Tacoma City Business Preview - Week of July 28, 2015

When we look at the list of important topics up for discussion on deck at the City this week, it sure doesn't feel like summer vacation - Comprehensive Plan updates, citizen-police relations, transportation funding mechanisms... hardly light summer reading...

2015 Comprehensive Plan Update

It's time for an update to Tacoma's Comprehensive Plan. On July 15 the Planning Commission released a draft for public review (review it here), and set August 19 as a date for a public hearing on the issue. At this week's city council study session, staff will share an overiew of that draft Plan.


Mixed Use Center Review

As a part of the 2015 Comp Plan update, the Planning Commission and City staff have been reviewing Tacoma's Mixed-Use Centers. Council members Ibsen and Mello specifically requested that they research and bring back recommendations on possible modifications to the number, location, and types of designated mixed-use centers in the city. As a second item on this week's council study session agenda, staff will provide a summary of the recommendations that came out of that review. Both the draft Comprehensive Plan and the Mixed-Use Centers Review are part of the 2015 annual amendment package that is expected to be forwarded to the City Council in the fall for consideration. 


Transportation Funding

Two weeks ago the city council adopted a resolution sending a ballot measure to the voters this November, asking the voters to approve a 1.5% increase on utility earnings and a property tax levy lid lift of $0.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, both over a 10-year period. Combined, these increases would be expected to generate about $130 million per year specifically for repairs to Tacoma's streets. Both increases would last for a decade, at the end of which time they would expire, unless renewed by the voters.

The resolution passed on July 14 included amendments intended to improve transparency and accountability, including the creation of a special fund to receive all money collected through these increases, and which would be used only for the kinds of road work listed in the measure. A resolution on this week's agenda directs the City Manager to create that fund structure, dedicating all the funds "for the sole purpose of financing improvements and safety upgrades to the City’s streets and transportation infrastructure."


Transportation Benefit District

Another meeting of Tacoma's Transportation Benefit District Governing Board (a.k.a. Tacoma City Council) is scheduled for this week, during the regular council meeting. The meeting is needed to take care of the other part of the proposal to raise funds to repair Tacoma's roads. At that same July 14 meeting the TBD board approved a resolution putting an item on the November ballot asking Tacoma voters to approve a sales tax increase.

  • Proposition No. 4 will ask Tacoma voters whether they suppor a 1/10 of 1% sales tax increase to contribute to improving Tacoma's roads. The increase would last for 10 years, at which time it would sunset, unless renewed by voters. It is expected that the increase would raise around $45 million for road repairs.

At this week's meeting, the council TBD board will take up a pair of related resolutions. One would implement the same transparency and accountability measures related to the other funding sources, setting up a fund structure to ensure that funds raised by the sales tax increase are set aside and used only for financing improvements and safety upgrades to the City’s streets and transportation infrastructure. The second resolution would appoint individuals to write "for” and “against” statements for Prop 4 to appear in the voters’ pamphlet for the November election.


No Smoking... Okay, Maybe a Little

Tacoma Municipal Code currently makes it illegal "while on or in a municipal transit vehicle or while in or at a municipal transit station, to smoke or carry a lighted or smoldering pipe, cigar, or cigarette." Anyone who does could be fined up to $1,000 or thrown in jail for up to 90 days. The RCW, on the other hand, makes a state-level exception to bans on smoking in transit facilities, allowing smoking in specially designated areas. Tacoma has no such exception. The city also has no rules at all regarding the use of e-cigarettes.

An ordinance on this week's council meeting agenda would change that. The ordinance would lump e-cigarettes into the same category as other smoking devices, at least where transit facilities are concerned, banning them from use on transit property. It would also create an exception in line with state regulations, allowing for the smoking of all tobacco products in specially designated areas at transit facilities.


Committees & Commissions

The big item here is a resoluton that would appoint individuals to the committees that will write the "for" and "against" statements for the voters' guide entries for three items that will appear on the November ballot for Tacoma voters.

  • Initiative No. 1 will ask the voters whether they want to raise the minimum wage for just Tacoma, and if they do, whether they want to raise it to $15 more or less immediately, or to $12 phased in over a few years.
  • Initiative No. 2 would change the form of government, Council composition, and term limits, making Tacoma a "strong mayor" form of government (you may remember there was a bit of a snafu on that one...) 
  • Proposition No. 3 would implement two-thirds of Mayor Strickland's plan to fund several hundred million dollars worth of repairs to Tacoma's roads over 10 years by increasing property and utility earnings taxes (the other piece of the equation, a sales tax increase, is addressed in Prop 4). 

Also on the agenda for this week are a pair of resolutions which would appoint and reappoint individuals to the Transportation Commission, and appoint the first group of individuals to serve on the Citizen Commission on Elected Salaries, which was created last year following voter approval of that particular recommendation of the Charter Review committee.


Citizen-Police Relations

In response to recent troubling events across the country between police and the public, and recognition of the ongoing importance of trust between law enforcement and members of the community, the City of Tacoma plans to launch something called "Project P.E.A.C.E.," with the goal of building a foundation of trust between historically marginalized communities and law enforcement. At this Tuesday's study session staff will provide the council with a briefing this project. 

Additionally, an ordinance appearing for a first reading on this week's agenda would make changes to Tacoma's Citizen Review Panel, the group of citizens that looks at citizen-initiated complaints related to the Tacoma Police Department.

The ordinance would change the name of the group to the Citizen Police Advisory Committee, increase the number of members from 7 to 11, and perhaps most importantly, revise the duties of the committee. 

The name change was requested by the panel chair to more accurately reflect the panel's relationship and work with the Police Department. Councilmember Woodards also asked staff to review the panel's duties with the City's Equity and Empowerment Initiative in mind. The result was several changes proposed to facilitate a community engagement framework. The ordinance on this week's agenda would revise panel duties to include:

  1. Playing a role in fostering understanding and communications between the citizens of Tacoma and the Tacoma Police Department
  2. Reviewing and advising the Chief of Police on community relations between the Police Department and the community.
  3. The review, development, and recommendation of strategies to the City Council, City Manager and Chief of Police concerning Police department policies, procedures, rules, training, and programs. 

The goal is to improve critical trust between law enforcement and members of the community. The old duties listed for the panel seem to focus more on advising the city council, city manager, and staff on matters relating to the police. The new list of duties seems to pivot more toward the public as well as the police department, facilitating conversations between citizens and the department, helping the public navigate complaint processes, and acting as liasons between the police and the public.


Purchase Resolutions

Three purchase resolutions appear on this week's council meeting agenda:

  • $1,046,429 budgeted from the Solid Waste Fund, for the repairs to the existing Tacoma landfill cover
  • $298,025 budgeted from the Wastewater Fund, to upgrade the electronic Operations and Maintenance manual through December 2016
  • $258,404 budgeted from the Information Systems Fund, for one-year of Cisco SMARTnet maintenance for City Cisco networking equipment, for the period of August 11, 2015 through August 10, 2016


Other Items

As a third item at Tuesday's study session, staff will provide the council with a 2015 Second Quarter Financial Report, based on actual revenues and expenditures.

A resolution on this week's agenda would designate the Born-Lindstrom House at 224 North Yakima Avenue as a City Landmark and place it on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places.

Another resolution on the agenda would authorize an amendment to the City's Professional Services Contract with Summit Law Group, in the amount of $200,000, for a cumulative total of $400,000, budgeted from the General Fund, to bargain and complete contract negotiations or mediation and advise on labor negotiation matters, and would extend the term of the contract to December 31, 2018.


So, there you have it - lots of important stuff coming your way.

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