Tacoma City Business Preview - Week of May 6, 2014

Charter Review

At this week's study session, the Tacoma City Council will hear the final report of Tacoma's 2014 Charter Review Committee. The committee has held dozens of meetings since being officially convened in January, and is finally ready to present its recommendations to the City. Those recommendations are certainly not without dissenting opinions, even on the committee itself. The committee produced a Majority Report (pdf) putting forward recommended changes, as well as Minority Reports (pdf) explaining the various reasons members of the committee have for dissenting from the recommendations.

The Majority Report includes a list of recommendations.

  1. A change in the form of Tacoma’s government,
  2. Stronger links between General Government and Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU),
  3. Immediate enactment of Council decisions in emergencies,
  4. The inclusion of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Neighborhood Councils in the City Charter,
  5. The opportunity for City employees to take part in homeowner conservation programs,
  6. Creation of a Salary Review Commission,
  7. Expansion of financial disclosure for employees and appointees,
  8. Implementation of gender-neutral language previously passed by the voters, and
  9. A series of housekeeping items to ensure the Charter complies with controlling laws and accepted practices. 

The report also includes a summary of rationale for both the form of government and TPU changes. The Minority Reports challenge the form of governernment recommendation, and the TPU -related changes. 

A resolution appears on Tuesday's regular Council meeting agenda that would accept the recommendations of the committee, but if the Council wants further time for questions and consideration, the resolution could be pushed out for a few more weeks. To read details of the committee's recommendations, visit cityoftacoma.org/charterreview. This is going to continue to be a heated conversation worth watching.


Gun Show

A post-event summary briefing for the recent Tacoma Dome gun show appears on the agenda for this week's City Council Committee of the Whole meeting. Also on that agenda is a Council request relating to City facilities and background checks for firearm sales. Ahead of the recent gun show at the Tacoma Dome - the first in more than two decades - we heard some concerns over the lack of background checks for private citizen sales. Some members of the City Council, including the Mayor, expressed interest in exploring whether the City could require background checks for any show sales taking place at City-owned facilties. A resolution appearing on this week's regular Council meeting agenda would make changes requiring background checks for firearm sales on City-owned and/or City-managed property, and directing the City Manager to put all related necessary and appropriate procedures in place. 

The memo concludes with three options for Council consideration:

  1. Proceed with contracting the gun shows under the existing license agreement terms - without background check requirements for private sellers.
  2. Proceed with contracting the gun shows but include language in the license agreement requiring background checks to be performed for all gun sales transactions; 
  3. Not proceed with booking gun shows, resulting a loss of revenue for the Tacoma Dome. 

Read more here.


Hilltop Subarea Plan

After a lengthy process involving more than two years of review, meetings with stakeholders, public comment, and revisions, the Hilltop Subarea Plan is finally ready for Council consideration. Even after two years of porcess, we still heard quite a few comments at last week's public hearing on the plan. Many of the commenters last week spoke in support of the plan, especially the adjustment in affordable housing targets to include a specific percent of lower-income housing. We also heard several speakers make suggestions for other adjustments, among which were the inclusion of a library in plans for the neighborhood, and other requests around providing support and consideration for exsiting residents of the Hilltop. After two years, these comments come at the 11th hour, but there is still time for them to be incorporated, if the Council agrees.

A pair of ordinances related to the plan appear on this week's Council meeting agenda. The first would add the Hilltop Subarea Plan to the Comprehensive Plan. The second would amend the Tacoma Municipal Code to refine zoning and development regulations for the Hilltop Subarea Plan, as an element of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Both are scheduled for a final reading at next week's meeting.


Other Items

Also on the agenda for this week's Council Committee of the Whole meeting is a briefing on the City's Rapid Removal Graffiti Pilot program. That program targets the removal of grafitti from key corridors in Tacoma within 72 hours, providing removal of grafitti from a given site up to three times in a year.

Mayor Strickland will read three proclamations at this week's Council meeting. The first proclaiming May 6-12, 2014 as Harvey Felder Week. The other two proclaiming May 2014 as both Tacoma Bike Month and Tacoma Historic Preservation Month.

A single purchase resolution on this week's agenda would award a $547,945 contract, budgeted from the Wastewater Fund, for inspection of approximately 86,000 linear feet of 18-inch through 72-inch diameter wastewater sewer pipes using a combination of closed circuit television, laser profiling, and sonar profiling for the Wastewater Trunk Line Condition Assessment. It is expected that the wastewater pipes to be inspected under this contract will be found to be at or near the ends of their strutural life, and in need of replacement. Many of the pipes are 100 years old, and due to location, many have not been inspected before. The technologies requested would allow Public Works to assess the conditions of the pipes, and the need for replacement.

A resolution on this week's City Council meeting agenda would authorize the City to submit its 2014-2015 Annual Action Plan for human services to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan describes how the City of Tacoma would distribute HUD funds to various housing and development programs in the community. HUD fund allocations have decreased since the last funding cycle, but the decrease was less than expected. At a public hearing before Council on May 22 no one came forward to speak to the issue.

Another resolution on this week's Council meeting agenda would declare surplus and authorize the conveyance of a .45-acre parcel of Tacoma Water property near the intersection of 
State Highway 165 and Ryan Road in Buckley, Washington, to the City of Buckley, which intends to use it as public right of way. The half-acre in question appears to be within Buckley's right of way, but a recent survey showed that it, in fact, belongs to Tacoma Water, which has agreed to sell it to Buckley. When all the dust settles, it looks like Tacoma will get $14,512 for the property. At an April 8 public hearing, no one came forward to speak to the issue.

Last week we heard the first reading of two ordinances, both of which are scheduled for a final reading this week. The first would implement rates of pay and compensation for a new Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator-in-Training represented employee classification. The second would create an exemption from a certification requirement for operators of hot water boilers at the Central Treatment Plant already receiving training on the equipment.

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