Saturday, June 30, 2012

Transportation Act Passes

The Chamber and many allies celebrated Congress’s welcome exhibition of bipartisanship, as on Friday the House approved a roughly $105 billion federal Transportation bill by a lopsided 373-52 vote and the Senate approved it 74-19. 

President Barack Obama signed a one-week temporary measure Friday evening, permitting the highway and loan programs to continue until the full legislation reaches his desk for signature. Otherwise, the federal transportation and many state and local projects would have stopped today, June 30.

The first major transportation bill since 2005, the legislation would keep highway and transit spending at current levels through the end of fiscal year 2014.

It includes an expansion of a federal loan program to fast-track bus and rail projects in traffic-choked regions.  The transportation measure would create or save 3 million jobs, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, chief sponsor of the Senate version of the bill

The following are some of the freight-related components in the bill:
·        Projects of National and Regional Significance – (Sec. 1120 – or page 90)

·        National Freight Policy (Sec. 1115, §167 – or page 66)

o   Calls for the establishment of a national freight network

o   Calls for a national freight strategic plan

·        A call for the prioritization of projects to improve freight movement (Sec. 1116 – or page 70)

o   Allows for increased Federal Share (up to 95% for projects on Interstate system; 90% for other projects)

§  Eligible projects:

·        construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and operational improvements directly relating to improving freight

·        movement;

·        intelligent transportation systems and other technology to improve the flow of freight;

·        efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of freight movement on the primary freight network;

·        railway-highway grade separation;

·        geometric improvements to interchanges and ramps.

·        truck-only lanes;

·        climbing and runaway truck lanes;

·        truck parking facilities eligible for funding under section 1401;

·        real-time traffic, truck parking, roadway condition, and multimodal transportation information systems;

·        improvements to freight intermodal connectors; and improvements to truck bottlenecks.

·        State Freight Advisory Committees are encouraged (Sec. 1117 – or page 70)

·        State Freight Plans are encouraged (Sec. 1118 – or page 71)

Rs dropped an effort trying to use the bill to advance the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to move oil from western Canada to Texas' Gulf Coast.  Ds made concessions that are likely to lead to less funding for bicycle, pedestrian and beautification project and would halve the time allowed for environmental reviews for highway projects. “This measure includes historic reforms – cutting red tape and consolidating or eliminating nearly 70 federal programs,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica, R-FL.
The Alaska Railroad says that Congress struck a deal to save it from a massive budget cut that could have meant large-scale layoffs and less passenger service.  Railroad officials said Alaska's U.S. Rep. Don Young's office told them Thursday the railroad should expect a $4 million cut instead of the $30 million cut proposed in the Senate version.

The bill also includes a measure to renew the federal flood insurance program for five years. Congressional leaders paved the way for the bill’s approval after dropping a measure that would have forced millions of property owners living near flood control facilities to buy flood insurance. The mandate was designed to shore up an insurance program that is billions of dollars in debt, largely because of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 hurricanes.

The measure also would avert a doubling of interest rates for millions of college student loans that was threatened to hit Sunday. The student loan measure spares an estimated 7.4 million students who get subsidized Stafford loans beginning July 1 — this Sunday — from facing $1,000 in higher interest costs over the lives of their loans, which typically take over a decade to repay.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tacoma Seeks Planning Commissioner

The Tacoma Planning Commission has an opening for a citizen residing in Council District No. 5 (south and south end), for a 3-year term that expires on June 30, 2015. 

To apply, contact Cindy DeGrosse, Mayor’s Office, 747 Market Street, Room 1200, Tacoma, WA 98402, (253) 594-7848, or visit

Applications are due no later than Friday, July 13, 2012.

Medical Cannabis in Tacoma

At 5:30PM tonight, June 26th, the Tacoma City Council will hold a public hearing on medical cannabis.  They will be looking for comments on a package of regulations proposed by the Planning Commission prepared in response to the moratorium.

While there continues to be some confusion over the effect of the moratorium put in place last summer, the package of regulations are designed to replace the prohibition.  Namely the regulations:

  • Allow medical cannabis "network member distribution centers" in all non-residential zones, with the exception of the T (Transitional Commercial District), NRX (Neighborhood Residential Mixed-Use District), RCX (Residential Commercial Mixed-Use District), and URX (Urban Residential Mixed-Use District) zones.
  • Allow medical cannabis "collective gardens" use to be allowed in the M-1 (Light Industrial District), M-2 (Heavy Industrial District), PMI (Port Maritime Industrial District), UCX-TD (Urban Commercial Mixed-Use-Tacoma Dome District), CIX (Commercial Industrial Mixed-Use District), DCC (Downtown Commercial Core District), DMU (Downtown Mixed-Use District, and WR Warehouse Residential District) zones.
  • Apply 1,000-foot buffers around schools, daycares and religious facilities.
  • Limit "network member distribution centers" to 500 to 2,000 square feet, or 1,500 s.f. within a 3,000 s.f. maximum space when co-located with other uses associated with health and wellness.
  • Limit no more than six collective gardens to co-locate on a single site.
  • Limit signage to 7.5 s.f. with no dimension greater than 36".
Comments can also be submitted to

Friday, June 22, 2012

Grant Saves Jobs and Businesses

Chamber President & CEO Tom Pierson participated in a press conference today where Senator Maria Cantwell announced that Tacoma's Fire Department has won a $7.7 million FEMA SAFER grant. The grant will save 37 firefighter jobs and give some breathing room for this year's city budget.

Tom had this to say at the conference:
Good fire service is good for business. Here in Tacoma we have great fire service.

Senator Cantwell and all Pierce County leaders are focused on investments that show we are 'open for business.' This grant keeps business overhead low, creating an attractive market to keep and bring new businesses and more jobs into our community.Today’s announcement keeps firefighters on the job and serving businesses in our community boosts the business-friendly environment here in Tacoma and Pierce County.

Business dependence on good infrastructure of roads, power and utilities is complimented with a healthy fire department. Every community is evaluated for its fire services. A robust fire department means lower costs for fire insurance premiums and doing business, which saves money for every business in our community and in turn, creates new jobs.

A lower cost of doing business aids in the continuing retention of jobs by our businesses and creates an attractive market to bring new businesses and more jobs into our community.

We are proud of the Tacoma Fire Department, for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Road Ahead Opens for Transportation

Chamber members will rejoice that their #1 issue: Transportation, looks to improve.

Today's joint announcement by Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman John Mica outlined a path forward for the transportation reauthorization bill.  It was only days ago lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were pronouncing the deal dead and predicting another extension.

“The conferees have moved forward toward a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a highway reauthorization bill. Both House and Senate conferees will continue to work with a goal of completing a package by next week,” reads a joint statement issued by chief negotiators Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).

Sen. Boxer said, “we are really finishing up our work,” she said. “If all goes the way it’s going now, we should be through with most of the bill very soon, and then we’ll tackle the outstanding issues. I’m … quite optimistic.”

Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “legislation to improve this country's transportation system is long overdue and will help stabilize critical parts of the economy and strengthen our competitive edge.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Write About Tax Increases on Ballot

The Pierce County Council invites members of the public to apply for positions on the committees that will write "for" and "against" statements in the voters' pamphlet about a ballot measure regarding tax increases.

The Council recently voted to put a proposed amendment to the Pierce County Charter on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved, the amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the Council (five out of seven members) to raise new taxes after Jan. 1, 2013. The current threshold is a simple majority of four votes.

Under state law, the Council has the authority to appoint up to three members to each committee. The Chamber encourages and the Council invites people who want to participate to submit letters of interest by July 2, 2012. Letters should be sent to Denise Johnson, Clerk of the Council, 930 Tacoma Ave. S, Room 1046, Tacoma, WA 98402 or Please send a copy to Gary Brackett, Tacoma-Pierce Co. Chamber, P.O.Box 1933, Tacoma, WA  98401 or

The Council intends to select the members by Resolution at a public hearing on July 10, 2012. Once selected by the Council, the two committees have until Aug. 7 to submit the ballot statements to the County Auditor.

More information about the proposal, Ordinance 2012-15s, is available here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tacoma Seeks Input for Next Budget

Tacoma residents are invited - we add: and business owners & employees are encouraged -  to participate in the creation of the 2013-2014 Biennial Budget through a series of 10 Community Budget Input Meetings beginning June 25. Attached is the full list of meetings in late June and July in the five City Council Districts across the city.

The purpose of the Community Budget Input Meetings is to help residents understand the City’s budget development process and provide an opportunity to speak with City officials about current and future budget allocations and priorities. Current projections for the City’s General Fund in the 2013-2014 biennium anticipate a budget gap between $60 and $65 million.

Input from residents will be used by City staff to help determine how General Fund dollars will be spent on such services as those provided by police, fire, libraries, street maintenance, social services and support for the arts and cultural programs.

The Community Budget Input Meetings will be hosted by the City Council members representing each of the five Council Districts, and will include a short presentation by City Manager T.C. Broadnax followed by opportunities to interact with City staff and provide feedback on your budget priorities.
Community Input
Budget Meetings

Monday, June 25, 2012
6:00 p.m.
1102 Tacoma Ave S., Main Library, Olympic Rm.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
5:30 p.m.
3722 N. 26th St., Wheelock Library
Thursday, June 28, 2012
6:00 p.m.
6730 N. 17th St., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Monday, July 9, 2012
6:00 p.m.
3875 S. 66th St., Boys & Girls Club
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
6:00 p.m.
215 S. 56th St., Moore Library
Thursday, July 12, 2012
6:00 p.m.
4818 Nassau Ave, Center at Norpoint
Monday, July 16, 2012
6:00 p.m.
1919 S. Tyler St., Snake Lake Nature Center
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
6:00 p.m.
111 N. E St., Stadium High School
Thursday, July 19, 2012
6:00 p.m.
701 S. 37th St., Lincoln High School
Monday, July 23, 2012
6:00 p.m.
8320 S. I St., Baker Middle School

Council Agrees with Chamber on Streamlining Regulations

At last week's City Council meeting, the Council took up the final reading of two ordinances relating to development within the City of Tacoma.  The first resolution increased the thresholds for detailed environmental review.  The second resolution increased the predictability and clarity for existing uses while reducing the costs of development for a number of businesses.

Chamber President and CEO, Tom Pierson, sent a letter to the Council prior to that vote encouraging the passage of the measure and opening the door to future discussions on regulatory streamlining.  After receiving a number of supportive notes from Councilmembers, Tom was optimistic about the measure's passage.  Sure enough, the Council passed the measures unanimously.  The Chamber looks forward to future collaboration with the Council on keeping Tacoma competitive in the coming years.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting the Transportation Act Passed

Chamber members told us they considered transportation the #1 issue for their businesses and the community during a recent survey about federal issues.

To implement that charge, the Chamber is continuing the advocacy we voiced during our visit to Congress last month, as a collaborator promoting passage of the act.  Below is a joint letter from regional chambers of commerce and economic and community development entitites advocating reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs.

Click on images for a larger view.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Regional Economic Strategy Up for Public Comment

The Prosperity Partnership is seeking public comment on its draft Regional Economic Strategy and Economy Report. The 30-day public comment period will run from June 13 to July 12, 2012.

The draft Regional Economic Strategy is an active blueprint to ensure our region's long term sustainable economic prosperity. It outlines the Prosperity Partnership's initiatives for improving the five foundation areas of the economy: education and workforce development, business climate, entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure, and quality of life. Each goal has a set of strategies - the methods the region will take to achieve those goals.

The draft Economy Report assesses industry cluster and foundational issues associated with successful economic development strategies and creates a context for understanding the central Puget Sound's competitive position relative to peer regions. Industry clusters include: Aerospace, Business Services, Clean Technology, Information Technology, Life Science and Global Health, Maritime, Military, Philanthropies, Tourism and Visitors, and Transportation and Logistics.

The draft Regional Economic Strategy and Economy Report are available online at or from PSRC's Information Center at (206) 464-7532. The documents are scheduled for adoption by the region's Economic Development District Board on July 25, 2012.

For more information, contact Chris Endresen Scott, 206-971-3269.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Council Scorecard Proves Popular

Live Wire Blog Pageviews
Last week the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber released its first quarterly scorecard for the Tacoma City Council.  Since then, the Chamber has received an overwhelming response from businesses who appreciate the opportunity to better understand how their Council is voting without attending every meeting the City holds.  As one Chamber member said, "This is an outstanding execution of accountability and transparency to the public."

The popularity of the scorecard has clearly gone beyond the Chamber membership as evidenced by the article more than doubling visits to the Chamber's Live Wire blog at the time of posting.  A number of people have referenced how difficult it is to track business issues that move through City Council between staff recommendations, committee meetings, Council meetings, and last minute amendments.

While the Chamber will do its best to keep its members informed in advance of changes proposed by Council, we will always continue to encourage transparency and accountability with government.

Chamber Encourages Regulatory Streamlining

As the Chamber continues to work with businesses to identify challenges in the community, those challenges sometimes come in the form of regulations.  Tonight, the City Council will entertain Ordinance 28077, billed as a set of minor regulatory amendments.  The Chamber views this package as moving the City forward with encouraging development and retention of existing businesses.

Chamber President and CEO Tom Pierson submitted a comment letter to City Council encouraging the Council's adoption of this package.  (Letter can be viewed here.) The Chamber is always open for a dialogue with members, Councilmembers, or others on how to best move Tacoma and Pierce County forward.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1st Scorecard of Tacoma Council

The Chamber is exercising its voice for business.

Displayed is the first ever SCORECARD (click here for best image) of the votes local officials have made consistent with support of businesses in our community.  The Chamber seeks business and government cooperation for economic and quality of life issues.

Although Scorecards will eventually be reported for local and state elected and appointed officials, the first Scorecard is of votes by the Tacoma City Councilmembers for the First Quarter 2012.

(Click on image for a larger view or to download)

“Families flock to successful communities where job opportunities are abundant and there is a high quality of life. The purpose of our scorecard is to inform and educate people about how well our elected officials are representing their views,” said Chamber President and CEO Tom Pierson. “As an active Chamber with many vocal members, we look forward to issuing regular evaluations so our entire community - including employers, employees and customers - understands where their civil leaders stand on matters affecting all of us.”

Everything we do - from working collaboratively with public or private organizations to identifying and expressing the priorities of companies and small businesses in the Puget Sound area - ties back to our overall mission.

Let us know what you think of the Scorecard as an accountability tool for local officials.