Thursday, December 22, 2011

ESA Suit Threatens Flood Insurance

As suspected, the National Wildlife Federation has filed suit against FEMA.

Today, NWF moved for a preliminary injunction against the sale of flood insurance in the Puget Sound region pending the outcome of the lawsuit

FEMA may be prevented from issuing FLOOD INSURANCE .  This could have severe impacts on all types of real estate and countless businesses that operate in any floodplain in the Puget Sound region.

Why:  Because the suit against FEMA seeks an injunction to prohibit the sale of flood insurance policies in Washington State .

Immediate action needed:
Support a coalition of real estate organizations, owners, property professionals and businesses who have organized as “Property Owners for Sensible Floodplain Regulation” (POSFR) in an effort to Protect Property Rights in the Floodplain.

On November 30, 2011, Property Owners for Sensible Floodplain Regulation (POSFR) held a meeting at Renton City Hall to discuss pending changes to the floodplain maps and development regulations applicable to floodplains in the Puget Sound region.  During that meeting, it was  highlighted that the National Wildlife Federation had submitted a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue to FEMA in September 2011, asserting that FEMA has not done enough to enforce the very restrictive development standards set forth in the Biological Opinion issued by NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service to FEMA in September 2008 regarding FEMA’s operation of the National Flood Insurance Program in the Puget Sound region.

On December 8, the National Wildlife Federation filed their lawsuit against FEMA.  They assert that FEMA has violated several sections of the Endangered Species Act by failing to require the 122 Puget Sound jurisdictions participating in the National Flood Insurance Program to enforce the most restrictive provisions of the Biological Opinion.  Those restrictive provisions include, but are not limited to:

§         A 150-250 foot “no adverse affects” buffer around all rivers and streams in the region;
§         A restriction on new impervious surface to no more than 10% of the lot area;
§         A requirement to provide compensatory storage to offset any floodplain fill;

And there is more …..

The impacts to ongoing property operations and future development could be severe.

The National Wildlife Federation has filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction.  They are asking the federal court to suspend the sale of flood insurance for any new development or substantial redevelopment until FEMA implements the Biological Opinion as the National Wildlife Federation would like.  If the Court issues the injunction – which could occur as soon as February 2012 – it will halt most development and substantial redevelopment in the floodplain areas of our region for several months, if not years.  The NWF was successful in getting an injunction against the sale of flood insurance in Monroe County, Florida – which has been in effect since 2005.

Over the past year, POSFR has attempted to focus property owners and businesses located in and near the floodplain on the substantial risks facing their properties and business operations from the Biological Opinion and corresponding changes to local floodplain development regulations.  POSFR’s efforts have also included a parallel FEMA project, floodplain remapping, that in many cases is resulting in expanded floodplain area encompassing properties never before shown in the floodplain.  With the filing of this lawsuit by the National Wildlife Federation, the risks to real property in the floodplain have become very real.  You may not be able to buy flood insurance when you most need it.  And you may have no voice in the design and imposition of extreme restrictions on development and redevelopment in the floodplains going forward.

Your help is needed.  Your participation and financial support are critical to enable POSFR to continue working to protect the property rights and development potential for properties in the floodplain or at risk of being mapped into the floodplain. 

In the next month, POSFR would like to file an amicus brief to counter the National Wildlife Federation’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction.  Our brief would highlight the vast development regulations that already exist in the region and that protect endangered species, and also the enormous economic harm that would result from a ban on the sale of flood insurance for new development or substantial redevelopment in the region.  You may support its efforts by becoming a member of POSFR (see attached) and also by making a contribution to its litigation efforts.  If POSFR does not participate in this suit, property owners will not have a voice when it is needed most – and they cannot file unless your support it.

You may send the attached Commitment Form (click on image for a larger view) and your contribution made out to GordonDerr to:

Molly Lawrence
GordonDerr, LLP
2025 First Ave., Ste. 500
Seattle, WA 98121

Please note in the “RE” line for any check:  Deposit in trust for POSFR. 

This issue is truly urgent.  POSFR needs to raise funds NOW to ensure a defense against the National Wildlife Federation’s request for a preliminary injunction.  POSFR is the only entity prepared to make some of the key arguments that should stave off the injunction on the sale of flood insurance.  If POSFR does not participate, many of the key arguments simply will not be made.

POSFR is supported by real estate owners, managers, management companies, business owners, trade associations such as BOMA, Washington REALTORS, Master Builders, Association of Washington Business, Etc.

GUEST Blogger: Molly A. Lawrence |  GordonDerr LLP | 2025 First Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle, WA  98121-3140 | | Phone: 206-382-9540 | Fax: 206-626-0675 |

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tacoma Budget Woes Continue

It's been nearly two months since the City of Tacoma noticed a massive hole in its biennial budget.  In that time, City Council has directed staff to trim about $11M from non-public health & safety departments; passed new taxes, fees & fines totaling $1M; proposed another $11M in cuts to police and fire, pending further financial review; and is considering several million dollars more in additional taxes.  However, these do not total the $31M projected hole. 

While the Council continues to discuss impacts of potential cuts, there is little discussion on how to make the City a more efficient organization - something many businesses have gone through during the current economic crisis.  Instead, the City's drawdown of a $47M reserve fund over three years helped them avoid cuts.  As the Tacoma Weekly noted:

"'Rather than make the early cuts, the city used its reserves and didn't address the underlining losses in revenue.  Using the reserves saved jobs then but compounded the deficit spending that not only led to the current budget gap, but also put the city in tougher financial shape for the years to come,' [Steve Marcotte, former Tacoma Finance Director] said.  What should have happened was that Tacoma should have made small cuts in 2008 and 2009 at levels tied to the dropping tax incomes and revenues rather than continue to operate beyond its means."

Once the City has refined its expenses to refocus on its core mission, there may need to be additional revenue sources - however, this should only come after an honest evaluation of how to make the City more efficient.  As discussed here, the Chamber has encouraged the Council to focus on sources of revenue that do not unfairly target one business or business sector.

The News Tribune recently featured an article in which ordinary citizens were developing ideas on how to save public health and safety jobs.  These ideas ranged from "a thrift store mentality" focused on second hand office furniture and supplies to a $25 per person tax to avoid all cuts to the Tacoma Police Department.  These across the board changes are welcomed to distribute the impacts throughout the community while helping the City become leaner.

As the Council moves towards a balanced budget, we encourage Chamber members to let their elected representatives know what services are important to them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alaska-Tacoma Trade on TV

Harry McDonald, CEO of Anchorage-based Carlile Transportation Systems and Gary Brackett, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's Business & Trade Manager are featured in a South Sound Business Report TV segment entitled "Alaska and the South Sound."

Brackett shares the deep extent of commerce connection between Puget Sound ports and the economy of Alaska, which must import most of its supplies and equipment needs.

McDonald talks about the family- and employee-owned logistics company with terminals in Houston, Minnesota, Alberta and its largest outside of Alaska at Port of Tacoma. He also has observations on the economy in the 49th state, which may soon be seeing a rebirth of energy-providing growth.

The program will also air on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m. on KBTC PBS-Tacoma after the station's December pledge campaign preemptions end.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Budget Becomes Road Kill

The last special session of the Washington Legislature has made a short-term fix to the state budget and kicked the can down the road to the regular legislative session next year/month.

The battle over the state's budget - over getting the budget into balance - promises to be THE ISSUE OF THE SESSION.

One promising argument in the budget debate comes from the "Road Kill" Democrats.  (The "Road Kill" caucus is so called because they are middle-of-the-roaders who get run over by the left and the right.)

To see how this debate is formed, check out this video by Pierce County's Sen. Jim Kastama.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Military Spouses Get Licensing Approval

The State Legislature did a great favor for the active-duty families in our state with the passage of SB5969, the military-spouse licensing bill.

Under terms of the bill, the state will allow military spouses a temporary professional license here, honoring the license originally issued in another state.  The temporary license will allow sufficient time for the spouse to complete any unique requirements necessary in Washington State.

Our Chamber testified in both the state Senate and House, both of which had significant bill sponsors.  Our thanks to Sen. Derek Kilmer and Representative Tami Green (companion HB2167) and all the co-sponsors in both houses. 

The Chamber had approved this goal for its 2012 Legislative Agenda, but this prompt action by our legislature gives us our first success early.  The Chamber’s membership had supported (83.7%) this goal in a survey completed last month.

The bill is now forwarded to Governor Chris Gregoire for signing. 

Our thanks also go to Mark San Souci, Regional Liaison Northwest, Defense State Liaison Office and the Chamber's State Lobbyist Michael Transue. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chamber Adopts 2012 Leg Agenda

The Chamber’s Board of Directors has adopted its goals for the upcoming regular legislative session.  There are specific goals related to the success of local business and the development of our community.  Plus, the Chamber will work with other chambers of commerce on state-wide issues.

To successfully accomplish this agenda, the Chamber will depend on the assistance of its volunteers and the support of our local business with the Chamber's professional staff.

Click on the image below for a larger view.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chamber Supports Ex-Im Funding

The Chamber has joined a coalition of business and economic development advocates in urging Congress to continuing funding the Ex-Im Bank.  The Ex-Im Bank is vitally important to international trade for the nation.  Businesses and jobs in Washington State - as exemplified by our trade achievements - are primary beneficiaries of the Ex-Im Bank.

Click the image for a larger view. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tacoma City Manager Finalists Attending Public Officials Reception

By now you've heard that the Chamber's Annual Public Officials Holiday Reception already has over 40 public officials attending.  But did you know that this is the first opportunity to meet the finalists in Tacoma's City Manager Search?

We've confirmed that Rey Arellano, Tacoma's Interim City Manager; T.C. Broadnax, Assistant City Manager of San Antonio, TX; and Andrew Neiditz, City Manager of Lakewood, will all be attending the Holiday Reception.  (Finalist Frederick Russell has withdrawn.  Finalist Craig Malin's travel itinerary has not been finalized.)

If you are interested in meeting the finalists before they move onto interviews on Thursday, December 8th, please RSVP for the Holiday Reception online here or by calling Janice Hutchins at 253.627.2175.  For more on the candidates, please visit the News Tribune's introduction of the finalists here.

Please note that Tom Pierson, Chamber President & CEO, will be participating in candidate interviews with other business leaders on Thursday.  If you have thoughts on any of the candidates, we encourage you to share them with Tom.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taxing Public Health Services

As previously discussed, the City of Tacoma is facing a significant budget gap.  While the size of the hole is projected at $31M, the City Council had decided that it would focus on repairing $23M of that now - provided that no new revenue options were on the table.  However, the Council is now seriously considering additional sources of revenue. 

The City Council's Government, Performance & Finance Committee put forward a series of tax proposals, including one that targeted five specific businesses in Tacoma within the non-profit health care sector.  With the support of business partners Multicare, Franciscan, Community Health Care, and SeaMar; the Chamber contacted the City about the potential impacts to the community and these businesses.

In the City's rush to find revenues, it significantly misunderstood the hardship that adding a B&O tax to non-profit health services would cause.  In an effort to maintain care levels, Multicare alone just eliminated over 500 positions - far more than the City is contemplating in even the most dire scenarios.  With an increase in their taxes, it would undoubtably equate to even more jobs at a time when more and more people are depending on the charity care provided by these non-profit providers.

Thankfully, at the City Council's study session on November 22nd, Councilmember Jake Fey proposed taking this tax increase off the table due to its inequitable nature of targeting specific businesses and targeting the needy.  While the majority of the Council appeared to support this position, Councilmember Ryan Mello made a last minute effort to retain the option by sending it back to committee for further review.

That means that this effort is not done.  On December 7th, they will again take up this targeted tax increase in committee.  With its partners, the Chamber will continue to advocate for an equitable distribution of any new taxes that the City imposes.  As our partners, we hope you will join us in voicing your concerns to the City Council.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Many Wins in SMP Update

 Last night the Tacoma City Council passed the Shoreline Master Program Update. The Council heard testimony from 20 persons representing Chamber leadership, businesses, labor groups and environmental groups.  Another 13 persons spoke against the Chamber’s positions.

Throughout the process leading up to the passing of SMP, the Chamber collaborated with businesses impacted by the plan, realizing the huge asset waterfront access means to industrial companies in the region.  Businesses benefited from Chamber-supported successful changes to the Draft Shoreline Master Program Update. These changes worked to ameliorate the adverse impacts that were in recommendations made by the Tacoma Planning Commission.

The Chamber worked as advocates for your businesses by calling for changes to the Draft SMP.  We’re much better off now than we might have been. We gained the following “wins” with adoption of the final plan.

The Council finally adopted action to implement Council Resolution 36702 of 2005, where they agreed to a "barrier" composed of building codes along E. D Street to serve as a deterrent to conflict between industrial development to the east and expected residential development west along the Foss shoreline.

Likewise, the Council adopted an extension of the S-10 industrial zone the full length of the E. Foss Peninsula from the tip at NuStar Terminal to the Murray Morgan Bridge, finalizing action expected from a Tacoma Comprehensive Plan Amendment in 2005.

Although the Council passed an amendment they called a compromise regarding Sperry Ocean Terminals, it appeared not to be a compromise but a spot zoning of the business’s property. 

The action to classify as "Prohibited" lay-berthing (at Sperry Ocean) in a made-up transition zone, strikes at the very essence of the business, lay-berthing of MARAD ships.  In addition to Tuesday's testimony, and many hours work over years, the Council action is possibly a "taking" of private property, jeopardizes Sperry's lease renewal with the state Dept. of Natural Resources and subjects the firm to higher operating and financing costs.

Prime (Sperry) amendment sponsors Councilmembers David Boe and Jake Fey said the recent negotiations with Sperry to develop an operational and mitigation plan could still be continued.  But, they did not say what more they expected of the business than what was already offered.

In earlier advocacy action regarding SMP, the Chamber was successful in getting the Tacoma Planning Commission:

1) to comply with Washington state constitutional and case law in limiting public access to nexus and proportionality tests,
2) to place the burden of proof on the City for claims of public access requirements
3) to continue to allow log storage in Commencement Bay
4) to include all the NuStar Terminal in the S-10 industrial zone
5) to allow existing businesses in the Foss Waterway to expand beyond their 1996 property lines

Much of the successes of the Chamber’s efforts are credited to the advocacy, attendance, testimony and letters of its members and community partners in labor and environmental groups.  Thanks to all for your commitment. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Endangered Species Endangers Floodplains

Last month, the Chamber cooperated with the Propeller Club Port of Tacoma Chapter in a program about the National Marine Fisheries Services Biological Opinion of the EPA’s Endangered Species Act for floodplains as designated by FEMA mapping.

There is another upcoming presentation for November 30th between 8:30-10:00am at Renton City Hall regarding the flood issues that H. Ray Liaw presented and responded to questions last month.  This will be a slightly longer presentation and will focus on the litigation that is upcoming regarding the floodplain issues.

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

Click this link REGISTER to automatically open a reply email to the support staff managing the registration list.   

Please forward this message to associates and colleagues who fit the above description

There are pending changes that will drastically impact your ability and cost to:
1.      Rebuild or alter your property after a flood
2.      Develop or redevelop your property in the flood plain regardless of whether it ever floods
3.      Finance your property if it is located in a floodplain or
4.      Obtain flood insurance.

Your support is needed to help collectively represent the interests of real estate owners and managers – the window of opportunity to avoid new regulations is closing quickly, please read the information below and attached.

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

FEMA continues its efforts to redraw the floodplain maps for the Puget Sound region, including King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.  The latest round of preliminary floodplain maps for the Kent Valley show hundreds of acres of land previously considered safe from flooding now within the floodplain.  Similar changes are pending in Pierce County, where huge areas around the Puyallup River are proposed for remapping into the floodplain.  If you own or manage real estate near any river in the Puget Sound region, you may soon be mapped within FEMA’s designated flood zone.  Properties within the floodplain are subject to one, and often several, additional layers of development regulations and permitting requirements – which are at real and significant risk of becoming impossibly restrictive if we don’t take action.

In February 2011, we held a previous meeting about these issues.  During that meeting, we explained that we were concerned that FEMA and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) were moving to require municipalities throughout the Puget Sound region (Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila in the Kent Valley) to adopt significant changes to their land use rules governing development and redevelopment of floodplain properties.  Following that meeting – with the funds raised from that meeting – we have been able to stave off the most restrictive changes

But now the environmental groups who pushed FEMA and NMFS to require limitations on the use of properties in the floodplain – both current and potential future floodplain areas – are upset and will be filing a lawsuit this month to try to force FEMA, NMFS, and local governments to implement much more restrictive regulations in the Puget Sound floodplain areas.

This message is to alert you to an important meeting.  This meeting will cover:
1.      The scope of the problem and how it affects your property
2.      The pending lawsuit by environmental groups to force more restrictions on property in the floodplain
3.      The financial support needed toward a legal defense fund to help protect and preserve property rights and development options and to help shape fair regulatory changes (This is the key element of the meeting.  A plan of action will be outlined.)

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

Please read the linked “Three Flood Zone ImpactScenarios” to learn how FEMA’s and NMFS’s proposed land use standards will impact you.  Remember, even if your property never floods, these proposed development standards may govern your property’s future use.  How might new land development standards affect your ability to insure and refinance your property? How will that affect your equity? If what you read concerns you—forward this email to other floodplain property owners and managers and attend the meeting.  We hope to see you at the meeting.

This message is being sent by Property Owners for Sensible Floodplain Regulations (POSFR), a coalition of property owners, industry groups such as (BOMA, Washington REALTORS, AWB, MBA, RHA) and real estate representatives from firms like CBRE, Kidder Matthews, etc. who are concerned about the potential over-regulation of floodplain areas in the Puget Sound region.

To register – please copy this contact info list

Mailing Address:

Then click this link REGISTER to automatically open a reply email to the support staff managing the registration list.  Just paste the contact info list into that email – fill in your data (you can anything already in your email signature).

Question can be directed to any of the following:

Rod Kauffman
BOMA Seattle
Mark Jackson
BOMA member
Lezlie Plastino
Kidder Mathews

Todd Woosley
Hal Woosley Prop. Inc.
Jeanette McKague
Washington Realtors

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Korea Passes KORUS

This morning, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was been ratified in the Korean National Assembly.  Passage of the agreement in today's extempore session clears the way for a new level of cooperation and prosperity between our two nations.  The agreement passed by a vote of 151-7, with all 14 KORUS implementation bills approved as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tacoma Budget Woes

The City of Tacoma is looking at its mid-biennium budget and noticing a hole.  While the size of the hole depends on who you ask, the City Council has agreed to use conservative revenue projections indicating they will be $31M short by the end of 2012.  On behalf of its members, the Chamber has been tracking the progress of these discussions and the potential cuts and taxes proposed to fill the hole.

To fill the gap, the City is looking mostly towards cutting expenses as well as some potential tax increases.  These cuts are expected to result in the release of 126 existing staff and the elimination of 68 additional positions currently vacant.  The potential tax increases total $3.8M including an array of tools including a car tab tax and increases in B&O taxes on non-profits.

Rather than trying to take on the full $31M now, the Council has decided to focus on making up 75% of this now, or $23M, and looking at the remainder in early 2012 based on updated revenue and expense projections.  This approach recognizes the size of the gap the City is facing.  $31M is equal to the size of the entire 2012 general budget for public works; community & economic development; legal; city manager; city council; and human resources departments - combined.

At today's Council Study Session, the City was discussing making $11.7M worth of these cuts to non-public safety departments with the remaining $11.3M coming from Police & Fire.  If the City does move to a full $31M reduction plan, the remaining $8M may come from Police & Fire.  This really means that everything is on the block during this budget review process.

To minimize the cutting of positions, the City has approached the unions about cuts to their salaries in addition to the 4-10% cuts non-unionized employees are taking.  As Councilmember Fey said, "This is an opportunity for our labor partners to step up and help us." 

As an alternative, the City has also put a series of tax ideas forward.  Those brought forward to date include:
  • Car Tab Fee
  • Eliminate Non-Profit Healthcare B&O Deductions
  • 0.1% Sales Tax for Human Services
  • Increase Speed Camera & Red Light Camera Fines
  • Eliminate Admissions B&O Tax Deductions for Non-Profits
  • Postpone 2012 Retirement Fund Contribution Increase
  • Increase Annual Business License Fee
  • Eliminate B&O Job Creation Tax Credit
As we continue to monitor the conversations around the budget, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how the City can best make corrections while retaining essential public services.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hearing on Large Scale Retail Moratorium

On Tuesday evening, the Tacoma City Council heard from numerous people on the August 30th emergency moratorium prohibiting new applications for retail establishments over 65,000 square feet.  From the outset of the hearing it was clear that large retail establishments are part of the community.

The first commenter noted the convenience of being able to "drive within 15 minutes, get over to Costco or the mall or to Wal-Mart or any number of chain stores or local businesses."  Testimony continued with many people noting the integration of many large businesses into our community.

Unfortunately, there was an implication that those who shop at large retail stores are "bumpkins," as one commenter blatantly put it.  This led to Mayor Strickland reminding the audience that "when we talk about diversity, it can't be based on someone's ideology, but by being truly inclusive as a city...It means people have different habits."

Those supporting the moratorium also seemed to be focused on a proposed development including Wal-Mart.  As the City Attorney noted at the hearing, "the [Wal-Mart] application has been determined complete which triggers vesting.  So to the extent the planning commission process kicks out other regulations, they are likely not to impact this project."

The Chamber continued to advocate for ending the moratorium outright, as previously identified in its letter to the Planning Commission (here).  However, the Chamber also recognized the hard work the Planning Commission put into considering how to refine the moratorium to impact only new and substantially expanded buildings with the Mixed Use Centers - exactly where the testimony supporting the moratorium has been focused.

The Chamber asked the Council to consider the following if the moratorium was truly needed:
-Use the term "building" rather than the undefined "establishment" when talking about the building size.
-Maintain the new building and expansion thresholds of the Planning Commission while also raising the floor to allow buildings up to 100,000sf.
-Keep the moratorium at the original 6-mos.

"Yes on 1183" Promotes Chamber's Endorsement

Click on Image to Enlarge.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Regulations on the Floodplains

Meeting Notice

Propeller Club
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
5:30 Registration and Reception
6:30 Dinner and Program
La Quinta Inn
1425 E. 27th, Tacoma 98421
RSVP:  Frank Morrow, 253-269-7624 or email
RSVP requested by 3:00 p.m., Oct. 25
Price:  $25

Program: Property Owners for Sensible Floodplain Regulation (POSFR)

POSFR advocates for owners of properties in Washington State’s floodplains, representing their economic, legal and political interests in local, state and national forums on issues related to floodplain development and regulation.  

POSFR began in January 2011 as a spontaneous coming together of a small group of volunteers concerned about the imposition of the NFIP Biological Opinion on local jurisdictions without input from those most affected—property owners.  They understood that such regulations would have draconian economic consequences, particularly on the $7 billion of real estate in the Green River Valley.

Immediate Goals:

  1. To bring public attention to the adverse economic impacts that may result from the imposition of overly restrictive development regulations on floodplain properties. 
2.     To engage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA-Fisheries), Washington State, King County, local municipalities, and others to clarify and minimize to the extent appropriate the impact on property and economic development of the Biological Opinion issued by NOAA-Fisheries to FEMA regarding the operation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in the Puget Sound region. 

  1. To aggressively represent property owners and businesses in the administrative and political debates surrounding the NFIP Biological Opinion and other floodplain issues in order to preserve property rights and the economic viability of properties located in the State’s floodplains. 
  1. To bring legal action as needed on behalf of floodplain property owners.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FTAs Signing on Friday

On Friday, October 21st, President Obama will sign the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements and the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers in the Oval Office before making remarks in the Rose Garden. 

In his remarks, President Obama will underscore that these trade agreements will significantly boost American exports, support tens of thousands of American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property.  President Obama will be joined in the Rose Garden by business and labor leaders as well as workers who will benefit from these bills.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Business Wants

What does business want in a new Tacoma City Manager?

This question, a prelude to Tacoma’s hunt for a new city manager, was posed at the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee by three Tacoma Councilmembers.

Visiting the committee were Councilmembers Jake Fey, Ryan Mello and Marty Campbell.  They asked Chamber members at the meeting their recommendations for desired characteristics the Tacoma Council should look for in its next City Manager.

Here’s a short recap of suggestions by the Chamber members:

Management Traits

Someone who:
  • considers all the interests of the community.
  • anticipates unintended consequences
  • is adept at management
  • understands customer relations management
  • has ability to build a good team
  • manages the expectations of change
  • understands economic development attraction and retention
  • carries a big picture
  • partners
  • considers good of the whole

Fiscal Perspective

Someone who:
  • recognizes core city responsibilities
  • willingly questions “nice to have”
  • faces the reality of revenue limitations
  • looks at different ways to accomplish tasks
The Councilmembers expressed their intent to hire the new city manager by the end of this year.  In that process, they would focus on what’s desired and look for opportunities to interact with the Chamber and other community groups.

Friday, October 14, 2011

University Place Candidates Talk Business at Chamber's Forum

As part of the Chamber’s University Place Candidates Forum held last night at Curtis High School, candidates for University Place City Council answered business focused questions.

Randy Walden, UP/Fircrest Division Chair, asked the candidates about development, business retention and priorities on the Council.

(l. to r. Kent Keel, Steve Smith, Ken Campbell, Chris Nye, Caroline Belleci, Howard Lee and emcee Randy Walden)

Placing business interests front and center with elected officials is important to the Chamber not only once candidates are elected, but also in determining who to support.

For information on these and other candidates, click here for the Chamber's Pierce County Voter's Guide.

Chamber Recommendations on Ballot Initiatives

The Chamber recommends support for I-1183 and opposition to I-1125 and I-1163.

Initiative 1183 (Concerning Beer, Wine, Spirits): SUPPORT
The Chamber supports Washington State Initiative 1183 proposing to close state liquor stores and sell their assets; license private parties to sell and distribute spirits; set license fees based on sales; regulate licensees; and change regulation of wine distribution.

Initiative 1183 would allow for the direct purchase of wine and liquor from manufacturers. The State would continue to regulate the industry as well as collect a license issuance fee of 17% plus $166 from retailers. In addition, distributor license fees would be collected at a variable rate. The Washington Office of Financial Management estimates State General Fund revenues would increase between $216 and $253 million over six years, not including the sale of existing state liquor stores.

Initiative 1125 (Concerning state expenditures on transportation): OPPOSE
The Chamber opposes Washington State Initiative 1125 proposing to prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project specific.

Chamber program Downtown On the Go’s Board of Directors endorses the “No on I-1125” campaign because I-1125 threatens current and planned transportation and transit projects, negatively impacts transportation demand management policies and funding mechanisms, and puts tolling rates in the hands of legislators rather than an rather than an independent commission of transportation experts. These actions threaten programs like Downtown On the Go and its work to ease congestion and improve mobility for all transportation users.

Tolls have been used more frequently by the state to fund a portion of costs for projects since the project is more directly and equitably funded by the users of the projects than other sources like gasoline or motor vehicle taxes.

Some of the projects that this initiative is intended to halt include the Vancouveer to Portland Columbia River Crossing, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as well as Pierce County's own completion of SR-167.

By shifting the tolling setting authority from an independent body to the Legislature would increase the cost of bonds. The bonds secured by toll revenue would become prohibitively expensive and would be unprecedented nationally. This would reduce bonding capacity, and the ability to build future projects.

Initiative 1163 (Concerning long-term care workers and services for elderly and disabled people): OPPOSE
The Chamber opposes Washington State Initiative 1163 proposing to reinstate federal background checks, training and other requirements for long-term care workers and providers; and address financial accountability and administrative expenses of the long-term in-home care program.

In 2008, Washington State voters passed a law requiring federal background checks and more than twice as much training for long-term care workers. With the current budget constraints in Olympia, the Legislature suspended implementation of this law to impact workers hired on or after January 1, 2014. This initiative would move the implementation date forward to January 2012. In addition, the measure would require additional performance audits of the state's in-home care program as well as a 10% limitation on the state's expenditures towards administration.

The costs of this measure are estimated at $31.3 million over six years with $18.4 million of that being offset with additional revenue from the federal government. Without additional revenue options, this initiative will require funds to be secured from other sources and/or programs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

FTAs Passed

The Chamber joins many other proponents of the Korea, Panama and Colombia FTAs in celebrating their passage by both the House and Senate yesterday.

Congressman Adam Smith
“Congress has helped move a balanced trade agenda forward, one that includes Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the three pending trade agreements.  This builds on the Administration’s continued aggressive enforcement when our trading partners don’t meet their obligations under existing treaties.”

Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo
“With an overwhelming 278 votes in the House and 83 votes in the Senate, the U.S. Congress passed the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement! This is a true victory for the enduring relationship between the United States and South Korea.”

Eric Schinfield, Pres., Washington Council on International Trade
“As Washingtonians, we should be proud of the almost unanimous support by our state’s Congressional delegation for these FTAs.”

Ted Austell, Co-Chair of the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition
"This ground-breaking agreement is a surefire way of stimulating the U.S. economy by boosting exports and creating high-quality jobs, while facilitating Korean investment in the United States."

William Rhodes, chairman of the U.S.-Korea Business Council and senior advisor to Citi
"Today's action by Congress marks a historical moment in U.S.-Korea relations that will strengthen the bilateral relationship and boost U.S. exports to one of the most dynamic markets in Asia."

Bill Lane, Washington Director for Government Affairs with Caterpillar and co-chair for the Latin America Trade Coalition
“(LATC) applaud(s) today's passage of the U.S.-Colombia and U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreements (TPAs) and praised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for voting in the interests of jobs and growth at home and stronger alliances in Latin America.

Port of Tacoma E-Port Business Report
"(P)assage of the free trade agreement with Korea is expected to help boost Washington state's economy and create new jobs by immediately opening new access for Washington goods and services in Korea's $1 trillion economy.  South Korea already represents the Port of Tacoma's third-largest international trading partner, accounting for $2.74 billion in annual trade. Exports to South Korea from Washington state grew by 42 percent between 2005 and 2008."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cong. Reichert Leads Pro-FTAs Effort


I am thrilled to help lead a historic effort to advance job-creating free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea to votes on the House floor.

The Ways and Means Committee’s swift action is proof that we are in a race against time – to approve these deals and create 250,000 jobs.  Every day the United States does not implement these free trade agreements is another day American businesses and workers fall behind.

China, Canada, and the EU, are all aggressively moving forward with their own market-opening trade deals.  Approving these trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama is critically important to maintaining competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The United States uses the best workers to make the best products in the world.  We must keep up with our competitors by opening new markets and selling more American goods and services to customers around the world who demand them.  Ninety-five percent of those consumers live outside of our borders.

Now that these agreements have cleared the Committee, I will continue my work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure these jobs measures are sent to the President’s desk as soon as possible.


Guest blogger:   Cong. David Reichert

Washington Trade Conference

Chamber members have the opportunity to attend the Washington Trade Conference at a discounted registration price as a benefit of their membership in the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

USPS Offers Free Direct Mail Workshop

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is offering to local business a GROW YOUR BUSINESS DAY seminar in Tacoma.

The workshop promises to tell businesses about a NEW cost-effective way to promote your business in your area.  They suggest it is an easy way to go door-to-door, saturating a target area with your marketing message by utilizing carrier routes instead of mailing lists.

USPS  believes this will save on lists and printing as there will be no need to rent mailing lists or print specific names and street addresses on your mail pieces.

To reserve a spot, go here.  Space is limited so you are encouraged to register early.

Date:  Thursday, November 3, 1:00 p.m.
Location:  Tacoma Post Office
                4001 S. Pine Street
                Tacoma 98413

Friday, October 7, 2011

Moratorium Creates Uncertainty and Less Business

The Tacoma Planning Commission has held a public hearing about a City of Tacoma moratorium on large retail development.  This has become repetitious.

The Chamber submitted this letter as its public comments to the Planning Commission, which must make a recommendation back to the City Council on their action.

As detailed below, the Chamber believes such arbitrary actions create uncertainty in the business environment, stifling development underway and sending a negative message to others who may be evaluating Tacoma for investment.

COOs Receive National Attention

Certificates of origin (COO) are receiving national attention.  COOs are basic to international trade - both export and import. 

COO issuance is a role reserved for chambers of commerce.  The basic authority comes via the Kyoto Convention agreement that was signed by President Bush in 2005 (and previous agreements leading up to it, starting with the Geneva Convention in 1923).

American Chamber of Commerce’s (ACCE) Senior Vice President, Chris Mead, guest authored a blog entry  which was posted Sept. 21 on Global Reach, the official blog of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.

The blog entry brings to light the dangers of chamber stamp lending (and borrowing) to produce certificates of origin – a violation of international rules.

“In the United States, people frequently handle outgoing certificates of origin with little attention and varying standards, even though U.S. Customs monitor incoming certificates of origin with vigilance.  Since we’re all in the trade boat together, it is critical that we start upgrading our certificate of origin practices to world standards,” says Mead.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has just adopted an online Certificate of Origin service, eCertify,  fully compliant with international standards.  It is available for members (at a price discount) and non-members.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All Three FTAs Progress

This afternoon, the House Committee on Ways and Means favorably reported out the three FTA implementing bills. The U.S.-South Korea implementing bill was favorably reported 31-5 with all but five D's voting aye: Stark, Lewis, Doggett, Pascrell and Berkley.

Also, for those following the Latin FTAs, the U.S.-Colombia implementing bill was reported 24-12 with two Democrats voting aye: Kind and Crowley. The U.S.-Panama implementing bill was reported 32-3 with all but three Democrats voting aye: Stark, Lewis and Berkley.

The Administration and Congressional leadership have reached an initial agreement where both the Senate and House will take up the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea next Wednesday, October 12, 2011 for consideration.

The Tacoma-Pierce Co. Chamber is a member of the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

KorUS for Free Trade

Just moments ago, President Obama formally sent the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement to Capitol Hill for immediate consideration by Congress.

The U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition welcomed the announcement by the White House today that it is transmitting the implementing legislation for the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (KORUS) to Congress for approval.

The U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition is a broad-based organization of more than 1,000 U.S. businesses and trade associations, co-chaired by Boeing, Chevron, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer, that are working together to secure approval by Congress of the U.S.-Korea FTA. The U.S.-Korea Business Council serves as Coalition secretariat.

You too can join in this call for immediate passage of the long-delayed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, online here.

October 3, 2011

U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H St. NW
Washington, DC


Request for Support of the Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of Korea

Dear Sirs:

I am writing today in support of the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of Korea.

Our community is economically trade dependent in a state renowned for its international trade efficiency and proficiency. Our Chamber, an “E Award for Export Service” recipient, with a wide diversity of members ranging from shipping to manufacturing, believes the KORUS FTA will bring immediate and tangible benefits to our community.

We have been a consistent supporter of free and fair trade, which offers opportunity to our entrepreneurs, jobs to our workforce and cheaper and more innovative products and services to our citizenry. U.S. goods exports to Korea would increase by $10-11 billion, according to estimates by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Nearly 257,000 Washington jobs are supported by goods exports.

Our export trade with Korea through our Port of Tacoma was $1.1 billion in 2010. Unfortunately, the trend since the high in 2004 has diminished as the KORUS FTA has languished and our trade competitors have made inroads into our market share.

Your prompt action to adopt encourage Congressional adoption of KORUS FTA will be helpful in restoring robustness to our nation’s economy and business to our communities and ports.


Gary D. Brackett, CCR
Manager, Business and Trade
Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber

Jobs Coalition Carries Message on Shorelines

A resoundingly successful Public Hearing on the preliminary Tacoma Shoreline Master Program Update Tuesday, September 27!

The State has mandated all jurisdictions update their Shoreline Master Program (SMP). Tacoma is in the final stages of that mandate. After the public hearing, written comments are accepted. The vote for final adoption is scheduled for November 22.

Written comments may be made to:
The Honorable Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilmembers
City of Tacoma
747 Market St., Ste. 1200
Tacoma, WA 98402

Tacoma uses as its zoning plan a series of numbered shoreline districts where different uses and different standards are mandated. There are several issues and preliminary recommendations (adopted by the Tacoma Planning Commission) needing opposition or support.  The Chamber, businesses, labor and environmental interests all made comments directly addressing the issues of jobs, assisting local businesses and workers.

Encapsulated observations:

No one spoke against retaining these provisions of the preliminary shorelines plan:
1. Log storage in Commencement Bay
2. NuStar all into one zone, the S-10 District
3. Allowing existing businesses in S-8 District to expand
4. Public Access requires nexus and proportionality with the burden of proof on the City

No one spoke against these changes to improve the preliminary shorelines plan:
1. S-10 District along the East Foss Peninsula to Murray Morgan Bridge
2. A barrier at E. D Street between S-8 District and M-2 zoning areas, as per earlier Council Resolution

Focus of the opposition, contrary to the best choices of keeping jobs and businesses in Tacoma:
1. Favored moving Sperry Ocean to S-6 from S-7 District, making it a non-conforming use
2. Shoreline walkway from Old Town to Foss Wty.

There were 37 people who commented in support of Chamber positions, in whole or part. There were 17 people (incl. two children), who commented exclusively on the proposal to move Sperry into the S-6 District or for a shoreline walkway from Old Town to the Foss Waterway.  A spot rezone of the Sperry Ocean property, making it a non-conforming use, will impede its ability to secure future financing, permits and leases - significantly harming that business and jeopardizing the jobs there.

Just as at the earlier public hearing before the Planning Commission, NO ONE spoke against any of the Chamber’s and businesses’ preferences in the E. Foss Peninsula (S-8 or S-10 Districts).