Letters to the EditorSpotlight

Extend several contracts, donate funds to revitalize Asia Pacific Cultural Center

The city council meeting of October 15 was used to set two public hearings, extend several contracts, approve purchase agreements, give away a tax break to a developer, and donate 250,000 dollars to the revitalization of the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in South/Central Tacoma. 

The first proclamation of the meeting was to proclaim October 17 as Conflict Resolution Day, in honor of the Center for Dialog and Resolution. The Center for Dialog and Resolution, also known as the Pierce County Center for Dispute Resolution is a Tacoma based non-profit that trains and supplies a corps of volunteer mediators to help in civil court, aid out of court settlements, or just generally settle disputes for a sliding scale fee. It’s a pretty unique service and non-profit in Tacoma, and the city has previously contracted them to help resolve issues around Citizen’s Forum. 

The next proclamation declared October 19 as Orca Recovery Day, in recognition of the struggling South Sound Orca population. A member of the Pierce Conservation District accepted the award, a non-profit which councilmember Ryan Mello is the executive director. 

The next proclamation declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and representatives from several community groups such as the YWCA were in the audience to witness this. 

The final proclamation declared October also as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Two community members accepted this proclamation, and Councilmember Blocker shared his story about his diagnosis with ocular degeneration, and mentioned that only ten percent of visually impaired people are employed. He proudly stated that visually impaired people are very capable and can go on to serve on city council or as Lieutenant Governor like our current Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib. 

Next two public hearings were set, which tends to be done for large issues/votes. The first was for the Ad Valorem and Emergency Services tax levies for 2020, an issue I admittedly know nothing about. The next is an issue I’ve been watching like a hawk, which is the city’s attempt to declare our publicly owned municipal broadband Click! Network as surplus. The city is attempting to privatize the network by selling to Rainier Connect, a semi local company. The outright sale was stopped by a legal challenge, with a judge ruling that any sale would have to run through a vote of the people. The city is seeking to subvert the democratic process and declare the entire network as a surplus that can be easily sold. 

The next three items were purchase resolutions, one for tire services, one for an electronic patient care reporting system, and the other for waste system improvements. 

There were two first readings of ordinances tonight pertaining to city bonds and budgets, another topic that isn’t talked about enough. The ordinances ultimately saved the city money through refinancing and seemed like the product of hard-working city staff. The council has no questions and it seems like a no-brainer to pass, but it was nice to see staff helping save the city some money. 

The first resolution on the docket appropriated 250 thousand dollars from the general budget to the Asia Pacific Cultural Center for a full rebuilding project. The center is seeking to raise a lot of capital to improve the cultural center, and even make it multiple stories adding units of affordable senior housing above the center. The new building will fit the dimensions of the current one so no green space will be lost. 

The last resolution of note was an execution of the multi-family tax exemption for a housing development. This exemption gives away 12 years of taxes to the developer, for a building of 12 market rate and “affordable” units. Affordable units are determined as eighty percent of the area median income of Pierce County, meaning that they are designed for someone making 64 thousand dollars a year to pay a third of their monthly income. In the area this was built in South Tacoma, this actually meant that the affordable units rented for more than the market rate units. 

This particular exemption was unusual because developers typically apply for it prior to construction, and this developer was already halfway through. The approval of this to me was silly on the city’s part, because this developer was going to build this no matter what, and would likely have charged similar rent. One councilmember argued that the exemption agreement locked the developer into certain prices for the duration, but that potential benefit came at the cost of lost revenue to our schools, roads, and emergency first responders. City staff presenting on this said the developer initially called the wrong person about the exemption, and feeling bad for him they discovered that there was no law saying the agreement couldn’t be executed after construction. If only our city showed such compassion to its low income and homeless residents, but instead they do for wealthy developers. 

That’s all for this time, for those of you interested in city government at UWT feel free to contact me at asuwtcl@uw.edu Council agenda, minutes, and recordings: https://cityoftacoma.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=22566&GUID=F23EE68E-8E57-4BEC-8601-B969C461E3B3&R=8b32d8c2-d42b-4f41-a78b-413ef88fee15