Fridays with Eric

By weeklyvolcano on September 26, 2008


The end of a long week is a beautiful thing. There’s nothing quite like burning the last few hours of a Friday brazenly shooting the shit about fantasy football with my coworkers, or idly bumbling around the internet at my desk doing “research” â€" all the while waiting for the clock to hit quitting time.

But as good as dicking off on Friday afternoon feels, it’s even better to go spend an hour with Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson. I know from experience. A few times a month Anderson holds a Friday afternoon press briefing on the 11th floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, and as long as I’m invited I always like to attend. Then I blog about what happened, and call it Fridays with Eric.

It’s an effort that keeps me at my desk past quitting time, but it’s well worth it. Anderson’s a genuinely good, decent, honest guy, and it’s always refreshing to see that from a City Manager.

Plus, he wears big ass black cowboy boots. Did Ray Corpuz ever wear big ass black cowboy boots?

I think not.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s what happened at this Friday’s press briefing with City Manager Eric Anderson.

Sauro’s dirt

As has been heavily reported, the City of Tacoma agreed last week to acquire the old Sauro’s Cleanerama site along Pacific Avenue. The Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday, Sept 23 to execute a sale agreement that will have the Sauro family deed the land â€" which is highly contaminated thanks to years of dumping the carcinogen perchlorethylene (or perc) into the ground and is valued at approximately $600,000 â€" to Tacoma, and also require the Sauros to pay $550,000 to help with the expected $2.7 million on-site cleanup cost.

$2.7 million is a lot of dough, and theoretically it could end up being more. At this point, the only number set in stone is the $550,000 the Sauros will pay for their part in the cleanup. The expected bill â€" $2.7 million or so â€" will be split between Tacoma and the state. For breakdown purposes, let’s say it is $2.7 million. That means Tacoma will pay $1.35 million for the cleanup. But, the $550,000 the Sauros kicked in becomes part of Tacoma’s contribution, meaning the city only really has to pay around $700 thousand up front. Then, when Tacoma sells the site â€" to that filthy rich German dude who wants to sell it to Russell or whoever â€" Tacoma will probably make around $600,000, considering that’s the site’s approximate value as of right now.

So, basically, Tacoma stands at least a decent chance of breaking even, though Anderson didn’t feel truly comfortable making such a prediction.

“I wouldn’t say (Tacoma will) break even,” said Anderson, obviously being cautious. “There are too many options.”

Anderson noted, however “The net cost of turning that property into something usable is going to be low.”

“This is something the city has been urged to do for a long time,” said Anderson of Tacoma’s decision to acquire the land and clean it up, which leads to inevitable questions about whether Russell will eventually build their headquarters there.

“We’re making no assumptions about who will occupy the site,” said Anderson. He did, however, note that both Russell and DaVita are looking for new homes.

“We had extensive negations (with the Sauros). We made a decision to get as close as break even as we could, get the best deal we could, and get it cleaned up,” said Anderson. “It looks toxic. It’s first class blight. It’s important to clean up the blight downtown as it is in the neighborhoods.”

Speaking of that…

CBS update

Last Monday the newest Community Based Services area â€" the Eastside and South End of Tacoma â€" hosted a priority setting meeting, designed to help the community develop over-arching goals for reducing crime and blight. Prior to this meeting, 5,000 residents of Tacoma’s Eastside and South End were sent a survey in the mail to fill out to help determine what the area’s most pressing crime and blight problems are. Anderson reported there were really no surprises when the surveys started rolling in, mainly because the people involved with trying to clean up the newest CBS area are already long standing members of the community. That’s the way the CBS program works, after all.

Anderson said the number one concern was gang activity.

One of the biggest challenges facing a program like CBS is involving as much of a community as possible. The city has stated on many occasions that their goal is to get everyone at the table. Anderson graded their success so far in that area as moderate.

“We certainly don’t want groups to be left out,” says Anderson. “We’ve got to figure out how to do that. Our success rate is modest. In some cases we have a long way to go.”

Anderson reported there were about 100 people at Monday’s meeting.

Some doom and gloom

The banks are falling! The banks are falling!

Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but the economy is crazy fucked up right now. No one really seems to know what’s going to happen, but everyone seems to be freaking out like the end of the world is upon us, and soon we’ll all be scavenging like rabid wolves for food scraps found in our deserted, moneyless streets.

As far as Tacoma is concerned, the city is definitely bracing - but not flipping its shit. Anderson calls it a “middle of the road” approach.

“If we tried to address a depression when we’re not in one it would be a huge disservice,” he says.

Still, the city is planning for some ugliness. Anderson says recessions typically last 14 months, but Tacoma is planning on the economic downturn we’re in the midst of (which is only expected to get worse) to last more like 27 or 28 months. At this point, the plan is to “bridge a recession” with reserve funds, something Anderson says he and the City Council are already planning for.

However, the D-word did cross Anderson’s lips.

“If we have a depression, everything goes out the window. Everything changes. We’ll do whatever we can to provide the services we can,” says Anderson.

“It’s a dangerous time,” Anderson said about our country’s widespread economic woes. “There are a lot of uncertainties, and a lot of certainties that are bad enough.”