Letters to the EditorSpotlight

End of the year votes

The city council meeting of December 3, 2019 was sparsely populated, with about as many city staff members in the chambers as citizens so probably around 25 people at any given time. The content of the meeting was the culmination of several projects, six collective bargaining agreements, the creation of the Tacoma Creates cultural access program and advisory board, and the adoption of the Urban Forestry Plan. There were also some interesting changes around the governance of homeless shelters and a change to city building codes. 

The first item set a hearing date for a proposal to extend “air rights” for a development, which presumably means the developers ability to build upwards. The other item on the consent agenda, which are items that precede the regular agenda was moved to a later meeting. This was probably the first meeting I’ve been to when a day/week/month wasn’t proclaimed something special, and the only ceremonial act was an award given to a younger Tacoma Public Utilities staff member who had displayed leadership potential in being the union representative for her workplace. After that there was a brief public comment period of six speakers. 

Due to a high volume of interest, city council increased the number of seats on the Sustainable Tacoma Commission from 11 to 13, something which will likely help ease their current selection process. Council then settled a lawsuit, amended an agreement regulating siloxane compounds with Puget Sound Energy, and then finalized the Urban Forestry Plan, something that hadn’t been undertaken in 70 years. Tacoma has the lowest amount of tree cover of any major western Washington city, and the plan aims to increase that canopy from a measly 20 percent to something larger and more equitably spread around the city. The council then unanimously authorized six collective bargaining agreements from a wide array of public employees represented by several different unions. 

After a Tacoma-wide ballot a year ago, the city authorized the implementation of the Tacoma Creates cultural access program and advisory board. Tacoma Creates will provide 2 million in funding every year for arts and culture programs from a .01 increase in the city’s sales tax. A few community members spoke in favor of the vote, which has really been the culmination of several votes for implementing the program, including a Tacoma art teacher and the director of the Asia-Pacific Cultural Center. 

A few people also spoke about another item, ordinance 28636 which amended the Municipal Code to allow for the easier citing of temporary homeless shelters. While this is a good change, the item was used to talk about the larger issues such as the city using the annual point-in-time count as their official reference for the homeless population, something so unreliable that providers don’t use it and it may be up two thousand people off, placing the Tacoma homeless population at only four hundred souls. Several city council members acknowledged that this was just a small piece of the puzzle with more to come, and community activists requested a way to find the city’s past and present work in a coherent section of the city’s website. 

Electric vehicle charging capacity will now have to be built in to larger new parking facilities in Tacoma, but only enough to cover twenty percent of stalls. Mayor Woodards voiced her concerns about the potential costs to developers while Councilmember Mello explained that EVs are expected to make up twenty percent of vehicles in a decade, and adding charging capabilities retroactively is much more costly. The measure ultimately passed. Finally there were some traffic amendments made to one of the heavily trucked Port of Tacoma roads mostly around speed and safety concerns. 

As always students interested in city government can reach me at asuwtcl@uw.edu City Council agendas, recordings, and minutes can be found here: https://www.cityoftacoma.org/government/city_council/ccmeetings