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Archives: Nov. 2010


Old City Hall: City has little recourse to force clean-up, city manager tells council

City regulators have little or no legal authority to force the owners of Old City Hall to clean up the historic building after a ruptured water pipe flooded parts of it last week, City Manager Eric Anderson told city council members Tuesday.

During an update on Old City Hall’s situation at the council’s study session, Anderson assured council members the city is doing all it can to ensure the privately-owned building doesn’t go the way of another downtown landmark: the Luzon Building.

A tenant watches watches water flowing from a broken pipe inside Old City Hall last week.

“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can do to avoid losing the building,” Anderson said.

But Anderson added: “We can’t just go into a (private) building and clean it up without an immediate public danger.”

Unlike the 118-year-old Luzon, which the city razed last year after 30 years of neglect and private restoration efforts failed, Old City Hall does not represent a public safety hazard, Anderson said.

“It’s not in imminent danger of collapse,” he said.

On a hypothetical scale of 1 to 10, with 10 posing an immediate threat to public safety, Anderson described the 122-year-old Old City Hall building as closer to a 1.

But at least one council member disagreed with Anderson’s assessment.

“I’d put it closer to a 5,” said Councilman David Boe, an architect by trade, “just because of the insidious nature of water in a wood-framed structure.”
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Governor doesn’t like use of Seattle, Mount Rainier in Camel marketing campaign

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling on R.J. Reynolds to pull its use of Seattle and Mount Rainier as icons in its “Break Free Adventure” marketing campaign, which features a tour of America’s hip locales.

The Governor’s statement this morning follows a similar protest by officials in San Francisco, whose Haight neighborhood is also being featured in the campaign.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

“Joe Camel may have been put out to pasture, but his spirit lives on in R.J. Reynolds’ latest marketing campaign that once again tries to make Camel cigarettes cool, fun and rebellious – and appealing to kids. The new campaign cynically uses the names and images of trendy U.S. destinations, including Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, in an attempt to make Camel cigarettes cool again.”

Here is our governor’s statement:

Gov. Gregoire’s statement on Washington landmarks used in tobacco campaign
OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today issued the following statement on R.J. Reynolds’ latest marketing campaign that uses Washington landmarks to promote tobacco products:

“I am alarmed and disappointed at R.J. Reynolds’ new marketing campaign which exploits the name and image of Seattle to recruit young smokers. Special edition cigarette packs featuring Washington landmarks, including the Pike Place Market and Mt. Rainier, are being co-opted to sell a product that is responsible for killing about 7,500 people in our state every year.

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Tacoma City Council agrees to $3.6 million more in cuts as budget heads toward final approval

The City of Tacoma’s budget plan for the coming two years just got slimmer, whittled down another $3.5 million Tuesday as City Council members agreed to a hybrid of potential cost-cutting scenarios presented by City Manager Eric Anderson.

That means Anderson’s overall general fund budget proposal for 2011-12 has now fallen below $400 million – nearly $45 million less than the city’s last spending plan approved by the council two years ago.

“We’ve tried to be conservative as we put this together, while still keeping services in tact,” Anderson told council members at a budget workshop early Tuesday.

Last week, the council had asked Anderson to come back with several options to trim his $401 million budget proposal by $3 million to $6 million. The idea was to reduce a discrepancy in dueling budget projections for gross earnings tax revenues expected in the coming two years.

Tacoma Public Utilities officials estimate those revenues, based on power usage and sales, will come in more than $6 million lower than what Anderson’s budget team projects. The discrepancy left council members uneasy with Anderson’s budget, prompting them to ask him for more cuts.

Anderson presented a menu of options Tuesday, with the council settling on a hybrid approach that includes all aspects of an option to reduce the budget by $3 million and part of an option to cut it by $4.5 million.
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DelBene lands on her feet as new Revenue chief

Suzane DelBene

Fresh from her unsuccessful campaign against Congressman Dave Reichert, Suzan DelBene has landed a job with the Gregoire administration. The Democrat and former tech executive will head up the state Department of Revenue and its new mission of simplifying the tax code.

Incidentally, the press release announcing DelBene’s appointment came from Scott Whiteaker, formerly DelBene’s campaign communications director, who is now on the governor’s communication staff.

Here’s the announcement:

Gov. Gregoire appoints Suzan DelBene to be director of Department of Revenue

Agency to focus on simplifying tax system, collecting out-of-state taxes, launching interest/penalty waiver initiative
OLYMPIA- Gov. Chris Gregoire today appointed Suzan DelBene to be director of the Washington State Department of Revenue.
DelBene will lead the Department of Revenue as it simplifies the state’s tax system – a priority the Governor listed in her recent executive order to improve the way government serves small business. Washington’s sales tax is made up of a flat state rate of 6.5 percent and local rates, which are spread across 300 sales tax location codes. There are also more than 50 B&O tax classifications, and 39 cities with their own B&O tax rates, exemptions, deductions and thresholds.
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Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson pulls contributor to candidate Hans Zeiger off recount

Seventy-five election workers today started the weeklong process of recounting votes for Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell and her Republican challenger, Hans Zeiger, who led her by just 47 votes in the first count.

One counter is sitting out this week. An election worker who gave money to Zeiger’s campaign won’t participate in the recount, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said today.

Anderson said she pulled the temporary employee, Janet Mullen, from the schedule after learning about her $750 in contributions to Zeiger.

Such contributions are legal. But “I have a higher duty to the public good,” Anderson said, “and that includes the perception of any conflict of interest.”

Anderson said she scoured campaign reports last week for other contributions and turned up nothing for the 11 full-time employees and 64 extra hires like Mullen who are sorting ballots and counting votes this week.

Mullen worked during this year’s primary and general elections.

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Gov. Chris Gregoire: State can’t be safety net anymore

The cuts Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered up last week are harsh. No one admits that more readily than Gregoire herself.

“We’re taking away people’s livelihood. We’re taking away their entire health care,” she told reporters today.

Some of the cuts would lead to layoffs in state government. That’s nothing new. But others would close down whole programs that provide social services to the disadvantaged. That’s something that has largely been avoided in two years of closing budget deficits by trimming, taxing and shuffling money between pots.

Under her suggestions to the Legislature, the state-subsidized insurance program known as the Basic Health Plan would end. So would state-funded health insurance for children and the program Disability Lifeline, which provides cash grants and medical treatment for people temporarily unable to work because of a disability.

“We’re supposed to be the ultimate safety net, and we can’t be it anymore,” Gregoire said.

“When they come, we’re not going to be able to help them.”

To eliminate those whole programs, though, Gregoire needs the Legislature’s sign-off. To have the maximum impact she wants, she needs it before Dec. 12. Gregoire wants to call a special session for December, but she is waiting for a response to her proposals from leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.

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Condition of downtown Tacoma’s Old City Hall on council’s Tuesday study session agenda

Several Tacoma city council members have asked for an update on the condition of Old City Hall and what response the city might have to damage done by a burst pipe last week.

The city doesn’t own the building but could use enforcement of building codes as a way to force the owner to take action. That owner, George Webb of the Stratford Co., said he is assessing the damage and developing a response. Meanwhile it is without heat or power and two remaining tenants in the once-full building cannot use their space.

The building showed signs of neglect

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Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire puts out first list of possible cuts to state budget

First, here’s the Associated Press story on the list sent to legislative leaders Tuesday:

Gov. Chris Gregoire is laying out some budget-balancing options for state lawmakers. But her plans require quick action from the Legislature, which isn’t scheduled to return until next year.

Gregoire is sending the information to legislators as they look for ways to balance the current year’s budget. Gregoire had previously cut spending to fill the budget gap, but low tax collections have made it even larger.
Gregoire’s letter spells out big steps that could be taken, including elimination of the Basic Health Plan and raiding federal education dollars.

But her plan couldn’t fully work without a special session of the Legislature, because it requires changes to state law before next year.
Gregoire has given lawmakers until Nov. 29 to submit their budget ideas.

In her letter to the leaders of the four political caucuses in the Legislature, Gregoire said she already made across-the-board cuts to solve an earlier shortfall. That solution, however, won’t work this time, she said.

“For example, I cannot make additional cuts at the Department of Corrections without posing significant risks to public safety,” she wrote.

“We need to make sustainable policy and budget decisions that are reflective of current revenue. We need decisions that meet our immediate need and those that will provide direction for the 2011-13 biennium. There are only seven months left in the biennium, and delay will result in deeper cuts and additional harm. Frankly, we all have run out of time.”

Reaction has been, as expected, muted but cognizant of the state’s latest budget problems. Here’s what Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown had to say: Read more »