Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.
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Today’s conversation is with District 1 candidate Lisa Herbold. As I noted in my interview with her opponent, Shannon Braddock, Lisa is a longtime personal friend and I’m supporting her campaign. In spite of our friendship, I tend to personally disagree with Lisa (and her boss of 17 years, Nick Licata) on a lot of issues, such as the proposed residential linkage fee for affordable housing and one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units. Overall, I think those two factors balance out. In any case, I made every effort not to allow personal friendship to influence the questions I asked either Braddock or Herbold. Braddock and I spoke in person; in the interest of keeping my interview with Herbold as impersonal as possible, I submitted questions by email to her campaign. These are her answers, edited for length and style.
The C Is for Crank [ECB]: Given your long association with Council Member Licata, a lot of people seem to think you’re going to be Nick 2.0 on the council. Tell me a couple of policy areas where you differ from your boss. Are there any specific votes he has taken that you’ve advised him against or on which you would have voted differently?
Lisa Herbold [LH]: Council Member Licata has been a fantastic advocate on the City Council; there’s a reason I’ve championed him for 17 years. An example of an issue I would have handled differently is the rent regulation resolution. Nowhere in the resolution [I drafted for Licata] does it say that it is in support of rent control. It is written to describe the disparate impacts of the current housing market on people of color, as described by the city’s own studies. The resolution then goes on to say that our inability to regulate rent in any way at all (not specifically rent control) limits our ability to address these disparate impacts.
The issue isn’t whether we have already decided to support one particular form of rent regulation—we haven’t. This was the wrong time to try and have that debate. Council Member Licata did try and clarify that before the vote, but it was too late. The early portrayal of the resolution as a “rent control resolution” led to a divided vote in committee and the proposal of a new resolution by council member Burgess [and unanimous adoption by the council.]
ECB: The argument against a residential linkage fee is pretty straightforward: Charging developers a tax to build new housing drives up the cost to build that housing, which gives developers an incentive to charge tenants more or to simply build elsewhere. This contributes in turn to the city’s affordability problem. How do you respond to that argument, and why do you think a residential linkage fee would work to produce more affordable housing than the current HALA proposal?
LH: The argument against linkage fees might be as you say, straightforward, but that doesn’t make it correct. The city’s consultant report on policy recommendations explain that the fees would be built into the price of the land—meaning the seller of the land would have to lower the price of the land (since the market reality of developing the land includes the fees that the buyer of the land – the developer – will have to pay. So the land itself will cost less for the developer to buy and thus would not be passed on to renters.
The residential linkage fee program has been studied by the council for a year and a half. It has already had SEPA review and it’s ready to go. We are not scheduled to adopt the proposed Mandatory Affordable Housing Program until spring of 2016 but both it and the Commercial Linkage Fee program implementation are delayed until fall 2017 when the council completes the upzones that are integral to this approach. This timeline lacks urgency and makes me question how seriously we are taking the severity of our current housing crisis and its impacts on low income people.
ECB: Rent control is illegal at the state level, and no amount of petitioning from Seattle is likely to make the Republican-dominated legislature change the law and allow cities to adopt their own rent restrictions. Given that, what is the point of rallying for and arguing about rent control at the city level? Isn’t rent control a sideshow that distracts from more attainable policy decisions like how to incentivize affordable housing development and where density should go?
LH: The passage of reasonable regulations that landlords and tenants agree upon is not a sideshow. I talk with landlords regularly who believe, for instance, that landlords should not be allowed to give 100% rent increases. I want to identify the behavior that even landlords agree is outlying behavior and use that identification of common ground to address those issues. It may not be rent control, or even rent stabilization, but laws like this will still impact people’s lives in a positive way.
I was pleased to see my opponent last week in PubliCola said that she would “‘likely’ support a resolution to overturn the state ban on rent regulation.” In a June questionnaire, she replied “No” to the question “Do you support asking the state legislature to remove the state ban on rent regulation?”
ECB: Displacement is an issue that divides affordable housing advocates. Anti-displacement activists argue that existing affordable housing should be protected against new development or replaced in new development on a one for one basis. Others believe that protecting old housing stock against new development restricts supply, increasing the cost of housing overall and actually reducing the total amount of potential affordable housing stock. What is your argument for anti-displacement policy and against those objections?
LH: We have capacity under current zoning for 230,000 new units of housing, while we anticipate the need for 70,000 new units over the next 20 years. In addition, a preservation policy might be structured in a way to protect existing housing, but it may also be structured in such a way to require a payment when it is removed.
I worked on the design and passage of the City’s Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance. This innovative program will result in the investment in maintenance of rental housing that will result in the preservation of our housing stock, making older housing less vulnerable to the kind of speculative redevelopment that results in higher rent or the removal of affordable rentals for higher income homes for purchase. I support the development of a broader preservation program that identifies both subsidized and non subsidized rental housing that is likely to be redeveloped into more costly housing without preservation.
ECB: Why do you believe rent incentives for employees of certain companies are discriminatory? How do you believe they violate civil-rights law, and what would you do to stop them?
LH: Preferential practices for some result in discriminatory outcomes for others. We should resist efforts to turn Seattle into a company town where the employees of a few dominant corporations work together and live together, while others are excluded. Those who do not work for these preferred employers will have to live further from their jobs, their doctors, and those publicly funded amenities that are most accessible in the highest demand neighborhoods.
“Source of Income” anti-discrimination laws protect tenants from being treated differently because of their source of income. Many jurisdictions have them. Seattle only protects holders of Section 8, or Housing Choice, vouchers.
ECB: How would you work to close the gender pay gap in Seattle?
LH: I am proud of my work to help enact Paid Sick and Safe Leave and to assist in creating the Office of Labor Standards. Paid Sick and Safe Leave, the new Minimum Wage, the Job Assistance Ordinance, and our Wage Theft laws all must be well enforced. Employers benefit too when we ensure an even playing field between those who adhere to our laws and those who might not. I will ensure the Office of Labor Standards is well-funded, well-staffed, and is also supporting our community partners in their own efforts to educate workers and employers about these laws. I have also proposed a program of testing to root out discrimination in employment and ensure our employers are using fair hiring practices.
New laws are needed too, including prohibiting retaliation for disclosing one’s pay or comparing one’s salary with coworkers among private employers and city contractors and subcontractors. We should also promote pay transparency among city employees like some private employers have already done. I also support expansion of paid parental leave for city employees to 12 weeks and the creation of a parental leave insurance law for Seattle workers.
ECB: What will you do to stop racial profiling and excessive use of force by the Seattle Police Department?
LH: Accountability is the best guard against racial profiling and excessive use of force. The Community Police Commission, the Office of Professional Accountability Auditor, and the Mayor’s Advisor on Police Accountability have made a slate of unified recommendations, some of which the city is now bargaining with the Police Guild to implement. We must ensure that these recommendations are not left on the bargaining table. In particular, the recommendation to ensure that law enforcement representatives are not sitting on the body that hears the appeals of fired or disciplined officers is a “must do.”
Additionally, a significant number of people who have filed OPA complaints also have obstruction charges against them. The OPA auditor has repeatedly identified this as an area for reform.
I would also like to enact an “Observers’ Bill of Rights.” Too often observers are arrested for obstruction when they are only bystanders. SPD policy addresses this issue, but much like former Councilmember Steinbrueck did by passing a law enshrining the policy requiring visible badges, a law like this can strengthen the existing policy and a public good would be served by the awareness an ordinance would facilitate.
ECB: Do you support including light rail to West Seattle in the Sound Transit 3 package, and why or why not? Will you support ST3 if it doesn’t include rail to West Seattle?
LH: I absolutely support including light rail to West Seattle. If elected I will be a champion for light rail on the City Council and will fight for West Seattle to be included. If West Seattle is not included, I would have to reconsider my support.