more efficiency, recalling having heard about a case in which there was a grant “to study whether an intersection could be studied.” He thinks a closer look at departments such as SDOT and SPU could identify efficiencies, too. Also, he would like to see more of a laser focus on specific city matters, rather than having the council spending time on resolutions related to non-Seattle global issues. Usually worthy issues, he says, but just to draft and discuss a resolution costs staff money and time.

Specific District 1 issues he would focus on? Sound Transit light rail is a big one. But he’s also interested in other aspects of transportation – like potholes and crosswalks. Overall he promises to be accessible to constituents – even if they choose to catch up to him in his longrunning role as Wednesday night trivia host at Talarico’s.

So all in all, if someone didn’t vote for him before, why should they change their mind now? “If the last four years didn’t go the way you wanted,” a councilmember with the type of life experience he’s had might be able to change that. “I’ve continued to be involved (in the community), I took action when things changed … I’m in a position to help people understand … it’s not time for activism (on th council) any more.” (And for those who were alienated by the political-action committee support in 2019 funded by Amazon and other big business, Tavel stresses that he didn’t ask for that support and wasn’t helped by it: “I’m not in anybody’s back pocket.” In all, he feels that “just being here is the thing I think I do very well … I truly care. Come talk to me.”

Our previous Candidate Chats were with Rob Saka and Maren Costa. Next Sunday night, you’ll hear from Preston Anderson. These are all early conversations, and we plan to talk with the candidates again, multiple times, before the August 1st primary. The field of candidates for the primary won’t be final until after the King County Elections “filing week” in mid-May.

69 Replies to "VIDEO: City Council Candidate Chat, with Phil Tavel"

  • Derek March 5, 2023 (11:13 pm)

    I am a big NO on Phil Tavel. Last thing we need is a Republican style leader on this council. How many times do. we have to tell Phil NO before he gets the message? Please can we get some sanity on the in this race? Phil is not it.

    • Sarch March 6, 2023 (9:42 am)

      Sorry, in what way is he “a republican style leader”?   

      • wscommuter March 6, 2023 (2:50 pm)

        For the far left, anyone who doesn’t adhere to extreme progressive orthodoxy is “Republican-style”.  It makes life simpler for those folks to paint everyone who doesn’t think the way they do with a single brush.  They are no different than the MAGA-Trump folks who pretty much operate the same way from the other end of the spectrum.  

        • WestSeattleBadTakes March 7, 2023 (2:31 pm)

          “extreme progressive orthodoxy.”

          Do you want to describe what this is exactly? Or just throw some BS out there and paint the far left as being the same as MAGA?

    • HonestTruth March 6, 2023 (9:54 am)

      Most of us don’t really care what his political beliefs are as long as he supports sweeping the homeless

      • Darryll March 6, 2023 (9:05 pm)

        I’m a life long Democrat voter.  I support sweeping homeless sites and restoring order and rule of law to this city. As a father and tax payer this is a no brainier. As a human being who doesn’t support enabling unending misery and death, even if it’s out of good intentions, it’s a no brainer. If Phil Tavel can put forth policies that bring that about, he’ll have my vote. If it’s someone else, they’ll have my vote. 

    • kbro March 6, 2023 (9:59 am)

      Calling Phil a Republican is fake news. Phil’s interest in helping small businesses is what’s going to keep Seattle a special place to live, especially a neighborhood like West Seattle. That doesn’t make him a Republican, it does make him huge advocate for those community based jobs, our vibrancy and sustainable neighborhoods. And supporting the police is going to be critical to creating a new policing culture which is what everyone wants. I love that he’s putting himself into this race as pragmatic, reasonable and not bound to ideology. It’s long past time for a common sense approach. 

    • M March 6, 2023 (10:12 am)

      Yeah, in what way is he “a republican style leader”? Are fixing potholes a republican talking point? Or making sure that police officers have a contract? Or making sure that taxes are being used efficiently? 

    • JunctionResident March 6, 2023 (10:14 am)

      Lol how is Phil a Republican? You can’t just throw that label around to anyone who doesn’t want to defund the police or isn’t as progressive as others on the City Council.

    • lucy March 6, 2023 (10:52 am)

      Yes, because progressives have done such a great job…….

      • Derek March 6, 2023 (12:10 pm)

        Herbold wasn’t progressive at all. She caved to the NIMBYs constantly. And they still turned on her. 

        • Al King March 6, 2023 (12:29 pm)

          Derek. Politicians will respond to their constituents that are engaged and visible. They’re NOT “caving” when they do so. The real annoyance is reading the keyboard “experts” whining that the politicians are not reading and heeding their keyboard demands. 

        • Question Authority March 6, 2023 (3:45 pm)

          That’s funny you say that being she stepped aside saying she wants her replacement to carry on her Progressive values.

      • Mr J March 6, 2023 (3:19 pm)

        What progressives? What multiverse are you currently in? Most of those elected here are 90’s Republicans (like Tavel) that are basically looked at as democrats or Moderates like Herbold that might take a watered down progressive proposal to council. None of these options will give you the change you seek. I should be very clear here “ THERE IS NOTHING PROGRESSIVE ABOUT SEATTLE” it’s not a liberal stronghold like some commenters profess. it’s crazy that the bare minimum like bike lanes and cross walks being added to our infrastructure is considered progressive. 

        • Scarlett March 6, 2023 (6:07 pm)

          Bingo! This is a company town masked with a little “progressive” frosting.   This city dropped its pants faster for Jeff Bezos than you can say Jeff Bezos. 

        • Sarch March 6, 2023 (8:05 pm)

          Have you lived elsewhere in the US? Like in a red state? Because then… you know.  

          • Scarlett March 7, 2023 (7:35 am)

            Really? Forget comparisons to so-called Red States,  this state is failing when it is compared to other blue states.   We have an absolutely barbaric and indifferent mental healthcare system that is embarassing for a so-called “progressive” state.  You know what the mentally ill,who are wards of the state, do all day at adult family homes?  They chain smoke themselves to death.  Why? Because smoking cessation products or drugs are too “costly.”  The idea that we are “progressive” is feel-good delusion. 

    • Question Authority March 6, 2023 (12:23 pm)

      Socialism has failed everywhere, it won’t work here so please realize that drum doesn’t bounce back to your beat.

      • Derek March 10, 2023 (11:05 am)

        Capitalism and imperialism has failed too. What gives?

    • marcus March 6, 2023 (12:54 pm)

      Well I have seen just what all our liberal, socialist leaders have done to our city, and I have voted both Democrate and Republican in my many years here on earth.  If it needs a Republican to help restore our city then that is okay with me.  The left went too left and they are getting voted out, now the moderates will get a chance.  If they go too far then we will vote them out.  Dereck you sound like a far-right republican where the only membership requirement is to hate democrates…It is just you are the reverse.  There are good and bad ideas on both sides, but it takes a balanced individual to see both.   

    • Mel March 6, 2023 (1:42 pm)

      Ahh yes, can always count on Derek to call a moderate democrat a republican. 

    • snowskier March 6, 2023 (2:04 pm)

      Just because someone isn’t a hyper woke activist progressive doesn’t mean they are a Republican.  There are many of us who espouse socially liberal but fiscally conservative views, we’re called moderate Democrats.  We want efficient delivery of government services, roads that aren’t cratered, police to protect small businesses and safe neighborhoods for our kids.  We also want to protect neighbors/family/friends from racism, sexism and homophobia, we  want a healthy environment and we don’t think more taxes is always the answer to everything.   We’re ready to get the Seattle we know and love back.

    • Laura Palmer March 6, 2023 (3:42 pm)

      Derek, others share your sentiments. Thanks for speaking up. It’s a bit funny but really more sad to see Democrats becoming new Republicans and have no sense of what direction they’re moving in. We need a real progressive to step up in this district who wants to help folks in all income brackets, especially those who need it most. Phil seems like a nice enough guy but he isn’t that candidate.

    • Seattlite March 6, 2023 (4:14 pm)

      A big YES for Phil based on his common sense in recognizing that Seattle has a lot of unresolved problems starting with the homeless and police officer shortage.

    • OP March 7, 2023 (8:01 am)

      Yeah, because the ALL Democrat/liberal/progressive city council is
      doing such a bang up job, so the answer is more of the same? Wow. Just

    • Madmatt March 8, 2023 (12:02 pm)

      Sounds  Phil is on the right track.  He just wants to use a little common sense instead of the same old progressive agenda, which certainly does not work here.

  • Seattlite March 6, 2023 (8:43 am)

    I will vote for Phil again based on his common sense, lucid thinking, and willingness to work for his constituents.  Law and order is a priority of his which equates to reclaiming safety for citizens, businesses, schools, streets, neighborhoods, communities.

  • K March 6, 2023 (9:26 am)

    Yes, yes, yes.  We can’t tackle big issues if basic local government functions are a hot mess. 

  • JunctionResident March 6, 2023 (9:33 am)

    he would like to see more of a laser focus on specific city matters, rather than having the council spending time on resolutions related to non-Seattle global issues”

    He nailed it here.

    • WS Guy March 6, 2023 (10:22 am)

      I was just about to post the same comment. 

    • CAM March 6, 2023 (2:23 pm)

      Which “non-Seattle” issues were those that the Council as a whole or Lisa Herbold wrote any resolutions during the last 3 years? Or is he running against one council member in particular from another district who is not running for reelection and pretending that is somehow going to be a change for people here?

      • WS Veteran March 6, 2023 (4:56 pm)

        I had to laugh at the comments acting like this is some feather in his cap and not some basic politician speak. I know Phil Tavel well and have heard many of his debates. I will never vote for him. 

      • WW Resident March 6, 2023 (6:15 pm)

        Weird, I didn’t realize that flying out to New York to whine and “warn” them about Amazon wanting to move there was a West Seattle issue

        • Darryll March 7, 2023 (11:26 am)


        • CAM March 7, 2023 (12:11 pm)

          WW Resident – So something that happened prior to 2020 (aka, before Phil Tavel lost election the last time) is relevant to the current election? You didn’t read the question properly. 

  • MrB March 6, 2023 (10:42 am)

    Republican… that’s absurd.  Phil’s the real deal, a down-to-earth guy who wants to make our district and city a better place.  I applaud his resiliency and commitment to our neighborhood.  Enough with the labels… Phil has my vote.  

  • anonyme March 6, 2023 (11:24 am)

    I also liked that comment in regard to “global issues”.  This interview has taken me from a starting place of ‘no’ to ‘probably’.  And even though the comments regarding Phil being a Republican are absurd, I actually wouldn’t object at this stage to a Republican on the council as a correction to the sinking weight of the current activists there.

  • WW Resident March 6, 2023 (11:32 am)

    Well in Derek’s defense, last election cycle people were throwing out hyperbole like fascist, alt right, etc when describing Tavel. The narrative is a little more subdued with Republican like. But I suppose anything to the right of Stalin/Lenin/Mao would be considered Republican even though Travel is a moderate Democrat

    • CAM March 6, 2023 (2:20 pm)

      No they weren’t. They were saying that the people and groups he was meeting with and having photo ops with aligned with those principles. Nobody said he was any of those things. Just that he didn’t mind if they voted for him. 

    • Jort March 6, 2023 (4:48 pm)

      That is an outright, complete lie. Not a single person on this blog called Phil Tavel “fascist” or “alt-right” and you can go right ahead and google the entire archives to find out. That is an outrageous, bald-faced lie. 

      • WW Resident March 6, 2023 (6:38 pm)

        Looky, Jort is mad! The fact is Jort, people both on the WSB comment section and in the community at large were painting Tavel as such through guilt by association with Safe Seattle which people considered racist, fascist, homophobic, hate group etc. About the last time he ran, people on the left practiced concept creep making hyperbolic statements both on and off the blog and painted Tavel the same by linking him to Safe Seattle and therefore “guilty” through implication. 

        • Jort March 7, 2023 (10:42 pm)

          Pointing out an ideological association with the “Safe” Seattle crowd is a very different thing than accusing a candidate of being a literal alt-right fascist. However, if you think that being accused of cozying up to the Safe Seattle crowd is literally equivalent to being accused of being a fascist, then I think you should engage in some serious self-examination about why you, individually, are choosing to make that connection. Because nobody else is, and nobody else has. This is a preposterous, outrageous lie and an insult to Tavel and this community. Shameful. I will await you providing proof to this assertion, but just be warned, I’m willing to wait a very, very long time, since that proof doesn’t exist.

        • CAM March 9, 2023 (12:11 am)

          WW Resident, Safe Seattle is a hate group. If you question this I encourage you to visit their social media to get a better idea of the hate filled and harmful messages they post. Today, their “safety” messages focused multiple times on mocking transgender women and mocking International Women’s Day. Seems relevant to the their “safety” mission, hmm? If Phil Tavel chooses to accept support and engage with people from this group how are people to take that? I don’t actually think he would be in agreement with them on anything. But 4 years ago he was willing to sell himself to them for votes and many people were very vocal that wasn’t defensible. 

  • Stephen March 6, 2023 (12:23 pm)

    I like the idea of focusing on the basics, like public health and safety. 

  • K March 6, 2023 (12:38 pm)

    Without a doubt, Tavel is the most divisive candidate to run for D1 in this election, or the last.  People either love the guy or can’t stand him.  Concerning that he riles so much ire in his detractors, and interested to see what he does to reach them, or if he even tries to at all.

    • M March 6, 2023 (1:02 pm)

      You can’t be appealing to everyone.  (unless you’re Dolly Parton)

      • K March 6, 2023 (5:20 pm)

        True, but being off-putting to everyone you’re not appealing to is concerning.  The only other city council member we’ve had in memory who was so polarizing was Sawant.  

        • CMT March 7, 2023 (10:10 am)

          Not seeing much polarization except for the usual objectors.  I do see a lot of support from a broad range.

          • K March 9, 2023 (5:37 am)

            Sawant’s supporters would tell you the same, lol

  • M March 6, 2023 (1:41 pm)

    I’ll asked what everyone else asked for the other candidates, what are his plans for doing what he talked about? His responses are vague like “we will look at this” “efficiencies for that” “seat at the table” like he’s coming in as a McKinsey consultant. I also don’t think the past four years went well for anyone but the wealthy, but I blame several other issues that do not involve the city council for nearly all of it, so I don’t find that to be a compelling reason to vote for him this time around. Maybe Shannon Braddock will run again 🤞

    • Al King March 6, 2023 (4:23 pm)

      M. Name all the politicians that have done everything they promised while running for office. I tried. Couldn’t come up with anyone.

  • Stuckinwestseeattle March 6, 2023 (1:51 pm)

    After listening to this he has my vote at the moment and probably our vouchers. I liked a lot of what he said. Kind of silly people call common sense ideas and solutions as republicanism. I hope he has a zero tolerance approach to vagrancy and crime and gets them off the streets and the criminals into jail. RV criminals are probably top of my to do hit list if I had a choice. Enforce the vehicle safety laws and zoning.

    • Derek March 7, 2023 (6:34 am)

      “Getting rid of RVs” aka sweeping the poor because you don’t like them, is farther right of Republican. 

  • Admiral March 6, 2023 (2:24 pm)

    I didn’t vote for Tavel last time because I believed the false narrative that he’s supportive of Amazon and conservatives. I’m supporting him in this election because he knows what he’s talking about and has a plan to deliver on the requests of D1 residents and small business owners. 

  • Mr J March 6, 2023 (3:23 pm)

    Serious question to everyone who has mentioned that Tavel will be good for small business; what is it that the general D1 community thinks small businesses need out of a candidate (small business <50 employees)? 

    • Seattlite March 6, 2023 (10:15 pm)

      If you listened to the interview, Phil spoke quite a bit about Seattle’s SPD.  Many small businesses in WS and greater Seattle have been impacted by shoplifters, robberies which takes a toll on small business owners’ bottom line.

      • Mr J March 7, 2023 (1:25 pm)

        I did listen, thank you. So the solution to support small business is more police? The police don’t help with shoplifting and they can’t stop robberies. Is the fantasy that more police equals less crime? If you look at what we spend on police per capita verses almost every other country you’d think we’d be crime free.My point is that candidates toss out these bs platitudes about helping small business and commenters here echo that. If they really wanted to help small business the council and mayor would get out of bed with developers and require smaller demised spaces – giant spaces and high rents are a barrier to operating a business or starting a new one. That’s one solution that really could make a difference vs more police. 

      • Jeff March 8, 2023 (3:35 pm)

        And what about the employees who do all the work? Where’s their help?

  • Craig March 6, 2023 (3:37 pm)

    I’m voting for Phil because we need a candidate that has a common sense approach to the basics. I’ve met him many times in the community and can tell you he’s a regular guy that wants to live in a city that isn’t sloppy, or distracted, or basically failing at providing the protection and services it’s supposed to give in exchange for tax dollars. PLUS he knows law, knows administration, and walks the walk in his own community. What more do you want? It’s not his first try for this job and that tells me he really wants it and it’s more than a fleeting idea for him. All that sounds like he’s the best fit for the job to me. He’s got my vote already. 

  • WS Veteran March 6, 2023 (4:46 pm)

    I’ve been in west Seattle for over two decades and I disagree with the sock puppets and actually liked Herbold. I prefer someone like her. She handled west Seattle just fine. 

    • Byron James March 6, 2023 (8:39 pm)

      If you believe that Lisa has done a good job, I’d hate to see what you consider to be a bad job.

      • Ivan Weiss March 8, 2023 (2:00 pm)

        @Byron James: Stick around and you’ll find out. I see no evidence that any of the candidates to succeed her can measure up. Get ready for the deer in the headlights, because that’s what you’re going to get, whoever it is. Lisa has served the Seattle City Council, as aide and Council member, for 26 years, and if she couldn’t wave a magic wand and give everyone a pony for Christmas, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Between the housing crunch caused by the tech boom, the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, and the COVID pandemic, governance in this district has faced a perfect storm. To hear some of you lot bash her, it’s all Lisa’s fault. You have been lucky to have her, even though a lot of you didn’t deserve her. Well soon enough you’ll find out how good you had it. Lisa will retire undefeated. You’ll find you needed her a hell of a lot more than she needed you.

  • Scarlett March 6, 2023 (6:15 pm)

    The eternal dreaming that a few more police, a few more laws, and a few more sweeps are going to return us to the old, charming West Seattle of yore, along with Andy,  Barney, Aunt Bee and Opie.  This is mostly your overactive imaginations at work for that Mayberry probably never existed in the first place.  Even if it did, we’re not going back, because the world has changed permanently post-pandemic and those old stale solutions have proven unworkable and they are long past their expiration date.  Deal with it. 

    • John March 6, 2023 (9:29 pm)

      I think the point is the new stale solutions haven’t worked either.

      Deal with it.

      • Scarlett March 7, 2023 (7:18 am)

        John:  Where and to what significant extent have new solutions been tried? 

        • Jort March 7, 2023 (10:45 pm)

          Scarlett, perhaps you are unaware that the City Council eliminated policing entirely and instead converted the money previously dedicated to cop salaries into vouchers for fentanyl and derelict RVs. 

  • Delridge Dude March 6, 2023 (7:40 pm)

    I really appreciate the WS Blog for taking the time to conduct these candidate interviews.  Having watched all that have been published so far, it is obvious to me that he is the only candidate that really gets it.  He has my confidence, my vouchers, and my vote!

  • PB March 8, 2023 (8:40 am)

    Hey TRACY RECORD, Thank you for posting the entire interview and a summary.  I really appreciate your efforts in letting us know all about the candidates in order to know who to vote for. This information and format is very helpful to learn about all the candidates. Also the comments are helpful in understanding what people think about the candidates.
    THANK YOU!!!

    • WSB March 8, 2023 (12:50 pm)

      Thanks for the kind words. This Sunday night we’ll publish our interview with Preston Anderson, and next week we’ll be talking with newly declared candidate Stephen Brown. After that, depends on whether anyone else declares, or we’ll start making plans for Round 2. We’re also thinking about early interviews with the County Council candidates, of which there are still only two – TR

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