Problems and solutions in Tacoma, Wa with Mayor Victoria Woodards (S3E21)

Listen to how Tacoma Washington Mayor Victoria Woodards is working to attack the city’s two biggest problems, homelessness and rising crime. But this is a dynamic mayor and working to make her city better.


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Victoria Woodards: One of the things that’s so important to me is, is not just saying that we’re collaborative, but making sure that we’re walking out with that collaboration looks like and what true partnership really means. Every person we lose in this community, I feel that. And so but I take that responsibility seriously. And it’s not just thoughts and prayers. It is it is doing policing and it is making our community safe for everyone.

That’s why we’re on board barking on a community safety plan to really look at what makes a community feel safe. I judge myself on what I can do better. I never really think I’ve done enough because I haven’t solved all the problems as long as I’m waking up every day and trying to make the city better for people who live here.

That’s that’s how I that’s how I judge myself.

David Martin: Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin, On this episode of The Good Government Show, I’m having a conversation with the mayor of Tacoma, Washington. Victoria Woodards The mayor is in her second term. Before that, she served seven years on the Tacoma City Council. And during that time, she created the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights.

She’s also been president of the Tacoma Urban League, and she was the former director of community development for the local baseball minor league team, the Rainiers. In case you should know, Tacoma is at the base of Mount Rainier and the team name Rainiers. Anyway, before all that, she was in the US Army, which she joined right out of high school.

And if the city of Tacoma doesn’t keep her busy enough and it does, she recently became the president of the National League of Cities. And this is an organization that shares best practices and other information between city leaders to help every city do better. We discussed how this helps both her city and other cities during her leadership. Even though this city on Puget Sound with Mount Rainier and the skyline can look beautiful.

Mayor Waters has some real tough challenges to deal with. One of the city’s biggest problems is homelessness. The mayor has been criticized for the way she’s handling the problem, and she says there’s no easy solutions. But she has put new programs in place. And crime is also up in Tacoma. But again, she says while this problem will never truly be solved, it’ll be crime free.

She sees trends in crime statistics, and they’ve recently started moving in the right direction. Our conversation delves into both of these problems, and the mayor was very upfront about how she’s handling both of these huge challenges. So listen to how good government planning is helping improve Tacoma. After the break, my conversation with Mayor Victoria Woodards.

The Good Government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties County Government. It’s actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the USA.

Naco helps county government work better together to things like sharing best practices. Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

So I would like to welcome the president of the National League of Cities and the mayor of Tacoma, Washington, Mayor Victoria Woodards. Welcome to the Good Government show, and I’m delighted to be having a conversation with you today.

Victoria Woodards: David, I’m excited to be here with you today. Look forward to the conversation.

David Martin: Good. So I must confess right off the top, I have never been to Tacoma. I’ve never been to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest. I know. Paint a picture. Tell me about your town.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, my goodness. Beautiful place the Pacific Northwest is. I know what most people hear about the Pacific Northwest as it rains. A lot. But when summer and spring happen and you get to see what the rain produces, all of this lush, green, beautiful place to live. Yeah, you can. You. You can handle the rain. Well.

David Martin: Where’s your.

Victoria Woodards: Umbrella? Well, you got to know we give you if you walk around with you, we lose more umbrellas in Washington, I’m sure, than anywhere else in the country. Okay. But Tacoma, Washington, is not even the rainiest state in the or. We’re not even the rainy city or the rainiest state in the country.

David Martin: So why is it Hawaii? I thought it was Florida.

Victoria Woodards: Yeah, one of the two. But it’s not Tacoma. We get drizzle all the time. Okay, But not about ever. But anyway. All right, so we are. We are. We are the third largest city in the state. 220,000 people call Tacoma home. We are a city that is that has a beautiful waterfront. We have a beautiful downtown area, a thriving neighborhood, business districts.

We are a city with quite a few museums for a city our size. We’re also home to the university, Puget Sound and Tacoma Community College and a technical college as well, basically college. So we have we have amazing oh, and we have the University of Washington. We have a Tacoma campus.

David Martin: Okay. Are you born and raised your whole life to be born?

Victoria Woodards: Not born, but raised. Okay. Not normal race, but it’s just.

David Martin: Other places and. No. And came back, our dear.

Victoria Woodards: No to been here since I was three. Tried to join the military and serve my country and see the world. And I got stationed right back here. So I’ve been able to get out, I guess.

David Martin: No.

Victoria Woodards: Did not. But I’m glad to be here because it’s a special, special place.

David Martin: And as I understand it, Tacoma historically has been sort of an industrial town, a port city, a logging center. What else?

Victoria Woodards: I mean, so where we also we are we have a very ah, since they have we have we had a very large financial district business district here in Tacoma. So we were home. Tacoma grew up warehouses. Warehouses started in Tacoma. Okay. Also started in Tacoma. And so we created a financial services district. And while we still do a lot of business in financial services, we are home to once was Columbia Bank who just merged and purchased bank.

So our bank is now here in Tacoma. So we have a lot of financial industry, a lot of medical services. So we have two major hospitals in Tacoma. And so but also surrounded by some technology. We do have our industrial part still, so we’re just a thriving city with a little bit of everything.

David Martin: And Mt. Rainier in the background.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, the most beautiful sight you’ll ever see.

David Martin: Okay. All right. I know Tacoma has some challenges and we’re going to talk about those in a few minutes. But first, you’ve been mayor. This is your second term.

Victoria Woodards: My second term? I’m in my sixth year.

David Martin: Okay. Tell me about some of the things that you’ve been able to pull off in the last six years that have improved the lives of the citizens there.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, my goodness. That’s a long list, David. All right. Well, I’ll start some of my career, my proudest moments and my proudest moments I’ll share with you. So, first of all, we got through the pandemic. And I think that’s I mean.

David Martin: No small thing.

Victoria Woodards: No small thing. Certainly we came out of the pandemic with a lot of challenges and we’ll get we’ll get into those. But I think there are there are a couple of things I’m proud of. One is I’m extremely proud that one of my campaign promises was to start a youth commission, was to engage youth more in the city of Tacoma.

So Tacoma now has its first youth commission, which is made up of young people between the ages and anybody under 18. Can be a.

David Martin: Part of what the youth commission is supposed to be doing.

Victoria Woodards: The Youth Commission actually advises us on policy that affects young people in our community, and they also engage other young people in what local government is supposed to do for them and what they’d like to see.

David Martin: It’s very hard to engage, especially young people in local government, where it’s, you know, our local government, who cares? Yeah, how do you do?

Victoria Woodards: A local governance has the biggest impact on their lives, right?

David Martin: You don’t think that, you know, because it’s not sexy like being a senator or a president?

Victoria Woodards: No, no, but but but the other thing is that most people a lot of people don’t know who their senator is or who their congresspeople are, but they know who their mate or they know what a mayor is and who they’re married. Sure. But but my my whole thing was, you know, a lot of people say children are our future.

And I don’t subscribe to that idea, David, because that means that when you say that you’re saying that kids have to wait, you know, that we’re building the world for them. I believe it’s unfair to build a world for them without engaging them in the kind of world they want us to build for that. And so I was very, very, very focused on making sure that they get to be engaged and understand what local government looks like and how it works.

David Martin: You said you had a long, long list. Oh, I know a couple of others. What what other things have you done that have provided good government in your term?

Victoria Woodards: Well, you know, I would say most recently during COVID, I joined a group of mayors across the country called Mayors for Guaranteed Income, and we were able to build out a guaranteed income pilot program here in in Washington, Tacoma. And were able to help 110 families with $500 a month. No questions asked, just $500 in cash to use how how they saw best to use it.

And we were actually able to lift some people out of poverty. We focused on a group in Tacoma that we call Alice, which is asset limited income constrained but employed, which means these are people who get up every day and go to work and in some cases make just a little too much to to qualify for any other government supported program.

So we were able to do that. That led to happy to say that we just got another $1.9 million out of our state legislature to continue that program. So that that obviously makes me super happy. One of the things that my that that I’m also really proud of is that so Tacoma shares boundaries and land with the Puyallup tribe.

Our city is built on on the home of the Puyallup tribe of Indians. We, for the first time in the history of Tacoma, have the best relationship that we’ve had with the tribe since local government has been around. Okay. And so so I’m really proud that we’ve been able to forge that relationship because one of the things that’s so important to me is, is not just saying that we’re collaborative, but making sure that we’re walking out with that collaboration looks like.

And what true partnership really.

David Martin: Was that hard to set up? I mean, there’s certainly a history of the U.S. government not exactly living up to their promises when it comes to Native American tribes.

Victoria Woodards: I mean, it certainly took a lot of time, I can tell you that. But we’ve just done some things were we’ve been open and honest. We now fly we’ve now fly their flag in our chambers. We had our first government to government consultation under my leadership. And so it’s what’s it been is it’s about building those relationships and building that trust between our organizations.

And we don’t always agree, as you know, and in government, you know, but but we’ve learned how to work together, which I think is the most important thing of how to express our differences. So those are just I mean, that’s three. I could give you ten more.

David Martin: Okay. Well, we both have chats for a couple of others in the.

Victoria Woodards: Name of more. There’s more.

David Martin: There’s more.

Victoria Woodards: Our way. Just one more. We have now in Tacoma. We have so we have a mayor and city councilman. We for the first time in the history of Tacoma, have six women who sit on the Tacoma City Council. And in addition to that, for the first time in the history of Tacoma, we have adjoining BIPOC members on the Tacoma City Council.

So I just I that’s something I’m also really proud of the call that our council really reflects the community we serve.

David Martin: You’ve also gotten involved in your six years as mayor of Tacoma with the National League of Cities, and this year you are now the president of the National League of Cities. How on earth do you balance the two?

Victoria Woodards: It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, but I’m committed to the work. And I just want to add, prior to being mayor, I spent seven years as a city councilmember. So my engagement with the National League of Cities started when I was a council member and continued when I became mayor. I’m it is difficult, but what I will say is that I get so much out of being a part of the national League of Cities that’s helpful to my city, that it actually helps me do my job.

So it is it is it is a balancing act. But really, any time I’m doing National League of Cities Things, it is benefiting my city. And that is that is my job to make sure that I am doing things in our engaging and things that have impact on my city. And being part of the National League of Cities does everything from when we were in the midst of our real opioid crisis and now we’re seeing fentanyl increase.

But when we were having really struggled with opioids, we applied with the National League of Cities, became part of a cohort model with them and learned best practices that were happening across the country, got some technical assistance, and we have found some new ways to tackle opioid crisis in our city. And so it’s those opportunities of learning from other cities and the expertise that the National League of Cities possesses that help cities get through and face some of the challenges that they have.

David Martin: And is that really the whole point of the National League of Cities is to say, hey, look what we’re doing. You can do it, too.

Victoria Woodards: That’s exactly the purpose of the National League to how.

David Martin: It happened that that, as you know, in your capacity there as president and I’m sure vice president for a few years before that, say, oh, I can I can bring that home.

Victoria Woodards: Or happens all the time. And but not only do you not only do you have an idea that you can bring home, what’s great is that when you’re in a when you’re in a situation, when you’re having a challenge, you have you have someone you can pick up the phone and call and say, is anybody else facing the crisis, whether we’re dealing with homelessness.

Right. And I call the National League of Cities and said, who’s doing what to send? Someone got a handle on this only to find out we had some of the best practices so that we were able to share why it didn’t help us solve our problem. But we realized that nobody’s figured it out. Okay. But the way that to share our best practices with others.

And so it helps in so many ways for local government that that there are issues. I remember when we were standing up our Office of Equity and the National League of Cities had stood up the real council, which is racial equity and leadership and I participated in that and got ideas and thoughts about how to structure our equity office to make sure that it would be successful, both internally and externally.

David Martin: So as I said, I’ve done a little bit of research on your town, and homelessness seems to be one of the hot button issues that people are talking about, which, you know, leads to other problems. What have you been able to do and how have you been able to address this and what are your plans going forward to address this problem, which apparently is tops on everyone’s list of problems in Tacoma?

Victoria Woodards: Absolutely. So we’ve done a couple of things since before I got on the council. They they passed a resolution that declared a state of emergency on homelessness in our community. Since that’s been declared, we have doubled the number of sheltering that we have in our community. We have expanded. In my opinion, what is most important is the type of shelters that we have.

We also. So so sheltering is one part of helping the homelessness, but we are helping homelessness. But we know on the other side of that the only way to really go upstream and fix it is to build more affordable housing so that people don’t end up homeless. So either to build more housing, to keep people in their housing, or to give people access to purchasing a home.

And so we have in this year’s biennial budget, we have $101 million that we’re focused on, which is about 20% of our budget that is focused on homelessness and affordable housing. And so we’ve been able to actually implement some practices and some programs that are helping people move from being homeless in to housing, and then also making sure that we’re trying to keep as many people in housing as possible so that they don’t face homelessness.

David Martin: I know there was some criticism about homeless camps in town. How have you been able to address that issue?

Victoria Woodards: Well, one of the things we did that really was not was not popular to a lot of people. And that’s where some of that criticism came in. We are part of the Ninth Circuit. We are part of the Ninth Circuit in terms of of how decisions are made at the federal level for the court system. And so in our in in the ninth Circuit, there was a decision that says cities cannot ban camping on city property unless there is sheltering available.

Okay. So what we what we most recently did is we implemented a camping ban within a ten block radius around where there is a sanctioned encampment. So we have like tiny home shelters. We now have incorporated low barrier shelters. We also incorporated safe parking. So when we in court, when we have those kinds of programs, there can’t be encampments around those programs, number one, because people prey on those who are homeless.

And it’s not good for those who are trying to transition. And also for a neighborhood that says we’ll take it and we’ll take a tiny home or something else, it gives that neighborhood incentive to support that, because then the people who are homeless in their community, who might be in encampments, have a better place to go with wraparound services that can actually move them from homelessness into permanent supportive housing and beyond.

And so so it’s we’ve gotten a little pushback, but it also allows us to be able to get people into shelters and into services where we can focus on making them whole, whether that is drug treatment or mental health treatment or whatever kinds of services they need, job placement, job training. We’re able to do wraparound services to them, to be able to move them from homeless, from being homeless.

And so that’s kind of hard to do when people are moving around constantly. Yeah, and I know that sometimes by moving to encampment, we actually exacerbate some of that. But the goal is to get people into the services that they need. And so while that wasn’t popular, it is it is helping us to be able to get people into services and to build out more sanctioned encampments within our city.

David Martin: You mentioned this. I wanted to ask you about it because we’ve done stories about this in the past. Are you building tiny homes?

Victoria Woodards: We are. What we have is we call it we call them temp sites. So they’re temporary tidy homes, but we do have temporary tiny homes. We we actually have stood at five sites since since we started sending construction.

David Martin: About building permanent tiny homes.

Victoria Woodards: We have not talked about permanently building tiny homes yet.

David Martin: Okay. Are you doing enough?

Victoria Woodards: I would say we’re doing as much as we can, but there’s always room to do more because if we were doing enough, no one would be homeless.

David Martin: But fair enough. Yeah. And I know this is part of the problem with the homeless issue is I understand that crime levels in Tacoma are are trending upward. And this seems to be a real problem with all the things that crime brings. You know, the homeless issue, garbage in the streets, you know, and just general, you know, uptrend in crime.

How can you address that? How can you as mayor, not police commissioner, how how can you address that?

Victoria Woodards: Well, so let me tell you that crime is trending down in Tacoma. Okay? Crime did go up, David, you’re absolutely right. In in in July of 2022. So another thing I’m proud of, we hired our police chief that we hired last year in January. Chief Avery Moore is another one of those things. Another one of the people I’m really proud of in our city.

But he implemented a violent, violent crime reduction plan last July. And since the implementation of that, we have seen violent crime trending down. We’ve seen property crime trending down now.

David Martin: Because those are recent trends, right?

Victoria Woodards: Those are recent trends, Absolutely. We just we just got a report last two weeks ago, so. Oh, but it’s focused on three things. One hot spot of policing and then that’s that’s near-term midterm is police oriented problem, place based policing. And the third one is focused deterrence. So we’ve been doing hotspot policing. That’s what we did the first the first six months of the program.

And what that means is that we are having cops who are sitting in hot in places where we see a real increase in violent crime. And what we’ve seen in that we’re sitting there for 20 minutes, ten or 20 minutes with their lights on during the highest peaks times of when crime is happening in the area that has caused a decrease in crime in those hotspot areas.

And what we’re seeing is that we have a 95% or higher rate of fidelity to the model that’s being prescribed to us. So our cops are doing a really good job of sticking to the model. Now we’re moving into a problem oriented police based policing, which means we are now we are now moving just from a spot to a community or to a neighborhood.

And we started on one of the areas in our community that has some of the highest crime. And so now we’re working with the entire community to figure out what can we do to change crime in that entire community, not just policing, but what other kind of services, what other kind of programs need to exist in that community?

Is it more neighborhood, neighborhood community groups who are doing good, you know, kind of doing that? Are we any trouble? We call them safe streets, okay. Where you know, where you’ve got neighborhood groups or who are watching over crime in their community. Do we need more.

David Martin: Hood Watch, BLOCK Watch.

Victoria Woodards: Yeah, exactly right. Thank you. Thank you, David. I could think of the neighborhood watch. Okay, So. So we’re working with the neighbors to see do we need do we need more, more opportunities for jobs? What does the neighborhood need to be able to be a neighborhood where they have more opportunity and less crime? So and then finally that we’re going to begin to look at, you know, that they say 80% of the crimes are committed by 20% of the people.

Yes. And so that will be our next focus is focusing on those people who are actually committing the crimes.

David Martin: I understand you also offered an incentive of $10,000 to anybody who wants to come on the force as a new police officer. Didn’t get quite the numbers. You were hoping for, but how is the program going?

Victoria Woodards: So, David, we’re also I mean, to be clear, we’re also hiring police. So we have $25,000 that we’re giving for lateral transfers. Okay. And we’re doing $10,000. And those are now we just offered that $10,000 for retention and another $10,000 for brand new recruits. Okay. And so we are seeing our number. We are seeing our numbers trend down.

So so we’re we’re we were at 53 this time last year, 31 now. And that and for the first time we ended the year with the fact that we hired more of them than we retired or that than we lost, which is a really good thing. We also did it as an incentive to hopefully for those who would be retiring and, you know, in the next couple of years, giving them an incentive sticker.

David Martin: Every year or two.

Victoria Woodards: Yeah. So so because it takes you know, it takes like 12 to 18 months to get a cop on the street from the day they raise your hand. So that will help us out a little bit. So we’re doing better. But obviously people are retiring, people are getting out of policing and people there are not a whole lot of people are going into policing.

So it’s working. But we still got more. We’ve still got more police to hire an interest.

David Martin: And you’ve started a program called Inaugurating Community Safety Officers. Can you explain that that program’s about.

Victoria Woodards: Absolutely. So we were able to bargain with our police, with our police union. And that’s how is, you know, Right. That’s really happy about that. So we are going to we are going to be standing up community safety officers. And what that means is they will go they won’t be fully deputized police officers. They’ll go through some of the training.

We can get them out on the streets faster. They’ll go to nonviolent, they’ll go to nonviolent calls, car accidents, because one of the things we haven’t been able to do and cities across America haven’t been able to do is they can’t respond to every call. And so it breaks into your car. You call that, it gives you a number and you move on.

But but that’s that’s part of making your community feel safe, because an unsafe community isn’t just about policing. It’s about a lot of things. And so these community safety officers will be able to respond. They’ll be able to help do some welfare checks. So it’ll take some of the pressure off of our police, off of our our full fledged police officers.

Right. It’ll take some of that, some of the pressure off of them. And we’ll have other people who can respond to some of those calls.

David Martin: One of the things I don’t know is this is an issue in Tacoma is police officers are responding to traffic accidents. And that’s when situations turn violent just because everyone’s on high alert. Removing an officer with a gun sometimes improves. That does it.

Victoria Woodards: Not. I believe that every I believe that every call does not need an officer with a gun. And I do believe that. And plus, I mean, it it it waste it waste the officer’s time. But it’s not when you don’t have enough people, it’s not the best use of an officer. It’s time to sit there while you wait for a tow truck or a while.

You know, all of that stuff happens.

David Martin: Okay. And do you feel like you’ve got a handle on this?

Victoria Woodards: I feel like we’re getting a handle on this. I would. I would. I would not. I would not say that we have a handle on this. But in February, our first three homicides of the year were three young people. And when I say young, 14, 16 and 17, and I love that, I’d love it if we had no homicides.

But when young people die, it’s hard to say you have a handle on something. Okay. But. But. But I think what I’ll give us credit for is trying to solve the issue, working towards solutions, as opposed to sitting back and wrenching our hands and saying, I don’t know what to do this summer. We’ve just our communities just raised almost $1,000,000 to stand up sides of Tacoma this summer, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 10, where young people can go and be safe this summer.

So we’re doing what we can as quickly as we can. And I would say we’re getting a handle, but I would never say that every single person. No, no, no, no. I wish I could. I wish I could say that, David, But I don’t think that’s very. Is the.

David Martin: Criticism fair? Is the criticism fair? And from what I’ve reading, you know, you’ve you’ve gotten some pretty hard criticism. Is it fair?

Victoria Woodards: Not always, but it’s the job. Okay. It’s it’s it’s it’s the job. I think some of the criticism is for for people who don’t fully understand how it works. You know, I sometimes get blamed for four homicides in my community. And I have I, I didn’t pick up the gun. I, you know, like I was. But but I get criticized for that.

And I understand because I’m the mayor and the buck stops with me. And I feel every homicide, every person we lose in this community, I feel that. And so but I take that responsibility seriously. And it’s not just thoughts and prayers. It is it is doing policing and it is making our community safe for everyone. That’s why we’re I’m barking on a community safety plan to really look at what makes a community feel safe.

So and it will implement what we learned from that plan. For some, it’s more parks, it’s lights, it’s neighborhood watches. It’s it’s it’s knowing my neighbors. It’s you know, it’s not for some it’s having a police having a police person on every corner. Right. So just different communities feel different ways about policing. And in order for our community feel safe, we need to truly understand what that is and what that means to people.

David Martin: And now it’s time for the Good Government show questionnaire. All right. This is going to get to the heart of your philosophy of government. We’re going to you’re going to we’re going to know a lot about how you think government works and it’s supposed to work. So from where you sit as mayor, defined good government.

Victoria Woodards: Transparent, responsive, ethical and and and and and and and carry. I was going to say loving that’s my Michael too far I’ll say caring I happen to love my city and everyone who lives here. Okay but this is what I think I think I think if I just described in a few words, that’s it.

David Martin: David So how would you judge your success so far? How do you judge your success sort of on a regular daily basis or weekly basis?

Victoria Woodards: Well, interestingly enough, I guess I never look back. I’m always looking forward. I’m always just, you know, so I, I never really I guess I do judge myself, I should say. I never really judge myself. I do judge myself, but I judge myself on what I can do better. I never really think I’ve done enough because I haven’t solved all the problems.

But I do think those words that I those words that I use to describe what good government is. David, I guess I would as long as I’m being transparent and caring and look at me, My, my, my mind is so filled with thoughts. I forgot what the other two words were. I But but, but the reality is, is that as long as I’m waking up every day and trying to make the city better for people who live here, that’s that’s how I that’s how I judge myself, because I can’t.

So I’ll never be able to I’ll never be able to say we’re going to I’ll never be able to say there’s going to be zero homicides in Tacoma. I don’t get to control them. I can create all the environment I can, but I can’t.

David Martin: So how does the people of Tacoma know if they’re getting good government? How how do they know it? It’s how do they know things are working?

Victoria Woodards: You know, I guess they see changes. They see things changing. And you got to recognize 220,000 people live here. They’re probably too, if you ask that question, they’re probably 220,000 different answers to that question. Okay. But I think for me, if government’s number one, it’s got to meet basic needs, right? It’s got to make sure that the roads that the traffic lights at 911 right.

Those that permits are filed that people can build that that companies can grow it that we’ve got to do the basic work of a city. And I think that’s that’s how people know. But I think I think it’s also in well, things that cities don’t do very well as we don’t communicate our successes very well. I don’t think we ever do a really good job of saying this is what we’re doing, this is how we’re doing it.

And I think that’s something that we could grow.

David Martin: Until everybody with the podcast is available. And you know.

Victoria Woodards: That’ll help with that. Yeah. So I could hear all the good things that we’re doing. Right? Exactly. But, but, but I think I think that when you wake up in the morning and you turn your lights on and you turn your water on and you drive to work and you have a place to work and you make a decent wage and you can care for yourselves and your family and you have a good quality of life.

I think that’s when you know governments work.

David Martin: And how should the people hold you accountable because you work for them every day.

Victoria Woodards: And we do that every day. And I tell them when I stand up and say, I’m going to do something, hold me accountable to that. But I think they I think they hold us accountable, number one, by talking to us, by telling us what we’re doing right and what we’re not doing right, I think they hold us accountable.

I think the biggest way they hold us accountable is every four years when they vote for our statement.

David Martin: Okay.

Victoria Woodards: I think I think that says that says whether or not we’re doing our job. And so I think I’ve been elected four times to the Tacoma City Council, so I must be doing OC, must be doing something right. I must be doing something right. But but certainly there’s still a whole lot of work to be done.

David Martin: If people feel like they’re not getting good government, if they feel like the government’s not working for them, what should they do?

Victoria Woodards: They should voice their opinion Where? Well, well, you know what? At a council meeting in writing. Set up a meeting. I know, I know. Here in City Hall, you can call my office. I will meet with anyone in my community. And so talk to your council. Talk to your mayor. If you don’t think you’re getting the services that that you either deserve or need, talk to them.

But also when you do ask questions, because sometimes it’s not that they’re not doing the service, sometimes it’s that you don’t know that they’re not doing the service and educate yourself, because a lot of times people come to local government about things that local government have no control over. And so understanding whether that’s a state policy or a federal policy that needs to be changed.

And so I think educating yourself and if and and that means talking to local electeds to figure out and to let them know what’s important, but also to find out what they are doing to address the issue.

David Martin: Is it harder now in a more divided citizenry?

Victoria Woodards: Yes.

David Martin: And how do you distinguish between just people shouting and people really asking questions and really trying to hold you accountable.

Victoria Woodards: When the difference is for me is that.

David Martin: And you say that that happens, right? That’s a.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, we have we have we have we have a community forum two times a month. I hear that almost every week. But I think I think what’s important for people to express and how I can tell the difference is that the way in which they talk, even if they’re frustrated in the way in which they address the issue, and then once you share information with them, the way that they take that information, again, sometimes people who just want to yell are never going to be happy with anything.

But people who truly want to learn and understand will go, okay, I get that, but what about this? Why or that doesn’t quite answer what I need. They’re processing information.

David Martin: So what would you like? You’ve been a city council person. You’ve been you’re you’re the current mayor. You’re you know, the president of the National League of Cities. What would you like people to know about how government works? Governments, ugly government can be ugly. Government can be slow, governments hard. What would you like people to know about government?

Victoria Woodards: All the things you just said, David. But the other thing I want people to know, since I have been doing this work for a little while, is that I’d say I’ll say 95%. Some people would say that’s too much, but I would say 95% of the people who raise their hand and decide to serve in an elected position do that because they really want the best for their community.

And I think people see elected officials as people who are just trying to get money in their pockets or find spots or a better parking spot or trying to amass some kind of power. And I can tell you as a mayor, I have a whole lot of power, a little bit of influence for 220,000 people. They have the power, not me.

And so I think that’s one of the thing I really want people to know. Most elected officials I know, including myself, don’t show up with an ulterior motive.

David Martin: Do you sort of take your garbage out at home and do the dishes?

Victoria Woodards: Yeah. People are amazed when they see me in the grocery store, right? They’re like, You’re buying groceries. I go, Yeah, but I’m going to go put gas in my car next. They’re like, You don’t have security. No, you don’t have a driver? No, I drive myself.

David Martin: Is it hard to go to the grocery store sometimes and go to the to run.

Victoria Woodards: To the grocery store? Yeah. Oh, absolutely.

David Martin: It’s difficult I was talking to a guy who is a city councilman, county commissioner, rather, and in Chicago, he said his wife stopped barred him from going to the hardware store.

Victoria Woodards: 3 hours later. Yeah.

David Martin: She said you are not allowed to go to the hardware store on the weekends ever again. That’s it. We’re done.

Victoria Woodards: My friends don’t like to go shopping with me because it takes too long.

David Martin: So who’s your political hero? Who inspired.

Victoria Woodards: You? Well, Harold Moss. Okay.

David Martin: All right.

Victoria Woodards: Carol Moss was the first African-American mayor of Tacoma, first African African-American City Council member and the first African-American County Council member, Tacoma. Did you know? I did. And not only did I know him, I worked for him. And the last 20 years of his life, maybe a little bit longer, he was a person I called my father.

David Martin: Oh, All right. Okay. So I guarantee you no one else has ever said that.

Victoria Woodards: So she adopted me and I adopted him. Okay. And so he is my political hero.

David Martin: Now, as I said, I’ve never been to Tacoma, the Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound. That’s where you are. I’m coming to your town. You’re taking me out. What do we have and where are we going? What are we eating? What’s the what’s the regional dish that I must try?

Victoria Woodards: Oh, my goodness. So let’s be super clear, All right? When I. When I travel out of town. Yes. Anywhere outside of the West Coast, I never eat salmon because there is no salmon better than the salmon that’s fresh here in Washington, except maybe Alaska. Well, that’s kind of west. I’m sticking to the west. I’m taking somewhere to have a really good, really good piece of salmon.

All right. On the water.

David Martin: Okay. Of course.

Victoria Woodards: On the water where we might start in one of our we have really cool neighborhood districts that have really cool bars and restaurants. All right. So we might start with with with a drink. I’m in one of our.

David Martin: Neighborhoods that side.

Victoria Woodards: Okay, Then I might take you downtown to my favorite spot where they have a drink that’s actually called the mayor of Oklahoma. So. So we.

David Martin: Go over. Is the mayor named after you? Is he gets it, right?

Victoria Woodards: Yes, the mayor named after me.

David Martin: So what’s in a bear?

Victoria Woodards: Vodka.

David Martin: Okay.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, now you’re going to vodka? Yes. It’s kind of like a berry martini. Gotcha. So it’s got Curacao, vodka, Marion Barry. All right. And it’s got one other thing that’s not coming to mind for me, but. Oh, it’s. It’s a good martini.

David Martin: So do you have to order to Vegas? Just put one in front of you when you walk it.

Victoria Woodards: Oh, well, they just make sure that’s what I want, because sometimes I drink different things, but I don’t really want to. What can I get?

David Martin: A mayor? Okay, so. So we’re having some summer cocktails and we’re having success.

Victoria Woodards: No, I’m certainly we have to we have to walk the waterfront because the waterfront is just so beautiful. There’s nothing better than walking down Rustin Right way in the middle of summer, if you like, in museums. We’d probably go check out some museums because we have the world’s largest car museum here in Tacoma, the LeMay Museum. We have the State History Museum here in Tacoma.

We have a wonderful art museum, and we would definitely go to our Museum of Glass, which was inspired by Dale Joly, who, by the way, is a renowned international glassblowing artist but is from Tacoma. So we’d have to go to the to the to the. All right, Museum of Glass. But then if you said I wanted to purchase some glass, I take you into the neighborhood where we have an after school program that blows glass and you could purchase.

David Martin: Glass houses for.

Victoria Woodards: Kids, kids blow by blow to stay out of trouble. So that’s hilltop artist in Residence. That’s a great, great program here in Tacoma. What we do, we can go listen to some music. We do a lot of great music here in Tacoma. So there’s a we could do so much hour.

David Martin: I’ll be busy, no doubt.

Victoria Woodards: Deb? No, not a boring, not a boring time here. And then, of course, you’ve got to take it apart. The science part.

David Martin: All right. Growing up, did you did you want to be married? Do you want to be president? Did you want to be governor? Well, your president, your student class, any of that stuff, President of your sorority? I don’t.

Victoria Woodards: Know. No, no. I was president of a small club. But no, I was not. I the only thing I ever said I wanted to be David was a flight attendant, that’s all. That’s all I ever saw as a kid. I wanted to be. When I graduated from high school, people were taking kid, you know, people were all people were going to college, but nobody talked to me about college.

So I joined the military. Yeah. And so I took a different path. But I never, I, I was one of those people who never had that vision to say, okay, 20 years from now, five years from now, no way. Flight attendant No, I never become a flight center. But it’s not too late now, you know? You just have to be.

Yeah, you have to be under 30 now. You can be any age to be a flight. So I’m not I’m not against being a flight attendant still.

David Martin: All right, So we’ll see how. Rachel, I should go to you. Bye bye. Yes.

Victoria Woodards: Harold Moss, my my mentor is the one who my dad was the one who who helped me see that this was another great way to be able to serve. I will say the one thing I always knew, the one thing that made me happy, the thing that made me happy as the most was when I was serving others.

And so I always knew that I would do something in service in my whole life. That’s what I’ve done.

David Martin: So we always bring it back to good government. So give me a great example of good government in Tacoma.

Victoria Woodards: So a great example every every other year leading into the budget session, we do we do this event called Tea Town. And in my opinion, it’s where families and people can come to really see what the city does. So we have everything from human resources to our police department to our fire department to public works. All of our all all of our departments are there on display for the community to learn about what government does.

We are we are a local jurisdiction that also has are utility companies. So we run all of our utilities, so our utility company is there. So it’s a great place. I think it’s good government because it’s an opportunity to educate both adults and kids and see action and see government in action and what we do. So I think that’s one of the good things that we do that’s about good government.

Obviously, we we pass a budget, we do a biennial budget. And the way that we engage our community through our budget is another thing that I would say we use a program called Balancing Act, where people get to actually share what their priorities are. And so I think those are just two examples of how I think we’re doing good government.

David Martin: Well, it has been a great conversation. I have learned a lot about Tacoma since this interview was booked, so I’m I am looking forward to actually see it at some point in the not too distant future.

Victoria Woodards: Visit us. David.

David Martin: Yes, yes, yes. So good luck as president of the National League of Cities. Good luck in reducing the crime rate. Thank you very much for your time. And it was great to have you on the show. Thank you.

Victoria Woodards: Great banks.

David Martin: The good government show is sponsored by our CO. That means our community, our CO has found a way to make government even more effective. Article provides a platform, blends in-person and digital interactions and that connects people with their government. Their mobile app transforms meaningful conversations into reliable data, and the result is actionable insights that inspires a positive change.

It’s sort of like having a flagpole. Do you want to know if the community would rather have a dog park or a bike trail? Our coach can get you an answer immediately from the folks in your community. With our Echo, you can engage your citizens or any group, learn what they want and build programs and policies that advance your county, your job creators and your constituents.

So visit our COCOM. That’s 0urco dot com and learn how they do it. And while you’re there, book a demonstration. That was my conversation with Mayor Victoria Woodards. Sounds like Tacoma has some tough issues to deal with, but it also sounds like the mayor is meeting them head on and doing it in a way that is, as she said, transparent responses, ethical and caring and okay, maybe tossing in a little love to.

Now I have to add fresh Washington salmon to my list of great regional cuisines to try. This is the good government show. And that was my conversation with Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, also the current president of the National League of Cities. I just hope she gets out for a baseball game from time to time. Join us again on the Good Government show for another conversation with another government leader to share their ideas on good government.

Until then, check out our other episodes. Follow us and like us and check out our videos on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tik-Tok. Share us with your friends. Help spread the word of good government. Until next time. I’m Dave Martin. This is a good government show. Thanks for listening to The Good Government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions.

Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers. Our editor and producer is Jason Stershic. This is the good government show. Thanks for listening.

**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.