How Tacoma’s mayoral candidates stack up on issues

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The way the two candidates for the post talk about these topics is quite different, as are their views on tackling homelessness and the economic fallout from COVID-19.

While outgoing mayor Victoria Woodards says she is focusing on transforming the Tacoma Police Department and increasing housing density across town, her opponent, political newcomer Steve Haverly, speaks more about the reviving downtown Tacoma and maintaining the character of the neighborhood.


Woodards and Haverly will be debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Crosscut will host the debate, which will be broadcast live on our site.


Woodards, a longtime politician from Tacoma who previously served on city council, says she is running for a second term not only to pull the city out of the pandemic, but also to try to close the racial wealth gap and remedy to the other racial disparities she sees throughout town.

“We cannot become anti-racist by just fixing the police departments,” said Woodards, 56. “If we are serious about correcting systemic racism, we have to look at every system that creates barriers.”

Haverly, 52, works in construction management and owned a video production company, but never held a public office.

When Haverly talks about his reasons for running for Tacoma mayor, much of his focus is on the downtown area of ​​the city and his suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. He often laments the number of restaurants that have closed and thinks city officials could have done more to help the city bounce back faster.

While Haverly has described himself during the election campaign as an anti-racist, he sometimes focuses more on the issue of police brutality when discussing how to tackle racism.

“If the death of George Floyd hasn’t changed your life, then there’s something wrong with you,” Haverly told a local podcast, Citizen Tacoma, earlier this year. “It should be a catalyst for change.”

Here’s a closer look at how the candidates compare on some of the biggest issues facing Washington state’s third largest city.

Housing density

One of the biggest contrasts between the applicants is how they think Tacoma should develop and where they think housing density should be concentrated.

Woodards, the incumbent, spoke favorably of a plan called House in Tacoma, which would allow more duplexes, triplexes and other types of multi-family housing throughout the city. She wants to tweak the proposal a bit – she said she didn’t want to eliminate single-family zoning entirely – but she wants to allow more types of housing in more places to help ease the housing crisis in the city.

Haverly criticizes the Home in Tacoma plan, which consists of several recommendations from the city’s planning commission. He is not in favor of allowing duplexes and cottages in single-family neighborhoods, he said. Already, it has become difficult for people to park in front of their homes in some neighborhoods, including Proctor in the north of the city, he said.

He prefers to focus on development in downtown Tacoma and the Hilltop neighborhood, where a new light rail line is being built, without adding more development to the Proctor and Stadium neighborhoods, two of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. He believes a pair of multi-story commercial and residential developments built in Proctor have taken away the character of the neighborhood.

“There’s a lot of room to grow in Tacoma, and it doesn’t have to be in already prosperous neighborhoods,” Haverly said.

Woodards, meanwhile, would like to see more of the city’s business districts develop like Proctor does.

“You move into one of these apartment complexes in Proctor, you can go to the grocery store, you can go to the dry cleaner, you can go to the bank,” Woodards said. “You can get out of your car and have a life.”

She believes that the fact that people live where they can easily walk to nearby businesses is important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. This should be the norm in more areas of the city, including along South Tacoma Way and parts of Pacific Avenue, she said.

Police responsibility

Neither candidate is in favor of cutting the police budget. Both would like to see around 40 vacant police positions filled, and both would like to see social workers or other service providers answer some of the calls currently being handled by the police.

Yet Woodards has been more vocal about the need to radically transform the city’s police department – not just reform it.

The conversation goes like the state attorney general is suing three Tacoma cops in the murder of 33-year-old black man Manuel Ellis. Two of the officers were charged with second degree murder and first degree manslaughter; the other was only charged with first degree manslaughter. Prosecutors say Ellis was unarmed and not retaliating when officers attacked and restrained him, restricting Ellis’ oxygen supply and causing him to scream, “I can’t breathe, sir. . “

Last year, Woodards called for the dismissal of the officers involved in Ellis’ death. While she doesn’t have the power to make that happen – Tacoma is a city where the power to hire and fire primarily rests with the city manager, not the mayor – she said she does. stood by his statement that the officers who killed Ellis deserve to lose their jobs.

Woodards said the police union contract often prevents Tacoma from reshuffling its service as it would like.

At present, the officers who were criminally charged in Ellis’ death remain on the city’s payroll as the city conducts its own disciplinary investigation. Woodards would like to shorten the timeframe for these investigations, so that officers who are criminally charged with using excessive force do not sit on the payroll for months or years while an administrative review drags on. she declared.

Woodards also said she wanted implement 64 recommendations produced by a consulting firm, 21CP Solutions. These include updating disciplinary protocols, improving police training, and clarifying use of force policies.

Haverly agreed that better police training is needed. Beyond that, he didn’t have a lot of details on the policies he would like to see changed at the Tacoma Police Department.

“I think it’s about setting expectations and training,” he said. It doesn’t necessarily mean changing disciplinary practices, he said, but it does mean the mayor needs to lead by example to help change the culture of the department.

“It starts at the top,” he says.

Climate change and fossil fuels

Woodards supports the ban on the expansion of fossil fuel facilities in the city’s industrial areas. Such a ban would mean no further exploitation of fossil fuels, as well as no expansion of existing facilities – although it makes an exception for facilities that run on renewable energy sources, such as biofuels or renewable natural gas.

Haverly agreed that fossil fuel operations, such as oil refining and coal transportation, should not expand in the city. But he wouldn’t go so far as to say he would support a ban to prevent that from happening.

Instead, Haverly spoke about the need to “change our mindset” regarding green energy. To do so, he said the city would need to install solar panels on the Tacoma Dome, which he said would send a message about the importance of renewable energy.

“I just think that in order for us to change our mindset about global warming and our fossil fuel addictions, we have to start showing that there is a better way,” Haverly said.

When it comes to reducing car trips, Haverly believes development should be focused on the downtown area and the nearby Hilltop neighborhood to encourage walking in a more concentrated area, taking advantage of public transportation already built or planned. the low. Woodards believes public transit should be extended to more areas of the city, so residents in more neighborhoods can choose not to drive.

Economy and homelessness

Haverly said he decided to run for mayor in part because he was frustrated with the closure of downtown Tacoma businesses, which he said made the city feel like it was “a ghost town”.

He said he didn’t see the same thing happen during the pandemic in Seattle, where he often commuted as part of his work overseeing construction projects.

“Seattle was not a ghost town. Redmond was not a ghost town, ”Haverly said. “There are all these other towns here that weren’t as desolate as Tacoma was – so I don’t think we can use COVID as an excuse anymore. “

Woodards strongly disagrees with Haverly’s assessment.

“This all happened because of COVID,” Woodards said. “We have lost some businesses to COVID, and I am very disappointed with some of the businesses that we have lost. But we also provided a lot of support.

Woodards said the support included loans and grants that have helped keep many businesses afloat.

Haverly said he decided to show up as well due to an increase in the number of visible homeless settlements, which he said has made Tacoma residents less safe.

He and Woodards finally want to ban the encampments. Woodards, however, said the city cannot do so until it builds more housing with permanent support services and provides more low-barrier shelter options. This is partly because of recent court rulings, but also because it is the right thing to do, she said.

She said the city is working to spend nearly a third of the money it received from the U.S. federal affordable housing and homelessness bailout law – and those efforts are starting to make a difference. More people will receive the help they need as more relief funds are deployed in the weeks and months to come, Woodards said.

Ballots for the November 2 general election must be mailed to voters in Tacoma by October 15. November 2.


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