For better or worse, there’s never a boring night at Tacoma city council these days. The city council meeting of Tuesday, October 8 had a display of civil disobedience from immigrant’s rights group La Resisencia, a move on the Tacoma Tideflats interim regulations, a visit from the infamous Tim Eyman, and a Citizen’s Forum covering a wide range of topics.
The meeting started off with three proclamations, declaring Saturday October 12 as Arbor Day and Green Tacoma Day, October 14 as Indigenous People’s Day, and recognizing the Drums not Guns Community Peace Walk. Green Tacoma Day is a multi-partner stewardship event that takes place across fourteen sites in the city of Tacoma, where anyone can participate in planting trees, picking up trash, pulling invasive weeds and more. Next the proclamation for Indigenous People’s Day was accepted by two Puyallup Tribal Council members, Tim Reynon and James Rideout, who thanked the city of Tacoma for things like hanging the Puyallup flag in the city council chambers and renaming the Puyallup River bridge to the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge. Finally, the council recognized organizers of the Drums Not Guns Eastside Community Peace Walk, a march organized in response to the rash of youth and gang violence, a part of the larger Tacoma Ceasefire movement.
The session then turned to public comment, reserved for discussion around items on the weekly agenda. General comments about anything under the city’s jurisdiction are reserved for Citizen’s Forum, which only occurs on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. Tonight happened to be that Tuesday.
To preface the public comment, there were eight items on the regular agenda that people could comment on. The first was a purchase resolution extending a contract with a Optic Fusion Inc. to the tune of 714,000 dollars for a total of 1,409,800 dollars. While this is objectively a lot of money, weekly expenses like these are on almost every agenda. Operating a city is expensive, and this is the kind of money that flows in and out of our city’s coffers. There was no comment on this resolution.
The next resolution, an authorization to give another 50,000 dollars to a law group representing the city of Tacoma was a different story. The city of Tacoma is presently in a legal battle with The Geo Group, the for-profit prison company that operates ICE’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). Tacoma is being sued over denying the facility expansion permits, which operates its detention center in both an industrially zoned area and an EPA Superfund site. Several people representing the group La Resistencia, an immigrant-led human rights group that opposes ICE and Geo used this item as a springboard. One woman leading the group went up with several other Resistencia members, holding banners saying “No More Deportations”. She spoke about how ICE was ripping apart families, raiding Eastern Washington in the summer and Western Washington in the winter, with all their captives being processed at the NWDC. She demanded that the city of Tacoma declare the Geo facility a public nuisance, revoke their business license, and shut it down. The speaker had gone over her allotted two minutes for public comment, but at this point it had become apparent that this was a civil disobedience action. Resistencia members, as well as a crowd of young people from the University of Puget Sound began chanting “shut it down”, while the council called a recess. They held the room for close to ten minutes before council came back to order, at which point Mayor Woodards scolded the protesters for disrespecting the time of others who had signed up to comment. Woodards also made a point to ask the audience to refrain from clapping, shouting, or cheering, a point she often makes. She believes that in order to be respectful, the audience shouldn’t support or boo speakers, something many regulars willfully go against.
Several other speakers opened with statements of support for the effort to shut down the NWDC, in spite of speaking to other topics. This trend broke when Tim Eyman gave comment on Resolution 40442, a resolution declaring the city’s opposition to his latest scheme, Initiative 976. I’ll admit, I didn’t really listen to Tim Eyman’s speech, but to be fair I have good reason. I’ve said earlier that Tim Eyman is infamous, and to anyone involved in Washington politics he is, but if this is the first you’re hearing of him then I’ll do my best to explain. Tim Eyman is an expert obstructionist and an expert at Washington’s statewide initiative system. He’s sponsored 20 initiatives and one referendum in Washington, ten of which have been passed by voters. Most of his work, aside from his first initiative banning affirmative action is obstructionism disguised as populism. Cutting taxes, tolls, fees, and the like appeal to a lot of voters, but end up crippling the legislature’s ability to allocate funds. As Councilmember Ibsen put it “Aside from the fact that this initiative’s proponent is a convicted thief and embezzler..,” his latest initiative capping the fee for car tabs would end up derailing the funding for Sound Transit. Also yes, Tim Eyman was convicted for stealing campaign funds to enrich himself, and for some bizarre reason stealing a chair from a Lacey Home Depot.
The next four items didn’t spur quite as much controversy. There was a resolution changing the way the city performs dialogue with residents over new construction projects, an authorization for the use five thousand dollars to the Calavera Collective’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration, higher rates of pay for wastewater treatment plant workers, and an item allowing for greater flexibility with the citing of Fourth of July celebrations. There were a few positive public comments on these changes but that was it.
The final item was the first reading of the Tideflats Interim Regulations, which are renewed every six months. These regulations ban new heavy industry/fossil fuel projects and residential encroachment on the tideflats/ port industrial area. An issue that Tacoma’s environmentalists have discovered is that they do nothing to stop the expansion of existing fossil fuel sites, and now large companies have purchased the smaller fossil fuel companies at the Port and are expanding. One individual mentioned that they had never seen this many oil tankers in the port. I personally spoke to this issue, asking councilmembers to keep to the promises they made at the September 20 Climate Strike, one of which was to halt fossil fuel expansion. Instead of doing this, the Mayor set forward a motion to set aside the final reading and vote to November 14th, which one attendee pointed out was after the council elections.
The night ended with Citizen’s Forum. Although many of the people that signed up to speak had ended up leaving, people still came forward and spoke to a range of topics, from fossil fuel regulations, to NWDC, to the tent ban, to the city of Tacoma’s legal battle over the sale of Click! Network. Mitchell Shook, owner of Advanced Streams and Jubilee Burgers has been a tireless advocate for Click! and is currently engaged in a lawsuit with the city over its attempted sale. Click! Network is the city of Tacoma’s public broadband utility which the city has been attempting to privatize. Their latest attempt is to declare the utility “surplus” in order to give them legal grounds to sell it. Several city council members receive campaign contributions from Rainier Connect, the private company attempting to acquire the utility.
All items on the agenda tonight, as usual passed unanimously. I think I have proven my case that city council is an interesting place to be. For those interested in all things city government or the social movements around us, feel free to reach me at ASUWTCL@uw.edu