Northwest Military Blogs: Town Hall Tourist

April 24, 2013 at 12:25pm

Tacoma Link: And the winner is ... Hilltop

Photo courtesy of Oran Viriyincy

Yesterday, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Tacoma City Councilmembers Lauren Walker, Victoria Woodards, Robert Thoms, Anders Ibsen and Ryan Mello created a 6-3 majority over Marty Campbell, Joe Lonergan, and David Boe for a Tacoma Link extension to Hilltop via the Stadium District (E1 corridor).

Eastside Councilmember Campbell led the effort for C1 proponents for a Portland Avenue line. During his 10-minute long speech, he indicated that the Puyallup Tribe would be willing to commit "$12m over five years" for a capital match for a Link expansion to the Eastside of Tacoma. $12m represents about a third of how much it would cost to construct light rail between Tacoma Dome Station and South 29th and Portland Avenue, but as Campbell asserted, would have brought the project potentially within $2m of being "fully funded." The alleged contribution offer has been disputed since then.


Filed under: Town Hall, Tacoma, Transportation,

April 23, 2013 at 2:22pm

An ongoing conversation about Tacoma schools (Part 1 of 2)

LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL: Photo courtesy of JMabel

Everywhere I go someone has an idea about how to save or fix Tacoma's "broken schools." It's one of the hazards of being a teacher. When I tell people in Tacoma that I work at Lincoln High School or that I work in the Lincoln Center Program, about 60 percent of the time the reaction is "ooooh" - a long, drawn out version of the word, a mildly sympathetic noise that roughly translates to "poor you." More often than not it is followed something along the following continuum: "that must be hard" on the more socially refined end, "I hear that's a rough school" in the middle range and "break up any fights lately?" from people who have no guilt about stereotyping people, specifically children, of poverty. Basically, over half the people I meet think my job is the midpoint between prison guard and nightclub bouncer. It seems, their vision is clouded by their own prejudices and urban legend. And as long as that is the way the community views the children within its schools, we will never have the schools our kids - especially our most vulnerable deserve.

Our views of our schools are clouded by our poor vision and metrics.

Everyone wants to make sure that schools serve the kids of our community. But, it seems the biggest issue with measuring (in order to improve) school quality, within Tacoma and beyond is that while we are awash in data, there is no real metric for what a "quality school" really is.


Filed under: Schools, Policy, Legislature, Tacoma,

April 22, 2013 at 12:36pm

Q&A: Joe Korbuszewski discusses the protest over the Washington state beer tax

PROTEST: Washington state Brewers gathered at the Capitol Building Friday to protest a House budget proposal that makes permanent a beer tax on large breweries and extends the tax to small brewers.

A few weeks ago we broke down Governor Inslee's proposed tax on beer production. Washington's beer community has been waging an admirable grassroots campaign against the tax, which culminated last Friday in a protest on the front steps of the Capitol Building. Tacoma's Joe Korbuszewski helped organize the rally and chatted with us about the experience.

TOWN HALL TOURIST: How was the rally? How many people attended and did you feel it was effective?

JOE KORBUSZEWSKI: The rally went really well.  We had about 160 people show up consisting of brewers, brewery workers, bartenders, distributors, and beer lovers.  I feel really good about that number considering that we only had about a week to plan and it was pouring rain that morning.  

I'd say it was definitely effective.  As a citizen, you can send all the emails you want to your lawmakers, but you start to wonder if they actually read them after the third or fourth auto-response.  Bringing a group of people to their doorstep is a lot harder to ignore.  We were immediately greeted by news media and a dozen or so state lawmakers came outside to speak with us. 

THT: Were beer advocates able to meet with legislators? Were you or others able to meet with any of the Tacoma coalition?

KORBUSZEWSKI: Senate was in session while we were there but we were able to meet many different representatives from all over the state.  They came outside to meet us on the steps and spoke in support of the brewing industry. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with any of my representatives.? It was all pretty surreal.  I've never planned or organized anything like this and suddenly, there I was shaking hands with our lawmakers on the steps of the Capitol. 

THT: Which people, businesses, companies are leading in the organizing of advocacy efforts?

KORBUSZEWSKI: The Washington State Brewers Guild is at the forefront of this movement and is supported by The Washington Restaurant Association, Hop Growers, The Washington Beer and Wine Distributors Association and many other groups. ... not to mention every brewery in the state. 

THT: What besides the rally have folks been doing to try to lobby legislators?

KORBUSZEWSKI: We've been urging everyone to contact their legislators as well as the Governor.  The Washington Beer Blog has done a great job getting information out to the public regarding the possible effects that this tax increase could have, as well as publishing statements from many of our states brewers.

THT: Do you know where the bills are currently and if it is expected that they will make it through the legislative process?

KORBUSZEWSKI: I understand that the bill is still in committee and our legislators are ironing out the final budget proposal.  From what I've been told, there is not a good chance for this tax to make it past the senate floor and I hope that holds true. 

Filed under: Activism, Legislature, Business,

April 22, 2013 at 10:13am

Five reasons the State Farm announcement is great news for Tacoma

The new State Farm offices in Tacoma bring new jobs, a broader tax base and more customers for other downtown businesses. That's all good.

But there's more.

First, this was a complicated deal, pulled off amidst regional competition. The City - staff and electeds - and the Economic Development Board did well, giving us confidence in their ability to keep or bring other employers.

Second, while all new jobs are welcome, not all are equal. When a policyholder in Boise pays for someone in Tacoma to handle a claim, that's "outside money;" it grows our local economy.

 The other kind of job - cashier at a retailer, for example - simply re-circulates "local money" and doesn't grow the economy.

Third, these are "clean" jobs. Remember: keyboards don't pollute. And State Farm has already shown sensitivity to downtown traffic; the concentration of jobs in two large spaces makes them prime for low-impact commuting.

Fourth, these will be family wage jobs with health care and other benefits, and most of the jobs will be accessible to a lot of people; they won't require a lot of higher education or special technical skills.

Fifth, these are private sector jobs and didn't require massive incentives. So they build, not weaken the tax base.

OK, the State Farm leases don't launch us into the economic stratosphere. Nobody wins a Nobel Prize for claims processing. But these are good, solid jobs with no obvious negatives. Good news any day.

Filed under: Business, Tacoma,

April 19, 2013 at 9:52am

Week In review: Another campaign kick-off, new candidate, Tacoma Link, pot and a boring building

TACOMA CITY COUNCILMEMBER VICTORIA WOODARDS: She's off and running. Photo credit: Zach Powers

It happened in and around Tacoma this week. ...

Woodards Kicks of Re-Election Campaign

Tacoma's campaign season continued to take shape this week as yet another incumbent city official, Tacoma City Councilmember Victoria Woodards, kicked-off her campaign with a gathering of supporters at the Landmark Convention Center.

During her relatively brief remarks Woodards touted her work protecting public services and community programs during budget cutbacks, emphasized the value of small businesses and shared about her work addressing Tacoma's gang activity.

Woodards is currently unopposed and is not expected to field a serious opponent.

Van Dyk to Challenge Lonergan

Justin Van Dyk filed to challengeTacomaCity Councilmember Joe Lonergan for his District 5 seat. It's no secret that Lonergan is the only (moderate) Republican on the Council and in a city as blue as Tacoma it's not a big surprise that he drew a candidate who will look to unseat him by way of turning the race partisan - which is why it comes as a surprise Van Dyk is already using a trademark Republican tactic, lambasting Lonergan's salary in an interview this week with The Trib.

That noted, it's always exciting to see young people run for office. I'm looking forward to hearing what Van Dyk has to say over the next few months about what he would do differently for South Tacoma.

Link Debate Continues

This week the Tacoma City Council held a public study session with Sound Transit staff as they continue to consider which proposed route they will recommend to the Sound Transit Board.

There continues to be uncertainty regarding Councilmember Boe's plan, which was summed up well in this piece by The Trib.

The best link-related read came this week, as usual, from Chris Karnes of Tacoma Tomorrow and Town Hall Tourist who created his own charts further dissecting the five potential routes.

TAM Proposal Draws the Ire of Density Activists

The Tacoma Art Museum released plans for a large addition far less attractive than their current facility. Many downtown Tacoma activists are frustrated with the design for a variety of reasons. 

I-502 Implementation Timeline Announced

Just in time for 4.20 the Washington Liquor Control Board announced this week that it has established an official timeline for implementation of I-502. After Dec. 1 these sorts of escapades won't be necessary

South Downtown Subarea Plan Public Hearing

The City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services Department staff will conduct a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25 in the Carwein Auditorium on the University of Washington Tacoma campus (1900 Commerce St.) to receive comments on the draft South Downtown Subarea Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

Zach Powers has managed multiple legislative campaigns in greater Tacoma and previously served as a Legislative aide in the Washington State Senate.

April 17, 2013 at 12:38pm

Betting Pool on MLK

PEOPLE'S COMMUNITY CENTER: Consultants say the pool will only lose about $200,000 a year. Photo credit: Zach Powers

Like this bet?

The City of Tacoma and Metro Parks are borrowing $6.2 million to rebuild the pool at People's Center.

Consultants, using community input, propose an indoor pool and "leisure features" like a sprayground and water slide. (Teenagers love slides, apparently. It's the thrill.) A huge overhead door would open on sunny days to connect the sprayground to the outside. Admission: $3.50 per person per day. In the lowest-income zip code in Tacoma.

The consultants say the pool will only lose about $200,000 a year. The City agreed to cover the deficit (along with repaying its share of the construction bonds).

A good bet?


Filed under: Tacoma, Town Hall,

April 15, 2013 at 9:46am

Moving forward with charter schools in Tacoma

Photo courtesy of Tacoma Public Schools/Facebook

At the end of March, the Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) board of directors voted 4-1 denoting intent to apply as a charter school authorizer in Washington state. Despite rhetoric espousing this vote as nothing more than additional time for consideration, it appears that TPS does indeed see utility in joining the charter school movement. This step marks, for the first time, a change in tone from the district, which opposed Initiative 1240 during the 2012 campaign.

This shift will be crucial in the coming months as Tacoma evaluates its role in Washington's educational landscape. If TPS is to become a State sanctioned authorizer, their attitude toward charter school suitors must be explicitly positive and open to new reforms. As per the language of I-1240, charter authorizers will be the primary negotiators with non-profit organizations seeking to establish these new schools.

The hard truth of the matter is that if TPS wishes to attract competitive, top tier organizations to pioneer charter schools in Washington it must advertise its openness to innovative methods for education.

For those who remain opposed to charter schools in Tacoma, your place at the table remains. It is true that charters have produced mixed results in other places across the country. However, continuing to block charter schools in Tacoma will only decrease the likelihood of their effectiveness and prevent what could be an invaluable resource for our students, faculty and communities.

In California where charter schools have been achieving success and working through challenges since 1992, the most infamous failures have often been attributed to a lack of community buy in. Of course this is not the only issue that has caused strife in California's charter system: under funding, administrative conflicts, and shifting state standards are but a few of the problems which have also contributed.

However this need not be the case in Washington and certainly not in Tacoma.

We will be the 42nd state in the Union to adopt charter schools as a public option for education. We can learn from others mistakes. We can learn from our own mistakes. We can achieve new successes together. But first we must embrace the passage of I-1240 and make Tacoma the premier community for Washington charter schools.

Aaron T. Sherman is an M.Ed. in Education Policy candidate at the University of Washington specializing in issues of equity and student development.

Filed under: Schools, Tacoma,

April 12, 2013 at 10:48am

Tacoma Link Open House recap with hybrid streetcar maps

Sound Transit unveiled two new hybrid alternatives yesterday at their Tacoma Link open house at Tacoma Dome Station.

Tacoma City Councilmember David Boe and the Streetcar Stakeholders group respectively proposed the two corridors. Boe's alternative (dubbed H1) combines a portion of the Salishan alternative from 29th and Portland Avenue at the proposed Emerald Queen Casino complex and proceeds up 25th Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  The second hybrid (H2) would link St. Joseph Hospital, Tacoma General and the Stadium District via MLK Way, Division and Stadium Way and along to 29th and Portland Avenue. Costs for Boe's H1 are calculated at roughly $199 million, with H2 coming in at $170 million.  According to engineers on the project, funds to add double tracking along South 25th and on Pacific Avenue is not included in these cost estimates. Ridership on these two corridors is projected to be lower than the Hilltop or Sixth Avenue corridors at 2.5-3.0 million riders per year, but higher than the Salishan corridor.

One panel from Sound Transit indicates that grades along all streets leading East-West up to Tacoma Avenue from Pacific Avenue exceed the grade tolerance for streetcar and would make operations impractical. The H1 alignment, for instance, has grades between 8 percent and 16 percent along South 25th Street. Streetcars are generally able to traverse grades of less than 8 percent.

The tone of public comments for the new hybrid alternatives was harsh.  "The engineering challenges of [the H1] approach seem insurmountable at reasonable cost," one attendee wrote. "I can't believe we held up the process for this," one wrote about the H2 corridor. Another person added, "If the casino wants to pay for it, let them."

Many are hoping that this open house will mark the end of what has been a nine-year stretch of feasibility and corridor studies that began in 2004, shortly after Tacoma Link opened for service.

The Tacoma City Council is scheduled to be briefed on the results of Sound Transit's analysis of the hybrid alternatives at next Tuesday's study session, April 16.  A recommendation to Sound Transit expected in the following weeks.

Filed under: Transportation, Town Hall, Tacoma,

April 12, 2013 at 9:14am

Week In Review: Sound Transit Open House, City Council Ad Buys & Sprinker Honored For Energy Savings

TACOMA LINK EXPANSION OPEN HOUSE: Sound Transit's maps showed open house goers exactly where each of the five routes under consideration would go.

Sound Transit Open House

Members of Sound Transit's staff including CEO Joni Earl met Pierce County residents in our neck of the woods Thursday evening, holding an open house at The Tacoma Dome Station. ST staff answered questions, navigated attendees through an impressive array of presentation materials, and encouraged attendees to share their feedback through conversation and written comment. Town Hall Tourist and Tacoma Tomorrow blogger Chris Karnes will post a more detailed account of the open house later today.

Campaign Ads Already?

It seems unbelievably early for it to be campaign season in Tacoma, yet every time I logged onto Facebook this week I was met by paid advertisements from recently appointed City Councilmember Robert Thoms' campaign.

A quick trip over to the Public Discloser Committee's website revealed that Thoms, a lobbyist by trade, certainly has got the campaign cash to spend as he has already raised over 25 thousand dollars. His opponent, small-business owner and Go Local Board President Patricia Lecy-Davis has raised about 6 thousand.


April 11, 2013 at 11:05am

Keep An Eye On: Pierce County Council's consideration of evening meetings

The County Council meets publically on Tuesday afternoons - while you're probably still at the office.

Local government touches our daily lives far more frequently and far more substantially than many citizens realize and perhaps more than any other level of government. We depend on local government to keep our neighborhoods safe, to educate our children, to operate our library systems, to coordinate our elections and to provide a seemingly endless list of other services.

However, it often seems that our largest local government agency, Pierce County, is also among the most invisible and the most closed off to its constituents.

This could be because much of the policy areas charged to the county generally don't tend to be flashy or tend to spawn the sorts of civic debates that local municipalities and schools districts tend to.

Or it could be because each resident of Pierce County is only represented by one County Councilmember. (Every Tacoman - conversely - is the constituent of four city councilmembers and five school board directors.)

However, this could also be due to the fact that the Pierce County Council seems to often insulate its policy making process from the public. For evidence of this consider when the County Council - comprised of the only full-time, non-executive elected officials in all of Pierce County - meets for their public meetings: 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons. 

A time where the majority of working people in Pierce County cannot participate in a public meeting without taking a few hours off of work or using a sick day. It doesn't take a political scientist to realize that afternoon meetings (as opposed to evenings) result in far less citizens attending and participating. Similarly, it doesn't take an economist to know that low-income and working class citizens often hold jobs that are especially difficult to take time off from without being penalized.

That's why Councilmember Connie Ladenburg recently made a motion to change the County Council's public meeting times from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays. Voting on her motion has been delayed and it's unclear how the "yes" and "no" voters currently shake out. Hopefully Ladenburg's motion kick-starts not only a move to evening County Council meetings, but also to a more communal culture at our county-level government.

Filed under: Pierce County,

About this blog

Town Hall Tourist is about politics, policy and greater Tacoma.

Recent Comments

Josh Rizeberg said:

No, it doesn't. My bad, I just think Mr. Bowling should respond to Pesha. She laid it out for...

about An ongoing conversation about Tacoma schools (Part 1 of 2)

Town Hall Tourist said:

Josh the convo about hilltop is going strong on about 10 different pages on various websites...

about An ongoing conversation about Tacoma schools (Part 1 of 2)

Josh Rizeberg said:

*Mr. Bowling, ya have been called-out! by Pesha Rize on DEAR KATY AND...

about An ongoing conversation about Tacoma schools (Part 1 of 2)

Josh Rizeberg said:

I'm just curious, what is considered a family-wage nowadays? Is it $15/hr, $20/hr; & what is...

about Five reasons the State Farm announcement is great news for Tacoma