Tacoma’s Prop 1: What Do You Need to Know?

On July 23, Tacoma's City Council adopted a resolution placing Proposition 1 on the ballot this November. The official "for" and "against" statements that will appear in your voters' pamphlet are still being worked on, but the City has an information page all ready to go. Here are some of the details from the City page, along with a few other items.

What would be taxed?

  • The earnings of natural gas, electric and phone utility companies would be subject to an additional 2% tax.
  • Those utilities are already subject to a 6% tax, so the math brings that to 8%. 
  • Utility companies may pass this cost increase on to their customers through their rates. 
  • The City Council would have to approve any Tacoma Power rate change.
  • If the full cost is passed along, the combined cost to the average household would be about $4.70 per month.
  • Simpson Tacoma Kraft says its taxes would jump by $500,000 if the tax was passed along to customers.
  • The tax would apply to utility companies serving Tacoma customers, and to customers of Tacoma Power outside of the city, but only for their electricity.
  • About 74% of the funds would come from electric utilities.
  • 11% would come from natual gas.
  • 15% would come from telephone utilities.

 

Projects to be funded by Tacoma's Prop 1.

What would be funded?

  • The tax is forecast to generate $10 million to $11 million annually.
  • All funds generated would be dedicated solely to street improvements.
  • Safety improvements near schools, pothole repairs, neighborhood street improvements and basic maintenance, and arterial improvements and basic maintenance.
  • School zone improvements to 46 locations sooner: ADA accessible sidewalks and school zone flashing beacons.
  • 18,000 additional permanent pothole repairs – doubling what is done now based on current costs.
  • Repave/resurface 510 residential blocks (45 percent chip seal, 55 percent two inch overlay), more than doubling what is done now based on current costs
  • 12 backlogged neighborhood Local Improvement District projects where residents have already agreed to partner with the City and pay a significant portion of the cost, and provide matching funds for utility projects so water and sewer improvements can coordinate for street improvements at the same time. 
  •  70 arterial intersections would get traffic signal detection repairs.
  • The entire community’s center and turn lanes would be restriped every year.
  • More matching funds to apply for competitive grants.
  • Tacoma's citizen Transportation Commission would have input on decision-making processes.

 

Other considerations.

  • Nationally, the average city with a population between 31,000 and 196,000 spends $26 per person, per year in transportation funding categories measured by the International City Manager’s Association. Tacoma currently spends $7.
  • Tacoma Power’s rates are currently more than 30% lower than most other electric rates in the region for residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
  • A group opposed to the tax has filed a lawsuit to stop the ballot measure from appearing as written, calling it "impermissibly confusing to voters." The lawsuit cites a requirement in city ordinance for Tacoma Power to pass on to customers all taxes on “the sale and/or delivery of electric energy.” That may or may not apply to a tax on gross utilities earnings.
  • Tacoma voters have not approved a transportation funding ballot measure since 1968.
  • A 2006 measure that would have raised Tacoma property taxes, generating $8 million per year, for six years for residential street maintenance failed 51.81% to 48.19%.

 

Facts and Information: Learn more on the City's Proposition 1 Facts and Information page, and at a series of City of Tacoma-sponsored info sessions. All sessions will begin at 6 PM unless otherwise noted.

August 26 - Lincoln High School
September 4 -Wheelock Library
September 11 - Fern Hill Library
September 16 - Meeker Middle School
September 23 - Truman Middle School
October 2 - Tacoma Main Library
October 9 - Moore Library
October 10 - Jason Lee Middle School
October 14 - Gray Middle School
October 30, 2013 - Snake Lake Nature Center

So, what else do you need to know in order to make an informed decision?


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Comments

fred davie

Council wouldn’t need the additional funds if they wasn’t overpaying city employees. We’re paying city workers at the 70th percentile for no reason. 50th percentile would be average and fair. Nobody would quit if their pay was pegged to the 50th percentile.

August 16, 2013 at 11:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

What you have left out of the story is that these new revenues are not in any way constrained and can be spent on any project, regardless of how tenuous it’s claim to be “transportation related.” And even then, that is just a promise and there is NOTHING in the proposal that bars the Council from spending these money’s on any thing else what so ever. Furthermore, Kurtis Kingsolver has acknowledged to me that he sees this revenue stream as available for funding new capital projects.

On top of that I have confirmation from the City that they do not have a current pavement assessment. That means the City has no reliable estimate of what we have as a backlog, and from what has been relayed to me this backlog is not just a maintenance and restoration backlog it also includes a nebulous wish list of new capital projects they wish to fund and included in that wish list street scape and bicycle facilities assume the most prominant and highest priority positions.

Look at the survey results and you will see that residents simply do not think that funding these type of projects is our highest priority at this time. They want the pavement restored and maintained before all else with some safety improvements getting high marks. It is not that they do not value this type of improvement, it is just that given the condition of our pavement those amenities will have to wait.

August 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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NameJoseph Cote`

There are no specific requirements for a program to maintain streets and sidewalks. This money can, and does, go towards pet projects that the City has been trying to do for some time. Once the streets are fixed, we go right back to the lack of maintenance in place now and the money can be spent on whatever. Sidewalks promised to residents on North 21st Street back in 1947 STILL won’t get done! Kids walking to Wilson and Mont Downing along North Orchard will STILL walk in the mud. But, we’ll have more bike lanes! (UN-needed, unwanted, unused)!
Someone make up a PLAN that addresses the needs of the community and how to fulfill those needs.

August 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Name Matt

Joseph -
I agree that the lack of sidewalk infrastructure is frustrating, however, the North End has seen a majority of road maintenance compared to the south/east-side. Stating that bike-lanes are not needed or unwanted is a minority point of view from my vantage point. Many Tacomans would like to see more investment in both Bike AND Ped infrastructure.

August 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I believe that Tacomans would like to see more investment in both Bike AND Ped infrastructure, I am among them. I also would like a new heat pump in my home, but we NEED a new roof on our home and BEFORE we even consider that heat pump the roof has to be replaced and any debt retired FIRST. That’s just how I roll. Tacoma has has an “instant gratification” problem for a long time and Tacoma needs to start budgeting like responsible adults.

August 20, 2013 at 5:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Joseph,

You hit the nail squarely on the head. These dollars are ALREADY being looked at as a funding source for new “transportation” capital projects that have little or nothing to do with pavement restoration, maintenance or preservation, but this is how the proposition is being marketed.

If you access the survey the City of Tacoma commissioned, new bicycle facilities have the lowest priority at this time. I suspect that if our pavement were not in such poor condition that would not be the case. But like I have said: I would like a new heat pump so that my family could enjoy central air conditioning, BUT until we replace the roof on our home and retire any debt incurred for that, the heat pump is a lower priority. We NEED the new roof or our home will be structurally compromised and Tacoma NEEDS it’s pavement restored and maintained because if it is not it has serious implications for the street itself and the utilities buried under it.

I have written a great deal on The New Takhoman blog on this subject and am familiar with the topic. I am a Licensed Professional Engineer with a great deal of experience in the field of transportation planning and programming.

August 17, 2013 at 7:30 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

You’d know then that these funds would go towards the City TIP projects which include maintenance items then right?

August 19, 2013 at 3:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

No I don’t “know that. There is NOTHING in the law that ensures that to be the case.

August 20, 2013 at 6:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Tacoma’s Prop 1: What Do You Need to Know?

Basically this is what you need to know:
The City is selling this as a way to fund pavement restoration, maintenance and preservation plus school zone safety improvements however when you put the direct question to them they waffle and squirm as they admit that they are looking at these dollars as a funding mechanism for new “transportation” capital projects INCLUDING THOSE that have little or nothing to do with pavement restoration, maintenance and preservation or school zone safety improvements.

August 17, 2013 at 8:29 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

Can you name what would be a new “transportation” capital project that wouldn’t qualify under the definition of pavement restoration, maintenance and preservation, or a school zone safety improvement?  I don’t know if you can.

August 19, 2013 at 3:05 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Yes

August 20, 2013 at 6:41 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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tacoma1Registered

The above messages have been brought to you by the good folks at: ihatemylife&peopleingeneral;.com

August 17, 2013 at 9:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Christine

So I have a question about this.

We are going to increase the tax rates for general ratepayers and industry all within the city of Tacoma while allowing some company from California or something tap our source for pennies on the dollar to sell bottled Tacoma City water at a huge profit. 

I may be over-simplifying, but if that’s even close to correct, it is also close to criminal in my opinion.

August 17, 2013 at 9:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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tacoma1Registered

The tax increase is on utility company profits, not rate payers.

I see no connection between the bottled water deal and prop 1.  The bottled water plant is for surplus water (water that previously just went over the dam) so it is all plus business for Tacoma water. Because it is plus business, or unanticipated profits, it isn’t a given that water rates would go up at all for individual rate payers even if this tax passes.

August 17, 2013 at 10:17 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

“it isn’t a given that water rates would go up at all…”

And we’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up and eating that Rainbow Stew.
If TPU doesn’t pass the tax increase on to ratepayers then it will be starting down the road that the City of Tacoma is already well along. The reason this proposal exists in the first place is because Tacoma politicians have been salivating over the thought of getting their greedy paws on TPU’s funds for decades.

August 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Gary

Tacoma Power is a municipal utility that does NOT make a profit.  Only private sector companies hopefully have a profit.  Utilities collect revenues from rates to match their cost of providing service. 

The utility gross earnings tax is equivalent to the B&O tax businesses pay on GROSS REVENUE. That tax is a cost to any utility, including Tacoma Power. Since revenues can only match expenses, of course their rate will include sufficient funds to pay the tax.

August 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

Hate to break it to you but TPU makes “revenues” that exceed its fix costs, which would be grossly defined as “profits.”

August 19, 2013 at 3:07 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Gary

If “revenues” for a public utility exceed the budgeted amount, they are retained to reduce any new revenue demand, thus reducing the rates (or reducing any rate increase) to customers for the next period of its rate case.  There are no “profits.”

August 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Christine

Thanks, Tacoma 1. I didn’t know how that worked out.

August 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

“What do you need to know?”

Just this:  Tacoma’s Prop 1 is just another city council scheme to divert some money from the taxpayers pockets to fund a government that refuses to prioritize city “needs,”  that places funding for social causes and pet projects ahead of everything else, and that refuses to establish salary and wage levels for city workers that are reasonable and affordable for an old working class town. 
Hey here’s a new slogan for our city:  “Tacoma: the city with champagne tastes and beer budgets.”

Just vote no.

August 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

“•Tacoma Power’s rates are currently more than 30% lower than most other electric rates in the region for residential, commercial, and industrial customers.”

This statement should not go unchallenged. Tacoma ratepayers pay electric bills which have TWO components. One component is the actual electrical usage. That may in fact be “30% lower than most other electric rates.” But we also have a second component in the electric bill which is called a delivery or customer charge. It’s unclear if our final price for electricity is actually cheaper than other areas when BOTH components of the billing are considered. I’d be willing to bet that when the delivery charge is added in that our electric bills are similar to other areas.

August 17, 2013 at 2:42 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Gary

The City’s FAQ says the average Tacoma household spends $47.16 per month for wireless service.  That same figure was cited by a CTIA study so it probably their source.

However for NBC News, Oct. 16, 2012, reporter Bob Sullivan http://www.nbcnews.com/business/industry-group-says-cellphone-bills-are-shrinking-yours-1C6484617 says the $47.16 charge is for a single unit, and for basic service, like a prepaid phone, and without taxes.

The Labor Department issued data that October saying Americans spent $1,226 in 2011 on smartphone plans– or more than $100 per month.

The Tax Foundation, as recently reported by The Spokesman-Review http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol/2013/jul/12/washington-were-no-2-cell-phone-taxes/ says Washington has the nation’s second highest cell phone tax at 24.44%.

The Tacoma Prop. 1 tax also covers land lines (telephone services).

August 17, 2013 at 4:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Chris

Will the tax ever go away ? Is there an end to the needed improvements ?  I think this tax, which obviously will be passed on to rate payers, would get a better reception if they capped it at 10 or 15 years.

August 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I would support some new funding source, never a tax on utilities though, IF and only if:

1) 100% of existing State Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax revenue that is remitted to Tacoma
2) 100% of new revenues from the Motor Vehicle Exise Tax that the Council passed this year
3) 100% of revenues from any new funding source

Were 100% dedicated to pavement rehabilitation, maintenance and preservation and school zone safety upgrades until such time as Tacoma’s streets have an OCI of 75 and all revenues from these sources are totally constrained by law. AND, if the new revenue stream sunsetted when Tacoma achieved an OCI of 75. AND if the City were prevented from spending any money from the remaining two revenue sources (Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax or MVET) on ANY capital project unless and until Tacoma streets have an OCI equal to or greater than 75.

Those are my conditions and they are not something I will negotiate on.

August 18, 2013 at 5:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Correction: I would also add Traffic Operations to activities funded from these three revenue sources. ADA Transition Plan and implementation would also retain current funding budgeted therein from these sources.

August 19, 2013 at 9:08 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Two bullet points posted in the article above are particularly enlightening.

More matching funds to apply for competitive grants.

Tacoma’s citizen Transportation Commission would have input on decision-making processes.

Would you like me to explain these two bullet points? Regardless, I am about to.

The Council wants this new revenue in order to pursue grant funding for new capital projects that do not have popular support and benefit special interests who’s priorities are do not have popular support. Their survey results validate that conclusion.

Tacoma’s Transportation Commission would have input. Who is this Commission comprised of? Why it is made up of supporters of Council members who they get to appoint to their posts.

Friends, this is the crux of the problem we face. Transportation dollars have been programmed and budgeted in ways that benefit friends, family and long time business associates of elected and appointed officials and not the public at large. Supporters and insiders get their wants funded and the public watches and waits as NEEDS are given short shrift.

 

August 18, 2013 at 7:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

I went downtown last night to have dinner and check out the Block Party event.  On my way home, I approached the traffic light at Sprague and 6th heading west.  The light was red so I stopped.  The sun was low in the sky and glared directly at me like only an evening sun can do.  As I approached the light, I couldn’t see the stop line.  I saw the crosswalk there but thought it was way too early and was fixated somehow on an asphalt patch that looked like the stop line.  I stopped too far into the intersection.  The light turned green and I went on my way down 6th Avenue heading west.  As I went through the intersection, I couldn’t see the striping that should welcome me into the correct lane on the other side of the intersection and almost side-swiped the car next to me as they had their curb as a guide.  So, I’m either blind as a bat or that sort of infrastructure is plain old pathetic.  They currently only stripe lanes every other year and bastard crosswalks apparently have to be done by vigilantes.

I understand the knee-jerk reaction of some to only want to restore the pavement but there are plenty of sidewalks that need attention too.  GM has taught our babyboomer and conservative neighbors that nothing is truly great unless you can drive up to it curbside.  There are plenty of streets in town that are too wide for their purpose and therefore constrict walkable development - in the downtown.  There are streets downtown without passable sidewalks at all.  Some streets have no sidewalk what-so-ever.  In fact, I searched for a great sidewalk that’s in passable condition and hasn’t been poured during my tenure as a Pierce County resident.  It was on Tacoma Avenue.  It was stamped “1909”.

We are not entitled to great roads.  In fact, Tacoma has (antiquated) policies in place that speak to only maintaining current roads and not reconstructing them.  Reconstructing roads or creating new infrastructure takes a Local Improvement District (LID) ala the Broadway LID.  Tacoma spends about a third of what it should on infrastructure.

This is all so sad.  If I am looking for a home for myself or for my business, I will be looking for a nice one.  Junk attracts riffraff and more trash.  That includes junky and rundown infrastructure, crummy residences, and any other low-end crud.  If I have the money, I will not locate a business in an area like this.  I will not live in an area like this.

This $5 a month is a good deal.  It’s doubled by those who benefit from living near a bigger city like Tacoma.  It’s then tripled or quadrupled by State and Federal grants.  That’s $30-$40 worth of work for your $5.  Take this deal.  You can rail on where the city spends their money and loathe their decisions but the real world that we live in is one where they don’t have money to do roads.  Take this deal.  Take it.

August 18, 2013 at 8:08 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Sounds to me like having you behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is a mistake in the first place. I sincerely question whether you have what takes to drive without “almost side-swiping” the car next to you under the best of circumstances.

The City of Tacoma polled the residents and according to their poll people whi live in Tacoma have other priorities. If I were you, I would relocate yourself and your business to Seattle. It just seems to be a better fit.

August 18, 2013 at 9:41 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jesse

Without lines on the road, the road becomes as if there’s snow on it as far as visually navigating a car.  It’s dangerous.  The city is right, spending money in the striping lines is important.

As far as moving to Seattle, you’ve really helped me prove my point.  Many businesses and jobs choose Seattle because of the shape that it’s in compared to Tacoma.  That isn’t an important factor for consideration here?

August 18, 2013 at 10:02 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

The paint that Tacoma was using in the recent past was the cheapest that could be bought. It had very little reflectivity and was not able to be recognized on wet pavement.

Compare this to the City I work for that uses raised buttons exclusively for “channelization.” Your response only further emphasizes how Tacoma has a history of shifting budgets from needs to fund pet projects. FYI, if you have not followed what I have written on The New Takhoman blog, that city also maintains it’s streets at a to a target OCI of ~80 using only Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax receipts AND has not enacted a $20 MVET as Tacoma has recently done. To the best of my knowledge Tacoma’s pavement has not been rated recently, but if I were to make an educated guess I would judge Tacoma’s OCI to be in the thirties or possibly even lower.

The City I work for IS funding major projects using matching monies to attract State and federal grant dollars AND those matching monies partially come out of what is LEFT OVER from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax revenues it receives.

Another principal difference I see is that their “major projects” enjoy popular support from residents because they represent projects that the residents want. And before you get all caught up in the “Tacoma is an older City” canard, I am not talking about a recently incorporated City. I work for one of the State’s oldest major cities.

August 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

I have been to The New Takhoman blog a few times and won’t go back.  It is the most disrespectful place on the Tacoma blogosphere where one can get their belly full of negativity, conspiracy theory, and backwards “news” from the most ignorant people in town.  So, no thanks.

August 19, 2013 at 5:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

Yeah, cause if you hate taxes that fuel transit and roads, you’ll find your escape in Seattle!  Man I don’t believe you’re even an licenced P.E.  No one that went to school could come up with this kind of misinformation.

August 19, 2013 at 3:16 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

It’s easy enough to go on the State Licensing Board web site and see for yourself. I don’t “hate taxes that fuel taxes and roads,” I just think we have higher priorities right now. So enough with the straw men. That would say I hate paying for a heat pump (which I want in the future) just because I refuse to consider paying for one UNTIL the roof on my home has been replaced.

If all you can bring to the table are these kind of statements - that is pretty pathetic.

August 19, 2013 at 5:21 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Correction: I don’t “hate taxes that fuel transit and roads,”

August 19, 2013 at 9:10 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

That would be the real strawman, the fact we can’t devote our attention to road improvement when it is now being reported our real estate market is defunct because of it.  If you don’t have a robust real estate market you’ll get crime and depressed neighborhoods.  A City’s fundamental ability to make sure things are not falling apart is one of its highest priorities for legitimacy.

August 19, 2013 at 10:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I agree that “A City’s fundamental ability to make sure things are not falling apart is one of its highest priorities for legitimacy.” I think, if what I am reading is that you contend that a city has a fundamental responsibility to “make sure things are not falling apart.”

Can we both agree that Tacoma has failed to perform it’s fundamental responsibility when it comes to pavement maintenance? Like I have said, Tacoma had the money but chose to spend it elsewhere. The City I work for was incorporated in 1901 and Tacoma was incorporated in 1875, so both cities have pavement that is of the same age. Unless you want to argue, like Tacoma’s Public Works Director tried, that Tacoma’s pavement predates the automobile became a viable means of transportation when he said to me that Tacoma’s streets were much older and yada, yada, yada, and bla, bla, bla and what a diaper load that is. The City I work for uses Motor Vehicle Fuel Taxes to fund pavement maintenance and preservation and has money left over to use as matching funds for State & federal grants. The City I work for has an OCI of ~70-80, compare that to Tacoma that doesn’t even have a recent pavement assessment - but if Tacoma did it would have an OCI of somewhere in the twenty to thirty range. Maintenance and preservation of the streets in the city I work for is targeting an OCI of 80, which would be an INCREASE from where it is today due to recent annexations, Tacoma’s streets are deteriorating at a faster rate than maintenance can keep up. The City I work for has done major projects and is doing major projects and matching monies were funded with money left over after out maintenance and preservation needs had been met. The City I work for did not enact a MVET, Tacoma has. The City I work for has arterial and collector streets that have raised buttons for lane demarcation, Tacoma doesn’t even have paint. 

What is so hard to understand about the facts prove that Tacoma does not have a revenue problem, Tacoma has the same problem families do that cannot budget responsibly and that includes many families that have income in the top 5%.

August 19, 2013 at 11:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

Gotta agree. The city has failed to prioritize spending. Money has been taken to provide funding for all sorts of non-profit groups, reconciliation parks, poetry readings, urban ditches, premium pay for city workers, loans for private developers, convention centers, etc.  Of course, most of us learned this lesson from the story of the three little pigs but the nine little liberals weren’t in class that day.

“Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other” Benjamin Franklin

August 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

The difference between a street built pre-automobile and post-automobile is huge!  Are you kidding?  An asphalt or concrete street built on top of cobble stones or brick will not last due to the layers having different expansion and contraction rates.  The layers separate sooner than if they have the right underpayment for their type.  That’s much of the problem downtown.  Look at the webbing on Fawcett street.  It’s because the asphalt has lost it’s elasticity due to age and the layers are separating and casting the cracks up to the surface.  Look in any pot hole on that street and you’ll find red brick on the flat streets or cobble stones on the steep ones.  The entire road needs to be replaced completely here.  That’s not more expensive than an overpayment?  If you’re an engineer you should know this.

August 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

That’s not more expensive than an overpayment? 

Overlay, not overpayment.

August 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Tacoma’s street network is roughly the same age as the city I work in and both had streets that were paved with brick or cobble. Now pay attention I’m trying to educate you, as the city I work was rebuilding streets that had brick or cobble under them, Tacoma began “investing” all of their transportation dollars that they could strip from maintenance and preservation into funding a concept that went by the name “Visualize Tacoma.”

Today the city I work in has streets that ANY city in the world would be proud of and Tacoma still has streets asphalt with brick and cobble beneath it.

Just as some people are investors and others are not, some cities are investors and others are not and in either case if one is a wild eyed gambler the inevitable results are wailing and gnashing of teeth that insufficient revenues are to blame for the financial mess that one’s own irresponsibility has resulted in. 

Policy decisions insured that maintenance and preservation was not a funding priority in Tacoma and as I, and a few others, pointed out where this would lead the City of Tacoma defended its policy of stripping maintenance budgets and shifting those dollars from City wide maintenance and preservation to downtown redevelopment.

The masterminds at the City referred to this practice as deferred maintenance and spoke to concerned residents with condescension and treated them with contempt if they questioned the City’s projections regarding a redeveloped downtown that “would soon be paying enough in SURPLUS taxes to MORE THAN MAKE UP for any increased deterioration brought about by deferring maintenance for a few years.” Emphasis theirs on the more than make up claim, and what is more when I pressed them on how long they were talking about when they said “few years” and they waffled and disseminated I asked them if they were talking ten years. They would not commit to ten years, so I suggested twenty-years and to that they absolutely assured me that twenty-years would be out of the question. They would not commit to ten, but insisted that my suggestion that it would be AT LEAST twenty-years was unreasonable. Guess what, we are going on our third decade of pursuing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow with no end in sight. 

As far as my knowledge and understanding of the cost of rebuilding a street vs maintaining existing pavement, you can file a PDR with the City of Tacoma and find out that for over a decade I have been pointing out that roads that fail cannot be overhauled or repaired, they must be rebuilt, and rebuilding a street is frequently even more expensive than building a whole new street.

regarding looking in “any pot hole” on Fawcett and finding either brick or cobble, that may or may not be true, BUT it has nothing to do with too many other streets that the City has sat by and watched fail to even begin to know where to start if one were to list them. Tacoma has modern streets in which the pavement HAS failed and now need to be rebuilt. Many of these streets are ones that I have questioned the city about the lack of maintenance on over the last decade BEFORE they failed, but after it became apparent that they needed maintenance or they would soon fail.

August 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

You have got to be kidding me! Fawcett is a street that would have failed due to neglect regardless of it’s construction.

That being said placing asphalt over concrete, or cobble or pavers is a short term “solution.” Failure of that street has much more to do with the lack of a firm, even, FLEXIBLE, load bearing sub grade as it does to differential in coefficient of thermal expansion.

You are on the right track about the asphalt binder losing its elasticity due to age though, as asphalt ages some of the components leach out leaving behind less plastic elements and cyclic flexing also contributes to the pavement cracking and allowing water to intrude into the sub grade.

The cracked pavement is not what defines a failed street, so long as the sub grade has not been compromised. Once the sub grade has been compromised the street is no longer able to be saved and must be either rebuilt or in Tacoma’s case, unless you enjoy proximity to power, not.

August 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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D. Hansen

What city do you work for? You’ve made plenty of good arguments, but they always revolve around this mystery city that you work in. I assume it is nearby, or why would you even care about Tacoma, and you said it was incorporated 1901. I know that Olympia, Steilacoom, Sumner, Orting and Puyallup are all older than 1901. Most of the others around here are younger. How can we judge the validity of your argument, or have any idea what an OCI of 70 looks like if, at least for the non-P.E.s here, you don’t come out with that which city it is?

I’m a P.E. as well. I understand that maintaining infrastructure is a bargain compared to rebuilding it.  I live in Tacoma and I’m personally divided on this issue. I believe in the first few years it will probably do a lot of good for our roads, but five years from now when everyone has forgotten the vote, some council member is probably going to try to figure out a way to upgrade the Tacoma Dome, or build a new cultural historical whatchamacallit and we’ll be right back where we started.

If we and the media partner to keep pressure on the city to not waste the money, that might be enough. I worry how long we’ll have to wait for something to be done if this fails. I’m leaning towards voting yes, but I haven’t made up my mind yet and it’s a shame, because, as a Transportation Engineer I should naturally want to see investment in transportation infrastructure. It’s like a teacher being undecided on a levy.  They could have just made a couple of tweaks to the proposition and I’d be willing to donate to the campaign. I just want investment with accountability.

August 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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jDHasty

Renton. And unless the money is constrained by law and there is no way around the constraints I am unwilling to give the city any additional money. I am totally willing to pay to restore our existing pavement and maintain and preserve it. AT THAT TIME, I am willing to fund new capital projects, but not before. Part of my reasoning is that if this is not painful the powers that be are just going to repeat what they have done and my kids will be in this same predicament.

August 20, 2013 at 4:21 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I work for Renton and let this be a warning to ANY City of Tacoma employee or official if you make another attempt to contact my employer in an attempt to prevent my participation in discussion regarding how things are done in the town I live and own property in I WILL SUE The City of Tacoma for interference with my employment relationship with the City of Renton.  The City is darn lucky that the last time that you pulled this little stunt that the City was presented with a claim and hauled into court.

Renton was home to one of the largest brick plants in the region and as such The City of Renton had this issue to deal with, Renton has ONE (1) street left that this remains an issue on and the City is committed to dealing with that.

August 20, 2013 at 6:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

Once upon a time, I was a concrete expert.  True story.  I worked for the most respected supplier or concrete repair and construction materials in the region and helped supply many projects in Portland.  I bid and sold nearly all the materials to TriMet projects, ODOT, and the various cities around the Portland area including streetcar, the Hawthorne Bridge reconstruction, and many of the Pearl District projects.  I know what I’m talking about when it comes to identifying concrete and masonry issues.

August 20, 2013 at 7:00 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Once upon a time, I was a concrete expert.  True story.  I worked for the most respected supplier or concrete repair and construction materials in the region and helped supply many projects in Portland.  I bid and sold nearly all the materials to TriMet projects, ODOT, and the various cities around the Portland area including streetcar, the Hawthorne Bridge reconstruction, and many of the Pearl District projects.  I know what I’m talking about when it comes to identifying concrete and masonry issues.

It is patently obvious that you are NOT the expert you claim to be particularly when the topic revolves around asphalt concrete streets, their maintenance and preservation.

August 20, 2013 at 7:25 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

I am not an asphalt expert but I used to field a shocking number of questions from engineers, architects, and other people who should know as much as me about concrete and masonry.

August 20, 2013 at 7:33 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

You are as much an “expert” as 90% of car salesmen I had giving me advice the last time I bought a new truck. They certainly presented themselves to be experts but were not competent to answer any of the technical questions I asked and had I followed their advice would have not been in a position the make the best choice to suit my needs.

It would not surprise me one bit that an architect would go to a salesman for technical advice. Engineers perhaps came to you for specifications and such, and some of them may have taken a salesman’s shtick as gospel, but not ones that are competent.

August 20, 2013 at 8:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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James

Congratulations JDHasty! You’ve successfully offended even more Exit133 readers, not to mention car sales people. As an architect, I can’t help but think that any professional, who holds other professions in such low regard, must be entirely full of himself (read sh!#). The world view according to the world’s greatest municipal civil engineer. Please do not feign professional objectivity when making a political argument. Denigrating others with opposing views doesn’t help either.

August 20, 2013 at 10:40 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Thank you, and I sincerely mean that as an engineer who used to design trusses and joists that architects had based a design on after talking to sales people - or I should say was one member of a team that tried to design trusses and joists to make some very absurd architect/salesman collaborative concepts work out.

As far as the car salesmen I referred to, a year ago I was shopping for a truck that would meet, or exceed, very specific performance requirements and had more salesmen tell me that what they had in inventory was exactly what I was looking for after listening to my requirements than you could count even if you take your shoes off.

These knotheads were trying to interest me in vehicles that had less rated towing capacity than my Toy Hauler RV weighs EMPTY, and had I listened to them I very well may have ended up with a vehicle in which the warranty stipulations had been violated and at that point would be the proud owner of a truck costing north of $50k that was no good to anyone because the engine and transmission were ruined.

These salesmen were competent to recommend such things as color choice, but were not even aware that certain options were offered, such as “max-tow” packages and/or ten ply rated tires.

If they are offended that I think that someone who is in the business of selling light trucks should be the expert they pass themselves off to unsuspecting and uninformed customers as being - so be it.

If you are an architect that designs a home for a Seahawks player and incorporate a thirty foot cantilever deck into your design, based on promises made by a salesman and in so doing produce a design in which the uplift on the anchored end of the truss is not considered and you are offended - so be it. I’ve been there as has every engineer who has ever designed trusses and joists.

August 20, 2013 at 11:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

anything that may assist the bane of Tacoma, Simpson Kraft Stink factory shutdown is OK by me.  Kidney Fail!

August 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Uh oh, lookie what I found right on the City’s own web site:

Tacoma also ranks at the bottom of cities with populations of 31,000 to 196,000 in transportation funding categories measured by the International City Manager’s Association (ICMA),with $7 per person, per year spent on operations and maintenance.

https://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=34898#If approved by voters

This validates what I have been saying i.e. For decades Tacoma has been stripping it’s operations and maintenance budgets to fund “pet projects.”

Notice it does not say that Tacoma residents pay less in taxes to support transportation than other communities, Tacoma residents DO NOT pay less than residents of similar communities.

It also does not say Tacoma takes in less in transportation revenues than similar cities, Tacoma does not take in less in transportation revenues than other similar cities.

It says unequivocally that of all of the money we pour into transportation funding, only $7/year/person has been budgeted to pay for traffic operations and street maintenance.

That my friends is reason enough to demand a paradigm shift in how our transportation dollars are programmed and budgeted prior to even considering additional funding.

August 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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D. Hansen

Although I may have implied it earlier, I don’t think the new revenue could be used for non-road projects in the future, unless a new public vote is conducted, sine the language in the resolution is “for the sole purpose of funding citywide street maintenance improvements and safety upgrades in the City of Tacoma.” http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/Prop1.pdf

The money that could easily be re-appropriated is the transfer from the general fund which, according to the city’s Prop 1 website, is about $7.7million in 2013-2014. There are very few restrictions on how general fund money can be spent. https://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=34898#Are there big-picture consicerations

The place where the city could really expand the scope of this money is in safety projects. For example adding street lights makes night time driving safer and adding cycle tracks makes biking much safer.  At any rate, I do believe that this will create a dedicated fund for roads, but it will not cure the maintenance backlog problem on it’s own. If you know of any legal loophole that can get around the language “sole purpose” in the resolution, let me know.

August 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

“safety upgrades” is so nebulous that it could mean any project that has any component that could be construed in that manner will be an excuse to tap this money. Read the above post and you will see that the City of Tacoma raided “transportation” dollars to the extent that street maintenance and traffic operations was left with only $7/resident/year in funding. That is exactly the proportion of any new money that will be left after they get through with it as well. These people have a history.

August 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

They money is not going back in the general fund.  We are 800 million short on projects.  We have both commission and legal protections to prevent this money from being moved into something alternative to what it was intended for.  This tax isn’t going away either, maintenance and construction are expensive and have inflated in cost immensely.  Also things like street lights are considered safety improvements and shouldn’t be considered any less in transportation funding.  They prevent crime, accidents, and protect the infrastructure from being damaged.

August 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

The $800M represents the backlog in pavement maintenance which I, and most voters are willing to find, PLUS a nebulous Christmas list of new capital projects and I will not willingly pay one more dime for that UNTIL our pavement is restored and maintained to an OCI of 75 or greater. That is the bottom line and when put in those terms voters are overwhelmingly in agreement with me and the City of Tacoma comissioned poll and study confirms this.

August 21, 2013 at 5:13 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

“maintenance and construction are expensive and have inflated in cost immensely” xeno

On the flip side, the cost of living for ordinary ratepayers in the utility district is expensive and has inflated in cost immensely. The increased tax rate (which will passed through to the ratepayers) will make their cost of living more expensive and more inflated. For every unfilled pothole, for every corner without a curb cut, and for every street with a faded lane marker, there is citizen counterpart without enough food, without enough money for health concerns, and without enough money even to pay the CURRENT utility bills.

Isn’t that a problem as well Mr. xeno? Maybe you don’t have financial concerns and the only people who will suffer from the new tax are the “little people.”

August 21, 2013 at 8:24 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Actually Fred, if you go to the County Road Administration Board website you will see that the cost of structural overlay took a dip for a few years and there were bargains to be had, BUT during that time period Tacoma was raiding the maintenance budgets to the extent that of all of the “transportation” revenues flowing in to the City only $7/year/person was being budgeted to pay for traffic operations and street maintenance combined.

Here is where to go to check the numbers for yourself: http://www.crab.wa.gov/LibraryData/REPORTS/CRAB/CAPP/130503CAPPSealStructThinOverlaysPerMLnMile.pdf

These are country numbers, but they are the best source we have available. The same contractors and asphalt suppliers bid rural and urban projects so while the costs will be off a bit, the trends can be accepted as consistent.

August 21, 2013 at 8:56 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Is that even your real name?

JD Hasty…  the information looks very proprietary and looks like something your would have access to at work.  Lets see when you posted it:  ” August 21, 2013 at 9:56 am “

August 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

“proprietary,” I don’t know what difference that would make? It is information you and I as citizens of the State of Washington pay to collect. It is based on information counties submit on an annual basis.

August 22, 2013 at 5:10 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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jDHasty

Most of my posts will be about the same times every day corresponding to the time I take a break or go to lunch which vary a bit but not a great deal.

August 22, 2013 at 5:15 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I post from my wireless G3 iPad and can post on the bus on the way to meetings, I can post on the Sounder on the way to work, during my breaks or lunch which are roughly the same time every day and I have quite a few people, some of who work for or retired from the City or TPU who feed me info via email, I also have colleagues who are helping me out. So if you want to know how I can collect the information I have and share it with all of you, now you know. 

I will be happy when this measure is defeated and can go back to listening to podcasts of my radio show that I like during those times.

Have you all noticed that our “independent” Utility Board members have not opined regarding this outrage, makes one wonder just how independent….

August 22, 2013 at 6:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

The link I posted is accessible to anyone with internet access and it is something that every jurisdiction that has a viable pavement management program uses to track historical costs. FYI, I post from my wireless/G3 iPad practically anywhere or any time I feel like it. I have posted from the Metro Bus while traveling to a meeting, I have posted from a State meeting room during a break, I have posted from my desktop computer at home, I have posted from my iPad while commuting to work on the Sounder, I have posted from PSRC meeting rooms, I have posted while riding in a car. What’s your point?

August 22, 2013 at 9:07 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Uh oh, lookie what I found:

So which one of you who object to me educating the public wants to respond to this revelation? As I have pointed out, Tacoma has ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN MAINTAINING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE WITH THESE REVENUES. If they did, they would be restoring the positions in the City Maintenance shops that were laid off.

Oh what a tangled web we weave…..

Friends, here are the questions taken directly off of Tacoma’s survey:

Creating hundreds of good paying family wage jobs right here in Tacoma by investing in road repair and maintenance

Investing in our local economy by funding more than $12 million in maintenance and safety improvements each year and putting more than one hundred million dollars back into Tacoma’s local economy over the next decade.

Now here is what was in an internal email I made a PDR for:

On May 31, 2013, at 6:39 AM, “Gent, Mike” <mgent@ci.tacoma.wa.us> wrote:


43. Does this question lead people to think that more city government jobs will be created? Is there a way of rephrasing it to clarify that this will be private or contractor type positions, (without offending unions)?

Friends this is an outrage. The former leads Tacoma’s voters, particularly the labor vote to believe that this money will “hundreds of good paying family wage jobs right here in Tacoma,” while all the while the City is working behind the scenes on a proposal that is not at all consistent with that “promise.” Let me make it PERFECTLY CLEAR, Gary Merlino bringing his crews down from Seattle will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to create “hundreds of good paying family wage jobs right here in Tacoma.”

August 23, 2013 at 9:13 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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honeydo sepulveda

I clicked on this story to get some basic information and was stunned to see I need to offer my congratulations to Exit 133. You’ve acquired your own thread-hijacking, self-aggrandizing troll just like the really big blogs. You’ve grown up so fast….<sniff>

September 1, 2013 at 9:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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