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Archives: June 2009



As has come up in the comments section of several posts this week, I am leaving The News Tribune next week. For the record, I wasn’t laid off, nor was I fired. I’m entering a three-year graduate writing program at the University of Idaho.

For most of my time at the TNT I’ve covered aspects of the criminal justice system, but many of you have known me more recently as a city hall reporter. Government and politics have never been my bailiwick, but I hope I’ve at least adequately kept my finger in the dike while the paper looks for a permanent replacement for Jason Hagey.

Opportunities for journalists to get up on a soapbox don’t come around very often (and by nature they shouldn’t), but after the jump I intend to wax just a little.

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The ‘ayes’ have it

The nine-member Tacoma City Council has voted dozens of times on various ordinances and resolutions over the course of 22 meetings this year.

A review of voting records show that every item passed, usually by a unanimous vote. Only twice did any council members vote ‘nay’ and only once did a council member abstain.

This was something I noticed when I first started covering the council — everyone got along, all the members were in lockstep with each other and presented a happy, united front. I was reminded of it yesterday during the Public Safety subcommittee meeting when Councilman Mike Lonergan was a dissenting voice on a smoking ban for parks (he also said at the meeting that Councilman Spiro Manthou supported only a buffer zone around playgrounds).

What I discovered is that by the time a particular ordinance or measure comes before the full council the differences between members have already been hashed out (public testimony notwithstanding).

What does this mean for the “home gamers” who follow the action on TV Tacoma or seek to petition the council in person? To me, it says they might want to get involved in the process at an earlier stage — at the subcommittee level, where nascent legislation is hammered out. (This also suggests that journalists covering the city have to jump on topics early in the process, too.)

Outsiders may not realize this, but the Committee of the Whole meeting is where a lot of the action and debate happens. Those meetings aren’t televised and they’re usually standing room only, but audio recordings go up on line later in the week.

After the jump are the specifics on the two ‘nays’ and one abstention.

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Tacoma Schools chief turns down raise

The Tacoma School Board decided to extend Superintendent Art Jarvis’ contract by one-year Thursday, two days after giving him a positive annual review.

But the superintendent declined a salary increase, following the lead of other public officials who have declined raises during this year’s economic downturn.

Jarvis noted that Tacoma principals had forgone salary increases earlier in the year out of concern for the district’s tight budget, and said he’d like to do the same.

“It would be in all fairness to the other employees that have agreed to help us out,” Jarvis said. “I would

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Want to know value of property you’ll be paying taxes on next year? Check on line Monday, or your mailbox after July 17

Most of you — owners of more than 300,000 parcels — will get a notice mailed to you July 17 (that’s a Friday), but the value that Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam and his staff have assigned to your property will be available on line next Monday at:


Owners of mobile and manufactured homes will get their notices next week in the mail.

Here’s the release from Pierce County.

Notices of Value cards mailing earlier than expected

Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam has announced that, through the hard work of the office staff, Notice of Value cards stating the assessed real property value for 2009 will begin to be mailed as follows:

The value notices for all mobile/manufactured homes in Pierce County will be mailed on June 30, 2009.

Real property parcels valuations notices for all real property (approximately 300,000) are scheduled to be mailed on July 17th, 2009.

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Parks: Don’t bring pets to Taste of Tacoma

Two things to note in the press release below — Metro Parks is asking people to leave Fido at home during taste of Tacoma at Point Defiance Park this weekend.

Anyone else thinking of starting a festival called “Taste of Tacoma” better think twice, it’s copyrighted, buster.

Taste of Tacoma attendees are encouraged to leave pets at home this weekend

Metro Parks Tacoma, along with EQC Taste of Tacoma


Minnesota capital will join Pierce County in vote on RCV

Okay, they still call it instant runoff voting (and I’m still not sure what the difference is). But another good-sized community will be deciding whether to switch to a new method of voting.

St. Paul will be taking its first run at the method that allows voters to rank candidates and avoid having a primary election followed by a general election. Pierce County tried it once and will be deciding whether to keep it.

This article in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press explains the politics behind the issue there.


Washington gets an A in grading of disclosure laws

The Center for Public Integrity took a look at all 50 states to see how rigorous their legislative financial disclosure laws are. Only three – Washington, Hawaii and Louisiana – received A’s. Twenty states flunked.

California and Oregon received C’s. Most of the rest of the West flunked.

“Too many states still get a failing grade when it comes to adequate transparency for their elected public officials,” said Center Executive Director Bill Buzenberg.

“For 10 years now, the Center for Public Integrity has tracked this issue so citizens can know about the potential conflicts of interests in

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South Tacoma animal feed company fined $14,641 over years-long dispute with state Ecology over stormwater permit

The Washinton Department of Ecology sent out this news release today, but it sounds as if DOE and X-cell Feeds in Tacoma have been butting heads over this issue for years. The animal feed company can appeal the fine.

X-Cel Feeds penalized for refusing stormwater rules

OLYMPIA – A company in Tacoma that makes animal feed is facing a $14,641 fine from the Washington Department of Ecology for refusing to follow clean water rules.

X-Cel Feeds has disagreed with Ecology for four years over a requirement to get a stormwater permit. Ecology’s permit spells out requirements for preventing water pollution and sets up regular water quality monitoring. The company is also receiving a formal Ecology order to apply for the stormwater permit.

X-Cel Feeds, 5436 S. Washington St., processes a variety of raw materials into animal feed. Many of the activities and products on the site are exposed to stormwater, which triggers the requirement an industrial stormwater permit. Runoff from the site discharges to Flett Creek, a salmon-bearing stream.

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