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.