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Tacoma City Council Meeting - July 15, 2014
Mayor Strickland read a recognition for Simpson Kraft and RockTenn in recognition of Simpson’s civic and business leadership in its decades in Tacoma, and RockTenn’s intent to continue that legacy. The recognition acknowledged Simpson’s investments in revitalization and cleanup along the Foss Waterway, and modernization of its plant, including numerous improvements to make the plant’s operations more environmentally friendly. Although Tacoma RockTenn now owns the Tacoma Kraft plant, Simpson continues to operate its saw mill and forest products businesses in Tacoma. The RockTenn representative expressed excitement for being in Tacoma, and the company’s commitment to continued investment in the community and improvements to the plant. RockTenn sees the Tacoma facility as a strategic asset, and an important anchor for growth on the West Coast.
Former Mayor Harold Moss spoke in opposition to the resolution proposing a change to term limits for Tacoma city council members and mayor. Moss described his time as mayor as a time he cherished, calling the position an awesome job, but also a seductive one. Given the chance, Moss said, he would have stayed longer, but term limits cut him off – and rightly so. Moss asked the Council to not move the proposed term limit extension forward, saying that term limits give the next generation the opportunity to take its place in leadership.
Resolution No. 38946 A resolution awarding a contract to The CEI Group, Inc., in the amount of $450,000, plus sales tax, budgeted from various departmental funds, for vehicle accident management services, for an initial contract term of three years, with the option to renew for two additional one-year terms, for a projected contract total of $750,000 - Specification No. UF13-0744F. [Justin Davis, Division Manager; Kurtis D. Kingsolver, P.E., Director, Public Works]
The resolution was adopted without comment.
Resolution No. 38947 A resolution relating to the Multi-Family Property Tax Exemption Program; authorizing the execution of a Multi-Family Housing 8-Year Limited Property Tax Exemption Agreement with Encompass Property Management, LLC, for the development of 35 market-rate rental housing units to be located at 219 and 223 North J Street in the Stadium Mixed-Use Center [Debbie Bingham, Program Development Specialist; Ricardo Noguera, Director, Community and Economic Development]
The project will include 11 studio units; 5 one bedroom, one bath units; and 19 two bedroom, two bath units. The units will range in cost from about $700 per month for the studios to about $1,100 per month for the two bedroom units. The project will also include 26 onsite, underground parking spots. When the eight years are up an estimated $56,500 in property taxes are expected to be collected, of which the City’s portion will be around $12,900. Construction is expected to begin this September, with completion anticipated for early 2016.
Resolution No. 38948 A resolution and proposition amending multiple sections of Articles II, III, V, and VI, of the City Charter to bring election-related provisions in conformance with state law and City practice. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
The first five Charter-related resolutions are what Mayor Strickland called "housekeeping items," making fairly straightforward, uncontroversial changes to update the City Charter. This first was adopted without further comment.
Resolution No. 38949 A resolution and proposition amending multiple sections of Articles II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, IX, and X of the City Charter to replace gender-specific language with gender-neutral language, and deleting or replacing obsolete terms and provisions. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
Mayor Strickland described this change as bringing Tacoma's Charter up to the 21st century by fixing gender-specific references to be more inclusive.
Resolution No. 38950 A resolution and proposition amending Article VI, Section 6.7, of the City Charter to add color, ancestry, gender-identity, sexual orientation, familial status, honorably discharged veteran, and military status to the list of classes protected from discrimination in City employment. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
This change updates language in the Charter to acknowledge proctected classes and their status as protected from discrimination as it relates to City employement.
Resolution No. 38951 A resolution and proposition amending Article II, Section 2.13, of the City Charter to allow emergency ordinances to take effect immediately upon passage rather than after publication. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
As the Mayor explained it, there was a time when the City relied on print exclusively to make things public, but modern technology makes information immediately available. This change again brings Tacoma into the 21st century, making emergency ordinances effective immediately, and closing the loophole that previously existed.
Resolution No. 38952 A resolution and proposition amending Article III, Section 3.4, of the City Charter to require City Council confirmation for appointment of department heads. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
An amendment was made to provide clarity around Council authority to confirm appointments, but not to fire employees. the amended resolution was adopted.
Resolution No. 38953 A resolution and proposition amending Article IV, Section 4.18, of the City Charter to require City Council confirmation of the appointment of the Director of Utilities by the Public Utility Board, with reconfirmation by the City Council every two years following annual performance reviews by the Public Utility Board. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
Mayor Strickland described this change, recommended by the Charter Review Committee, as neither extraordinary nor dramatic, but instead as a way for the Council and the utility Director, the highest paid City employee, to work more closely together. Councilmember Ibsen said that it’s a mistake to see this move as a politicization of the position of Director. Deputy Mayor Woodards described the change as providing more transparency and accountability.
Councilmember Boe explained that he would not be supporting moving the measure forward, because he sees it as an attempt to fix a problem he doesn’t believe exists. Boe described TPU as different from other departments, particularly in the intricacies involved in decision-making at the utility, saying that he didn’t believe most council members would have the experience necessary to make good management decisions for the utility. Councilmember Lonergan also voiced concerns that the change could lead to uncertainty for TPU.
The resolution was adopted, with Boe and Lonergan voting in opposition.
Resolution No. 38955 A resolution and proposition amending Article II, Section 2.35, of the City Charter regarding term limits, by allowing a person to serve two full consecutive terms as a Council Member and two full consecutive terms as Mayor. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
A motion was made and adopted to revert to the existing language, which allows council members to serve 10 consecutive years, rather than two terms. This would allow for a council member to be appointed mid-term, to serve two full terms on the council, and to then serve for two more full terms as mayor.
Mayor Strickland described the extended term limits provided for in the resolution as allowing an opportunity for councilmembers to serve two full terms, and then to be able to serve as mayor too.
Councilmember Boe expressed some ambivalence, saying that although he believes in term limits, he can see an argument that the current limits preclude sitting council members – who might well be the most qualified for the job – from running for mayor. Councilmember Lonergan expressed his own misgivings, but also noted that the extended term limit could help put Tacoma mayors in more leadership roles on regional boards and commissions, by giving them more years of experience.
Ultimately Boe and Lonergan both said they would like to see what the voters think. The resolution was adopted with council members Campbell and Thoms in opposition.
Resolution No. 38956 A resolution and proposition amending Article II, Section 2.3, of the City Charter to add a Citizen Commission on Elected Salaries to determine the compensation and salary of the Mayor and Council. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
The Charter Review Committee recommended the formation of a citizen commission to set salaries for Tacoma’s mayor and council. An amendment was proposed and adopted to clarify that the power to set the salaries resides with the citizen commission, and once made, the Council must adopt it, without changes. The reference to salary “increases” was also changed to salary “changes.”
Mayor Strickland clarified with the city attorney that two positions on the commission would be appointed by the Council, while the other five would be selected by lot from the voting public, conducted by the Pierce County Auditor.
Several council members voiced concern that the change would not inherently improve … Councilmember Campbell described it as another layer of bureaucracy in a system that he thinks works well as it is, also expressing concern that there was no provision for a challenge to any decision made by the appointed commission. Councilmember Lonergan shared his experience observing the state salary commission, which he didn’t find to be necessarily any more open, accountable, effective or efficient that Tacoma’s current system.
Councilmember Walker, on the other hand, described the process as an opportunity to take stock of the hours invested by the Council in their work for Tacoma. Councilmember Mello described it as a way of engaging citizens in the process.
The resolution was adopted as amended, with council members Campbell, Lonergan, Boe, and Mayor Strickland in opposition.
Resolution No. 38957 A resolution and proposition amending Article IX of the City Charter by removing the prohibition against new cemeteries, mausoleums, or crematories within the City of Tacoma. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
The current Charter includes an outdated and largely unenforced prohibition on the creation of new cemeteries in Tacoma. Councilmember Campbell described the removal of that prohibition a common sense change.
Resolution No. 38958 A resolution and proposition amending Article VI, Section 6.6, of the City Charter to allow City employees to contract for utility services and participate in conservation, environmental, and other programs available to the public generally and as otherwise allowed by state law. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
The change here would allow City employees and elected officials to take advantage of programs available to the public, such as energy conservation incentives, assistance with installation of rain gardens and others. A typo in the resolution was also fixed.
Resolution No. 38959 A resolution and proposition amending Article VI, Section 6.3, of the City Charter by removing citizenship and City residency as requirements of eligibility for City employment. [Doris Sorum, City Clerk; Elizabeth Pauli, City Attorney]
Legally there are a number of positions at the City for whom the residency requirement cannot be applied, and for the rest it's generally unenforceable, so the Charter Review Committee recommeded removing the requirement. Similarly, other than police and fire, the City cannot legally enforce a citzenship requirement, and police and fire are already covered by state and federal law, so the committee recommended the removal of that requirement as well. The resolution was adopted.
REPORTS BY THE CITY MANAGER
City Manager Broadnax shared the City's new budget video, which explains how the City budget works. Broadnax encouraged everyone to watch the video, and to come out in person to the series of community budget input meetings scheduled by the City.
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COMMENTS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
Infrastructure, Planning, and Sustainability Committee – Councilmember Mello reported on the recent work of the committee.
- Interviewed applicants for the Sustainable Tacoma Commission, and made five recommendations.
- Heard an update on the 2014 annual amendments to Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan, which is scheduled to come back to Council for a final reading at next week’s meeting.
- Took a walking tour of the low impact development project at Wapato Lake Drive, and discussed GreenRoads and green infrastructure implementation.
- Heard a progress report on the development of Tacoma’s Transportation Master Plan and an update from Sound Transit on their long-range planning effort.
- Received a presentation on additions to Tacoma’s heavy haul corridors
- Heard from WSDOT about their upcoming construction project to expand and improve I 5 btwn South M and East L streets. That three year construction project is scheduled to break ground in August.
- Heard about ongoing City of Tacoma construction projects and an update on the sustainable materials management plan.
At its next meeting the committee will conduct interviews for the City’s Transportation Commission and Board of Building Appeals.
Councilmember Walker thanked the City Manager for the first of the five Community Budget Input Meetings, and announced the community cleanup this Saturday in the Hilltop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The drop-off location will be at Evergreen Tacoma.
Councilmember Ibsen gave a reminder of the upcoming District 1 budget meeting in scheduled for this Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m. at the Wheelock Library in Proctor.
Councilmember Boe gave his weekly reminder of all four of Tacoma's Farmers' Markets - 6th Ave on Tuesdays, Broadway on Thursdays, Proctor on Saturdays, and South Tacoma on Sundays - they're full of all kinds of great produce right now. Boe also announced the Saturdayz Flea Market, held every Saturday this summer on Antique Row.
Councilmember Campbell announced the community cleanup in the First Creek and Dome Top neighborhood this Saturday from 10 to 2, and the upcoming District 4 budget meeting scheduled for August 4. Save the date.
Councilmember Lonergan announced that from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, July 19 at the Grocery Outlet at 56th and South Tacoma Way the Lincoln Boosters will hold a Family Fun Day complete with bounce house, live music, family fun and entertainment, and John Kitna.
Mayor Strickland reminded everyone to vote for the Tacoma Fire Department team in the Good Morning America contest. (Update: sadly, Tacoma did not win, but they did great out there in New York, and they're still our favorite fire department.)
For more on the items on this week's agenda, see our City Business Preview for the week.
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