Wednesday, December 31, 2008

EPA Confirms FINAL Action

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally made it final what was a predetermined action. The EPA has notified our Governor that most of the Tacoma-Pierce County metro area is in non-attainment for air suspended PM (particulate matter) 2.5 (microns).

Despite only a single air quality monitor exceeded the newest federal standard, action by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology and now the U.S. EPA has encumbered the bulk of the metro area including its economic engine, the port-industrial area (although that area's monitor continues to show compliance with air quality standards). Now comes a deliberate process of planning and implementation that will include most of the metro rather than focusing on the cause, fireplace and old wood stoves in the South Tacoma area.




Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year Brings Tax Joy

Business in Tacoma will again get relief from City B&O taxes as the City Council has adopted an increase in the threshold of minimum income before the tax applies. A long time advocacy of the Chamber, chronicled earlier in this blog, the Chamber has expressed its appreciation to the Tacoma City Council for this proactive effort to improve our current economy and our strategic business climate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Could Washington get another Congressional seat?

In a study released yesterday by Election Data Services, if current population trends continue, the West and South will see increases in their number of congressional representatives, while the Northeast and Midwest will decline by a similar number based on projected census data.  

According to the study, Washington is in the running for a potential new seat but it is a long (very long) shot.  In all instances, the numbers will be close.  From the report:

"A review of the last 5 seats/ next 5 seats calculations demonstrates the extreme closeness and volatility inherent in the 2010 population projections. At this point in time there are 13 seats from the same number of states that are vying for the last six seats in the 435 member congressional chamber.

"Six states are close to gaining an additional seat (Florida – 27th; North Carolina – 14th; Oregon – 6th: South Carolina – 7th; Texas – 36th and Washington – 10th), while seven states are very close to loosing a seat (California – 53rd; Illinois – 19th; Louisiana – 7th; Minnesota – 8th; Missouri – 9th; New York – 28th; Pennsylvania – 18th)."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chamber's WA State Legislative Priorities

The Chamber Board of Directors has adopted its 2009 Washington State Legislative Agenda. Developed by the Chamber's Public Affairs Council, with input from various committees and divisions of the Chamber, it again employs the TEACH format to ease presentation. This is your Chamber's agenda. Join us in seeking its enactment.











Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ordinance No. 27763 Passed! (Huh?) City B&O Floor Raised!

Ordinance No. 27763 passed the city council last night. The ordinance increased the threshold for the B&O tax for businesses in the city limits to $72,500 annually. The Chamber worked with local businesses and economic development leaders to push for this increase.

While this is a positive outcome, eventually, the Chamber would like to see the entire B&O tax eliminated by 2020 for every business. The ordinance is written to increase the floor by $2,500 every year, without sunset.

Below is the vote tally for last night's passage:

Ordinance No. 27763
Amending Title 6A of the Municipal Code, relating to Business and Occupation
Tax, to increase the gross income threshold by $2,500 annually, effective
January 1, 2009.
Ayes: 8 Nays: 0 Absent: 1

The Chamber was a long time advocate of eliminating the City and State's B&O taxes. At this summer's City Council Government Performance and Finance Committee, the Chamber spoke out for reducing the B&O tax. The Chamber specifically suggested a gradualist approach so City services would not suffer harm. One of our suggested methods was to raise the floor, which is the choice enacted by the City Council.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tacoma Comp Plan Update

Last night, the Chamber testified at the Tacoma City Council public hearing about the update for the City's Comprehensive Plan Update.

The Chamber focused on plan proposed amendment, 2008-09 South Tacoma Manufacturing/ Industrial Center. The Chamber's comments were submitted by Gary Brackett, the Chamber's Manager for Business and Trade Development. His statement:

"Good evening, Mayor Baarsma and Councilmembers.

"I am Gary Brackett, Manager, Business and Trade Development for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

"I speak tonight in favor of the South Tacoma Manufacturing/Industrial Center designation, as I have before the Tacoma Planning Commission.

"The Chamber supports the new designation because it will elevate that area into a regionally-recognized industrial center, and possibly qualify it for future transportation dollars. That will result in a more attractive location for companies and plants which will, in turn provide our community with more quality jobs and increased tax base.

"As our community continues to struggle with job creation to match our population growth, such initiatives by the City to increase the value of our land and our infrastructure are necessary. And, the best part - this designation does not impose on the community anything more than is currently allowed.

"Thank you for your consideration."

The Tacoma City Council still have several steps ahead with a first reading of the proposed ordinance on Dec. 2 and a final reading on Dec. 9.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Official... (Or Is It?)

Auditor Pat McCarthy has apparently won in her bid to be the next Pierce County Executive.  

The last votes to be counted give her a 4,000 vote lead. There is a possibility that a recount may take place, which means we may not know until December who the next Executive is.

Click here for the final(?) results.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pierce County Executive Race

According to numbers recently released by the Auditor's office, Pat McCarthy will win the Pierce County Executive race.

Having analyzed the numbers prior to the election, it appeared the Republican candidate, Shawn Bunney, would need to have at least 39% of the total votes cast in the first round of the race in order to win in the final round. The unofficial tabulation from the Auditor's office shows Bunney capturing only 33% of the vote in the first round.

The ballots cast thus far indicate that Pat McCarthy will ultimately win the Pierce County Executive seat. For the most current information on the breakdown, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Say It Like You Mean It

Today (Oct. 29), public comments are due for the Environmental Assessment of a Lifestyles Center on Ft. Lewis.

This issue was earlier blogged on the Chamber's Live Wire website here. You are encouraged to view the materials linked in that earlier blog.

The Chamber solicited comments from its members. Those comments were actually received as phone calls. As explained in the enclosed letter here, those comments were divided into two opinions:
  1. the local economy is large and diverse enough to satisfy the consumer needs of soldiers and their families.
  2. this proposed Lifestyles Center is such an important quality-of-life amenity for soldiers and their families that it should be supported.

The Chamber shared this perspective with our comments to the contact point for the project on Ft. Lewis. You are encouraged to share your concerns - but do it today for official consideration.






FEDERAL FUNDING SYMPOSIUM DATES

I received the following invite from our Senators' staffs for our members to attend workshops on federal funding. Information is below:

Good afternoon, Mike.

The staff of Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray will be holding their annual federal funding workshops throughout Washington State in November. Please see the attached document for dates and locations. Please R.S.V.P to the email address workshop@murray.senate.gov if you would like to attend. Also, please forward this email on to anyone you think would be interested. Below is a short list of what will be covered at these workshops. Thanks and I hope to see you there.

- Tips on Submitting a Successful Grant application
- Finding the right funding source for your project
- Working with your congressional delegation
- Current outlook and Trends for Appropriations

Monday, October 27, 2008

Presidential Fact Checking

With all of the speeches and political ads on television nowadays, it is sometimes hard to believe what is being said by the candidates or their campaigns.

CNN provides a fact-checking blog for the presidential election. Go to CNN’s Political Ticker to find out what is true, false or misleading about the latest statements and ads.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shoreline Open House Focus

Last night's Shoreline Master Program update focused on rehabilitation and public access, especially for the Foss Waterway's S-8 shoreline district. That district encompasses the industrial northeasterly portion of the area.

An Open House is not an opportunity to present hard position statements to a public body, but rather an opportunity to discuss with City staff and their consultants the desires of interested and affected (not the same persons usually) parties.

Frank Erickson, Tacoma Youth Marine Center, was heard discussing the aspects of public access in the industrial northeasterly part of the S-8 shoreline district. His points: homeland security and industrial safety, registered. But, others commented that the public could simply walk around those areas!

Gary Brackett, the Chamber's Manager for Business and Trade, talked with another table group staffed by one of the City's consultants. He noted that the City had amended its Comprehensive Land Use plan to restrict the land north of E. 11th Street from residential and hotel-motel uses. Thus the most logical development was for industry like in the balance of the port-industrial area. But, he said that development was hampered for market forces taking advantage of economic opportunities by the inclusion in interim shoreline rules excluding property owners expanding industrial operations beyond property boundaries.

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan looks to market forces to allow development to influence the future land uses of the Foss Industrial Peninsula. But, the Shoreline Master Program interferes with market forces by trying to make the most logical uses uneconomic.

Brackett proposed that these land use restrictions be removed for the Foss Industrial Peninsula portion of the S-8 shoreline district, or that the area from E. 11th Street to the tip of the peninsula where it abuts the port-industrial S-10 district be included in that S-10 district.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Small Business Forum in Tacoma

The Washington Policy Center will launch a series of six statewide small business forums later this month.

The forums aim to update small business owners on policy changes that affect their business operations. Attendees will hear from WPC research staff, get a preview of the 2009 Legislative session and discuss how the November elections could affect them.

The $25 cost includes a meal and forum materials.

Locations include:

  • Spokane, Oct 29, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Spokane Red Lion at the Park.
  • Tri Cities, Oct. 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Red Lion Hotel - Richland Hanford House.
  • Bellevue, Nov. 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at Bellevue's Red Lion.
  • Central Washington, Nov. 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at Wenatchee's Red Lion Hotel. Register through Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.
  • Tacoma, Nov. 18, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m,. at Tacoma's LaQuinta Inn. Register through Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber with Judy Singley or 253-627-2175.
  • Vancouver, Nov. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Red Lion at the Quay.

For more information, e-mail Washington Policy Center or call 206-937-9691.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Way of Life-Style

First presented publicly at the Chamber's Military Affairs Committee Oct. 8, AAFES is proposing a Lifestyle development in the heart of Fort Lewis.

Immediately catching significant attention in the News Tribune with an article and a column, this rising public interest still can take advantage of a public comment period until Oct. 29. Public comments may be made to Bill Van Hoesen or by mail to:

Public Works
IMWE-LEW-PWE MS 17
ATTN: Mr. Van Hoesen
Box 339500
Ft. Lewis, WA 98433-9500

For a more indept review, AFFES has agreed to our posting of their downloadable PowerPoint as made to the MAC and the viewable video of the proposed Ft. Bliss Lifestyles Center that was linked to the PowerPoint.

For a comprehensive overview, interested persons wishing to become as knowledgeable as possible, may contact Van Hoesen for the Environmental Assessment or download it at this site.

The Chamber is considering its input during the public comment period. You may contact Gary Brackett or 253-627-2175 or leave your comments on this blog.

Thriving in the CHAOTIC Economy

The Chamber is working with Moss Adams to present to manufacturers and logistics companies ways to thrive in the present economy of high fuel prices, the weak dollar and pressures on profitability. The details:

Thriving in Our Current Economy:
A Seminar for Manufacturing and Distribution Industries
November 6, 2008
Bell Harbor Conference Center – Seattle, WA
7:30 – 8:00 Registration
8:00 – 12:20 Program
RSVP www.mossadams.com/events/thriving
Contact Jennifer Partridge 425-303-3186

So, are the soaring fuel prices, weak dollar, and high cost of doing business placing unrelenting pressure on your profits? If you don't have strategies to offset these difficult times, the cumulative impact upon your business will be profound.

Owners, CEOs, CFOs, and controllers: Join us for a seminar designed specifically with you in mind. Whether you are in manufacturing or distribution, your company will benefit from the following topics: An economic update, cash flow management, state and local taxes minimization strategies, and GAAP and tax update. Do more than weather the economic storm, thrive in it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Port-Industrial Area Shoreline Update

The City of Tacoma has taken up the necessity of updating its Shoreline Master Plan. The earlier initiative was derailed and delayed due to environmental groups advocacy that a Critical Areas Protection Ordinance must be done first.

Now that that process is out of the way, the City has organized an Open House on THURSDAY, Oct. 23, 5 p.m. at the Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock Street, Tacoma 98402.

At the Open House, City staff will be presenting information, taking comment and answering questions about the following:
  • Draft Restoration Plan


  • Draft Shoreline Use Analysis


  • Draft Public Access Inventory and Opportunities


  • Draft Foss Waterway Public Access and Use Analysis

While the Chamber has stressed to City staff that existing shoreline plans prohibit existing manufacturing from acquiring adjacent parcels and expanding operations or otherwise consolidating parcels for manufacturing purposes, there is no guarantee that this point has been "taken."

(T)he (manufacturing) uses may not be expanded beyond property boundaries owned, leased, or operated by the industrial user on January 1, 1996. INTERIM REGULATIONS, 13.10.110 (A-D) - S-8 SHORELINE DISTRICT – THEA FOSS WATERWAY

Despite advocacy for a change in the City's Comprehensive Plan to prohibit residential and hotel type uses north of the Murray Morgan (11th Street) Bridge, sentiment still exists in some adherents to change the face of the Foss Waterway by limiting the market opportunity for manufacturing.

This Open House is your opportunity to speak for your own best interests in continuing the manufacturing sector in the northeast Foss Industrial Peninsula.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Downtown Post Office Impacted

A film permit has been issued to film in the old courthouse above the Post Office on A Street from 10/13-10/22.

Court A will be closed to traffic. Most parking around the Post Office will be closed. The principal exception will be on the east side of A Street. They are already moving in props, etc. On Monday, 10/13, all the large trucks, gondolas (with lights) and generators will be parked permanently around the Post Office.

All filming will be inside the building. Filming itself will be on the third floor, so access to postal services and boxes should not be impacted.

If you have any questions or find problems, email Nancy P. Grabinski-Young, Economic Development Supervisor, Tacoma Community & Economic Development Department or via phone: 253.591.5394

Volunteer for Tacoma Planning Commission

The Tacoma Planning Commission will have 3 openings available.

Positions are for 3-year terms (January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011), and represent Councilmanic Districts No. 1 and No. 3, and the Development Community.

Planning Commission
Appointing Authority: Mayor, confirmed by City Council
Number of Members: 9
Term of Membership: 3 years
Composition of Membership: One member is appointed by the City Council for each of the five council districts. The Council appoints to the four remaining positions an individual from each of the following: (a) the development community; (b) the environmental community; (c) public transportation, and (d) a designee with background of involvement in architecture, historic preservation, and/or urban design.
Associated City Department: Community and Economic Development
Staff Liaison: Lihuang Wung
General Information: (253) 591-5682
Meeting Information
Planning Commission Home (including agendas and Minutes)
Purpose: Develops and updates the Comprehensive Plan and its element plans/programs that protects the quality of life in Tacoma and which manages the growth and development of the city; conducts periodic land use studies of geographic city areas; and provides an effective and efficient land use regulation and process system.

Applications are due to the Mayor’s Office by Friday, November 14, 2008. Go to the City's website, click on “Planning Commission”).

TV Tacoma Replays Pierce Co. Exec. Debate

TV Tacoma - the City's 24-hour government information channel - will be replaying the Pierce County executive debate originally held on Oct. 1, 2008.

Presented by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, this program features Pierce County executive candidates Shawn Bunney, Calvin Goings, Mike Lonergan and Pat McCarthy.

The debate is also available on Comcast and VOD as detailed here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Huff, A Puff, A Blow Down the Door

The US EPA has notified the Governor that it intends to adopt boundaries that encompass most of the Tacoma-Pierce County metro area. The target date: December 18.

We've not seen much initiative to take advantage of the runup to the issue of what will be the Wapato Hills Puyallup River Valley Nonattainment area for PM-2.5. The primary exception has been DOE/PSCAA's funds for replacement of woodsmoke sources, as woodsmoke is the acknowledged violating pollutant. Even that meager source is shared with other areas, like Marysville, that are close but not yet in nonattainment.

The Chamber has recommended both to the City of Tacoma and Pierce County that they begin now an advocacy effort to redefine the transportation prioritization dollars to include mitigation for air quality nonattainment. PSCAA, DOE and EPA all seemed determined to include the port-industrial area in the boundaries even though that area's monitors continue to evidence air quality within defined federal standards.

The federal processes allow communities two years to plan to achieve attainment and one or more years to achieve it. Yet, so far, our region is ignoring the impending regulatory burden, mayhap because it hasn't actually happened yet.

As EPA will join the Federal Transportation Administration and the Federal Transit Administration in overseeing any federal grants, it is more than timely to begin the planning processes so as to most urgently return healthy air to our metro and avoid the unintended consequences to our economy by a bureaucracy most interested in regulating rather than actual air quality.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Want To See It?

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's recently held Pierce County Executive debate, which was moderated by Mike Weinman, will be televised beginning on October 6 when it will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 AM and again on Saturday at 3 PM. Thanks to Comcast for their sponsorship!

Spoiler Alert!
Of course, if you can't wait until then, the entire program is available on Comcast On-Demand by going to:

On-Demand > Get Local > Around the Sound > Pierce Co. Debate > Pierce Co. Executive

In either case, be sure to have your popcorn ready!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Candidates Spar Over Issues

A lively debate was held between the candidates for Pierce County Executive. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber hosted the four candidates -- Pierce County Council Member Shawn Bunney, Pierce County Council Member Calvin Goings, Tacoma City Council Member Mike Lonergan and Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy -- for a 90 minute debate concerning business issues.

Moderated by Mike Weinman, the candidates were asked about broader county issues, like transportation and the budget, as well as the Business Climate Agenda. The audience, comprised of more than 100 business leaders, heard the candidates discuss the need for completing SR 167 and the Cross Base Highway. All agreed Pierce County needs to ensure it receives its fair share of regional funding.

On the issue of the Business Climate Agenda, the candidates spoke about maintaining no-net loss of industrial lands, protecting the military installations against encroachment and enhancing tourism.

Some of the quotes heard from the candidates during the debate:

"[Under my leadership], Pierce County will be a model of open government, a model of accountability and a model for a healthy community." - Council Member Bunney

"We need leadership with vision to look beyond the horizon into the tomorrow." - Council Member Goings

"For me, it's about people, not things." - Council Member Lonergan

"People make promises, I believe in making a difference." - Auditor McCarthy

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Public Works Utilities 2009-13 Rates

Your Chamber representative, Gary Brackett, has been a multi-year participant in the City of Tacoma's Environmental Services Commission. He views the primary duty is to represent business interests, as that's the slot he fills.

The ECS is preparing its recommendation to the Tacoma City Council for the 2009-13 Rates for Wastewater, Surface Water and Solid Waste utilities. Last rate case, the Chamber was a robust advocate for the City's prompt adoption of cost of service principles (customers pay what it costs without class subsidies) for solid waste. The City Council agreed.

(Other utilities including wastewater, surface water, power and potable water, follow the cost of service principle.)

For decades the City had "moved" toward that principle for solide waste, but had made little progress. Then, the City Council adopted a schedule that would restore cost of service principles. The City is still following that schedule. And although cost of service has not yet been achieved, this new rate case retains that schedule. As a result, businesses will see 0% to 1% increases for several more years. System-wide, the rates will increase an average 4.9%.

Ratepayers are not so lucky with surface water. The City is faced with complying with its NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit. That permit's terms are causing an aggressive capital program and will result in system average rate increases of 7.8%.
Of lesser impact will be the wastewater utility. There system average increases are proposed to be 6.2%. This proposed increase has been reduced from a staff suggested 7.5%, by eliminating some staff positions, reducing capital expenditures and passing on a cogeneration project. Its discharge permits are not expected to cause concerns.
An issue that remains unsettled is a residential volumetric rate that would charge residential customers a differential rate depending on the size (volume) of the container, rather than follow cost of service principles. As long as that incentivized rate is contained within the residential class, Brackett, as the business representative, does not intend to support a position. The Chamber has followed a similar position with incentivized power and potable water residential rates.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CERB Your Chance to Make the Decisions

The Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) currently has an open position for an executive from a large business (50+ employees) from the area west of the Cascades. As an economic development leader in Pierce County, the Chamber wanted to call the board vacancy to our members' attention. Please feel free to distribute to any interested parties.

Community Economic Revitalization BoardThe Community Economic Revitalization Board is Washington's strategic economic development resource, focused on creating and retaining jobs in partnership with local governments. CERB finances public infrastructure to encourage new development and expansion in targeted areas. CERB's objectives are to strengthen the economies of areas of the state that have experienced high unemployment rates or below-average economic growth; to encourage the diversification of economies throughout the state; and to provide incentives for expansion of employment opportunities.

CERB meetings are scheduled six times a year to consider project applications. Please see our schedule of meeting dates and application deadlines.

If you have any questions or suggestions for potential Pierce County applicants, please feel free to contact myself or Stacey Tichenor, the Governor's Executive Analyst for Boards & Commission at (360) 902-4109 or stacey.tichenor@gov.wa.gov.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sneak Peek #2: Sound Transit Article

Here's another article that will appear later in the Chamber's newsletter:

After several discussions and meetings, the Public Affairs Council decided to take a neutral position on the Sound Transit 2 measure on this November’s ballot. The Chamber is asking its members to review the package to determine for themselves the best course of action.

The 15-year mass transit package will increase express bus and commuter rail service in a three-county area, including Pierce County, and add 55 miles of new regional light rail to the existing system.


If passed, Pierce County residents can expect improvements to regional transit services in Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Sumner and will potential include expanded parking, pedestrian improvements at or near existing stations, additional bus/transfer facilities for feeder stations, bicycle access and storage at stations, and new drop-off areas for increased ridesharing. In addition, bus and commuter rail service will be expanded, although light rail from here northward will not occur in this package.

The price tag for this measure is estimated at $17.9 billion, which will be paid through a half-of-one percent sales tax increase (about five cents on a $10 purchase) and the continuation of existing Sound Move taxes (a 0.4% sales tax and 0.3% vehicle license tax).

Supporters state the new package will enable greater economic development through the improved transportation of goods and employees; will allow better growth management; could cut car and truck travel as much as 30 percent; expect reduced carbon dioxide pollution by nearly 100,000 tons a year and will likely save consumers $41 million annually in reduced fuel costs if voters approve the plan and commuters switch to transit

Supporters estimate the number of riders will double to 110,000 from the 55,000 riders who use Sound Transit every day due to the 1009 opening of service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tacoma International Airport.

Critics contend the new package cost much more than expected, ridership will not increase, and this package will ultimately do little to remove cars from roadway congestion. Some critics would rather see more funding for rapid bus service to obtain a bigger bang for the buck.

More information on this package can be found on the Chamber’s Live Wire blog at http://www.tacomachamber.blogspot.com/. [See below for the links.]


Sneak Peek: I-1029 Article

You get a first look at an article that will appear in the Chamber's newsletter later this month about Initiative 1029 (it hasn't even been edited yet).

The Chamber’s Board will be voting on a resolution to oppose Initiative 1029, a state-wide measure that mandates additional training, additional background checks and disciplinary standards for long-term care workers for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

On the surface, this measure appears worthy of support. But after the Chamber’s Public Affairs Council reviewed the measure, they determined the initiative was too time-consuming (especially for smaller care-giving organizations), burdensome and duplicative.

“It doesn’t make sense to have an FBI background check on care-givers, which adds cost and time constraints, when the State Patrol already does one now,” said Gary Nomensen, Vice Chair of the Public Affairs Council.

The Public Affairs Council determined the initiative will eliminate jobs, limited care options, does not allow training to be tailored to specific situations, and forces expensive training on workers when there is no evidence showing it would actually improve care.

The impact on families was highlighted as well. “This initiative will make it more expensive for families to have basic care provided for their family members,” said Hans Hechtman, who served on the Public Affairs Council. He added, “It will even force paid family members to take unnecessary and expensive training before caring for one of their family members. In other words, a mother who has cared for her child since birth would be unable to provide care services to that same child if they were to become disabled.”

The cost to benefits ratio was a major factor for many Public Affairs Council members. "The Office of Financial Management estimates it will cost taxpayers at least $135 million for the next five years,” said Ray Tennison, a Public Affairs Council member. “This is an expensive solution to problems that don’t exist.”

The Public Affairs Council recommended the resolution to the Chamber’s Board of Directors to oppose this measure and the vote will take place by the end of September (after this article goes to press).

This issue actually began near the end of the last legislative session, when a workgroup selected by Governor Gregoire of senior care providers, elected officials and industry advocates reviewed training issues for Washington State’s long-term care workers. The review process of the workgroup found no evidence that exceptional amounts of training hours would increase the quality of care.

According to sources, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which had participated in the process, turned its back on the work done collectively with these experts. After their legislation was rejected by democrats in the legislature last session, the union collected enough signatures to offer a ballot measure this November.

The measure alarms many long-term care workers and businesspeople in the industry.

“If this initiative passes in November, it will likely put me out of business,” said Randy Walden, owner of Heartwarming Care and recent winner of the Chamber’s Minority-owned Business Award. Mr. Walden fears the excessive training demanded by this measure will burden his business with additional costs and limit his ability to schedule his employees, who work directly in the homes of their clients.

Having spent nearly a year serving on the Governor’s workgroup responsible for reviewing these issues, he expressed his frustration having one of the key partners in that endeavor abandon the group’s collective work.

Mr. Walden will be at the Chamber’s Board meeting when it discusses the resolution to oppose Initiative 1029 and he intends to speak. “This initiative is wrong for the industry, bad for business, but even more, it will hurt the seniors and disabled folks it claims to help. The Chamber’s Board needs to vote for this resolution and its members need to stop this initiative in November by voting NO.”

Go to the Chamber’s Live Wire blog at
http://www.tacomachamber.blogspot.org/ for the results of the Chamber Board’s vote and for additional resources. [Ignore that part. The resources are below.]


Office of Financial Management: I-1029 Impacts

No on Initiative I-1029: Community Care Coalitation

Governor Gregoire's Workgroup Final Report

One-Minute Voter

Secretary of State Sam Reed has a clever new item on the office website, so now all it takes is one minute of your time to become a better informed voter.

Click this link to access a personal website for yourself that includes:
  • candidate statements for those appearing on your ballot,
  • photos for the upcoming election,
  • maps to the nearest ballot drop box location, and even
  • online address change forms.

    Best of all, the site will contain contact information for the elected officials who represent you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Advocacy Makes Winner of Ft. Lewis

The area is a “winner” in several years of efforts to realign the Army and improve the nation’s defense posture. Ft. Lewis has and will continue to grow. Like any other major development, that growth will bring challenges along with its benefits.

But this summer, a surge of 10,000 returning soldiers plus possibly family dependents, will be returning from deployments. This “summer surge” will bring the impacts to education, housing and transportation that the community has missed since the post’s growth began in 2003.

In a forum this summer, the Chamber presented a forum of state and local elected officials along with Army leadership. The results:

The most immediate impact will undoubtedly be in transportation. Peaks of congestion are already evident at Ft. Lewis’s five gates. While some smaller new military units are still to come, already 13,000 military-affiliated students attend school districts in Pierce and Thurston Counties. Yet, only seven districts are known to track and seek federal compensation for military-affiliated students’ registration. While 70% of soldiers live off post, the housing impact will be spread around as about 55% of soldiers live in Pierce County and 45% in Thurston, a growing trend over the last few years.

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s keynote presentation at the forum addressed these community impacts and those of associated veterans’ issues. Patrick O’Brien, Director of the Office of Economic Adjustment/DOD gave a responsive keynote for the forum addressing the issues brought forth and challenged local officials.

For those cable subscribers to Comcast On Demand, you will find the video by following this path: Get Local>Around the Sound>Ft. Lewis. Click! Network customers will be able to access via VOD / Click! Local / South Sound Specials. The video is available for On Demand carriage on both cable systems to the Rainier Media Center member jurisdictions of Orting, Sumner, Fife, Pierce County, DuPont and University Place.

Cable viewers should look for the title “Ft. Lewis Growth” and the introductory paragraph: Ft. Lewis is growing, but most impacts have been obscured by deployments. As soldiers are returning it creates impacts on schools, housing and transportation. The forum reviews Ft. Lewis’s growth challenges to the community.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Surprise Primary – Not!

The primary election was held with lackluster turnout. No surprise there. Since the primary election was moved to August rather than September, the turnout has decreased. The turnout rate for Pierce County dropped to 20 percent, which is about 4 percent lower than the state rate this time.

The results of the primary were straightforward. Those candidates expected to win, did. Those expected to lose, did. If there was any surprise, it occurred for the voters. This primary was the first time the state has used the Top Two system to determine the candidates moving on to the November general election ballot. Voters were able to vote across party lines for any candidate they chose and, regardless of party affiliation, the top two candidates with votes move on. Theoretically, two candidates could run against one another in the general election. However, no surprises occurred there.

On the federal side, Reps. Norm Dicks (D) and Adam Smith (D) both managed to “eke out” victories enabling them to move on the general election with approximately 58 and 66 percent respectively. Rep. Dave Reichert (R) garnered about 48 percent against his continual opponent Darcy Burner (D), who captured 45 percent of the vote out of a six candidate primary.

State-wide results show the Governor Gregoire (photo, left) with 49 percent of the vote in the ten candidate primary.

Dino Rossi (photo, right) secured 45 percent to allow him a second challenge to the incumbent.


Lt. Governor Brad Owen, Secretary of State Sam Reed, State Auditor Brian Sonntag and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler all won fairly substantial victories against their primary opponents.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson appears to have a close race after only obtaining 41 percent in a field of six candidates. Her challenger will be former Pierce County legislator Randy Dorn, who managed to capture 33% of vote. The open seat for State Treasurer will have Allan Martin (R) and Jim McIntire (D) against one another in November. Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland (R) will face off against Peter Goldmark (D) after a close primary.

The race for Attorney General will feature AG Rob McKenna (R) and John Ladenburg, current Pierce County Executive, in a race that will certainly be contentious until the very end – which should be expected from two attorneys running against one another.

The state legislative races will show most incumbents in strong positions against their opponents except for two long-time senators. Both Marilyn Rasmussen (D-Spanaway) and Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood) have tighter than expected races.

No Pierce County races appeared on the ballot due to new Ranked Choice Voting system. You can learn more about this system by reading our previous story about it.

Wait or Wade In?

The EPA has signaled its intent to Gov. Gregoire and the Washington State Department of Ecology that EPA will accept the recommendations and boundaries for PM 2.5 non-attainment areas in the state.

Posted with several earlier stories on this blog, the Chamber has been active and partly successful in the public debate of this issue.

With it all but a fait accompli for the designation of the "Wapato Hills-Puyallup River Valley" (as a nom de guerre for the heart of the Tacoma metro) non-attainment area, it is time for the community to begin now to take advantage of what should be opportunities to be first in line for curative or restorative fixes.

Already, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) received $650,000 in funds from Ecology provided to replace old, high-polluting wood-fired stoves with new, cleaner one in non-attainment communities. That's in addition to earlier $175,000 funding, too much of which went to the Marysville community. Marysville has documented problems, but not severe enough or documented enough to qualify for non-attainment designation.

We note that the PSCAA and the Port of Tacoma are already working to reduce pollution from Port operations (although port-area monitors have not exceeded the new federal standards).

It is likewise time for our public leadership to begin an advocacy for prioritization of public projects (road and transit) that will cure the public health concerns raised by the non-attainment designation. With the impending EPA ruling expected December 18, there is no reason for waiting before we begin a two-year planning effort, then a subsequent fixing period.

Now is the time to start!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rep. Adam Smith at the Chamber

Aug. 13 - Rep. Adam Smith visited the Chamber today and discussed in an interview with Mike Weinman his thoughts on the Chamber’s continued strong support of our area’s military installations along with other issues including international trade, the Chamber’s annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. trip and technology.

Wonderdog Media captured the interview with Rep. Smith for footage to be used in the Chamber’s Annual Meeting video as well as possible uses in other Chamber videos.

Touting our area’s growing “human capital” from graduates of the UWT’s Technology Center, he felt these new technology workers would help our community by relocating bright, young workers attracted to the various museums and local entrepreneurs – all important to an area’s growth. Rep. Smith was enthusiastic about the future of the Tacoma-Pierce County economy for that reason and well as others including the continued growth of the local military bases.

Citing the Chamber’s outstanding advocacy work, he pointed out the elements that made the Chamber’s annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. trip one of the “best opportunities” he has to engage with his constituents all year long. To be able to “interact with thirty to forty leaders from diverse backgrounds,” the Chamber’s delegation, he said, “represents a ‘one-stop shopping’ opportunity” since he can discuss and learn about diverse issues ranging from health care and energy to finances and the defense industry.

Smith concluded his visit with a special thank you to the Chamber’s continued efforts at the staff and membership level.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rep. Norm Dicks visits the Chamber

The Chamber’s Simpson Room was the site of a lively interview between Rep. Norm Dicks and Mike Weinman, the Chamber's contracted community relations director, as cameras captured the footage for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting video.

Mike Weinman took Rep. Dicks down memory lane as he recalled how the idea for the Chamber’s Washington-to-Washington, D.C. trip was hatched. Rep. Dicks relayed how he and David Graybill, Chamber CEO, were talking about “how the Tri-Cities and the Puget Sound Naval Bases Association in Bremerton were going back there” to Washington, D.C. to discuss issues with congressional members. Together, they wondered about doing a similar thing to advocate for “our own incredible bases here in Pierce County.”

“We wanted to tell key officials, ‘Thank You,’” said Rep. Dicks, “We had lots to talk about and the C-17s were a good one to start with.”

Rep. Dicks went on to say how there were now 44 cargo lifting C-17s based out of McChord Air Force Base. He felt the Washington-to-Washington, D.C. annual trip was one of the best advocacy programs the Chamber "accomplishes year in and year out."

The subject of the economy was reviewed as well. Citing large numbers of area military personnel, civilian employees, and retirees, Rep. Dicks stated “their sheer numbers act as a stabilizing effect” on our economy. “The millions of dollars in construction contracts and resulting numbers of local workers,” he added, “provide additional certainty during economic downturns.”

Rep. Dicks ended the interview with several statements about how the Chamber has maintained a great relationship with local officials like himself under the guidance of CEO David Graybill. He discussed how the Chamber has played a major role in the revitalization of downtown and how it has been a positive force for job creation e.g. working with him and others to convince Boeing to develop a plant site in Frederickson. He believes the overall position in the business community is well represented by the Chamber.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Long Road Overhaul for E. Foss

Perseverance paid off as the Chamber's Board of Directors accepted a resolution to support the top three priorities of the East Foss Transportation Study. But the job's not done!

The Tacoma City Council, in a study session July 15, remanded the East Foss Transportation Study to two of its Council Committees: Environment and Public Works Committee and the Economic Development Committee.These two Council committees will be charged with reviewing the East Foss Transportation Study and bringing recommendations for implementation to the full Council.

The East Foss Transportation Study itself identifies these implementation options:
  • Incorporate appropriate sections of the traffic study into the S-8 Shoreline Master Plan Regulations;

  • Implement the recommended three priority projects;

  • Participating entities need to take study recommendations back to their boards/commissions (Chamber and Port of Tacoma);

  • Increase coordination of advanced facility planning between the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma;

  • Facilitate partnerships to share infrastructure costs to maintain existing uses and to increase economic development in the study area.

The Chamber Board has committed staff resources to follow-through with involvement in the two City Council committees evaluating the implementation options. The Chamber will push for implementation of at least the top three recommendations

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting

Voters sometimes have the difficult decision of choosing between the lesser of two evils when it comes to elections. What about the times when the voter has more than one qualified candidate on the ballot that they would like to vote for? The Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) process tries to solve that problem.

Voters in Pierce County, having passed a charter amendment in 2006, will have an opportunity to participate in a unique election process to allow them to prioritize candidates for an office by ranking them. Whether this style of voting is a growing trend or simply a fad will be determined over time as some municipalities, counties and even countries have begun to try this new method of voting.

The candidates running for office in Pierce County (excluding judges and the Prosecuting Attorney) will not have a primary election and will therefore, not appear on the August primary ballot. Voters will have a opportunity to vote in those races in the general election held in November.

After the primary election this August, the first difference most voters will see is the number of ballots that will be given to them. One ballot will contain the races for federal, state elected offices and all local issues. Additionally, the RCV races will require their own ballot. This year's RCV ballot will feature the Pierce County Executive (partisan), Sheriff (non-partisan), Assessor-Treasurer (non-partisan) and, in some areas, a County Council member (partisan).

Of the candidates listed for each individual RCV race, voters will be able to select their top three choices by ranking one candidate as their first-choice, another as their second-choice and a final one as their third-choice in the columns provided on the ballot.

Then the challenge begins.

The counting of the votes is conducted in rounds. In each round, all of the first-choice votes will be tallied. If any of the candidates receives a majority of votes, then that person is declared the winner. If not, the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who selected that candidate will have their second-choice votes cast as first-choice votes to the remaining candidates. If the voter’s second-choice is eliminated in the second round, then the third-choice votes become their first-choice.

Each round brings us closer to concluding the election for that office and closer to making Washington State history since Pierce County will be the very first Washington county to use this method for selecting its candidates.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tacoma B&O

It appears stars are moving to alignment if not aligned. From different directions come attention to the Business & Occupation (B&O) Tax unique to Washington state and self-selected municipalities.

Most recently, the Washington Policy Center's Part I: Characteristics of a Responsible Business Tax System, has become available. This is their opening shot (Part I of III promised), that begins realistically enough as an introduction to the Washington B&O tax set in a context of what a tax is and is supposed to do.

This opening paper by the Washington Policy Center was eerily similar to an integral part of the final report by Tacoma's Service Tax Task Force report about reforming Tacoma's revenue system. Your Chamber had a representative participate in this review of Tacoma's tax system. A significant recommendation to the City Council was that Tacoma's (portion) of the B&O tax be nixed as it is an impediment to economic development of the City.

Recently, the City Council's Government Performance and Finance Committee surfaced the issue of the Tacoma B&O tax, partly in the context of the Russell Investment retention effort, but also from a desire to grow the economy (and tax base) of the City.

As abhorrent as many businesses find the B&O tax, it is easy to understand the dilemma the City finds itself: desiring to be more business-friendly engendering development and jobs vs. retaining funding necessary for city services. As an example, the City's 07/08 budget anticipates $81,551,200 in revenues from the business tax, which is 20% of their revenue source. That's a budget cut that is not easy to absorb.

Tacoma's history with the B&O has been that of the good intentioned and the greedy. Tacoma was grandfathered into its higher-than-state-allowed rates. But, it has never increased rates even more as the grandfather clause allows, according to Mayor Baarsma. The City had been on a ramp-down process for the B&O from 1999 to 2002, when its continued reduction was halted. But, it raised the B&O floor to $70,000 in 2001. (If the floor had been indexed to inflation, it would now be $83,247.)

Complicating B&O reductions beyond the international services tax initiative is the state's mandate of the apportionment of taxes back to jurisdictions (a sharing of sales tax to jurisdictions where goods or services are delivered).

Committee Chair Mike Lonergan and Councilmember Julie Anderson were outspoken in their desires to improve the economic climate of the community by addressing the burdens of the B&O tax system, although positive attitudes on the issue were heard from other councilmembers.

Ryan Petty, Director of the Tacoma Economic Development Department, Alan Harvey, a member of the former STTF and Gary Brackett, your blogger and also a member of the STTF, were asked to share viewpoints about the B&O and its reduction. Petty recommended the Council look to industrial targets consistent with the City's strategic development plan, and to tailor incentives consistently. Alan Harvey spoke only briefly about the compliance issues associated with the B&O tax in recognition of the unfairness of this taxing methodology. Brackett supported Petty's comments on focusing on strategic goals with its taxing policies. Specifically, Brackett noted that reductions in a B&O tax could be accomplished by:
  1. focusing on strategic objectives
  2. raising the floor overall
  3. setting a maximum payment
  4. relating to employment sizes
  5. overall reductions among all payers

As with the City's initiative with the international financial services elimination, getting rid of the B&O can be done over time, rather than aggravate budgetary challenges with significant revenue reductions.

All this discussion comes as the objective of the City Council is to provide sufficient revenue for the needs and desires of the City's citizens is best accomplished by growing the tax pie or keeping a significant portion of what exists now. For a discussion of what tax burden Washington's businesses carry, with implications for their economic competitiveness, see the new 6th annual report by the Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ROW vs. Wading

It seems like our potholes and rough street repairs form pools sufficient for wading or even rowing. And that lack of quality has the City Council's attention.

The Tacoma City Council Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday (5-28-08) afternoon discussed a new, state-of-the-art policy aimed at preserving Tacoma's investment in roads.

As part of the City's overall direction to improve streets, the Council committee is too considering how utility cuts for access for maintenance, repairs and installation of new services impacts these roads. Cuts and trenches are made for Internet and TV cable, telephone lines, electric power lines, natural gas pipelines, potable water, storm and sanitary sewer collection.

City Public Works/Streets provided some estimates for how much the proposed changes would impact customers. The most common denominator is a mid-block (as opposed to corner lot) residential property needing to replace a 6" diameter sanitary sewer lateral. The homeowner is responsible for all costs from his/her home, including the riser, to the sewer lateral. The assumption is that the street is 30' wide and existing asphalt is 4" deep. Following are the costs for street repair, not repairs to plumbing!
The standard practice is for 1' cutback. That requires an estimated $780 to repair.

The proposed rule is a 3' cutback & half street that must be repaved if disturbed. Since the cutback includes both halves of the street as this example has the sanitary sewer on the opposite lane, both sides are disturbed. Estimated cost of street repairs: $2,310.
Net difference between existing rule and proposed rule: $1,530, a 196% increase.

Although Tacoma Public Works (other than the streets department) and Tacoma Public Utilities are impacted by these requirements, none attended AND participated in the discussion of the impact of this proposal on customers. Only Comcast and Puget Sound Energy commented. All these public and private utilities might be expected to be disinterested in the imposition of such rules. They could be expected to pass those costs to all the ratepayers in the utility area, or have the costs accrue to the homeowners and not pass through the utility at all.

However, such is not the case with Puget Sound Energy. Reported earlier in this advocacy blog are reports on the expected declaration of the Tacoma metro area as a non-attainment area for PM2.5. The chief culprit for the region's poor air quality is conceded to be wood smoke from residential fireplaces or older, inefficient wood stoves. There are two likely fixes for the air quality problem. One is to subsidize the replacement of old stoves for homeowners.

The other is to assist in the conversion of homes to the most efficient fuel - natural gas or electricity. (There are strategic ramifications ((conservation and fish)) for increased demand of electricity as a fuel.) However, this street replacement rule will place substantial costs on homeowners desiring natural gas. For instance, Seattle adopted a similar street replacement rule about 18+ months ago. Since then, PSE has an 80% reduction in new customers (forcing even more of the market to electricity.) Thus, the unintended consequences of the proposed right-of-way (ROW) restoration is to block natural gas as an economical alternative to remedy the poor air quality of the region.

The Chamber spoke to the Council's committee members, about this particular unintended consequence. Additional points that were made were:
  1. The ROW replacement should be relevant to the disruption, not to a larger than necessary area;

  2. The ROW replacement should not be a defacto street renovation/maintenance program;
  3. The ROW replacement program should not seek to place costs on the utility ratepayer for costs that are the responsibility of general government to maintain streets;

  4. Public and private enterprises should be treated the same (a level playing field) in all requirements as to the program including fees and permitting.

It is the sense of this blogger that the Council's Environment and Public Works Committee wishes to recommend an aggressive ROW restoration program. The fairness of that program and the impacts on individual home and business owners and each utility's ratebase of customers remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Advocating Local Procurement for Local Business

The Chamber has an active program to share with its membership business opportunities with all levels of government. An aspect of this advocacy is encouraging local governments to have an open and inclusive program for our local businesses.

Enclosed is an acknowledgement of the Pierce County procurement program. For FY 2007, Pierce County procured $200,686,316 in supplies-services-land-capital equipment-etc. More than 50% of those payments went to local providers.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Do You Mean IT or IT?

Most people don't connect international trade (IT) and information technology (IT).Yet today's "Exporting in a Free Trade World," a forum devoted to free trade agreements (FTA) and opening markets demonstrated that connection.

While the brief forum was necessarily limited to just two countries -- Canada and Colombia -- a broader discussion included some neighboring countries. Speakers, included Margaret Hanson-Muse, Counselor for Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy (Bogota) Colombia. She had participated in the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement negotiations (telecom and customs chapters), for which she was recognized by the Department of State with her second Superior Honor Award. In December 2006, Pfizer S.A. recognized Ms. Hanson-Muse with its first annual leadership award "for her exemplary support ... in defense of Intellectual Property rights."

Both Ms. Hanson-Muse and Matt Gaisford, Ecuador/Panama Desk, U.S. Department of Commerce attested that the proposed FTA for Colombia and Peru, as well as the existing Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) with Panama, included those countries acceptance of the Information Technology Agreement, basically allowing IT in duty-free.

For Panama, Washington's 2007 exports of computers and electronic products totaled $1.5 million. Washington's exporters of computers and other information technology equipment will benefit from the U.S.-Panama TPA tariff reductions. Certain U.S. exports of information technology equipment will receive duty-free treatment immediately upon entry into force of the Agreement, including DVDs, telephone and fax equipment, semiconductors and medical and lab instruments.

Washington's manufactured-export category for computers and electronic products was $3.3 billion in 2007. The U.S.-Colombia TPA improves market access for Washington's information technology goods and service providers. Nearly 100% of U.S.exports of products covered by the Information Technology Agreement, including important exports of computer equipment and communications equipment, will receive duty-free treatment immediately upon entry into force of the agreement. With the immediate removal of most tariffs, U.S. exports will become much more competitive and affordable to Colombians.

Now, the benefit is mostly one-way with Colombia enjoying access to the U.S. market duty-free. The top U.S. exports in this sector include computers, computer parts and radio and TV broadcasting equipment. Adoption of the U.S.-Colombia FTA has been put on hold through action of the administration to hurriedly place the issue before Congress, and Congressional leadership's action to void time commitments to delay the issue past elections.

Our thanks to the FTA forum sponsors: U.S. Commercial Service, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, World Trade Center Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma for bringing this discussion of the facts on this public policy issue to the community.

US-Korea FTA Coalition Forges Ahead

As part of its 23rd annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. advocacy trip, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber attended the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition meeting May 12.

Held in the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the full Coalition's meeting featured remarks by Korean Minister Choi Seok-young. During those remarks, Minister Choi confirmed his country's commitment to full implementation of the FTA protocols despite the demonstrations at home of those opposed to the beef agreement reached with the U.S. agricultural interests.

It was noted during the meeting that both the Presidential Campaign and the Congressional calendar are working against the U.S.-Korea FTA's adoption. Even though political and administrative matters are working against ratification, the Congress did plan a hearing on the FTA Tuesday.

Washington, which is represented by several pro-trade Democrats (logically), is one of 13 key states. Others are: CA, NY, OR, CO, IA, WY, PA, MN, WV, OH and NJ.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Will EPA Decide by When

Now that it's clear the State of Washington has made its recommendation to include the bulk of the metro area into a Wapato Hills-Puyallup Valley Non-attainment Area for PM2.5, the questions are what will EPA decide to do and by when?

EPA is required (Section 107(d)(1)) of the Clean Air Act to notify states no later than 120 days prior to the signature date for designations if it will modify the states recommendations. Signature on final designations is due by December 18, 2008. Therefore if the Agency (Administrator) modifies designation recommendations, it will send letters to those states where it intends to modify in July of 2008.

States will then have an opportunity to explain why they think EPA's modification is not appropriate (has been by letter, informally in the past). EPA is saying it will not be publishing a proposed notice and soliciting comments. The administrator's signature will be on its final action.

EPA will publish a final rule soon after the Administrator's signature (expect in January 2009 or late December 2008 depending on when the designations are signed). That rule will be effective 90 days later, likely in March 2009.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Capping the CAPO

The City of Tacoma has received a 60-day extension from the Growth Management Hearings Board for the purpose of conducting a second public hearing before the Tacoma Planning Commission. Below is an updated schedule for completion of the CAPO update.

The Planning Commission has set a public hearing on April 16, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.

April 2
Planning Commission - Authorize Public Distribution of Revised CAPO Regulations; Set Public Hearing date

April 16
Planning Commission Public Hearing

April 25
Planning Commission Public Comment Period Ends

May 7
Planning Commission discussion of testimony

May 21
Planning Commission Recommendation to City Council

June 3
City Council Study Session on draft CAPO regulations and Commission’s Recommendations

June 10
City Council Public Hearing on draft CAPO regulations

June 17
1st Reading of Ordinance

June 24
2nd Reading of Ordinance/Adoption

July 1
Deadline for City Council action

This process has been moving very quickly. The Chamber and numerous businesses had recommended an extension of the CAPO development period so that unintended consequences,, conflicts and duplicative regulations would not be imposed.

The community has made a lot of progress in crafting the revised CAPO, click on "Critical Areas Preservation Ordinance." However, there are still some outstanding issues and concerns and this extension will allow the City to hold an additional public comment period in which the City can listen and respond constructively to additional input.

Please feel free to contact staff Molly Harris at 253-591-5383 or Stephen Atkinson at 253-591-5531 if you have any questions or concerns.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Score for Workforce Development

Our mutual celebration and thanks to Sen. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Troy Kelley for the successful inclusion of our legislative agenda items 1) "do not harm" for Guard/Reserve deployed and 2) granting credit for applicable military for civilian professional accreditation.

This is an important first step. Over the coming months, we can take the opportunity to encourage a responsible study of these items, and pursuit of legislation in the next legislative session.

But first, please offer our thanks to Sen. Kilmer and Rep. Kelley.

Here's where to find the details:

Page 221 (6) in the budget has the one for licensing on holding in abeyance. The language is:

(6) The department of licensing and the department of health shall jointly review and report to the appropriate policy committees of the legislature by December 1, 2008, recommendations for implementing a process of holding in abeyance for up to six months following the conclusion of active duty service the expiration of, and currency requirements for, professional licenses and certificates for individuals who have been called to active duty military service.

Also, items 44 and 45 on page 164 of the budget:

(44) The department of licensing and the department of health shall jointly review and report to the appropriate policy committees of the legislature by December 1, 2008, recommendations for implementing a process of holding in abeyance for up to six months following the conclusion of active duty service the expiration of, and currency requirements for, professional licenses and certificates for individuals who have been called to active duty military service.

(45) The higher education coordinating board, the department of licensing, and the department of health shall jointly review and report to appropriate policy committees of the legislature by December 1, 2008, on barriers and opportunities for increasing the extent to which veterans separating from duty are able to apply skills sets and education required while in service to certification, licensure, and degree requirements.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Senator Derek Kilmer Visits Chamber's Public Affairs Council

Senator Derek Kilmer met with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's Public Affairs Council today to discuss the recent legislative session.
"When every group and organization in this community is rowing toward the same goal, you can get things done with our Pierce County delegation."
Senator Kilmer highlighted the accomplishments of the Washington state legislature during this short session (60 days), which concerned mainly education, economic development, climate change, and some transportation issues.

On the issue of education, the legislature funded $50 million in new monies to assist with full-day kindergarten classes and school libraries. The legislature also reviewed the funding formula for education in this state. "We haven't looked at that formula," Sen. Kilmer said, "since 'Laverne & Shirley' were on tv." While the legislature has not come to any conclusions, Senator Kilmer felt it was a step in the right direction.

On the economic development front, one of the best pieces of legislative news for the Tacoma area was the passage of SB 6626, a bill creating a sales and use tax deferral program for eligible investment projects in community empowerment zones. This bill is expected to be used for retaining the Russell Investment Group and attract similar companies to downtown Tacoma.

Climate change was a major issue for Governor Gregoire and the state legislature. A bill signed into law by the Governor will require quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas pollution through a comprehensive plan by the end of 2008, have CTED and WSDOT create a regional strategy for putting the private sector to work on reducing greenhouse gases from transportation and major sectors of the economy, and identify incentives to bring green businesses and jobs to the state.

Transportation remains a critical issue for the legislature. This session the legislature passed a bill that places the decision-making authority for tolls solely with the state and provides rules for future toll measures. No major funding occurred for tranportation projects in this short session of the legislature. [For more information on transportation issues in Pierce County, visit the RAMP website.]

Sen. Kilmer's main advice for the group was to push for projects, legislation, and funding through a single agenda. "When every group and organization in this community is rowing toward the same goal, you can get things done with our Pierce County delegation," he said.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Next Stage to DC


Susan Gordon, The News Tribune's environmental writer reports that the Washington State Department of Ecology has made its determination of the non-attainment boundaries within the metro area. Now named the Watapo Hills-Puyallup River Valley Nonattainment Area, a few minor revisions were made that differed from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's recommendations.

The Chamber observes that:
  • The Chamber is pleased that DOE accepted PSCAA's determination that the military installations should not be in the nonattaiment area. PSCAA determined the installations had low density, few sources and aggressive environmental programs.

  • The exclusion of Point Definace Park and the northeast Tacoma residential area do not bring any value to the issue. Probable programs to address the cause of the non-attainment would not address northeast Tacoma, and the area is not suspected of being a contributor to the problem.

  • The Chamber is disappointed that the port-industrial area is retained within the non-attainment area. The port-industrial area continues to be below the allowable limits for particulate matter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5). What goal must be achieved for the port-industrial area to comply with the standard and remove itself from the designated area?
EPA's federal standard for daily fine particulate matter (PM2.5) requires a 3-year average of 98th percentiles (called 'design values') to be compared to the daily standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). The most recent 3-year time period available is 2005, 2006, and 2007.

PM2.5 98th percentiles at Alexander Avenue are:

2005 30.0 ug/m3

2006 36.5 ug/m3

2007 33.9 ug/m3

This calculated to a 2005-2007 design value of 33.5 ug/m3 - which according to EPA rounding conventions gets rounded up to 34 ug/m3. The next stage for the decision of what will be declared as a non-attainment area will be by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in Washington, D.C.