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Transforming or wasting money? Seattle council candidates debate homelessness spending

caption: Incumbent Lisa Herbold and challenger Phil Tavel faced off in a debate in their District 1 Seattle City Council race.
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Incumbent Lisa Herbold and challenger Phil Tavel faced off in a debate in their District 1 Seattle City Council race.
KUOW photo/David Hyde

Homelessness, safe-injection sites, rent control … incumbent Lisa Herbold and challenger Phil Tavel found a lot to disagree about Thursday night in their District 1 City Council debate in West Seattle.

KUOW reporter David Hyde talked about it with Morning Edition host Angela King.


David Hyde: The question was how would you end old programs that aren't working to reduce homelessness to free up money for new programs that might work. Herbold said that's exactly what the city's been doing for the last couple of years.

“We're gradually transforming as much of our basic shelter to enhanced shelter so people have a place to leave their belongings,” Herbold said. “So people have a way to engage with case management rather than during the day rather than wandering around the streets.”

Phil Tavel was much more critical of the current approach to homeless services providers.

“We are spending so much money on the administrative side of this homeless problem to these homeless service providers that the money is not getting to the people who need that help,” Tavel said.

Safe injection sites

Herbold: “I call them overdose prevention sites, and if you have somebody that you care about in your life who's an addict, a place where they can do what they're going to do anyhow and not die is priceless.”

Tavel: “There is increased crime on the in the areas around it. And unfortunately a lot of the drug dealers know that people will steal things on their way to those safe injection sites, sell them get the drugs and then inject themselves. And so as much as I want to see harm reduction as part of it, it's not a safe injection site.”

Rent control

David Hyde: Tavel is against rent control, saying there are no examples of cities where rent control really works. And of course currently rent control is not legal in Washington state. Herbert said that law should be change, that the state of Washington should let cities decide for themselves about rent control.

Beyond those disagreements, Herbold at one point attempted to paint Tavel as a sort of sleazy businessman. She said he had started 15 businesses since 2001, but the state had dissolved 12 of them. Tavel said some of these were ventures that got dropped before they really got off the ground. He said he has a few businesses now including his own law firm.

And remember that this time of year campaigns do a lot of opposition research on their opponents and release it just before the ballots drop. So no doubt you're going to see some of that stuff showing up in your mailbox in the next few weeks as the ballots get mailed out.

This was the final debate in a series hosted by Seattle CityClub with media partners KUOW, KCTS/Crosscut, KOMO, KING5 and The Seattle Times. Coverage of the other debates is below:

District 2

Districts 3 and 7

District 4

Districts 5 and 6

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