We need to correct the record. Council Member Lisa Herbold’s challenger, Phillip Tavel, referenced The Stranger Monday night at a public candidate forum in West Seattle in a way that implied our support for his approach to fighting homelessness.
The Stranger absolutely does not agree with Tavel’s homelessness policy.
The Stranger Election Control Board has endorsed Herbold and her evidence-based approach to spending more in the fight against homelessness, so there should be no ambiguity here: The Stranger does not support the Amazon-approved Tavel, nor does The Stranger support his wait-and-see homelessness policy.
Tavel, who has worked as a public defender, pulled off a lawyerly trick on Monday of not outright lying—if you paid very close attention to his words, they were accurate—but at the same time, saying something that a casual listener could easily have understood to be Tavel claiming Stranger support for his approach to fighting homelessness. Again: This is absolutely not true in any regard whatsoever.
The grist for Tavel's misleading comments appears to be one sentence I wrote in a story on District 1 for our 🚨What’s Their Issue?🚨series earlier this month, in which we asked opposing candidates in all seven races for the biggest policy difference they had with their opponent. We then offered our own opinion regarding the biggest policy disagreement in each race.
District 1 presented a unique situation during this seven-part series, because all parties involved (Tavel, Herbold, and The Stranger) agreed regarding the candidates' biggest policy difference. We all believe the candidates' approach to homelessness funding represents their biggest difference and so, thinking it was unique that for the first time The Stranger apparently agreed with Amazon-approved Tavel on something, I wrote “Someone ring a bell because for the first time this election season, The Stranger agrees with Phil Tavel.”
But what The Stranger agrees with Tavel on is simply that his differences with Herbold over homelessness funding are major, and important for voters to pay attention to.
Here’s how Tavel spun that story at Monday night’s forum (emphasis added):
It’s kind of funny that it’s the one thing The Stranger has said nice about me in this whole campaign process is that when talking about what is the policy difference between the two of us, is that I actually got it right. And that’s the fact that we may in fact need a lot more money but we don’t know what that amount is, yet. And the fact is that until you understand how much we are actually spending and how much we are getting from that, you don’t know what that gap is. And the fact is I am not prepared, considering how generous this city is, I am not prepared to just write a blank check and just say we are going to keep throwing money down the hole.
Here's a video of the exchange:
Again, the Stranger Election Control Board does not agree with Tavel’s wait-and-see, let’s-get-another-study approach to fighting homelessness.
We already know how much we’re spending (here’s a recent Seattle Times article that shows exactly how much we are spending) and we know we need to spend more. We need to build more affordable housing, build more low-barrier homeless shelters, fund more services for the homeless, and we needed to do it yesterday.
We also don’t support Tavel’s habit of going on conservative radio stations and disparaging homeless people, calling them lazy, and claiming (without evidence) that the city can solve homelessness by getting tough on our most at-risk neighbors. We support Herbold’s compassionate and evidence-based approach.
I reached out to Tavel last night and he said this was the first time he had referenced the Stranger quote, in part because he thought the audience at Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Walmesley Center might be receptive to a nod from The Stranger.
“Literally the only reason it came up was... knowing that I was in a room where there was a lot of people there who do read and pay attention to The Stranger," Tavel said. "My guess is that will be the only time it will come up.”
It better be.
Tavel told us he wanted to bring it up, in part, because Herbold frequently references a line from the Seattle Times in that paper’s endorsement, even though the paper endorsed Tavel.
“Lisa keeps mentioning the comment about her from the Seattle Times, and the fact that the Times said ‘I raised the bar on constituent responses’ but [she] leaves out the next line, that ‘your politics have done more harm than good,’" Tavel said. “So it was just my one littler version of that.”
Tavel made clear he doesn't plan on referencing the line from The Stranger again in the future. We're glad to have that promise on record, and we plan to hold him to it.