A few words on Broadnax and charter review too

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Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax said in the 2013 Year in Review, “There exists a renewed focus on preserving public safety.”

A TPD top cop says, “Reference the public safety crowing: All that high tech stuff in Homeland Security came from the Feds as grants. Broadnax didn't get any of that on his own nor did he fund any of that. He stripped 60 positions from the Department we will likely never get back. We don't have enough Detectives to investigate most crimes.”

Mr. Interlocutor to Mr. Broarnax. Can you answer us that Mr. Teaser Bones?

And this in from "Call me Ishmael":

Meant to respond earlier to your excellent editorial on former Mayor Baarsma's comments re David Brame. A classic case of selective memory. While I like the man, and think he has always meant well, the comments I read make me concerned for his chairing of the Historical Society.  I salute the idea of preserving Tacoma's history, but hope that history is not 'rewritten' in the process.

I was stunned and amazed when former Mayor Baarsma stated that David Brame would not have been confirmed as chief of police had the city had a strong mayor/council form of government. I have two primary objections to this self-serving comment.  First, Baarsma, whom I personally like, was nonetheless a strong Brame supporter, as noted in the Takhoman. To suggest that a strong Mayor would not have confirmed Brame is ludicrous. 

On top of Brame being deified by the Tacoma News Tribune team of David Zeeck, David Seago, et alia, and  being anointed by City Manager Corpuz, Brame had the strong support of (then) Mayor elect and later Mayor elected Baarsma. 

My second concern with Baarsma's comments are more generic. Whether there is a Council/ Manager or a strong Mayor/council/administrator form of government, the council has to be awake, involved and concerned to prevent the disasters (Brame, Murray Morgan Bridge neglect, pothole neglect, "The Ting" overruns on budget,...choose from variety of embarrassments - the list is long....) Tacoma has faced.  

Over many years of direct observation of the Council members, I have noticed that most Council members are good people, but with very small scope. They try to do some things for their districts; they fight to be first to support trendy, chic and/or politically correct things, regardless of expense; they attend all politically correct functions; they speak eloquently and expansively of their "visions" for Tacoma, and generally accomplish rather little.  

Two previously cited issues generations of council members ignored are potholes and the Murray Morgan Bridge, a major transportation arterial to and from the Port of Tacoma, the "commercial engine of Pierce County”. However, if you were to interview almost any one of the council members in the last 40 plus years, they would tell you that they "wanted to fix the problems, but there were always 'higher priorities". 

 'Higher priorities' is a euphemism used by politicians to justify doing the glitzy things that bring photo - ops and appeal to voters as opposed to the boring, "meat and potato" maintenance issues such as fixing the streets. "Meat and potato" issues make the city run but do not dazzle the voters.   The citizens expect the streets to operate; they take as for granted that the streets will be in good shape - and they should!

The excuse always offered for failure to do what should be done - mandatory maintenance - is almost always 'budget shortfalls.'  True enough, as far as it goes, but why are there always budget shortfalls in critical areas, such as fire, police and street maintenance?  This excuse stems from the same problem - which at best is benign neglect by council. 

Former Mayor Baarsma cited some budget issues with former City Manager Eric Anderson which have contributed to the city's current woes. However, the Council - strong or otherwise - has the ability not only to ratify, modify or reject budgets proposed by the manager, but also the ability to fire the manager if they feel he is not serving well.  One can interpolate that Council could also send a strong message to a Manager in Executive Session that they are not hitting the mark and needs to improve or they will be gone. Instead, Council seems to let managers, such as Corpuz and Anderson, run wild and then blame the manager - and fire him - after the fact. If Council members were actually engaged in management of the city, rather than being the dilettantes they usually are, Council could forestall some excesses of a manager before they happen.
Council members in my experience have been intelligent, articulate people who actually want to do good. Alas, they seem to define 'good' as that which makes them happy and helps their election campaigns to their seat or to higher office. Worse, shortly after election, they begin to believe that only they have wisdom and that most decisions are beyond the scope of the little people (e.g. the citizens).  They - and they alone - know what is best for the city (or county or state or nation). They also seem to have very little contact with reality of life; many have little to no work history in ordinary jobs. 

The analogy which seems to fit is to let bright and privileged children run the family: they will have a 'really cool car,' stylish and expensive clothes and eat dessert for every meal, but they will forget to pay the rent or re-roof the house. After all, re-roofing the house is boring, expensive and 'no one will notice.' The Council Members seem to have no ability to cinch up their belts and direct the city budget to the actual needs of the city; rather they spend the city's money on 'nice things'' 'stylish things' and 'cool things.'   Further, they make decisions with little regard to consequences, such as giving much of the Dome's parking to the Car Museum and then wonder why the Dome is not doing well.  

Their comprehension of 'ethics' is weak; several seated Council members have violated the ethics code, but not one of them thinks he/she did anything wrong. I doubt any one of them asked the City Attorney if what they proposed doing might be a violation of the code prior to taking the action - or perhaps they just hoped no one would notice. They seem to believe with a firm conviction that their desire to 'do good things' justifies any violations they commit (which is not unique to Tacoma, such action by politicians can be viewed daily at the county, state and federal levels.). To suggest people such as this, regardless of the form of government in which they operate, will take positive action to prevent future debacles is decidedly unrealistic.    

Loosely quoting Omar Khayyam, 'myself when young did eagerly frequent doctor and saint and heard great argument about it and about, but found evermore that I went out the same door where in I went.' This pretty well describes a council meeting - all sound albeit without fury and signifying nothing. In modern terms, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. 

The Charter review can suggest any form of  "new and improved" form of government it wishes, but the city's problems will not change unless the philosophy of the people who are elected to office changes. Dye a poodle blue or cut its hair in a Mohawk, it is still a poodle. Do Council members want to be gritty, frugal and really help the city but risk being voted out of office... or do they want to be bright, clever, articulate and useless?

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