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April 8, 2011 at 1:57pm

TACOMA WEEK IN REVIEW: Parking lots, bus service, poll voting and Lindquist money

Could it be more than a parking lot? Ryan Mello and David Boe think so ...

THINGS THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK (AND ONE THAT HAPPENS LATER TODAY) >>>

Parking lots

Today at 3:45 p.m. Tacoma City Councilmen Ryan Mello and David Boe tell me they'll  protest the decision to build a parking garage on a vacant lot at the corner Pacific Avenue and 12th  -- once the site of Sauro Cleanarama. The protest comes today, as a construction crew breaks ground on the filling of hole. Boe and Mello are the loudest council dissenters of the parking lot - which is being built at the request of DaVita Inc. with the help of state grants from Governor Gregoire originally intended to help keep Russell Investments in Tacoma. Boe and Mello believe the property should be developed into business or community space, and in protest will be watching from lawn chairs across the street today as construction begins, marveling at what they perceive as a poor decision and blown opportunity by Anderson and the City of Tacoma. The Volcano will run a feature with interviews of Mello and Boe Saturday.  Until then, find some good background on the protested parking lot with this story in the Trib by Lewis Kamb.

Bus service

Due to what the Save our Buses organization describes as "the out-dated way the state funds bus service," Pierce Transit (PT) has a 35% deficit it must balance. In February's special election Pierce County voters had a chance to approve a small increase in sales tax to nullify PT's budget deficit but overwhelmingly rejected it. Now PT is considering 30-39 percent cuts to its top three bus routes, the #1, #2, and #3, which collectively carry 60 percent of PT's ridership. Monday (April, 11) Pierce Transit will hold hearings all over the county on the possible cuts. The most notable, and perhaps the only one worth the time of attending (as it's the only one PT's Board of Directors will attend), is at PT's Lakewood headquarters from 4-6 p.m. 

Poll voting

This week Pierce County became less unique, and in the eyes of many local voters took an "L" at the hands of state government. A couple months ago the Volcano asked a few local politicos what they thought about poll voting, and all were in favor of keeping the polls open in Pierce County. Up until Tuesday Pierce County had been the only county in the state to still offer poll voting, but with the Gov's singing of the recently-passed Senate Bill 5124 Washington will move to an exclusive vote-by-mail system - meaning Pierce County will be forced to vote only by mail like everyone else.

Lindquist money

"Man, imagine making Lindquist money!" mused Tacoma political cartoonist RR Anderson this week on Twitter after reading the News Tribune's report on the top 25 highest paid Pierce County employees.

Miguel Balderrama, Medical director at Pierce County Jail, clocked in first, collecting a solid $184,406 per year. County Executive Pat McCarthy was second, making a decent $173,579. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist came in seventh, making $148,425.

In response to Anderson's tweet: no, I really can't.

Filed under: Community, Politics, Tacoma,

April 4, 2011 at 10:10am

"Week of Action" in Olympia - April 5-8

The Week of Week of Action in Olympia is scheduled for April 5-8

LABOR AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS UNITE >>>

Labor and social justice organizations like Washington Community Action Network (WaCAN), the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights (POWER) and others have endorsed multiple rallies scheduled to take place on the grounds of the Capitol. Organizers of this Week of Action, scheduled for April 5 - 8, are anticipating large crowds.

To read the full story, click here.

Filed under: Community, Events, Politics, Olympia,

April 2, 2011 at 11:29am

TACOMA WEEK IN REVIEW: Darneille, Jinkins, Gary Johnson, Ryan Mello and Speak for the Trees

This past week was a busy one for 27th District Washington State Reps Laurie Jinkins and Jeannie Darneille, as both fought for progressive and community causes.

A bill Jinkins sponsored calling for legal recognition in Washington of same-sex marriages from other states has been passed in both legislative houses and appears well on its way to becoming state law. On Wednesday Jinkins wrote on her Facebook page, "really proud that the first bill I've sponsored that will be signed into law by Gov. Gregoire will be HB 1649 . . . requiring that valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions be recognized as domestic partnerships here in Washington."

It appears that downtown's Washington State History Museum will not be closing. According to the News Tribune, Rep. Darneille said she expects the spending plan being developed by House Democrats to include her proposal to preserve the museum and others like it. Darneille's proposal seeks to merge the museum with other culture programs and pay for the merger using money from a planned construction project in Olympia. Although it isn't clear if Darneille's plan will ultimately be used, both Democrats and Republicans in Olympia have expressed an expectation the Washington State History Museum will be saved.

In judicial news, Governor Gregoire announced Tuesday she will appoint Tacoman Gary Johnson to the Pierce County Superior Court. Johnson currently gigs as president and senior partner at the law offices of Kram, Johnson, Wooster & McLaughlin in Tacoma. Johnson will replace Judge Gary Steiner, who retired in February. Johnson has some experience on the high chair (just made that term up, hoping it catches on), previously serving as pro tem judge for Kitsap County District Court, the Port Orchard Municipal Court, and briefly as a pro tem judge for the Pierce County Superior Court.

Of more interest to Volcano folk (or at least to me), The Tacoma Arts Commission selected Josie Emmons Turner as the 2011-2013 Poet Laureate for the City of Tacoma. For the next two years Turner will provide free poetry related workshops, readings at public events, participate in various city/community events, and will be an over-all Tacoma arts community bad-ass.

Our current poet laureate, Tammy Robacker, will be on hand at the Urban Forest Project Tacoma's kickoff, being held today from 1 to 4 p.m. at Tollefson Plaza downtown. Event planners invite the public to learn how to "Speak for the Trees" (insert stoner joke here). In celebration of Arbor Day, local arborists will be present to answer questions about trees, guests will be reading poems about their "love of lush vegetation" (that's straight from the City's webpage), and elected officials including Mayor Strickland and Ryan Mello will be speaking about what is being done to grow Tacoma's urban forest.

Finally, speaking of Mello, he officially announced his candidacy to retain his seat on the Tacoma City Council. I sat down with him last week to talk about his goals, vision for Tacoma, and upcoming campaign. Check for the feature in our Mudroom section early next week.

March 25, 2011 at 3:20pm

TACOMA WEEK IN REVIEW: First things first …

LOTS OF IMPORTANT STUFF HAPPENED THIS WEEK >>>

This is the first edition of what will be a weekly blog series on Spew highlighting some the local political and community happenings of the past week, and looking forward to notable events in the upcoming week. Bear in mind this is not all encompassing, nor will it include every relevant thing that occurred. It's just... well, to be frank... my personal attempt at staying in the know locally shared with you. 

This particular week the hearts and minds of many Tacomans have been far from the City of Destiny, with the people of Japan struggling to come to grips with their devastating losses. The City of Tacoma is encouraging citizens to gather and reflect on the March 11 earthquake and tsunami this Saturday, March 26 from 10 a.m. until noon at Thea's Park (405 Dock St). Elected officials and representatives from Tacoma's Japanese community will be on hand and members of the public will be encouraged to speak and sign a book that will be sent to Japan.

Perhaps the most important local political happening of the week was Pierce County Council's appointment of a four-member committee to oversee the county's redistricting process.  The council appointed two Republicans, Mike Abernathy and Deryl McCarty, and two Democrats, Ken Blair and Sam Ross. The four appointees will choose a fifth member to lead them as chair. The county districts are redrawn after very census, a process that is far more political than the general public would like. We'll be on the lookout for shenanigans as this process continues. 

Former Tacoma Mayor Karen Vialle announced her intention to run for Position 5 on the Tacoma School Board this week. A substitute teacher in the Tacoma School District, Vialle will be challenging incumbent Kim Golding. The two women may have many of the same ideals and stances on educational issues, which should make for an interesting race.

Speaking of the Tacoma School Board, current board member Jim Dugan will not seek re-election and the favorite to fill his seat looks to be Scott Heinze, Board Chairman for Communities in Schools of Tacoma. Formally a staffer for U.S. Rep Adam Smith, a Homeland Security advisor to Christine Gregoire, and currently a policy advisor and small business partner, I might have rather seen Hienze make a run for Tacoma City Council, but if he's elected to the school board he should be a progressive force.

I know, I know ... It's early for talk about local elections (we'll be voting on School Board and City Council members this August and November), but word is some of these candidates are out doorbelling already.

So be forewarned: election season may already be upon us.

Filed under: Elections, Events, Tacoma, Politics,

March 18, 2011 at 8:56am

UPDATED: Tacoma officials order medical marijuana dispensaries to close (again)

THIS SEEMS VAGUELY FAMILIAR >>>

City of Tacoma's Tax & Licensing Division has summarily revoked the business licenses of at least 19 medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits. Dispensary owners received letters yesterday, March 17, demanding that they cease to operate by March 28 or face fines and penalties, up to and including criminal prosecution.

This comes less than six months after Tacoma officials promised to  grant amnesty to dispensaries pending legal clarification likely to be provided during this year's legislative session. Since then, several other cities, including Federal Way and Fife, have offered similar moratoriums to dispensaries.  Meanwhile, two bills are currently moving through legislative process. House Bill 1550 and SB 5073, which has been approved by the State Senate, would each in their own way provide for legal operation of dispensaries. Both bills, especially SB 5073, have received criticism from patient and co-op advocates.

Last October City of Tacoma officials overruled similar orders sent by Tax & Licensing which, working hand-in-hand with Tacoma Police advisors, had ordered eight dispensaries to close. Following delivery of the orders, patients and advocates rallied outside City Hall, only to be told that city officials had decided to enact an emergency moratorium until the state legislature had a chance to clarify what has been criticized as a poorly written state law. Tacoma's moratorium came with the message that city officials were not "in favor of getting between patients who have a legitimate medical need and access to that medicine."

Has that changed?

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this blog, the City of Tacoma's Rob McNair-Huff attempted to add clarification in our comment section.

"This action is the same as what took place last fall, and we are asking the 19 new businesses to follow the same process - file an appeal and we won't pursue the appeal until the state legislature has finished its consideration of updating the medical marijuana laws so that there is more clarity," writes McNair-Huff.

UPDATE: The Weekly Volcano was able to catch up with McNair-Huff this morning in hopes he could further explain the situation.

City of Tacoma spokesman Rob McNair-Huff says the action was a procedural one, and encouraged dispensary owners to file appeals. City officials will extend the same offer that was extended to the eight dispensaries that received similar letters in October - file your appeal, and no action will be taken until the state legislature has a chance to provide clear legal guidelines for operating dispensaries. The action was necessary, McNair-Huff says, because Tacoma's bank of dispensaries has grown from eight to 29 since October, and that new dispensaries needed to occupy the same legal space as their predecessors. City of Tacoma officials are working with medical marijuana advocates such as Washington Cannabis Association to reach out to dispensary owners who may be confused about the city's intentions.

"We don't want to get between patients and their medicine. Our statement still stands," says Mc Nair-Huff. "We just want to bring everybody up to the same level so we can deal with these companies in the same way pending action from the state legislature."

UPDATE: Here's a copy of the letter sent to Tacoma medical marijuana dispensaries yesterday, which the city calls "procedural."

Filed under: Community, Politics, Tacoma,

March 17, 2011 at 3:58pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Antonio Edwards Jr. speaks out on HB 1126

ONLINE CHATTER >>>

Today's comment comes from Tacoma poet Antonio Edwards Jr., in regard to a story by Zach Powers on HB 1126 and the recent town hall it inspired.

Edwards (eloquently) writes,

The Slave Code (HB 1126) The Remix

Politicians are into hip hop now
Their latest Hit
A Slave Code remix
House Bill 1126
Now I'll take the Liberty to change the word "Slaves" to "Gangs"
In order to uncover this diabolical plan
In U.S. history, laws governing the status of gangs were enacted
by states that permitted conditions that created them.
IF law enforcement labeled you a Gang member
You were considered a criminal rather than a citizen
With only felonious rights

In this era of privately own prisons
Your incarceration have become the latest family business
the daughter is the stenographer
the Uncle is the Judge
the Nephew is the Prosecutor
the cousin is the defense attorney
the brother is the correction officer
and the Grandfather, he is the Warden

When free enterprise intersects with a captive market
Abuses are bound to happen
Welcome to the Prison Industrial Complex
Also known as PIC
A multibillion-dollar industry
With its own trade shows and conventions,
Its own Web sites, mail order catalogues, and direct marketing campaigns.
It includes some of the nation's largest architecture and construction firms,
No longer a surprised
The plan for my demise has been openly constitutionalized
Kill this Bill

Antonio Edwards Jr.
2011

March 12, 2011 at 8:28am

5 Things To Do Today: MOVE! #18, Zine Battle, Harmony Sweepstakes, Tush Burlesque and more ...

Each of MOVE! #18's nine performances will move and amaze you. Photo courtesy of Facebook

SATURDAY MARCH 12, 2011 >>>

1. If you have yet to catch the local dance phenomenon that is MOVE!, you're a little behind the curve - but there's still hope. At 2 and 7 p.m. inside the SOTA Theater on Commerce, MOVE! #18, with the talents of the Tacoma City Ballet, Jill Leversee, Rosa Vissers, The MOVE!NG Company and Joel Myers - to name but a few - will be in full effect. Highlights of the show include The MOVE!ING Company's "A Life That Feels Like Dying," choreographed by Kate Monty and featuring a score by Vicci Martinez, which explores the life of anyone who has been addicted to something. The six impressive dancers take the audience on a full-circle journey. Jessie Fouts wrote, choreographed and performed an emotional piece about the death of her father. Joel Myers and Jill Leversee are brilliant. And Michael Hoover and Katie Stricker add comic relief through boomboxes. It's a must see.

2. Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma), Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) and Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) invite constituents of the 27th Legislative District to a town hall discussion from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Evergreen State College's Tacoma Campus. The leaders will come prepared to chat about education, social services, the environment, and supporting local business, hardworking people and major industries at the same time.

3. Joshua James Amberson and Alexis Wolf, two local zinesters, square off in a Zine Battle at 6 p.m. inside Orca Books. Amberson, an avid musician and current Orca employee, presents his new zine chronicling his love affair with the music of Prince. Wolf's zine, Hyena in Petticoats, is about the 18th-century writer Mary Wollstonecraft, best known as the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

4. Masterworks Choral Ensemble hosts the Northwest regional finals of Harmony Sweepstakes where a cappella groups square off to sing sparkling vocal arrangements and silken harmonies at 7:30 p.m. inside the Washington Center.

5. Burlesque can be a drag. "Stage-ready makeup for burlesque is called ‘full drag,' " explains Frida Fondle of Olympia's Tush Burlesque. "It's a great homage to the drag queens, who really do exemplify the ultimate of feminine glamour. When we are putting on our makeup for the stage, we aspire to look as glamorous as drag queens." The Tush troupe, now a year and a half old and performing Deadly Dames at 7:30 and 10 p.m. inside the Eagles Hall Ballroom in Olympia, is all women - although some numbers do include men. Read the full story here.

LINK: More arts and entertainment events in the South Sound

March 7, 2011 at 4:11pm

Last In, First Out … what now?

A WHOLE SLEW OF EDUCATION INTERVIEWS TO COME >>>

Education has taken a center stage in Olympia this session as the legislature deals with balancing a laundry list of funding dilemmas and a roster of struggling schools that spans seemingly every county in the state. However, our struggling schools are not the sole result of legislation, nor will the cure-all necessarily be a perfect reform bill or statewide policy.

The decisions made by both state and local leaders of all kinds will drastically affect how much, or how little, our schools can progress and improve. In the coming weeks I'll be interviewing policy makers, activists and engaged community members for the Weekly Volcano, examining different angles of local and statewide education debates. My first interview will be coming later this week, as I sit down with Tacoma School Board Member and REACH (Resources for Educational and Career Help) Center Executive Director Kurt Miller.

In the meantime, consider pondering this report by the Center on Reinventing Education suggesting downsizing/firing policies commonly known as "Last In, First Out" may disproportionately impact schools receiving federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs). These grants are a pillar of U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's school reform agenda. Washington is slated to receive over $50 million in SIG funding, and much of this will be used to pay for newly hired teachers in failing schools --  teachers hired on the basis of high ability and commitment to education of disadvantaged children. The potential hiccup is - because of large budget gaps many of these new teachers may find their jobs terminated at the end of year because of the "Last In, First Out" seniority policy districts are currently bound by.

The report states, "in Washington's SIG schools about 23% of teachers are in their first three years of teaching, nearly twice the proportion of new teachers in their districts of residence."

The report uses Tacoma as an example and illustrates that a five percent budget reduction could potentially mean Tacoma's three SIG schools ( Stewart Middle School, Giaudrone Middle School, and Jason Lee) Middle School would lose one-quarter to one-half of their current teachers.

The specifics of potential budget reductions are currently speculative, however this scenario may play out in multiple districts throughout the state.

The report is available for download here.

Filed under: Olympia, Tacoma, Politics,

March 3, 2011 at 10:00am

5 Things to Do Today: Capitol Steps, Witchburn, Billy Shew Band, Drinking Liberally, Dance Lessons with Char & Alan

Witchburn

THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 2011 >>>

1. When your job is making everything from elections to war to environmental disasters into a joke, it really does color your worldview.

"I don't look at the Egyptian protests and think, ‘Is this good for the world or bad for the world?' " says Elaina Newport, co-founder of the Capitol Steps, performing today in Olympia. "I think, ‘Is it funny, and what rhymes with it?'

2. Get your dreadlocked badass on tonight when Witchburn (see above) plays Hell's Kitchen. For the Weekly Volcano's complete list of live local music happenings for today, click here.

3. The always entertaining Billy Shew Band will be at Dawson's Bar and Grill tonight. Get the weekend started early in South Tacoma.

4. Drinking Liberally - the informal gathering of "like-minded left-leaners and true hardcore lefties who want to trade ideas, get more involved, to rant, or just share each other's company" - meets tonight at the Hub at 7 p.m. Considering the political climate, drinking liberally is probably a great idea.

5. If all else fails, don't sleep on dance lessons with Char & Alan every Thursday at Big Whisky Saloon.

February 22, 2011 at 10:21am

Movie Biz Buzz: Happy Film Day!

HELP GROW FILM JOBS IN WASHINGTON >>>

I'll admit that I give scarcely a thought to film as it pertains to the world of politics (and maybe you don't much either). One comprises a vast collection of freethinking artists and technicians who aim to entertain the masses, the other is a formal body of lawmakers governing those same masses.

They cross paths at one crucial point, however: money.

Wednesday, Feb. 23, citizens can witness a rare union of these disparate spheres. Dubbed "Film Day" by Washington Filmworks, this Seattle-based organization invites moviemakers and cinephiles alike to join them from noon to 4 p.m. at the Washington State Capital's Cherberg Building in support of two pieces of legislation currently under discussion. If approved, House Bill 1554 and Senate Bill 5539 (what peppy names!) will reinvigorate the state's Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, which grants funding to non-resident filmmakers who use Washington for their productions.

Denise Gibbs, owner of regional casting agency Foreground Background, knows firsthand the issues at stake on Film Day. "Our film community would be devastated with the loss of (the MPCP)," she says. "It is our number-one tool to bring and keep the big projects that come here (and) spend millions of dollars for crew, actors and support services. It pumps money back into our local economy and provides jobs even in a recession."

Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard shares Gibbs's viewpoint and offers us a straightforward, practical approach to the issue: "This bill is ... not about Hollywood, or stars, or anything like that," says Lilliard. "It's about keeping Washington workers employed." She strongly encourages others to write their legislators.  

If you can attend, register via email at info@washingtonfilmworks.org, or catch the committee meetings live on www.tvw.org. Download a Film Day packet from www.washingtonfilmworks.org.

Filed under: Screens, News To Us, Olympia, Politics,

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