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Tacoma City Council Meeting - December 16, 2014

This was the longest City Council meeting in our recent memory, and the bulk of the four hours was taken up by one topic - paid sick leave.

CONSENT AGENDA

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution No. 39078 A resolution setting Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 9:00 a.m., as the date for a hearing by the Hearing Examiner on the request to vacate portions of Court C and Court D south of South 17th Street, for pedestrian and bicycle improvements, landscaping, traffic management, parking and vehicle access to the University of Washington Tacoma campus and adjacent buildings. (University of Washington Tacoma; File No. 124.1346)

Resolution No. 39079 A resolution setting Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 9:00 a.m., as the date for a hearing by the Hearing Examiner on the request to vacate portions of Jefferson Avenue south of South 17th Street, for pedestrian and bicycle improvements, landscaping, traffic management, parking and vehicle access to the University of Washington Tacoma campus and adjacent buildings. (University of Washington Tacoma; File No. 124.1347)

Resolution No. 39087 A resolution authorizing the execution of an amendment to the Interlocal Agreement with the City of Fife, in the amount of $409,382, to continue utilizing the City of Fife's Electronic Home Monitoring Program services, through December 31, 2015.

The consent agenda was adopted without comment.

 

PROCLAMATIONS/RECOGNITIONS/PRESENTATIONS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Mayor Strickland proclaimed December 31, 2014 as First Night Tacoma Day, in honor of the safe, affordable, family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts and the new year that has been going on since 1991. This year's celebration of the year of the ram will feature the annual spectacle of fire, singers, dancers, theatrical acts, the world's smallest parade, surprises, and more fire. All you need to get into various participating venues and museums is your 2014 First Night button - $10 in advance, $14 day-of, and free for kids 10 and under.

The mayor also read a recognition of the City’s third place in the Digital Cities Survey Award for efforts to improve access to services and information through technology. Tacoma took third place in the category for cities of a similar size, from the Digital Cities organization, which recognizes leading cities in the area of digital government policies and best practices.

The Tacoma Symphony Chorus and director Sarah Ionides presented a singing of the Hallelujah Chorus to the Council and the public to lift spirits for the holiday season and the meeting. By the time the meeting was over we could have used another uplifting musical interlude...

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

Two commenters spoke to ask the Council to consider amending the animal control ordinance to require access to veterinary care and appropriate food. The other 40 commenters wanted to talk about paid sick leave. The vast majority were in support of requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, but most asked the Council to go further. The main requests were for more than three days leave, and to include union workers. We heard about the need for leave for people dealing with domestic violence situations, cancer, single parenthood, mental health issues, and a variety of other situations. One commenter made the point of calling it "earned leave," rather than "paid leave," pointing to the requirement that employee earn it at the rate of one hour of leave for every 40 worked.

We also heard from a handful of commenters who don't support the idea of a mandate for employers to provide paid sick leave. Most of these voices were owners of businesses. They voiced concerns around the costs, not only of providing the leave, but of record-keeping and other compliance measures related to the requirement. Monique Trudnowski, owner of Adriatic Grill, asked the Council to keep small businesses in the loop as they consider possible changes to the proposed ordinance, which she said she could support as written. Trudnowski reminded the crowd that employees have the recourse of contacting Employment Security if they feel they have been wrongfully terminated, and that the Health Department has teeth, and provides pressure to restaurants to not allow employees to work sick. She and other employers asked the Council not to pass something that might make them consider picking up their business and moving to Lakewood, Fife, or elsewhere.

It was a comment session full of passion and emotion, and a variety of perspectives. We even got some juggling as a metaphor for all the issues that need to be managed in dealing with this issue.

The regular council meeting was interrupted for a brief meeting of the TBD board.

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City of Tacoma Transportation Benefit District Governing Board Agenda SPECIAL MEETING

PUBLIC COMMENT - None.

REGULAR AGENDA

FINAL READING OF ORDINANCES

Ordinance No. TBD007 An ordinance approving the 2015-2016 Transportation Benefit District Budget and Spending Plan.

The ordinance was unanimously adopted without comment.

ADJOURNMENT

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That was quick and painless. Now back to the regular meeting.

 

REGULAR AGENDA

APPOINTMENTS

Resolution No. 39080 A resolution reappointing William Driscoll and Jay Jetter to the Foss Waterway Development Authority.

Councilmember Campbell called the Foss Waterway one of the greatest assets we have in Tacoma, and credited the work of the individual citizens who make up the FWDA for much of the improvement it has seen in recent decades.

 

Resolution No. 39081 A resolution approving the Tacoma Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration’s appointment of Timothy Allen to the position of Tacoma Retirement System Director.

Allen had served as deputy director of the retirement system, and after a national search and interviews, emerged as the preferred choice based on his experience both with the City and in the private sector.

 

PURCHASE RESOLUTIONS

Resolution No. 39082 A resolution awarding a contract to Alcatel-Lucent USA, Inc., in the amount of $1,100,000.00, plus sales tax, and a six-year technical support and next-day hardware replacement agreement, in the amount of $312,842.63, plus sales tax, for a cumulative total of $1,412,842.63, budgeted from the General Fund, to purchase City Net network electronic equipment and related.

The resolution was adopted without comment.

 

Resolution No. 39083 A resolution awarding a contract to the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau, in the amount of $1,551,632, sales tax not applicable, budgeted from the Convention Center Operating Fund, for marketing and promotion services to support travel and tourism development, and sales and promotion service to support the sales and marketing program for the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, for the period of January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016, with one automatic two-year extension through December 31, 2018, for a projected contract total of $3,103,264 - Direct Negotiation.

Mayor Strickland commented that working with the TRCVB to market and promote the Convention Center and Tacoma as a destination for conventions has been working well, and leading to more bookings.

 

Resolution No. 39084 A resolution awarding a contract to CompuCom Systems, Inc., in the amount of $2,196,740, plus sales tax, budgeted from the Information Systems Fund, to purchase Microsoft licensing and software assurance services, for a three-year period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.

This one was also adopted without comment.

 

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution No. 39085 A resolution granting a non-exclusive easement to Puget Sound Energy, Inc., to construct a natural gas pipeline and connection to provide compressed natural gas to the fueling station located at the Solid Waste Transfer Station.

The easement will allow PSE to construct a natural gas pipeline to the new fueling station, enabling the conversion of the Solid Waste truck fleet to the more efficient natural gas.

 

Resolution No. 39086 A resolution authorizing the execution of a Liability Allocation Agreement with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), to set forth the apportionment of liability and risk of damage between Tacoma Rail and Amtrak, in connection with activities conducted on Sound Transit-owned track between Nisqually Junction and TR Junction (the Tacoma Dome segment).

The agreement with Amtrak is an effort to pre-empt future costly litigation, providing certainty around liability and indemnification prior to possible incidents occurring. The agreement stipulates that each party will pay for their own property damage, injuries or deaths, irrespective of negligence or fault of the other party, and each agrees to maintain an appropriate level of commercial insurance. The agreement comes in anticipation of changes that will come along with the Point Defiance Bypass project and Freighthouse Square operations.

 

Resolution No. 39088 A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with MultiCare Behavioral Health & Outreach Services, in the amount of $319,462, budgeted from the Mental Health Chemical Dependency Fund, for the provision of two mental health professionals, supervision, education, and indirect administrative costs related to jail and hospital diversion services, for the period of January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016.

This contract allows two mental health professionals to embed with Tacoma Police in order to respond to calls when an officer in the field requires mental health-related assistance. They will be working with individuals exhibiting signs of mental health issues, when appropriate diverting those individuals from incarceration to mental health treatment. The new program, funded in part with the 0.1% Mental Health and Chemical Dependency sales tax, is intended to reduce the costly impacts of incarceration.

 

Resolution No. 39089 A resolution approving the cancellation of the following six regular City Council meetings in 2015: January 20; March 10; May 26; September 8; December 22; and December 29.

Up to six council meetings per year can be canceled. These six were chosen because they fall around holidays, particularly those that fall on Mondays when staff will be unavailable to prepare for meetings on the following days.

 

FINAL READING OF ORDINANCES

Ordinance No. 28271 An ordinance amending Title 17 of the Municipal Code, entitled “Animal Control”, by amending various chapters, to clarify the definition of animal shelter, include provisions on adequate care of animals, and eliminate a $100 appeal fee.

In response to public comments asking for additional amendments, Deputy Mayor Woodards called this a start toward improving animal conditions, and Councilmember Lonergan commented that he looks forward to hearing back from animal control on how these changes are working, and whether they indeed need additional tools to protect animals in Tacoma. The ordinance was adopted without further amendment, but the Council left the door open to future changes if they are needed.

 

Ordinance No. 28272 An ordinance amending Chapters 1.23, 2.01, 8.23, 8.30, and 8.122 of the Municipal Code to align all appeal rights under the jurisdiction of the Hearing Examiner relating to public nuisance vehicles, public nuisances, noise enforcement, and the Minimum Building and Structures Code.

The ordinance was adopted without comment.

 

Ordinance No. 28273 An ordinance amending Chapter 1.12 of the Municipal Code, relating to the Compensation Plan, to provide for time periods for employee enrollment in benefit plans to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

This item was also adopted without comment.

 

Ordinance No. 28274 An ordinance amending Chapter 1.07 of the Municipal Code, relating to the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program, to add a new definition, update the certification process, and extend said Program through December 31, 2019.

Councilmember Campbell commented briefly on the value of the program for promoting equity and empowerment in Tacoma.

 

FIRST READING OF ORDINANCES

Ordinance No. 28275 An ordinance amending the Municipal Code by adding a new Title 18 entitled “Minimum Employment Standards,” to establish minimum employment standards for paid leave for businesses located in the City of Tacoma.

We didn't get to what you might consider the main event of the evening until more than two hours into the meeting, but that still left nearly two hours of discussion, and there was plenty to talk about. Comment began with each council member sharing his/her perspective on the ordinance and conversation up to this point. There were varying degrees of support for the ordinance, with some good points made.

Mayor Strickland led the comments, explaining that the ordinance was intended to cover those who don't have access to sick leave, in the absence of any leadership from Olympia, which we're not likely to see anytime soon. The Mayor acknowledged the unavoidable impact on businesses, saying that she was looking to find a fair, balanced policy. The mayor went on to explain that she had initially left union employees out of the ordinance, because she saw it as designed to cover employees who don't have anyone negotiating in favor of their interests, but that following further conversations, she had come up with new language to allow represented employees to work with their unions and their employers to decide where to go once current collective bargaining agreements expire.

Several council members pointed to a lack of research and facts around the appropriate number of days, costs to employers and the city, and impacts on the business climate in Tacoma, among other things. Probably the best way to understand the nuances of where each council member stands is to listen to them speak for themselves.

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Then we got to the amendments...

Councilmember Mello proposed an amendment, which was adopted, requiring one or more public hearings on rules developed to implement the ordinance, should it pass.

Mello proposed a second amendment to allow employees to rollover up to 56 accrued hours of sick leave from one year to the next, but would maintain the 24 hour per year cap on what employers are required to let them use. After some discussion, and confusion around the math, the amendment failed to pass, with Councilmember Boe absent, and Mayor Strickland, and council members Campbell, Lonergan, Thoms, and Walker voting against.

Mayor Strickland had a series of amendments to offer, which seemed to catch at least some of her fellow council persons off-guard. The first, which passed easily, made the clarification that any employer who wishes to offer more generous benefits than those in the ordinance is free to do so.

“nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting or discouraging an employer from the adoption or retention of a paid leave policy more generous than required herein.” 

The second made changes to allow "front-loading" of hours. As we understand this one, it would allow employers to give the leave to their employees up front, rather than track hours earned from paycheck to paycheck.

The Mayor's third amendment was her answer to the issue Councilmember Mello's second amendment tried to address. The Mayor's amendment passed, allowing for the carryover of up to 24 hours of accrued, but unused paid leave from one year to the next, and for an employee who has carried over hours to use up to 40 of those hours per calendar year. This in effect carries over only the 24 hours, but extends the amount of time a longer time employee can take, up to 40 hours.

The Mayor's final amendment at last night's meeting, which was explained, but not voted on, would allow employers the option of a "premium pay program." As we understood the brief explanation, a "premium pay program" would allow employers to offer employees pay in lieu of paid leave benefits. Such a program would require special approval to ensure protection of employee rights.

These amendments were a little last minute, in that council members only got to read them as they were proposed, so this last one will get a vote at the next reading. That next reading has been moved up from the originally scheduled January 6 date to January 27, when the full council can be present. By then, hopefully, there will be a bit more information to address some of the questions raised at this week's meeting, and maybe a little more on that last amendment.

Again, hearing the Council comments for yourself is really the best way to capture the state of the debate right now, and the nuances of the developing conversation - and maybe some of the tension in the room. Council meetings are always archived by TV Tacoma for you to watch online at your leisure, so pop some popcorn and settle in for some political back-and-forth. The paid/earned leave ordinance conversation gets going at about 2 hours, 11 minutes in.

 

REPORTS BY THE CITY MANAGER

City Manager Broadnax announced that the City Council, staff, and the public are invited to hear First Creek Middle School students perform a series of festive musical numbers at the Tacoma Municipal Building at noon on Thursday, December 18.

 

COMMENTS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

Infrastructure, Planning, and Sustainability CommitteeWe'll get that update next time.

Mayor Strickland reminded us that the next two council meetings have been cancelled, making the next meeting January 6, 2015. Happy holidays to everyone.

Councilmember Campbell gave a quick reminder to shop local this holiday season.

ADJOURNMENT

Not a moment too soon. Four hours is a lot of meeting for one day. For more on items on the agenda, see our City Business Preview for the week.

Happy holidays, enjoy yourselves, and we'll be back with more exciting City Council coverage in the new year. It will be here before you know it.


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