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Tag: Bill Baarsma


Keys to Tacoma firefighters’ influence: cash, signs, bodies

Tacoma politicians tell us the Tacoma Professional Firefighters Union is very influential in city politics. The reasons: cash, signs and bodies.

As I reported yesterday, the firefighters union is the top contributor to City of Tacoma candidates since 2003. The union’s political action committee – Active in Democracy – has contributed nearly $30,000 to candidates in recent elections. And that doesn’t count contributions by individual firefighters.

The PAC gets its money from small contributions by union members. Documents on file with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicate union members currently contribute about $6 several times a year to Active in Democracy. (Here’s a copy of the committee’s latest C3 report).

It adds up. Last year the committee raised nearly $34,000 in contributions. Through August this year it’s raised about $28,000.

But elected officials say it’s not just cash that makes the firefighters influential. The union operates a sign shop that candidates find invaluable. And it has enough bodies – the union represents nearly 400 employees – to provide a substantial labor force to any campaign.

Former City Councilman Kevin Phelps, who won the union’s endorsement in his first council run, said the firefighters will make and post campaign signs for candidates. “When you’re a candidate trying to get yard signs up, that’s a pretty strong influence,” he said.
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Baarsma: Leaving on a jet plane

With his days in office dwindling away, Bill Baarsma still has one last junket trip in him.

Tacoma’s mayor will be catching a red-eye flight to Taiwan on Saturday to participate in an international economic development conference. The six-day trip comes at the invitation of Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung — a sister city to Tacoma that Baarsma previously visited in 2002.

“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere these last few months,” Baarsma told me in a phone call today. “But he (Hu) recently extended me the invitation.”

Baarsma’s trip — the airfare and hotel

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Baarsma: `Pent up’ over Post & Beam, Berm`implications’

As Tuesday evening’s Tacoma City Council meeting was winding down, Mayor Bill Baarsma unleashed a passionate speech denouncing “implications” that planning for Sound Transit’s proposed commuter rail line through Tacoma’s Dome District has been anything but above-board.

“There have been implications that there has been a series of meetings, kind of behind-closed-doors, and there’s been very little opportunity for the public to weigh in on this particular project,” the mayor began.

Mayor Baarsma

“I have been on this city council for nearly 16 years and I can’t think of a single project in which we’ve had more public meetings, more sessions and more changes in a particular project.”

The speech — or rather, the mayor’s impassioned delivery of it — ultimately had Baarsma profusely apologizing for himself, and drew chuckles from his colleagues and audience members.  It also led the stalwart city politician to eventually vacate the dais to compose himself and his tousled hair.

“Maybe I’ve been pent up,  and this is the opportunity to express my feelings,”  explained Baarsma, shortly before handing the gavel off to Deputy Mayor Julie Anderson to briefly take over council proceedings.

Anderson initially responded with a one word exclamation: “Woaahhh!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Baarsma replied.

Video of the meeting can be found here (Baarsma’s speech comes near the end of the meeting).

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