10 Ways Tacoma Can Improve Its Economic Outlook

The following was submitted without attribution by a long-time reader. Maybe we should do more guest editorials... as long as they include top 10 lists...

We all remember where we were the day TheDailyMeal.com declared Tacoma’s Farmer’s Markets to be 10th best out of 101 farmers markets across the nation. European diplomats raised their eyebrows and the abrupt squeaking of chair legs on Wall Street boardroom floors was audible even on the margins of Pacific Avenue. In Grit City, we were proud and it felt good. For the first time in a decade, Tacoma tasted victory – and it tasted like a tomato grown in Tagro.

In the wake of that emotional crest, we must not risk losing momentum. We must continue to ascend with our faces toward even greater heights. Between the cables of the Narrows bridges, the wind sings, “Forward! Upward!” And upward Tacoma shall go – but how?

Esteemed commentators such as Ken Miller and Morf Morford have offered their thoughts regarding Tacoma’s best possible economic course. Our political leaders have championed projects and causes that will supposedly draw fortune to our doorstep. But as I considered all the words and all the energy spent on our city’s development, I was left with the nagging feeling that something vital had gotten lost along the way. So I drew up my own list of 10 Ways to Improve Tacoma’s Economic Outlook.

  1. We must monetize Tacoma’s growing network of pocket libraries. Since 2012, this potential cash-cow has grown in popularity. Neighbors happily lend books to other neighbors with no overhead costs. It’s high time our officials develop a fee system for this unique luxury.
  2. Charge an entry fee to Tacoma’s Farmer’s Markets. Ours are the 10th Best in the Nation and as such are bona fide tourist attractions. People will pay just to walk through them, I guarantee it.
  3. Choose an Official Song for the city as a way to establish a musical identity. The Crazy Frog ringtone was pretty awesome. Just a suggestion.
  4. We need to attract young families by creating affordable housing and job opportunities. One way to do this is to relocate all the elderly people in our city limits to Puyallup. The elderly are very cute, but they take up a lot of space with their weird hats and butt-smelly reclining sofa chairs.
  5. We have under-utilized opportunities for international branding. The ships that pass through the Port of Tacoma can be our international ambassadors. We should have giant decals made that say, “TACOMA: Fuck you, Seattle” and slap them to the starboard side of every Asia-bound vessel we service here. Ships. Rollin’ on the high seas. Makin’ our shit known.
  6. Put Warhol’s flower on the Tacoma Dome. I don’t know why, really. But I am tired of reading passionate words about this damn flower.
  7. We need to give more support to the arts. Our insular community is already fertile ground for delusions of grandeur, but even delusions require sustenance and support. Without financial backing, slapdash mediocrity could easily become a thing of the past.
  8. City Council should immediately pass the resolution I have written which bans Mark Driscoll from entering Tacoma city limits. This futile gesture will put us on the news and give us much-needed socio-political credibility with smug Facebook babble-mouths.
  9. Poster Wars. Beautiful Angle should not be the only non-profit street poster art game in town. Market competition will fuel demand. 
  10. Pierce County kind of sucks. Tacoma should start its own county. Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in Washington, got only 49% of the vote in Pierce County. Tacoma County would perform marginally better. 

These suggestions are simple, practical, and require very little political will. A child could understand them. A gluten-free person (i.e.: “paleo”, short for/AKA “paleontologist”) could understand them. But if even 5 out of 11 of them are implemented, the effects would be tremendous -- historic, perhaps. We have a choice: We can chase the future from behind, or we can get out in front of it and tell it, “Catch the fuck up, future, you poky little puppy!” 

I hope Tacoma chooses the path that involves yelling at the puppy.

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I really thought these were all a joke.

1.  Cash cow, really?  How do you monetize this? 
2.  An admission fee to a farmer’s market… How far do people who work in downtown walk for free parking?  Who carries cash to pay say a $1 admission fee?  How much do you pay the fare collectors?  What about the businesses on Broadway or restaurants?  What if I lie and say I’m going to a restaurant and really I’m going to the farmer’s market?
3.  No

I’ve made it to number four and have come to two conclusions (I’ve made my own list): 

1.  Exit133 was hacked and this post will be taken down soon.
2.  This was a terrible attempt at posting an ‘editorial’ that has zero actual value add, other than an attempt at terrible humor on an otherwise reputable blog.

Do Better.

September 5, 2014 at 10:11 am / Reply / Quote and reply

8 | 6


I know we should campaign to have Walfart charge admission to the ‘Wounded Warrior” parking spaces in their lot. I am sure the moneygrubbers would love the idea.

That way the spot would be occupied by those who deserve them instead of the welfare queens who park there now and yell vile obscenities at those who earned them and would like to use the spots.

When asked the Walfart manager stated, “We have no control of the use of the spots in our parking lot.” Even the handicapped spots? “Yes.”  Or maybe Tacomas’ finest could start doing their jobs. IT WOULD BE A LOT OF UNCOLLECTABLE $500 TICKETS. Nah, to much to ask for from Tacoma. Spying on the innocent is great fun if you can do it over the radio in your car.

September 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 1


Oh, and by the way,

Wounded Warrior Project is a scam.

58 percent of donations collected went to pay for the salaries of the top three executives, retired veterans administration mid level managers, of that 501c3 organization.

Only 9 percent of donations contributed to the programs that wounded warrior Project sponsored, not funded, were donated to other top heavy expensed scam charity organizations. All other donations went to other scam charities that promoted, advertised, non veteran related programs.


September 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Or just have our damnable fool Mayor appear on Meet the Press this Sunday

September 5, 2014 at 10:33 am / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 11


Wonder if they will ask her about Tacoma PD spying on her voters. Remember to vote for those who represent you next time.
Do not accept being a crooked politicians victim.

September 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 0


Brilliant! Why not think outside the box, or outside of reason for heaven’s sake? Make it crazy, make it loud, do it proud.

Number 8 is my favorite. Of course this would only feed the persecution syndrome in which he already wallows.

September 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 1


Ah yes, a mockery.  That’s exactly what Tacoma needs.  This kind of crap is what we get from the Tribune.  Be more serious if you’re going to editorialize.

Here’s my own top 10 list of what Tacoma should do.

1) Establish a street utility to pay for the $800m backlog of road maintenance
2) Implement gigabit fiber Internet service using the Click! Network
3) Use TBD sales tax authority to buyback bus service past 7pm in Tacoma
4) Implement paid sick leave and a pathway to a $15 minimum wage for large corporate entities
5) Develop a cluster of small businesses in Downtown focused on the information-sector / hi-tech
6) Help small businesses develop their online presence/e-commerce, so they can sell their wares and services to a larger market
7) Abolish parking requirements throughout the city and implement parking caps for all new development in Mixed Use Centers
8) Require minimum density levels for all new development in Mixed Use Centers
9) Require all businesses and high education institutions to have transportation demand management programs that encourage active transportation and alternatives to single occupancy vehicles
10) Connect Downtown with Point Defiance a la walk-the-waterfront

September 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

19 | 1


Thank you for taking the time to share constructive ideas without profanity. A new benchmark of civility!

September 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

8 | 3

Ken Miller

C’mon, people. Irony is part of a balanced diet.

One issue in the editorial is how high - or low - the bar is set. Expectations matter.

People focused on economic development, whether in government or in nonprofits, have tended to set the bar pretty low. Their goals are about activity rather than results.

Partly this is their fault. And partly it’s ours. The public is intolerant of failure, and so a rational person in government avoids setting ambitious goals.

Unfortunately few “great” things are accomplished without ambitious goals. And lots of failure. It’s by now a cliche that the most valuable business lessons are learned in failure. More than 90 percent of the product ideas in R&D settings die before they’re even tested in the field. Yet I don’t see encouragement or even tolerance for ambitious failure. Without it, we’re simply hoping for good luck.

September 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

5 | 3


Thanks for your voice in all of this Ken.  Actually, I found it quite ironic that that some of the issues that impact Tacoma’s livability and desirability, violent crime and air quality, are actually the flipside of the same economic powerhouses you mentioned.

The Port is as much a part of the air quality problem as woodstoves or car emissions - although its contribution to small particulates is less than that of others.  There are benefits of JBLM’s presence as an employer near Tacoma, but there are also impacts.  I am not convinced that those past powerhouses are our best bets for enhancing Tacoma’s economic profile. 

If you look at the writing on the wall, we are facing a long term decline in military expenditure, a long term increase in global energy prices, and an accelerating trend towards automation of manual labor.  All of those economic fundamentals do not speak to a boom in employment in defense or transportation.  It is these fundamentals that cultivate my skepticism towards plans for new highways like SR-167.  SR-167 in particular might be a good regional economic project to fill the Kent valley with more warehouses, but for Tacoma the benefits are much, much less direct.

Right now most of Tacoma’s chips are betting on stable increases in health expenditure to fuel growth in Tacoma proper, while keeping commute options open for workers to Seattle.  That’s great, but I question whether or not this yields much of a net increase in overall purchasing power over time.  We’ve tried attracting Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE), but that lead to nothing, because those industries are inevitably drawn into Seattle’s orbit.  Which is why I think we should be focusing on building small businesses - information and technology based businesses, that can grow roots here and have a built-in incentive to hire local talent, to stem the brain drain to King County, and to stay.

September 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

5 | 0


I couldn’t agree more - Chris should run for city council.  If 167 is built, the community should extract a big pile of mitigation commitments, such as a road diet for River Road (the existing 167) and funding to complete a bike/ped trail to Puyallup from Tacoma, as well as funding to improve the crappy trail between downtown and Old Town (so you can safely get to the trail along the river from Point Defiance).  As far as I’m concerned that kind of mitigation would make the project a plus for Tacoma and vicinity’s quality of life and economy regardless of what it does for the Port.

September 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

5 | 0


This is why building anything in western Washington cost so much.  It is as if any parent who was saving for a new family vehicle had to also factor in “mitigation” i.e. bribery money to purchase toys for the children.  This is a good reason Tacoma has a stagnant economy.

September 7, 2014 at 9:07 am / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 5


My suggestion is very simple; re-introduce drinking fountains all over the city.

It is a cheap, memorable and welcoming gesture. Plus our water is good!

September 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

7 | 0


Hey I have a great idea, let’s turn TPU over to the same cabal that has done such a great job at preserving an maintaining out pavement infrastructure.  Strip all of maintenance budgets and transfer the money to a bunch of pie in the sky dreamers and then raid the reserve funds to build another museum.  Oh yea that ‘s the ticket.

The sole reason that Tacoma has not already suffered municipal bankruptcy is because TPU is a semi autonomous entity.  Let these fools get their hooks into TPU and that cushion residents enjoy by way of reasonable Utility rates (which somewhat make up for our sky high tax rates) will be gone for ever. 

Tacoma’s elected and appointed management doesn’t have what it takes to operate a toilet plunger and hand a guy a clean hand towel yet each and every one of the think of themselves as an oracle.  For God’s sake, when the Mayor was found to have committed ethics violations she couldn’t even come up with restitution of ~$1,500 IIRC without waiting for her tax return.

September 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

3 | 7


Smart questions, real questions should lead us well into the more practical problem: How can Tacoma acquire more public money to rebuild with style, finesse, and with a flourish?

September 7, 2014 at 6:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


We can come up with our own utopian top ten lists?  Who knew?!  It sounds fun, so I’m in.  Here’s my top ten list:

1.  An inverse B&O tax with three levels; level one being a negative tax that also covers the state B&O portion to eliminate all B&O taxes in target high density business areas, level two being a neutral or same as today B&O tax rate for appropriate areas where businesses are, and level three as a doubling of current B&O rates in places not deemed appropriate for businesses or those having vast undeveloped acreage for which they sit.
2.  TPU rate increases of 20% outside of Tacoma boundaries to be done 4% per year, plus regular inflation of rates, for five years.  Rates of other competing utilities are 30% higher, thus still affording neighbors a lower than usual rate.  Use a third of the new money for rate cuts inside Tacoma boundaries. Use another third toward solar rebates for customers inside Tacoma.  Use the last third toward burying power lines.
3.  Consolidate the Port and TPU with the City and build a new city hall.  Let’s get everyone on the same visionary page, shall we?  Build a new City Hall at Old City Hall and annex across Commerce Street.
4.  Get out of Sound Transit.  They are huge money wasters.  Did you know they’re building light rail on a dedicated bridge from the airport to 200th in SeaTac?  Why couldn’t they build it down the center of HWY 99th and just given it signal priority?  For the same cost, they probably could have built it to south Federal Way.  I have never seen an organization waste so much money in my life.  Just an example… I digress…
5.  Create an inner harbor out of the Foss Waterway.  There is practically no views out of downtown other than tilt-up buildings and browns fields i the Port.  Why not a harbor instead?  That’s what used to be there for the most part until it was filled in.  Reclaim the land from the Foss to the Puyallup River and make it a bay or restore it or something.  Make a view for south downtown to increase those land values.  Pay for it with the increased property taxes garnered by making half of downtown properties into view properties. 
6.  Make the Business Improvement Area (BIA) organization into a Local Improvement District (LID) creator for downtown streets.  Expand the BIA and this concept to Tacoma’s seven business districts - yes, there’s only really seven.
7.  Eliminate the rail line and I-705 freeway north of 21st street and make that area into surface streets.  With the rail line gone, a re-do of much of the waterfront could be done too.
8.  Create a downtown public market.  How about re-using the I-705 freeway lanes (now abandoned from Utopian point #7) on the hillside from S 13th to S 8th?  Create entries at 13th and A street, 11th, and Fireman’s Park.
9.  Streetcar and arial tram.  Expand streetcar to MLK (happening!), 6th Avenue, Lincoln Business District, McKinley Avenue, and Old Town Tacoma.  Arial tram from Foss, up 11th, to about Safeway on Hilltop.  Fund it via B&O changes stated in Utopian Point #1.
10. Work with the mall to open a new mall further out of town at about HWY 512 and I5.  Create a second downtown mall on the Haub property at Pacific Avenue and 13th.  Close the existing canabalistic mall.

There’s my pie-in-the-sky list.  Purely Utopian but I had fun with it.

September 8, 2014 at 8:24 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 1


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